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By the Autumnwatchers

All times stated are UK

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  1. Do your bit

    The problem with plastics

    The most plastic found in a fulmar's stomach was 20g. If you scale that up to human scale, that's like us consuming 2 kilograms in our stomach.

    Every year, 8 million metric tonnes of plastic finds its way into the ocean.

    Turltes can mistake plastic for jellyfish, which they then eat and can die.

    Every day when humpback whales are feeding on plankton, they can ingest 300,000 pieces of microplastic.

    Plastics never disappear, they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces, which doesn't goes away. This can become part of a food chain ending up in the fish we eat and inside of us. That could amount to 11,000 pieces of plastic per year inside of us... just think about that.

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  2. The best of Autumnwatch 2017

    A round up the last week at Sherborne

    Chris Hitchings

    Social Media Lead - The Watches

    Wow! What a week we have had! Thank you for all your support; for tuning in, for liking, for sharing, for taking part. As always, we've been overwhelmed. It's been a great week here at Sherborne and the wildlife has been keeping us busy - and we've had some fantastic stories to share. Before we head off to burrow down for winter we wanted to share the best of Autumnwatch 2017.

    Remember, even though we're not on TV again until next year, you can follow us around the year on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you're a photographer then why not share your photos with us on our Flickr page?

    Marchant's inspiring story

    The hearts of the nation were captured this week as we shared Marchant's story with you. He lives with cerebral palsy and writes the most beautiful poetry. His work is currently being displayed from the trees that inspire him to write it.

    Quote Message: "I need to write. It's the way I feel free. If I write, I am. If I write, I can be." from Marchant Barron Poet
    Marchant BarronPoet

    Video content

    Video caption: His work has been featured at Westonbirt Arboretum.

    As part of Marchant's film, we shared with you some stunning aerial shots of the National Arboretum at Westonbirt in Gloucestershire.

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    Up close and personal with the willow emerald damselfly

    We revealed the breeding habits of one of Britain's newest colonisers, the willow emerald damselfly. The film, which was shot in a London park, is stunning and sheds real light on the breeding habits of these fascinating invertebrates.

    Video content

    Video caption: Incredible creatures with fascinating breeding habits.

    We met Europe's smallest rodent

    Meet the harvest mouse - the smallest rodent living in Europe. It's not an easy life being a harvest mouse; building a nest, hunting for food, avoiding predators.

    Video content

    Video caption: It weighs fewer than six grams.

    "This didn't happen in Top Gun"

    We sent Chris Packham and Martin Hughes-Games to an airfield for a Hollywood-esque showdown. We pitched a whooper swan against a greylag goose in the ultimate Autumnwatch test. But not everything was as Top Gun as we'd have liked....

    Video content

    Video caption: "This didn't happen in Top Gun"

    And that's us - see you on TV for Winterwatch!

  3. Five facts about the Bechstein's bat

    Bechstein`s bat are very rare and live in trees. They can be found in old, broadleaved woodlands and only a few are found underground during hibernation.

    1. Bechstein's bats are very rare in the UK, with the most recent population estimates of around 1,500 individuals residing here.
    2. They feed on invertebrates, including spiders and resting insects which are picked, or 'gleaned' from branches and leaves.
    3. Maximum recorded age is 21 years!
    4. Bechstein’s bats have long, distinctive ears, which curl back slightly at the tips.
    5. They are found in Southern England and possibly parts of South Wales
  4. Fabulous Fungi - Part II

    There are thousands of species of fungi and we've selected some of the most interesting and colourful types for you to marvel at.

    But remember, they are not good to eat and some are harmful.

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    Common Stinkhorn

    A strange woodland fungus which you often smell before you see!

    The stem emerges from an underground egg and is topped by a sticky foul-smelling fluid called a gleba. Flies attracted by the smell carry away the spores on their feet and spread stinkhorns far and wide.

