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Archives for October 2011

Unsprung animal skull quiz

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Gavin Boyland Gavin Boyland | 17:15 UK time, Friday, 28 October 2011

Think you can identify which animals these skulls belonged to? Tell Level-Headed Jo below.

mystery skull
mystery skull
mystery skull

Autumnwatch 28 October - ask the team a question

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 16:33 UK time, Friday, 28 October 2011

Right here's the place ask a question to any of the presenters. Chris, Michaela and Martin will do their best to answer as many as possible during tonight's show.

So if you've got a question about any of the topics covered in tonight's show - eels, deer ruts, wildlife gardening, ospreys, trees, badgers - or something seasonal, please post a comment below.

Badgers and TB: Have your say

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 15:54 UK time, Friday, 28 October 2011

In tonight's Autumnwatch we look at the latest news in the badger/TB story. You can see our film below. We'd like to hear what you think about the issue, so please post a comment below and let is know.

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I've posted a few important links for those wanting to find out a bit more.

Autumnwatch, 8.30pm Friday 28 October, BBC Two.

Plant some trees

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 14:17 UK time, Friday, 28 October 2011

There can never be enough trees. After all, the UK is just 12 per cent woodland as opposed to a European average of 44 per cent. So get out there and plant some more!

There's loads of help and resources on the web to get both individuals and groups started. Here are just a few:

Autumn bird migration news: A north/south divide

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Nick Moran & Paul Stancliffe (BTO) Nick Moran & Paul Stancliffe (BTO) | 21:33 UK time, Thursday, 27 October 2011

Each week Paul and Nick from the BTO are updating us on all the comings and goings of autumn's bird migration. We'd love to hear what you've been seeing too, whether in your garden or out and about.

blackcap

The blackcap, marooned on Fair Isle © Mark Taylor/BTO

There has been a north/south divide this week, and the further north you go the greater the divide. The very strong south westerly winds have remained gale force for most of the week in the very north of Scotland and the northern isles, grounding large numbers of geese and swans and effectively bringing any migration there to a complete halt. At present there are around 30 blackcaps on Fair Isle, Shetland, that will be unable to leave until the wind drops considerably.

Further south the winds have been much lighter and at time movement has been impressive. The first large arrival of starlings occurred at the beginning of the week, along with impressive numbers of finches, linnet being the most numerous of these, accompanied by smaller numbers of goldfinches and chaffinches.

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Behind the scenes: A day in the life of Autumnwatch

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Gavin Boyland Gavin Boyland | 17:10 UK time, Thursday, 27 October 2011

Hi everyone!

Last week we shot a little behind the scenes clip to give you an idea of what we get up to in the lead up to the programme. We hope you enjoy it!

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Autumn wildlife gardening

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 16:30 UK time, Thursday, 27 October 2011

Guest post: Wildlife gardening isn't just about spring and summer. The Wildlife Trusts' Morag Shuaib explains why getting your garden ready for autumn is critical for many of its wild inhabitants.

spider in front of shed

Make your garden spider-friendly this autumn © Morag Shuaib

Autumn seems to have snapped into action and suddenly I see my small urban garden in a different light. It's no longer a space for basking in sunshine while bees buzz among the flowers and butterflies float above. Now, falling leaves and damp days after crisp sunny ones all bring an impending sense of decay. The bite in the air reminds me that it's not just me who will be seeking shelter and warmth from now on.

In fact, much of what we can do for wildlife in our gardens at this time of year is about providing spaces to over-winter. Right now, many of our wild creatures are looking for a warm, safe and sheltered spot suitable for the coming months. And for many of them, it's a matter of life and death.

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Leah Gooding: How I fell in love with eels

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 15:23 UK time, Thursday, 27 October 2011

Guest blog post: on this week's Autumnwatch, guest presenter Leah Gooding investigates the plight of one of our most mysterious and iconic fish, the eel.

