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News from the Autumnwatch webcam team

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 12:23 UK time, Wednesday, 27 October 2010

We've found Stronsay. We've found grey seals. We've found pups. And best of all we're almost ready to beam live video of them across the internet.

The grey seal pupping season has to be one of the autumn spectacles. And Orkney is the place to see it with 15% of the world's grey seal population breeding here every year. Stronsay, one of Orkney's northern islands, is one of the key sites. Last year 5,000 pups were born here. You can see why Autumnwatch wanted to be a part of this.

Grey seal pup

You might be seeing a lot of this little chap on the webcams

So as well as Gordon Buchanan spending the best part of a month here filming, we'll be here for ten days to capture all the intimate moments of these pups on the web and I for one can't wait. I spent some time watching them yesterday while the rest of the team set up the equipment. Even on a sunny day, the pups looked helpless and their very existence precarious to say the least.

Not for them a spring birth with the promise of a warm summer. What these youngsters have to look forward to is a cold, dark winter in the North Sea. So they must fatten up quickly, all the while avoiding getting swept out to sea by one of the many vicious autumn storms.

Beach in Stronsay

The beach in Stronsay where Gordon and the webcams are set up

So what does streaming live video from a remote Scottish island entail? As some of you might remember, we did it from Rum last year when we covered another great British autumn spectacle, the red deer rut.

This year is similar but in many ways more complicated mainly because we have no base and unlike Springwatch there's no TV infrastructure to join up with. What's more, we couldn't predict where the best place to film the pups would be until we arrived on Monday.

As a consequence we have to be completely mobile. This means working entirely from two 4x4s: encoders, mixing desks, monitors, cables, computers and four cold and wet bodies... we're all going to know each other pretty well by the end of it.

Webcam controls

Home for the next ten days or so

Those four cold and wet bodies are me (producer), Phil Windley (all-round technical guru), Jo Charlesworth (cameraman) and wildlife expert Chris Sperring, who as well as monitoring the seals and helping us tell their story will be imparting some of his knowledge about the amazing birdlife which also inhabits the island in autumn.

Special mention must go out to Jo and Phil at this moment. Both very experienced Springwatch and Autumnwatch hands, they've been working tirelessly since we got here on Monday. They're out in the driving rain and wind right now putting the last finishing touches together. (And Jo drove me all the way up here from Bristol - that deserves a medal in itself.)

Setting up the Autumnwatch webcams

Jo and Phil working tirelessly

Some good news is that we're going to be following the same seals that Gordon is filming for the TV show. We're hoping to get a live feed from his camera and also get him doing some live commentary.

Signing off now but would love to hear from anyone watching the webcams over the next few days. We'll have a dedicated messageboard topic launching very shortly, you can tweet us, or post a comment right here.

You can also join us for our adventure by following us on Facebook.


  • Comment number 1.

    Really don’t know if you want to know this. However..., a scarf tied around the middle, around the area between shirt/top and trousers, can help keep out the chilly outdoor weather, stopping you from getting so cold, if you wish. The main idea is trying to make sure you stop yourselves from getting cold in the first place, because once cold, you can be cold for the rest of the day! Brrr! Do hope that helps.

  • Comment number 2.


    Well done everyone on the team! We do appreciate all this effort and hard work.

    Looking forward to it ALL! :-D

    Adam Canning

  • Comment number 3.

    Thank you Jeremy, for this update. I suspect my spare imac is going to be dedicated to webcam watch for the duration. This is a fascinating and brilliant idea. Best wishes to all the AW team up there on Orkney and those back at NHU HQ. May the weather and interwebby gods smile kindly on this venture.

    Yours in happy anticipation
    Effie x

  • Comment number 4.

    hi team, please can you tell me the names of the two little oystercatchers chicks named by us in springwatch 2008, thanx

  • Comment number 5.

    Hello - Can you tell us when the webcams are going live ? & one for Chris..are there any Owls or birds of prey in Orkney ?

  • Comment number 6.

    @Cherry Barlow, the webcams are going live at 1pm tomorrow (Thursday). Chris has retired for the evening but so far we've seen a short-eared owl and a merlin here. No doubt he'll be able to report more birds of prey very soon.

    @purplelavender sorry but I really can't remember... Oscar? Emmie? I'd ask over the messageboard. I'm sure those wise heads will remember.

  • Comment number 7.

    Great news - exciting stuff - thank you all so much! Will there be 4 cams as in the recent past, please?

  • Comment number 8.

    Thanks Jeremy - Hope you get footage of the Short eared Owl..How many mammal species are on the Orkneys ? and have go guys got a 'rare' target bird or beasty ?

  • Comment number 9.

    Just had a thought about the Waxwings that are 'apparently' around ! what would they eat on Orkney/Stronsay ? it looks abit bleak ! are there 'fruiting' trees ?

  • Comment number 10.

    Thank you for all your hard work in order to get these cameras in place so we can all share the wonderful views of these seals and their pups!!FANTASTIC!!!

  • Comment number 11.

    @Colneybird we have two cameras set up on the beach but will only be showing one live, just like last year's Autumnwatch.

  • Comment number 12.

    Do the seals ever haver twins? Do seals ever adopt orphan pups?

  • Comment number 13.

    Amazing coincidence to see item about waxwings on tonight's programme! I was gardening this morning in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, when a flock of waxwings landed high up in a large tree nearby. It was the noise which attracted my attention and it was a wonderful spectacle.

  • Comment number 14.

    Just heard Chris Sperring on the Merlin,must of been quite a thrill,as they are unsupassed 'ariel hunters'.In the summer months chasing/hunting Skylarks..my only neg comment about the 'live-webcam' commentry is we(Chris's FB fans)dont know when he is going to be on !! Great stuff though...hope I catch some more

  • Comment number 15.

    I have reguarly seen in the last few weeks a very bold otter, just a couple of miles from the center of bristol in broad daylight with a busy riverside pub and passers by just feet away. Is this a naive juvenile or have otters become more confident as there numbers heve increased.

  • Comment number 16.

    A lovely place on Stronsay to watch starlings roost is at the end of the path to the Vat of Kirbister. The starlings mass on the fence wire at twilight and then fly up and round in large performing groups and then dive down in to the cave below the path where they roost

  • Comment number 17.

    Did I read it right on Twitter that Waxwings had been seen on Stronsay ?

  • Comment number 18.

    Think Ive asked this on Twitter...do the Hedgehogs that Chris mentioned this morning pose much of a threat to the 'ground nesting' birds on Stronsay & can anyone remember which Scotish Isle were they 'removed' from for the reasons Ive just mentioned ?


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