Planet Earth Live - Presenting a wildlife soap opera

Friday 4 May 2012, 10:15

Julia Bradbury Julia Bradbury Presenter

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Planet Earth Live is a project of a lifetime.

A globally live wildlife series!

Julia Bradbury on a boat in Monterey Bay, California

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 cub in Monterey Harbour, California

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.

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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.

Black bear cub and mother playing in Minnesota, USA

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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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Why does the mother bear have a huge collar on??
    Are we not supposed to be watching animals their
    Own environment or have I missed the point?

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Bad start to the series. Too much presenters talking about mum and babies. If the monkey had a baby it would be front page news

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I like Richard Hammond but I'm sorry to say he's not the right presenter for this programme. As far as I'm aware he has very little knowledge of the natural world and lacks a certain repect and gravitas that I would prefer to see. All the superb and exceptional photography and filming that we have come to expect for the BBC is not being supported by Richards commentary. Julia is a bit better and more knowledgable. Shame the other bloke's asleep!

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    This is the natural world according to Disney. Why couldn't the programme be presented by experts with knowledge of the subject. Too many shots of the presenters being filmed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Really disappointing so far too much focus on presenters and not enough of the animals. It supposed to be about the animals not lets all look at Richard Hammond and Julia Bradbury

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    cannot understand the overly saccharin use of silly childish names given to wild animals, some reason no doubt but having childish presenter from Top Git does seem to remove any attempt at gravitas. However, hoorah for whale girl Julia, and the guy with the bald head seems to know what he is on about, but, please, why make it like a kiddy programme?

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Please can you ensure that you explain the biological difference between both types of orca so people understand that its not all orcas that are trying to eat the whales I think this is important - i hope this helps


  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    i agree with some other bloggers. This seems to be the presenters appreciation society and not really anything to do with LIVE animal/wildlife film. Where are the animals?

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Brilliant show! A great insight into the real struggles that animals go throught in their natural habitats. Will be tuning in for rest of series.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Who the heck decided to put Richard Hammond on this - what a patronising fool he is. Julia Bradbury isn't much better ( Hello, Mrs Bear???). I want experts and I want to watch the animals not watch those presenters & listen to their ridiculous commentary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Why Julia Bradbury and Richard Hammond - what a huge disappointment - 'hello mrs bear' yuk - both animal and audience patronised - first time I can't stand to watch wildlife on the BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Been looking forward to this program but as I'm watching it's a huge disappointment, I agree with the comment of Richard Deal about the use of names. Additionally the made up stories of the Bear being a bad mother: Are we being treated like children who need additional stories to add interest. Why is Richard Hammond 'Sorry' about what may happen to an elephant. Surely they are just there to film what happens, not be sorry about nature. Having grown up on quality programs by the likes of Richard Attenborough, this is a poor presentation. Like spring/ autumn watch, from around the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I like looking at animals in their habitat (tagged or not, even if we have given them childish names). I like looking at Julia (nose and all). Richard is a little irritating like he is about to crack a silly Top Gear type joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Good programme pity you took the orchestra with you makes listening to people talking difficult for the hard of hearing

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Moggie , you're right .. Richard Hammond as a wildlife presenter ?? How does that tie in with his promotion of gas-guzzling polluting car driving destroying the natural environment which he now supposedly 'loves'

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Watched 20 minutes - then turned off. BBC you've saved me watching 8 hours of infantile presentation. lead by the achitype infant Hammond who hasn't noticed he's not hosting a jumping about and falling into water programme

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Just seen the first episode - marvellous - wonderful - brilliant - loved the way you have pulled this together - good luck with the rest of the series which I will be watching - Best Regards - Ray

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Agree with comments above. A man who co-presents a show where people who have an interest in protecting the environment are ridiculed has no place on this show. His commentary would be more appropriate to a show where the animals attempt an obstacle course in Argentina.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Didn't see any live footage, not the best! What's with the recording of the wild wolf! Saw more wildlife in my back garden during the show! What a waist of money!!!and they ave probably gone back to the hotel by helicopter for the free bar!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    What a bunch of wingers you all are. Concentrate on the wonderful films they have captured so far and don't worry too much about the presenters and what they are known for .They are just anchormen. I'm sure as the series goes on it will get better.So appreciate the wonderful sights we've seen so far!!


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