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Wildlife at work

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Holly Spearing Holly Spearing | 13:23 UK time, Friday, 18 November 2011

Here at Autumnwatch Towers, I work in an open plan office and for much of the day I'm glued to my computer, wading through an ever expanding email inbox, and generally helping sort out whatever it takes to get Autumnwatch Live on the air every Friday night. But if I look up and out of the window across the office, I can see a glimpse of a different world. Now the leaves have almost fallen, the shard-like towers of the 1970s Catholic Cathedral have been revealed through the bare branches of the trees outside. And atop these towers, a couple of specks.

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Just specks, but very exciting ones. Because these are Bristol's urban peregrines, the fastest animals on the planet, and I've been lucky enough to watch their daily lives over the city for the past few years.

A quick discussion in the Autumnwatch office revealed some great wildlife spots right here at BBC Bristol. Our executive producer Tim saw a jay caching acorns in a plant pot two floors up outside a meeting room. Unsprung researcher Sam spotted a long-tailed tit's nest in a bush by an office. And on the night shift, our security guards have been avidly watching the nocturnal adventures of the resident fox family.

There was even a moment a few years back which has gone down in the annals of the Natural History Unit. When waxwings appeared in the car park, emails chimed and phones rang as the news spread from office to office like wildfire. Work on every project from Springwatch to the latest Attenborough epic ground to a halt as half the building emptied to watch these beautiful winter visitors.

If I include my walk to work, or a lunchtime stroll, the list gets even longer. I've watched a charm of goldfinches weave their way through the city trees, and even seen ravens and buzzards soar over my street. And there's nothing that can give me a lift like walking home to the soundtrack of my local blackbird, singing his heart out from a tree top perch. My commute has become a time to take a breath, relax, and tune in to the world and wildlife all around.

Sculpted from tarmac, concrete and glass, the urban world can look hostile to any kind of life. But as Chris and Michaela's trip to Sheffield has shown, cities provide many of the things our wildlife needs to survive - food, homes, and safety. Wild creatures will find away to make the best of almost every opportunity, however unlikely it might look to us.

The key is to look at the urban world in a different way, the way an animal would see it. Then, buildings become nesting platforms for peregrines and herring gulls, a sheltered bush becomes a refuge for roosting pied wagtails, and our rubbish is an all you can eat buffet for rodents and foxes.

As the seasons change, so can the city's wildlife and its behaviour, so it can be a particularly good time to look. As we reported on Autumnwatch last year, many birds migrate over our cities; at night, but also during the day. And some pioneering birding groups are now using tower blocks and office buildings to watch and record migration in action.

In the hustle and bustle of a working day, what could possibly be better than taking a break, and snatching a few moments watching our wildlife? We'd love to hear from you about your wildlife encounters at work, on your commute, or in your lunch break. What's your top spot, or favourite sighting in the urban jungle?

Holly Spearing is the Series Producer of Autumnwatch.


  • Comment number 1.

    I agree. It's amazing what you do see in the city centre, and it's a great release from the stress of the urban life. In the tiny park in EC1 where I walk my dog in the morning, I've seen flocks of Long Tailed Tits, Goldfinches, and Greenfinches this week. Not so long ago I saw a Sparrowhawk and a Magpie squabbling over some prey on the road. Amazing as well that I can see the Peregrine nest site in the Barbican from my bedroom - when I was growing up in Northumberland, they were virtually extinct. Let's hope for another Waxwing Winter, last year I saw a large flock in the middle of Hackney.

  • Comment number 2.

    I noticed when I was out in the country near Aylesbury that wayside woodland had lost all the red leaves which were there mixed with yellow a week ago - now there is only yellow. What is the reason for this?

  • Comment number 3.

    This may be off topic but the loudest bird in the world question isn't the bell bird of the Amazon rainforest very loud.

  • Comment number 4.

    When I was in Sheffield this summer I found this amazing (if slightly different) bird: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carol-monger/5963518785/in/pool-bbcautumnwatch

  • Comment number 5.

    we have pied wagtails that come to my place of works courtyard as dusk come so do the birds.
    They have been coming ever since i can remember a joy towatch and build nests in the plant pots
    quiet friendly they are used to the humans sharing this place with them
    hemel hempstead hertfordshire

  • Comment number 6.

    Pied Wagtails have been roosting in trees in an internal courtyard of The Princess Royal Hospital, Haywards Heath for many years. You can see them so clearly from the glass windowed corridor that runs along one side.

  • Comment number 7.

    I can't see much from my office window - part of a wall and a car park - but I hear pigeons, magpies, wagtails, blue and great tits, and in the summer the screaming of swifts across the rooftops.

  • Comment number 8.

    I unfortunately work in a room with "borrowed" light, so no outside view at all. However while in someone else's office this morning a seagull suddenly zoomed across the room. Apparently it had been found concussed at the back door and had been put in an aerated photocopy paper box to recuperate! I managed to catch it when it flew to the windowsill, hopefully they released it back to the outside a little later. That must be my most exciting experience of wildlife at work ever!

  • Comment number 9.

    I work in the centre of Manchester, and I've seen some great wildlife there.
    The rooftop car park where I park everyday has had a fantastic view of nesting and fledging peregrines. On the same car park I've seen a flock of several hundred pied wagtails, and a woodcock tucked away resting by a wall, presumably a migration stop off. I've seen big flocks of starlings, and redwings and fieldfares flying through. I've even seen an oystercatcher flying over, but assumed it was pretty lost :oD
    Last week I was in the centre of Burnley and there was a flock of several hundred lapwings roosting on a roof right in the middle of the town - a very incongruous sight!

  • Comment number 10.

    Back in secondary school (earlier this year, I'm in College now) My science class and English class seemed to be the best places to view wildlife (Yes I should have been working, but anyway) I had Sparrowhawk almost daily from my English class, Cormorants were surprisingly common along with the odd Heron. From Science I saw Swifts that came amazingly close to the building, loads of Pied Wagtails, Gulls and a Squirrel that used to come and sit on the building opposite. From other parts of the school I saw Goldfinch, Kestrel, Blue Tit, Rooks, Crows, Jackdaws, Blackbirds, a Lapwing during a fire drill and even a Peregrine when I was walking home once!

  • Comment number 11.

    At the airport I work at we have several Swallows that nest in some of the passenger walkways, occasional Kestrels, and the odd Killer Whale - this was taken from the long-stay carpark > http://www.flickr.com/photos/crieffy/5148953869/

  • Comment number 12.

    we have partridges on the roof at work - surprising the racket they make.


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