Goodbye to all that...
It's our final day here on the magical Brownsea island, and the countdown to the final show has begun. In about five hours we'll be on air for the last time - at least for this year. So this seems like a good time to look back and reflect on the rollercoaster of events that make up this year's Autumnwatch.
For me, and for the whole of our production team, this is a bit of a strange day. We still have a programme to get out, so there is an air of quiet professionalism, as always. But we are also very aware that the incredible experience - a unique period in our lives - is coming to an end very soon. Although we'll all be sad to leave, we'll do so feeling very satisfied with what we've managed to achieve over the past couple of weeks, and more importantly humbled by your fantastic response to the wildlife action, stories and characters we've been showing you.
Having been at the BBC for over a quarter of a century - the whole of my professional life - I can honestly say that there is nothing quite like working on a live show like Autumnwatch. Partly it's down to the wonderful unpredictabliity of the wildlife; partly to the incredible professionalism of my colleagues; and partly because this show really is like no other.
And to be honest, that comes down to you. Our viewers, those of you who come onto the website and comment on the blog, enter debates on the Messageboard, or upload your autumn photos onto our Flickr group, really do help make Autumnwatch what it is.
When I started working with Bill, a dozen years or more ago, life was much simpler. We made the programmes, put them out, you watched them - and that was more or less it! Don 't get me wrong - I am very proud of those early series - but what's wonderful is that today we reach so many more people in such different ways.
None of us could possibly have forseen how things would develop: that the BBC would resurrect live nature programmes, and bring life-and-death stories into your living room, as they happen. We didn't know about the web, let alone that it would allow you to engage with us in the way you do. And even in our wildest dreams, we could never have imagined that British wildlife would become one of the hottest topics of discussion - not just amongst its traditional fans, but for the British public as a whole. But then again, as someone once said, watching wildlife isn't an escape from reality, but an escape to reality...
So what treats are in tonight's final show? Well, Kate and Bill will be saying their goodbyes to Brownsea - for the time being at least - with a round-up of our squirrel assault course, plus news of our sika deer and the birds on the lagoon. Gordon will also be looking back at the amazing story of the Farne Islands seals, and looking forward (along with his dedicated team) to finally getting back to dry land a a hot bath! And Simon goes for the big one - the most ambitious event ever attempted on Springwatch or Autumnwatch, a live dive in search of conger eels in Studland Bay.
Before we go on air for the last time, I'd just like to thank some very special people who made this all possible. I won't go on as much as the Oscar winners do, but I just have to say a huge thanks to all our conservation partners, especially the National Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust, and all their amazingly dedicated staff and volunteers. Thanks too to all the many people who have helped Simon and Gordon in their quests to bring you the best of British wildlife. Thanks to our production team, who have worked harder than you can imagine to make all this possible. Thanks, of course, to our four fabulous presenters, Bill, Kate, Simon and Gordon, for communicating their knowledge and enthusiasm so brilliantly. And finally a huge thanks to YOU, our audience, for staying with us!
So hope you enjoy tonight's final show - and look out for our special round-up programme during the Xmas break. In the mean time, check out some fab new offerings on our website, including: Kate's end of series goodbye, See you on Springwatch next year!
Best wishes from Stephen, Tim, Reema and the whole of the Autumnwatch team.
STOP PRESS!!! Do check out the wonderful blog on living on foraged food for the day, by our friend from the National Trust (and fellow blogger) Martha Roberts...