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    Earth Star

    Earth stars are some of the strangest fungi, growing mainly in old woods and hedgerows. They look rather like dried starfish surrounding a bulbous sac. When a raindrop falls on the sac, it flexes and pumps out a cloud of minute spores. In spite of the vast numbers of spores, earth stars are not very common anywhere and numbers vary from year to year.

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  5. Fabulous Fungi - Part I

    Autumn is the best time to savour the sheer variety of fungi

    Brett Westwood

    Wildlife expert

    Their bizarre shapes and colours are at their very best right now and a walk in woods or meadows will be enlivened by a bewildering number of species. Some have the typical mushroom shape with a cap and gills from which they shed spores. Others like puffballs and earth-stars release clouds of spores like smoke when raindrops fall on them. Bracket fungi which grow on tree-trunks and branches drop their spores downwards. Although there are thousands of species, we've selected a few of the most colourful or distinctive ones to look for now.

    They make great portraits but, we should point out that none of these are good to eat and some are harmful.

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    Fly Agaric

    Probably the most well-known of all mushrooms, the fly agaric grows in association with birch and pine trees and is common in heaths and open woodlands.The fungus is poisonous and hallucinogenic and it was used in Scandinavia to lure in reindeer herds. Lapps would drink the urine of reindeer which had eaten the agarics to experience the intoxicating effects of the fungus. It is definitely NOT to be eaten as the effects vary and it can cause serious symptoms in some people or even death.

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    Amethyst Deceiver

    One of the most colourful of our fungi, amethyst deceivers are brilliant purple when they first emerge and gradually fade to shades of greys and browns.

    They grow in woods often alongside the russet Common Deceivers. They're called deceivers because they can look like different species at different stages of their growth.

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    Waxcaps

    There are many species of waxcaps which grow in old mossy grassland, especially on old commons, in churchyards and on lawns where weedkillers and fertilisers haven't been used. Waxcaps are useful indicators of rich grasslands and are as colourful as flowers. Some are yellow, white, orange and scarlet and the Ballerina waxcap looks rather like a pink tutu. The parrot waxcap is very colourful and one of the few British mushrooms which can be green and even blue, though most have tinges of yellow or orange. They have very slimy caps and look like sucked boiled sweets as they glisten in the grass.

  6. Nature and art

    This special blog from the BTO looks at how we can strengthen our relationship with nature through art.

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    Quote Message: A growing body of work indicates that the creative arts can make a significant contribution to the communication of science because they stimulate intuitive thinking and take audiences on a journey of discovery. from BTO
    BTO
  7. Barmy about bats

    Lily Moffatt

    Autumnwatch Digital Assistant

    Our crew member Lily is a bat ecologist, when she's not a 'Watcher'...

    Check out this blog, where Lily shares a whole host of information on the UK's bats.

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  8. Bumper year for red admirals

    This video from Ann shows how some windfall apples provide a superb feeding station for butterflies!

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  9. Gimme shelter

    Brett Westwood

    Wildlife expert

    Results published last week from a study in Germany, show that insect numbers there have declined by nearly 80% in 24 years. The reasons for this decline aren't certain, but are likely to include simplification of the countryside, loss of habitats and use of herbicides and pesticides. As pollinators and predators of pests, as well as food for other animals, insects are vital to the health of other wildlife and that includes us! Although their losses seem huge, there are things we can do to help them in our gardens or neighbourhoods.

    View more on flickr

    The secret of attracting insects to your local park or your garden is to give them somewhere to feed, breed and shelter. Provide as much structure and variety as you can and you'll be amazed at the insects that move in and the birds that arrive to feed on them.