Leah Gooding

Growing up I always thought wildlife was either on TV or in the countryside. It just felt out of my reach. I'd watch Sir David Attenborough on television, he'd be somewhere far off discovering a new species and I'd be sitting way too close to the TV gripped and hanging on his every word. Without a doubt He sparked my campaign to get my parents to fill our house with pets.

We had three Staffordshire bull terriers, two gorgeous butter yellow canary birds, a rabbit called Thumper and two tarantulas. Yep, I love creepy crawlies!

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The importance of tree management at Westonbirt Arboretum

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 13:44 UK time, Thursday, 27 October 2011

Guest blog post: Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, is one of the hosts of Autumnwatch Live. Westonbirt's Katrina Podlewska on how tree management is key to maintaining its world famous collection.

filming a visual tree inspection

The Autumnwatch team filming a visual tree inspection

Westonbirt is managed by the Forestry Commission as a living tree collection. This week, the Autumwatch team followed Westonbirt's tree team to find out how they inspect trees for fungal decay and hazards.

Each year around 300 trees are planted into our collection and a similar number removed. Most trees are removed due to poor health, due to everything from fungal pathogens (fungi) to new pests and diseases arriving from overseas.

Nearly all of the felled tree material is reused onsite as woodchip or sold at the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum wood sales.

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Coming up on Unsprung

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Gavin Boyland Gavin Boyland | 19:51 UK time, Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Spider

Things that go bump in the night © Ed Whiting

We're having a busy week here in Unsprung corner (yes we've got our very own corner of the office which is steadily be overtaken by all your lovely letters, pictures and the like). We're lining up another packed show for you this Friday evening, stuffed full all the yummy stuff you've been sending in.

Joining Chris, Martin and Michaela will be Autumnwatch regular Nick 'Bug Boy' Baker. He'll be on hand with his wonderful collection of minibeasts that we share our homes with (so be warned we'll be featuring plenty of spiders... it is Halloween after all). If you've got any bug-related question for Nick then post them here.

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Autumnwatch Unsprung round up

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Gavin Boyland Gavin Boyland | 17:33 UK time, Monday, 24 October 2011

I hope you've been enjoying Unsprung. In case you missed it, you can watch last week's Autumnwatch Unsprung on BBC iPlayer.

I wanted to take this opportunity round up some of the best bits from last week's show. First up, here's what the team have been calling the 'Lush Montage' of our favourites from the Autumnwatch Photo group so far:

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Unsprung beak ID quiz

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Gavin Boyland Gavin Boyland | 17:10 UK time, Friday, 21 October 2011

Can you identify the birds that own these beaks? Answers below please...

beak images

 

Update 25 October: If you missed the answers on the show, they are: A) Red-billed chough B) Shoveler duck C) Curlew. Congratulations to everyone who got them all right!

Autumnwatch 21 October - get involved

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 16:27 UK time, Friday, 21 October 2011

It's a packed show tonight... Chris and Martin report back on their visit to north Devon, exploring the moors, rockpooling on the spectacular coastline, and helping bring in the wild Exmoor ponies. There's an update on the migrating osprey chicks, and wildlife filmmaker Johnny Kingdom is on the trail of one of autumn's spectacles, the red deer rut.

And as always we'd like you to get involved. Chris, Michaela and Martin will be playing a mystery sound and if you can identify it, here's the place.

The man of the moor himself is paying us a visit in the studio tonight. So if you have a question for Johnny Kingdom to answer on Unsprung please post it here and we'll try our best to ask him. (We've already had some great ones - so thanks if you've already asked one.)

And finally, a chance to outdo Chris and help us solve a mystery? Down on Exmoor the wildlife cameramen filmed this grub emerging from an acorn. But even Chris has no idea what it is. Do you know what the unidentified creature is? Answers below please nature sleuths...

larvae emerging from acorn

Can you identify this grub?

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Rockpooling, a great autumn activity

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 14:44 UK time, Friday, 21 October 2011

As you can see on tonight's Autumnwatch, Chris and Martin had a very productive time rockpooling on Lee beach, on the outer edges of Exmoor. We really hope it's inspiring you to take the kids out this half term and do the same. It's a great way to discover the wide biodiversity to be found on our beaches. There's quite a few guides to the best rockpools, such as here, here, and here.

