Monday 7 October 2013, 13:37
I’m excited to announce that the Autumnwatch team will be returning to BBC2 at the end of October.
Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Martin Hughes-Games and guests will be following all the wildlife stories as they happen, broadcasting live from our new location, RSPB Leighton Moss on the Lancashire, right in the heart of the season’s action.
There'll be four live shows on BBC TWO from Tuesday 29th October until Friday 1st November, with Autumnwatch Unsprung on Friday, and a brand new live show, Autumnwatch Extra, on BBC Red Button and the Web from dawn to dusk each day.
RSPB Leighton Moss
Set within the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the reserve is just south of the Lake District and is surrounded by rugged, wooded hills – the perfect canvas for autumnal colour.
It’s also on the edge of Morecambe Bay where thousands of migrant waders gather in the autumn months. There are never any guarantees on Autumnwatch – our wildlife and weather are both very unpredictable! – but we’re hoping that our teams will be able to film huge gatherings of knot, turnstone and oystercatchers as they make the most of rich food resources exposed by the retreating tide.
At the heart of the reserve is a huge reed bed system – one of the largest in the UK - where otters and kingfishers hunt for fish, and rare species like marsh harriers, bitterns and bearded tits prepare for winter.
One of the most exciting spectacles we’re hoping to film will be the gathering of huge numbers of starlings that congregate in magical mumurations just before sunset.
Red deer are the largest residents of the area, and our cameras will follow them as they rut on the clearings and in the woods around the reserve.
This year, the intrepid Martin Hughes Games will be out-and-about while Chris and Michaela are safe and snug back at the studio. Armed with infra-red and thermal imaging cameras, he’ll set off at the beginning of every show to explore the reserve. The water out in the reed beds is deep, and Morecambe Bay can be a treacherous place, with sinking sand and tidal surges. So wish him luck!
The Magic of Migration
Before we head up to Leighton Moss, we’ll be looking into exciting autumnal wildlife stories across the UK.
A major theme for this year’s Autumnwatch is migration, when animals move to warmer climates as winter draws near. In fact, we want you to help us track the arrival of birds such a redwings, fieldfares and waxwings from Europe and Scandinavia. We’ll give you more details about ‘Migration Watch’ as we get closer to transmission …
In September, Iolo Williams had a close encounter with what might just be Britain’s greatest migrant: the Manx shearwater. For these young seabirds, leaving home is the most daunting mission imaginable. Abandoned by its parents and fearful of predatory gulls, it emerges from its cosy burrow only on the darkest nights. Barely able to walk, and never having flown before, it must throw itself into the darkness… and head for Patagonia.
Meanwhile, Martin Hughes Games has been investigating a Magical Moth Migration. Amazingly, tiny silver Y moths are the UK's biggest migrant species. Hundreds of millions leave our shores each September, heading south to the Mediterranean to escape the freezing winter. How these tiny insects achieve this momentous journey has, until recently, been an unsolved mystery, but new advances in radar technology have enabled scientists to unravel the story.
Autumn is a time of dramatic change, and we’ll be looking at how changes in the weather can affect our wildlife. Our colleagues at the BBC Weather Centre will be joining us live with a weather report for wildlife, focusing on how winds in the North Sea will affect migrating birds crossing from Scandinavia, and how falling temperatures influence the changing of colours of the leaves.
Think of the autumn rut and the animal that springs to mind is unlikely to be a goat. But across the UK the wild goat rut has been in full swing this autumn and it's got all the drama, danger and excitement that you'd expect. On the beaches of Mull, with a stunning backdrop of crashing waves, the billy goats clash as they fight for the right to breed.
What could be more adorable than a red squirrel kit? Iolo travelled up to the Isle of Anglesey in north Wales where red squirrels rule the woods. A 15-year project is about to come to an end with the final release of the last red squirrel kittens to the island.
