Planet Earth Live is a project of a lifetime.

A globally live wildlife series!

Julia filming in Monterey Bay, California

I'll be on location with the black bears in the Northwoods of Minnesota for the whole of May when we go live on BBC One.

Richard Hammond will be in Kenya with the lions and elephants and there'll be a team of camera people and experts around the world who will be witnessing first hand macaque monkeys, meerkats, giant otters and polar bears.

I met most members of the crew for the first time at Heathrow airport and there began our first leg over to San Francisco to film the California sea otters.

From there the plan was to head on to Mexico to film gray whales and then journey far north to find the black bears.

All in nine days.

This initial filming trip was to establish an on-screen connection with some of the animals and set up some of the stories before the live series starts on 6 May.

In picturesque Monterey, California I had an encounter which you'll see with a mother otter that has chosen an alternative lifestyle.

Rather than living in the open water in the kelp as most of the otter population do she has chosen to live in the rather grand marina surrounded by humans, expensive boats and fishermen.

Food is not plentiful and it's a risky environment - especially with a pup.

After visiting those two I had planned to kayak out to the open water otters and slide up close in the thick green kelp forest.

But that afternoon the weather closed in and the swell was too high so we had to use a rib (a kind of boat) instead to film the impossibly cute otters feeding and grooming.

Sea otter and pup in Monterey Harbour, California

We thought we'd try again the following morning but conditions hadn't improved so we had to hit the road for our 10 hour drive to Los Angeles.

You can plan and plan back at base but if things don't work out you have to adapt.

In Baja, Mexico we set out on two tiny boats in an attempt to spot the gray whales with their calves.

The lagoons in San Ignacio are a warm water retreat for the whales - a chance to nurse their young and prepare them for their mammoth migration back north towards the Arctic waters.

These animals undertake the longest migration of any - it's estimated that a gray whale can travel up to half a million miles in a lifetime!

At first we saw them breaching and spraying in the distance - lots of them. And you could tell they were moving in twos by the enormous dark shapes in the water.

And then two shapes approached the boat.

At first the adult female approached seemingly to check us out - all 50 tonnes of her. I got sprayed twice right in the face - Mama was saying hello.

Then she nudged her calf towards us. It is weird and wonderful behaviour that hasn't been explained - why does an adult female push her vulnerable offspring towards a potential threat?

I leaned over the boat and stroked the calf. It is the most incredible feeling - to have physical contact with such a grand and, I think, beautiful creature.

We filmed with the whales for hours and hours - getting different shots, using the underwater camera, filming from boat to boat.

We were incredibly lucky over two days and managed to get everything we had wished for and more.

Julia has a close encounter with a gray whale mother in Baja, Mexico

It doesn't always work out that way filming wildlife. Some members of the team had been to Baja before and had waited 11 days for any action.

Having a little one myself (my baby is nine months old) I'm chuffed to be based in Minnesota.

It's a beautiful landscape of lakes and woodland and a reasonably safe place to live and work for a month.

The purpose of our flying visit was to meet the expert Dr Lynn Rogers who is known as 'The Bear Man'.

He has studied the black bears of Minnesota for 45 years and keeps track of them for his research.

He introduced me to my first wild black bear when we went together on foot to a den in the woods.

Dr Rogers wanted to check on the collar (tracking device) of a female bear before she departed her den for good following hibernation.

Over years of painstaking study with bears Dr Rogers has developed a call he makes which the bears have learned to recognise as him.

They've learned when they hear it that they are safe among friends and so the arrival of humans doesn't startle them.

After making some 'hey bear' calls, incredibly, a large female emerged from the den.

I stood in awe of the scene beside me as Lynn went in to examine her collar.

A black bear mother with her cub in Minnesota

There is much more to tell you but you'll have to watch the programmes because my adventure with the bears is a drama we're going to be living together through the series. (Yes I was frightened.)

We are all incredibly excited about Planet Earth Live - nothing like it has ever been done before.

This is a real chance for you to get close to the wildlife and follow the animals' stories from around the world.

The creatures will be going through a very important time in the animal kingdom as their offspring fight for life.

It's going to be a wildlife soap opera.

Julia Bradbury is one of the presenters of Planet Earth Live.

Planet Earth Live starts on Sunday, 6 May at 7.50pm on BBC One and BBC One HD. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


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