Before you go, have a read of our guide to some of the some of fantastic characters you can come across in rockpools, like the dog whelk or the sea scorpion.

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Autumn bird migration news: A week on Fair Isle

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Nick Moran & Paul Stancliffe (BTO) Nick Moran & Paul Stancliffe (BTO) | 12:54 UK time, Friday, 21 October 2011

Each week Paul and Nick from the BTO are updating us on all the comings and goings of autumn's bird migration. We'd love to hear what you've been seeing too, whether in your garden or out and about.

Whinchat

The whinchat, still around on Fair Isle © Ron Marshall/BTO

In a departure from the normal migration blog we thought it would be good to give you a flavour of what Nick and I have been up to this week.

Last Friday we arrived on Fair Isle, a three miles by one mile island roughly mid-way between Shetland and Orkney, for a seveniday stay at the world famous Fair Isle bird observatory. Our reason for being here? To experience for first-hand migration through and over this magical island.

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Johnny Kingdom's stories from the moor

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 13:03 UK time, Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Guest blog post: camera assistant Hector Skevington-Postles reports on filming with Johnny Kingdom, the man of the moor, for Autumnwatch.

The Autumnwatch Aventure team with Johnny Kingtom on Exmoor

The task for the Autumnwatch Adventure team on Exmoor was to capture a piece of this beautiful countryside, the deer and the special relationship that one man, Johnny Kingdom, shares with both.

Inside Johnny's office the intoxicating mix of camouflage, taxidermy and camera equipment gave a clear idea of the man we were here to film. Then the stories began. Surrounded by hundreds of tapes of his own footage, Johnny began to regale us with tales of the moor. This would be the tone for the week.

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Autumnwatch Unsprung: Keep those questions coming

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Gavin Boyland Gavin Boyland | 15:38 UK time, Monday, 17 October 2011

crab

Thanks everyone for watching Unsprung on Friday. I hope you enjoyed the show. Wasn't Maya Plass brilliant? It's wonderful to have people on who are so knowledgeable and passionate. I also must do a big thank you to the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth for bringing along their 'mock pool' (as Maya so eloquently put it).

If any of you have been out rock pooling this week we'd love to see your pictures. Please use the Autumnwatch photo group to share them. We'll be featuring the best at the beginning of this week's show. If there's something you've found that you can't identify why not pop it up there as well. As Michaela said, our big kids - Chris and Martin - will also be having a go at rock pooling this week so we'll see the result in the main show.

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Autumnwatch webcams: Badgercam transmission times

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 12:52 UK time, Monday, 17 October 2011

Badgercam will be live on the website every day from 5pm until 11pm right up to and including Sunday 23 October. You can also view it on BBC Red Button (on Freeview, Sky and Virgin) but due to other events the times it's on Red Button may vary. I've posted them below. That way, whichever service you have you'll know when it's viewable. Please note that last minute over-runs etc mean these are still subject to change.

Also below I've detailed when Chris Sperring will be talking live to Andrew Cooper and other guests. So be sure to book yourself in, get ready with a cup of tea/cocoa/brandy and settle down to some great wildlife chat. They're not on every day, but every day at about 7.15pm is badger feeding time - another date for your diaries.

badgercam times

Wed 19 October: 7.15pm Chris with Andrew and Steve Hussey from Devon Wildlife Trust and again at 9.30pm

Friday 21 October: 10.10pm Chris with Andrew

Sunday 23 October: 5.30pm Chris with Andrew. At 7.15pm and 9.30pm they'll be joined by Pauline Kidner from Secret World, a rescue centre which helps injured badgers

(These times may also change a little but only by a few minutes here and there.)

Unsprung's map quiz

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Gavin Boyland Gavin Boyland | 19:14 UK time, Friday, 14 October 2011

Can you identify which animals take these migratory routes? Answers below please.

unsprung map

 

unsprung map

 

What's the mystery sound?

