VIEWERS of the BBC’s recent Winterwatch were captivated by night footage of beavers captured with technology made in Southampton.

Aerospace engineer Leonardo, based at the city’s First Avenue, was responsible for the thermal imaging camera which caught the animals in their natural habitat in Cornwall.

The series charted the habits and survival instincts of a wide range of animals in winter.

Winterwatch presenter Gillian Burke told viewers of the “superpowers” of beavers, whose strong build allows them to create dams that protect the local area from flooding.

Researchers at Exeter University found that during peak flooding flow, the beavers reduced water flow in their immediate vicinity by 60 per cent.

Footage was also captured of some newly born beavers previously featured on Springwatch last year, which were seen to be thriving and learning new skills.

Leonardo engineers Paul Thwaites and Phil Lock were instrumental in identifying the potential for the company’s thermal cameras to be used by broadcasters to capture wildlife on TV. The pair had successfully captured footage of their own.

Mr Thwaites, who has always been fascinated by nature photography, said: “Animals have incredible instincts and they are always on the lookout for anything different in their environment in case it is a threat, so any technology you use to capture footage must be completely non-intrusive.

“When people can see animals up close in this way they get a better understanding of their characters and behaviours and that all helps the longer term cause of nature conservation, which means valuing animals and respecting their environment.”

Mr Lock said: “The only part of the electromagnetic spectrum we can see with our eyes is a very small part called ‘visible light’ and within that visible light band are the various wavelengths that form the ‘colours’ of the rainbow. Thermal cameras allow you to see a world that would otherwise remain unobserved by the naked eye.

“We cannot see thermal infrared light, as the wavelengths are too long for our eyes and our normal cameras to detect, but we can detect it as heat. In the thermal infrared world, everything above absolute zero, including living beings as well as rock, wood, plastic, clouds, even ice, emits minute amounts of heat, which is then transformed into images by the thermal imaging camera.”

Leonardo is expecting its cameras to be useful again in this year’s Springwatch.