Chris Packham turns wildlife detective as he teams up with scientists studying urban foxes on the mean streets of Brighton. Our cities’ foxes are on the rise, and a spate of so-called ‘attacks’ means they’re in the news like never before. Autumnwatch is joining forces with the University of Brighton in a ground-breaking study, aiming to separate fact from fiction. Using the latest in tracking technology, Chris will follow the progress of two fox families living in Brighton’s city centre and the leafy suburbs to reveal their lives in more intimate detail than ever before.
I know that many of you have asked whether Autumnwatch will be covering the badger cull. We all appreciate that it is an emotive and controversial issue, and one which people feel strongly about, and we invite you to discuss it and share your views, as we did during Springwatch. For Autumnwatch, we are making a film about the long history and science of human-badger interaction. Around transmission time, we will also be creating a new and updated blog on the Autumnwatch website with a compilation of the most up-to-date BBC coverage of the badger cull and links to further information on the subject as a way of helping you get fully informed on this complicated and ongoing policy issue. As ever, we will open this new blog to viewer comments where we expect further insight and debate from all of those interested and involved in the subject.
This year, we’ve delved deep into the microworld of the leaf litter, a wild, three-dimensional habitat that is both home and hunting ground for creatures great and small. The humble earthworm is perhaps one of our most overlooked animals. Hidden beneath the ground, they emerge under the cover of darkness and stealthily pull fallen leaves underground. Theirs is a dangerous life - every night they run the gauntlet of hedgehogs, badgers and birds all of whom view them as a tasty snack.
There's also life and death a-plenty in the leaf litter. We’ve filmed tiny slug hatchlings in amazing detail, just after they’ve emerged from a cluster of eggs. But like a scene from a horror film, they face great danger when a long nosed slug hunter is on the prowl.
Our effervescent and interactive sister show, Autumnwatch Unsprung makes a welcome return, this time with new host Nick Baker. Nick is a passionate and knowledgeable naturalist, and he’ll be asking you to send in questions, photos and videos. There’ll be surprise wildlife visitors in the studio and exclusive looks behind-the-scenes at how Autumnwatch is made.
We get so many quirky questions and observations from our audience that this year, we’ve got three additional Unsprungs!
These will be exclusively be live online and on the BBC Red Button from Tuesday 29th to Thursday 31st October, followed by Friday’s show, which will air on BBC Two at 9pm.
This year, we’re trying something new on the Red Button and on our website. ‘Autumnwatch Extra’, will be broadcast live from dawn to dusk on the four days of the main show’s transmission.
Watches regular Euan McIlwraith and cameraman Richard Taylor Jones are the team’s early birds: they’ll be up before dawn to get into position for ‘Starling Lift Off’ when thousands of birds take to the air in the lemon light of dawn.
As the day’s action hot’s up, we’ll have reports from cameramen in the field, live action on our remote cameras, interviews with wildlife experts and debates on controversial issues such as urban foxes. There’ll also be light-hearted banter around eclectic stories such as sex-changing pheasants and somersaulting hedgehogs!
The day’s coverage will come to a close as the starlings end their mumuration and settle for the night.
As always, there are plenty of ways for you to get involved.
Post a Reply to a blog like this one
Follow us on Twitter or share your autumn experiences with #autumnwatch
Share photos via the official Autumnwatch Flickr group
To find autumnal events near where you live, Try BBC Things to Do.
The Autumnwatch team will be checking all these regularly and we're looking forward to seeing your pictures, receiving your questions, and finding out about your own experiences of autumn.
So that’s some of the highlights of this year’s Autumnwatch. But as ever, we have no idea what’s going to happen when we get up to Leighton Moss at the end of the month. There are rumours of a barn owl which is coming onto the reserve to hunt the starlings as they roost … And we’ve heard reports of a magnificent red deer stag – with 16-points on its antlers. Will it rule the rut? We hope you’ll join us to find out, and to celebrate this most dramatic and spectacular season.
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