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 18:58 UK time, Friday, 14 October 2011

On the show tonight you'll hear a mystery sound. Can you identify it? Tell us what you think it is right here.

Where to see leaping salmon

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 15:22 UK time, Friday, 14 October 2011

Leaping salmon

Leaping salmon (photo: Ian Llewellyn)

It's not just birds that migrate in autumn. Watching leaping salmon fighting to get upriver to spawn is one of the season's highlights. Here are a few spots where you can witness one of this country's natural wonders. But as always, over to you, the experts... Are there any places you'd recommend? Any particular favourites where you can get the best view of these migratory shoals?

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Charlie Hamilton James: Swimming with salmon

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 14:19 UK time, Thursday, 13 October 2011

Guest blog post: Autumnwatch guest presenter and wildlife cameraman Charlie Hamilton James has been investigating the life of Atlantic salmon.

Charlie Hamilton James in a river

Me in a drysuit getting ready to swim with the salmon (photo: Hector Skevington-Postles)

Last year I was in Shetland swimming with otters for Autumnwatch. This year I'm slightly further south in Perthshire, filming salmon. Over the last few years I've really got into underwater camera work and photography and I have a particular passion for creatures that we rarely encounter underwater, hence the otters.

So I've been all over Britain swimming in all sorts of places: lochs with trout, chalk streams with chub, harbours with seals and now rivers with salmon. The waters up here in Perthshire are dark and freezing cold but the experience is something else.

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Autumn bird migration news: Full of eastern promise

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Nick Moran & Paul Stancliffe (BTO) Nick Moran & Paul Stancliffe (BTO) | 22:34 UK time, Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Each week Paul and Nick from the BTO are updating us on all the comings and goings of autumn's bird migration. We'd love to hear what you've been seeing too, whether in your garden or out and about.

hawfinch

The hawfinch, arriving this week © Edmund Fellowes/BTO

Strong westerly winds have dominated the weather this week. As a consequence songbird migration has been very slow. The strong winds did, however, blow Leach's petrels into coastal waters along the west coast. Reasonable numbers were seen at several locations - particularly in the northwest - over the weekend.

When the wind has dropped slightly birds have taken the opportunity to move. With the majority of the swallows having left already it's been the finches that have been the most obvious and of these the goldfinch has lead the way, 1,325 moved south over Spurn in East Yorkshire, on Monday.

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Autumnwatch Live 2011 has started - get involved!

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Roger Webb Roger Webb | 14:17 UK time, Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Welcome back to a brand new series of Autumnwatch Live. The big news this year is that we have a new presenter, Michaela Strachan. We're delighted to have her on board. Michaela talks about autumn, Autumnwatch and working with Chris in a video here.

Michaela Strachan, Chris Packham and Martin Hughes-Games

Michaela, Chris Packham and Martin

Also new for this year is that we're on the move. For the first four weeks we'll be at the Forestry Commission's National Arboretum at Westonbirt. For the final four weeks, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's Slimbridge reserve will be our home. Read more about our new locations here and delve into Westonbirt's fascinating history here.

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An anatomy of autumn part one: Horse chestnuts

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 22:38 UK time, Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Guest blog post: The Woodland Trust's Beverley Gormley kicks off a regular series examining the phenology of the season's key species with a look at that perennial autumn favourite the conker.

conkers

Conkers © M Barton/WTPL

So far, autumn's been something of a surprise. For most of us last week was particularly warm (1 October was, provisionally, the hottest October day on record at 29.9C) and fruit such as blackberries ripened early. But here at the Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar project we're seeing evidence that the blackberry yield has been low, possibly due to the drought conditions we experienced earlier this year.

For lovers of autumn colour, this could be good news. There's a good chance deciduous trees will give us an extra-vibrant display of autumn colour brought on by warm days and cool nights.

Just like blackberries, conkers, the ripe fruits of the horse chestnut tree, have been spotted a little earlier than average this year.