    Here are our top tips:

    • As well as a lawn and flowerbeds, try to make room for shrubs and trees. Native species like hazel ,holly rowan and birch are all good. Sallow blossom in early spring is brilliant for emerging bees and butterflies.
    • Provide dead wood for beetles and bees to nest in
    • A log pile makes an excellent shelter for over-wintering insects and spiders
    • Dead tree-stumps of old gateposts are home for rare stag beetles or solitary wasps
    • Drill holes in logs to make nest-burrows for solitary bees
    • Ivy flowers in autumn are brilliant nectar sources for hoverflies (whose larvae will help eat aphids), moths, butterflies and bees
    • Evergreen ivy leaves are excellent shelters for ladybirds and many other invertebrates in winter
    • Make a pond and be amazed as dragonflies damselflies, water-beetles and water-boatmen move in. If you don't add fish, you'll have more insects than if you do!
    • Let areas of your lawn grow to provide grassy tufts for caterpillars of Speckled Wood and Gatekeeper butterflies
    • Bumblebees love mossy and grassy corners to hide their nests
    • Create small gravelly or sandy areas in sunny spots and you'll be surprised at how many solitary bees and wasps make their nest-burrows there
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  10. Fungi frenzy!

    98 replies and counting! When we ask you for your fungi photos, you REALLY deliver!

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  11. Watch Brett & Lily talking bats and answering your questions

    Live streaming now...

    Brett Westwood

    Wildlife expert

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  12. Batty about bats!

    Join us here, or on Facebook for a live Q&A with Brett Westwood and bat ecologist Lily Moffatt

    Brett Westwood

    Wildlife expert

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  13. Good morning from the Autumnwatch digital team

    Final day at Sherborne

    Good morning!

    What a miserable and cold day it is here at Sherborne. Sadly, someone forgot to put in an order for good weather for our final show!

    Remember, you can stay in touch with us when we're not on air on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr.

    Later today we'll be showing you some of the animals we've been spotting on our webcams through a live stream, and also talking about bats. So there's plenty coming up!

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  14. Five facts you didn't know about beavers

    The species is being reintroduced to parts of the UK

    Across some parts of the UK, beavers are becoming a more familiar sight. Their reintroduction is being trialled in efforts to manage our rivers more effectively. But did you know...

    1. Beavers are strict vegetarians. They gnaw their way through trees, but not fish. As herbivores, they mostly eat woody plants like poplar, aspen, willow and birch.
    2. The teeth of beavers can grow at up to 0.5mm a month, this helps them counteract the effects of eating so much wood. However, if a beaver loses a tooth it can spell disaster.
    3. Armed with their teeth, beavers will take on some seriously big trees. One of the largest such trees on reportedly taken down by beavers was an aspen growing in woodland near the Norwegian town of Telemark. It was reportedly that 20m tall and over 1m in diameter.
    4. Beavers are the world's second-largest rodents after the capybara, with the European species slightly out-sizing its American cousin.
    5. Beaver tails are covered in scales. They use it as a rudder and a prop for whilst they're standing upright. A tail slap is a danger warning, or sometimes used in play.
  15. Beaver fever!

    Lily Moffatt

    Autumnwatch Digital Assistant

    In June 2017, the Cornwall Beaver Project, which is working closely with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Woodland Valley Farm and the University of Exeter, reintroduced two adult beavers - a male and a female - to a private farm in Ladock, Cornwall.

    Ladock is a small village that has been subject to extensive flooding in recent years - with this in mind, the beavers that have been reintroduced are thought to act as a natural flood defence system by changing the sculpture of the landscape.

    Incredibly, just two nights after the reintroduction, the beavers began building a dam - and within the first two weeks, the beaver dams had retained over 1,000 cubic metres of water! As time goes on, these dams have been extended and new ones constructed. There are now five beaver made dams on site at Ladock.

    Adult beaver swimming across the water pool.
    Image caption: Ladock beaver swimming across the dam-made pool. Image credit: @jackosapien

    Beavers were once endemic to the UK, but 400 years ago they were hunted to extinction for their meat, scent glands and fur.

