For many of us, 2016 has felt like quite a bleak year...but thank God (or, rather, thank the BBC and Sir David Attenborough) for

Planet Earth II

.

Three episodes in - we're already halfway through, alas - we've seen some astounding footage of animals living their lives on remote islands, hostile mountains, and, most recently, in clouded and flooded jungles.

British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough. Photo / Getty
British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough. Photo / Getty

It's been a colourful, breathtaking and occasionally frightening experience (most notably for ophidiophobics, but also, in a different sense, for anyone worried about the fragility of our world as well as its beauty).

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Furthermore, despite the epic scale of the show, watching it has felt strangely intimate.

Each episode creates the impression that we're witnessing secret, stolen moments from the lives of the creatures on screen, whether it be the verdant wing flash of a desperate-to-impress bird-of-paradise, or the surprisingly effective parenting skills of a tiny glass frog.

Here are some of the most memorable Planet Earth II moments so far.

1. The utterly ridiculous flamingos (Episode 2 : Mountains)

The spindly-legged pink birds first tried to walk on thin ice - with delightfully ungraceful results - before taking part in a brilliantly bizarre synchronised mating parade.

2. The sad, sad fairy tern still incubating her egg...despite the fact that it had been eaten (Episode 1: Islands)

Every good nature documentary needs a moment of quiet tragedy...and the opening episode of Planet Earth II duly confronted us with this poignant little tale of thwarted motherhood.

"She knows something's not quite right. But her drive to incubate is quite strong," noted a characteristically restrained Attenborough, as the poor, confused bird set down atop an egg that would never (*sob*) become a chick.

Fairy tern. Photo / BBC
Fairy tern. Photo / BBC

3. The dolphin swimming past trees (Episode 3: Jungles)

"World is crazier and more of it than we think/Incorrigibly plural," wrote the poet Louis Macniece, after being struck by the incongruity of seeing some blooming roses amid a sudden snow shower.

Just imagine what he might have written if he'd been watching episode three of Planet Earth II, which featured a dolphin, swimming past trees trunks, in the middle of a jungle.

The River Dolphin. Photo / BBC
The River Dolphin. Photo / BBC

Just to make things even more exciting, the river species in question, Araguaia, was only discovered in 2014, and had never before been properly filmed.

4. The dancing bears (Episode 2 : Mountains)

These back-scratching beauties, filmed after emerging from hibernation in the Rockies, proved such a sensation, some viewers even compared them to Strictly Come Dancing's Ed Balls...although we reckon he could learn a thing or too from the gyrating grizzlies.

5. The jaguar taking on a 10-foot caiman (Episode 3: Jungles)

A fantastic sequence, depicting the moment these two giant predators clashed, was arresting both because of its powerful brutality (the caiman-crushing felt like something dreamed up by the Jurassic World screenwriters), and because of the mesmerising patterned beauty of the male jaguar.

6. The face-planting bobcat (Episode 2: Mountains)


We keep promising ourselves we're only going to watch this unfortunate feline one more time.

7. The survival of the snow leopard cub (Episode 2: Mountains)

Given how rare snow leopards are - the number left in the wild could be as low as 4000, according to conservation charities - and how infrequently they've been filmed, pretty much every second of the footage of these big cats featured in Planet Earth II was astounding.

But waiting to find out whether or not the cub had survived after leaving her mother (and if the programme-makers had found any trace of the pair) was heartrendingly tense.

When she finally appeared, at the end of the second episode, it was impossible to suppress a cheer.

8. The swimming sloth(Episode 1: Islands)

Did you know sloths could swim?

Prior to watching Planet Earth II, we'll happily admit that we had absolutely no idea that this was the case. We're extremely glad that we now do.

9. The kickboxing frog-father (Episode 3: Jungles)

The fingernail-sized glass frog was a rather wondrous creature in its own right (as its name suggests, its almost completely transparent).

But we were particularly thrilled by the unique way in which it protected its unhatched offspring from a marauding wasp.

10. The Galapagos racer snakes and the baby iguanas (Episode 1: Islands)

Simply put, this is probably one of the greatest sequences from any nature documentary, ever.

It's also very likely one of the greatest chase sequences ever committed to film.