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Going underground: Get a unique view of a badger's world

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 15:29 UK time, Tuesday, 11 October 2011

badgers on a monitor

From Friday 14 October we'll be beaming pictures like these live from Devon

Join us on our live webcast or (for the very first time) via the BBC Red Button for a unique view into the lives of one of Britain's most loved creatures. Autumnwatch Live has three miniature cameras buried deep inside the sett of a wild badger family in the Devon countryside.

You will see live footage of badgers, the like of which has been rarely seen before. Above ground they're incredibly nervous, but inside their subterranean home these mammals are completely at ease. It might be pitch black down there but our infra-red cameras will be able to witness every aspect of the their underground life.

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Autumnwatchers to the rescue: Help a house martin

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Gavin Boyland Gavin Boyland | 12:34 UK time, Tuesday, 11 October 2011

If you were watching last week’s Unsprung you’ll know that we featured a beautiful young albino squirrel brought in by HART Wildlife Rescue.


House martin with Charmian from HART wildlife rescue

HART Wildlife Rescue carer Charmian with the unlucky house martin


They run a wildlife hospital in North East Hampshire providing rescue, treatment and rehabilitation to Hampshire and its surrounds. HART have contacted the Unsprung team urgently to ask for your help!

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Have you got any marine themed questions?

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Gavin Boyland Gavin Boyland | 17:12 UK time, Monday, 10 October 2011

Hi everyone, Thanks to everyone who watched and got involved with Autumnwatch Unsprung last Friday. It feels great to be back on your screens and to see so many people taking part and getting involved online. How did you find the Unsprung quiz? Well done to everyone who got the capercaillie poo, that was a tricky one! With Chris, Michaela and Martin filming on Spurn Point this week we're developing a nautical, seaside, marine theme for this week's Unsprung. If you've got any questions along these lines let us know by commenting below. Or if you've found any weird wildlife items along the coast why not take a picture, upload it to our photo group and we'll see if we can get it IDed during the show. Keep the questions and videos coming, Gavin Gavin Boyland is the Producer of Autumnwatch Unsprung, which starts 9.30pm, Friday 7 October on BBC Two.

Update 26 October: This post is now closed for comments. If you'd like to ask a question or share a story with the Unsprung team please comment on this post.

Westonbirt Arboretum: 170 years of passion, planting and second guessing autumn colour

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 12:51 UK time, Monday, 10 October 2011

Guest blog post: Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is hosting Autumnwatch Live for the next three weeks. Westonbirt's Katrina Podlewska looks at its history, from millionaire's plaything to world class tree collection.

Autumn leaves

Autumn leaves at Westonbirt © FC Picture Library

The history of Westonbirt, The National Arboretum has been shaped from a legacy of Victorian fashions, a wealthy family, globe-trotting and death-defying plant hunters and landscape design.

What started as an arboretum in which to house specimens collected from around the world is now a world class tree collection which receives more than 350,000 visits a year.

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Chris's Unsprung Nature Table Quiz

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 20:22 UK time, Friday, 7 October 2011

Can you identify all the items on Chris's Nature Table? Answers below please.

quiz item

A

quiz item

B

Quiz item 3

C

Your unusual caching stories

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 19:18 UK time, Friday, 7 October 2011

Have you noticed any unusual caching behaviour this autumn? Have your local jays been storing loads more than normal, squirrels been using weird and wonderful places, or have you noticed band voles being suprisingly late. If you have, post a comment below... we'd love to hear.

Watch our caching film on Autumnwatch Live, Friday 7 October on BBC Two.

The big debate: Wild boars in the Forest of Dean

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 17:16 UK time, Friday, 7 October 2011

Culling of any animal is an emotive issue and wild boar are no exception.

Historically the Forest of Dean was a royal hunting ground. Wild boar were so popular at medieval banquets that they were hunted to extinction by the 13th century. Over the last few decades, however, the boar have reappeared in the forest by escaping from farms and illegal dumping. Their comeback, though welcomed by many, causing some controversy.

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Andy Hamilton's hedgerow toffee apples recipe

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 16:30 UK time, Friday, 7 October 2011

Guest blogger Andy Hamilton, forager extraordinaire, shares his mouthwatering recipe for hedgerow toffee apples.