    The loss of this clever eco-engineer to the UK caused the collapse of many intricate ecosystems and landscapes, including lakes, mires, tarns and bogs. For centuries, settlements across the UK have been feeling the negative effects associated with the loss of such a vital keystone species. However, within the last eight years, efforts have been made across the UK to reintroduce the once native beaver back to its former range.

    Adult beaver looking down the camera as it drinks from the water pool.
    Image caption: Adult beaver reintroduced to Ladock. Image credit: @jackosapien
    Adult beaver looking down at the camera across the greeny water pool.
    Image caption: Adult beaver reintroduced to Ladock. Image credit: @jackosapien

    Why have they been reintroduced to Lacock?Areas of Cornwall have been badly affected by adverse flooding over the years. People have been displaced from their homes, infrastructure destroyed and a huge amount of damage caused by the excess water into the area. This new beaver reintroduction scheme is thought to help mitigate this growing issue for areas that are most at risk of flooding.

    For Ladock, beavers' dam building and water channel digging behaviour may enable land close to flood risk areas to hold more water, so when heavy rainfall hits water will be retained. Ultimately, this slows the movement of water downstream and into areas that are at risk. The dams also act as a giant filter, trapping pollutants and sediment within the ponds, meaning that water is cleaner.

    Beaver ponds also enhance the biodiversity in the area, attracting many new species including reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds. These ponds become a hub for wildlife, enhancing and improving local ecosystems.

    Beaver reintroduction programmes across the UK are growing in popularity. Beavers have been reintroduced back into Scotland, Devon, Cornwall and hopefully soon, Wales.

    How you can get involved!See if you can spot a glimpse of a beaver by attending a public beaver watch provided by the Cornwall Beaver Project. You can book (between spring to autumn) and get the exciting opportunity to observe the beaver dams until dusk and spot one of its elusive residents. To find out more information, please visit http://www.cornwallwildlife.org.uk/beaverproject

    Video content

    Video caption: Beavers are back, but Brett Westwood asks if they can recover their place in our culture.
  16. The UK’s favourite nature book...we want to know what you think and here's what the presenters think!

    The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) are on the hunt to find out what YOUR favourite book about the natural world is, as they start a new two-year research project that will focus on the literary, social and cultural impact of writings about the natural world.

    Mike Collins from AHRC, explains in his blog why he feels so strongly about the research project:

    "As someone whose love of nature was rekindled through my work and having children, the written word played a vital role in helping me to navigate my way through the huge challenges facing the natural world and coming to terms with what it means to me and my family."

    So why is your choice so important to you..? Is it a book you became attached to from a young age or did it grab you in later life; or is it simply something that you can always rely upon?

    As an Autumnwatch input into this wonderful research, we asked presenters Chris and Martin what their number one choice was!

    Martin Hughes-Games said...

    "Mine is a slightly left field choice. Its “The Sword in the Stone" by T H white. The first book in “the once and future king” trilogy. Its about the young king Arthur (called Wart in the story) but the descriptions of the forests, the wildlife, the hawks, wolves, fish in the moat, etc (merlin turns the wart into various different animals to teach him about the world) utterly entranced me and encouraged my nascent fascination with the natural world. Theres a description of a dog benign put down after being injured in a wild boar hunt that still makes me weep to read".

    For Chris Packham, it has to be The Peregrine

    "I was half way through (the book) by the time the roast was served, and it was done before the Boxing Day bubble-and-squeak. I had been ‘doing’ textbooks since I was six or seven, they injected me with knowledge…The truth is beautiful – graphs, tables and maps are just as magical as poetry".

    And on the subject of The Peregrine, we've created a special film with nature writer Rob Macfarlane, which you can catch tonight.

    To enter, simply submit your nomination via the website, and follow the instructions online. Your choice has to be by a UK-based writer or by an author who writes about the UK's landscape and/or wildlife, entries must be made by midnight on the 30 November 2017 – and you can share your nomination on social media using the hashtag #favnaturebook. Now, go vote!

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