Wild horses & bees

Just home from a very lovely trip to North Carolina filming for the BBC Natural History Unit’s series about the Atlantic. The focus of the shoot was the wild horses that live on the Outer Banks – a chain of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina and Virginia.


The origin of the horses is uncertain – genetically they are very closely related to Spanish horses, and are separate from other horse populations on the US mainland, so one theory is that they were bought across the Atlantic by Spanish conquistadors and either washed ashore following a shipwreck, or deliberately offloaded once a ship had run aground. This part of the east coast is known as the ‘graveyard of the Atlantic’ – thousands of vessels have wrecked off the barrier islands over the centuries – so the thought that the horses came from the sea is not unreasonable.

I filmed the horses in a few different locations, each offering varied options in terms of scenery and behaviour. The horses were great, really interesting to see fully wild populations when we’re so used to seeing perfectly groomed horses in a domesticated setting. There was always something going on within the group, and they had some pretty smart adaptations to this odd habitat; digging for fresh water, swimming between islands and preferentially grazing salt marsh vegetation at just the moment when its salt content is lowest.


North Carolina is a really beautiful state, I’ve spent years working in the US, but knew very little about this area and it was a great bit of the world to explore. More than the scenery and history it was the people who made this trip for me – huge thanks to Jared, Doug, Monty, Sue, Karen & ET for being so welcoming and generous with their time, hope to get back and see you all soon!

On the home front we are currently surrounded by bees; Julie collected a swarm while I was away so we now have three colonies in hives. The wild colony in the horse chestnut tree across the road from the house swarmed at the weekend and established a new colony three trees down the road so we now have two wild colonies within a stone’s throw of the house, and one of our bird boxes, recently vacated by Great Tits, is now occupied by a really active colony of very sweet little bumble bees.