The toffee apples you get at a fair ground are often full of all sorts of additives these are full of things that can even lower blood pressure. How good is that!

Ingredients:

50g of assorted hedgerow fruit (haws, sloes, hips etc)
225g sugar
150ml water
half tsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp maple syrup
25g butter
6 apples
6 fat twigs/sticks

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Tell us about your autumn so far

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Martin Hughes-Games Martin Hughes-Games | 18:59 UK time, Thursday, 6 October 2011

What a strange end to the summer! Or was it a strange start to the autumn? For those of us living in the southern half of the country we fairly sizzled in delightful late summer sun... man it was hot! And then, practically in the course of a single day, someone threw a switch - the clouds rolled in and the thermometer plunged.

It must have been very confusing, perhaps disruptive, for our wildlife. I noticed two things immediately, my late flowering plants were smothered in butterflies. I counted 14 red admirals on a single sedum bush. Also, what on earth happened to our swallows and martins? One day they were here, the next - not a sign - anywhere.

But what have YOU seen? How has the unusual weather affected wildlife where you live? We'd love to know. So please comment below and tell us about the weird, the wonderful, perhaps even bizarre effects the weather seems to have had on nature in your area.

Thank you - Martin.

Autumn bird migration news: Out of Iceland

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Nick Moran & Paul Stancliffe (BTO) Nick Moran & Paul Stancliffe (BTO) | 17:48 UK time, Thursday, 6 October 2011

Whooper swans

Whooper swans were part of the exodus from the north this week © Jill Pakenham

As we were basking in summer-like sunshine, winter arrived in Greenland and Iceland, where heavy snow and freezing temperatures were very much the order of the day. This was the trigger for Greenland wheatears to leave there. Monday saw a large wave of these birds pass through the UK, with at least 250 birds were counted at Spurn Point alone.

This peak is also reflected in the BirdTrack national reporting rate. It's amazing to think that some of these birds breed in western Alaska and still migrate to Africa for the winter, crossing Greenland, Iceland and the western edge of Europe on the way. Around the size of a robin, they will fly 10,000km (6,000 miles) before they reach sub-Saharan Africa.

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Four days to go!

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Gavin Boyland Gavin Boyland | 18:07 UK time, Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Filming Autumnwatch

Some of the roving team filming earlier this week, but who's our new feathered friend?

Hi everyone,

Well, it's now just four days before Autumnwatch goes live, and there's a real exciting buzz in the office. Here in Unsprung corner we've been looking at all your comments and questions, photos and videos, but please do keep them coming in, we want more!

The video uploader has now gone live, you can now send us all your wildlife home movies, also if you have a question to ask the team why not have a go recording it on camera and uploading it. I've given it a go myself with a little introductory clip which you can check out now... please don't laugh!

Keep your autumn snaps coming in to the photo group. As ever it would be great to hear about any story or mystery behind the picture. If you've got a question for Chris Martin or Michaela the easiest thing to do is post it here on the blog, which we'll be checking all the time.

Thanks to everyone who's got involved so far, and keep it coming.

Gavin Boyland is the Producer of Autumnwatch Unsprung, which starts 9.30pm, Friday 7 October on BBC Two.

Update 26 October: This post is now closed for comments. If you'd like to ask a question or share a story with the Unsprung team please comment on this post.

Why do leaves change colour?

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 11:33 UK time, Tuesday, 4 October 2011

fallen leaves in woodland

Vibrant shades of red, gold and orange © Richard Becker/WTPL

Guest bloggers: Beverley Gormley and Kimberley Tew from the Woodland Trust.

Many trees are starting to take on their beautiful autumn colour. Where just a few weeks ago there were many shades of green, we're now starting to see vibrant shades of red, gold and orange as the season shifts.

Across the UK, Nature's Calendar's band of recorders have been logging their sightings so that we can watch autumn colour sweeping across the country. You can see this phenomenon for yourself on our live tracking maps.

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