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Live Updates

By the Springwatchers

All times stated are UK

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Spring is sprung

See you in the autumn...

That's it for another season - and what a series it has been here at our new home at Sherborne Park Estate.

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We hope you've enjoyed this spring as much as we have. See you in the autumn for many more wonders from the natural world.

In the meantime, you can catch up with all the shows - Springwatch, Unsprung and the daytime commentary shows, all available on iPlayer.

Scroll down this page for reams of wildlife facts, stunning photos and expert analysis. And watch all the best moments of Springwatch 2017 in this handy highlights collection.

Don't forget, the team is active all year round here on the Springwatch website, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr so do keep in touch...

A final treat: if blue tit chicks could talk...

Mission – Accomplished?

Chris Howard

Series Producer, Springwatch

At the start of Springwatch this year we set out our stall. We wanted to showcase the ‘normal’ British countryside – away from the reserves and areas that are managed specifically with wildlife in mind – to a landscape that is lived in and worked in.

We wanted to focus on the wildlife that lives and breathes in the bits of the countryside that is accessible to most people, not the exotic and hard to get to edges we have been based at previously.

So have we succeeded? I think for the most part, yes, we have. We’ve brought lots of familiar species to the screen; robins, blackbirds, chaffinches, wrens, swallows – plus some of the familiar raptors like buzzards, kestrels and barn owls. I hope the intimate look into their lives that we have managed to give people has shown them in a new and surprising light. We’ve seen a buzzard chick snooze, a chaffinch helicopter fledge and a one-eye blackbird. They are inspiring and fascinating stories.

On top of that we have had several Springwatch firsts – the red kite nest has been an utter joy and something we have wanted to do for a long time now. The wagtails were spectacular – and have given us a hugely dramatic ending to the series. We’ve covered kingfishers and stoats in Sherborne like never before.

But in our bubble it's hard to know what you think. We have some feedback of course - on the ground locally we have had locals tell us that their eyes have been opened to the wildlife around them. That’s a massive tick. Online we know that a lot of you have loved the new location and the stories we have told – that’s another. We’ve had stories of schools getting involved, of people sharing their experiences of how nature is beneficial to their health and lost and lots of your amazing pictures, videos and questions. Tick, tick tick.

But we would love to get even more feedback. What do you think of the new series? What have we done well? What have we done badly? Were you inspired of bored? We genuinely want to know – this is as much your programme as it is ours and we are always trying to make it better – so sends us a message on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and let us know. We really do read them all and try our very hardest to reply to them all. And you never know, you might get your idea in the next ‘watch’…

Sensational Sherborne

Sit back and enjoy the majesty of British wildlife from Springwatch 2017

Get involved

You can make a big difference to wildlife

There are SO many ways to get involved, everything from planting flowers for pollinating insects to doing literally nothing - leaving a patch of grass to grow 'wild' in your garden. From reporting sightings of jellyfish to making sure you know how to observe wildlife like seals in a way that doesn't harm them.

It's all here on our website for you to jot down and bookmark. Let us know what you get up to over the summer using #Springwatch or sharing your tales on our Facebook page.

Plant pots
Butterfly Conservation
Plant a pot for a pollinator!

Who's coming for Autumnwatch?

Redwings, fieldfare, widgeons and teal are four species we'll be looking for around Sherborne for Autumnwatch.

The first sign of autumn: wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson presents the redwing's song
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A Scandi bird that flies south to the UK in the winter, the fieldfare are noisy birds that love fruit and often pop by British back gardens when they migrate here for autumn and winter.

John Aitchison, who made tonight's film about Oronsay, presents the sound of the wigeon - a duck that prefers to be out of water, grazing like a cow or sheep
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Teals will flock to Sherborne in the autumn - you can recognise both males and female in flight thanks to the bold square of blue or green (teal) on their wings.

Who's off after the summer?

Swallows, badgers, stoats and chiffchaffs won't be joining us for Autumnwatch, unfortunately.

Swallows and chiffchaffs migrate in the winter - swallows go all over Africa, and chiffchaffs head to West Africa - while badgers and stoats move on to new warrens and dens after the summer. But we've got a whole new cast of characters joining us back at Sherborne in a few months...

The best of the last day of Springwatch

In the news: Painting from Scott expedition discovered in Antarctica

The mystery of a beautifully painted watercolour of a dead bird that was found in Antarctica's oldest building has been solved. Read the story in full on BBC News

Not long until... National Meadow Day

Celebrate our meadows on 1 July

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The Springwatch team have spent the last three weeks in a tent surrounded by beautiful meadows in Gloucestershire. The fields around Sherborne are a melting pot of colour; reds, greens and yellows. Later this year, we will be celebrating the beauty and importance of our meadows with National Meadows Day.

Between now and then you can help out wildlife in your garden by taking part in schemes like "Say No To The Mow", and not trim the grass in your garden. Allowing your bushes to grow wild will help wildlife too, especially birds who'll use them as safe places to nest.

If you're not already, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can submit your photos through Flickr, too.

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Say no to the mow

Why have hay meadows declined?

We still have all kinds of meadows and farm in the UK, but we've lost a staggering 97% of hay meadows since the 1930s. But why?

Farming has become more and more intense over the last hundred years as farmers have had more access to more pesticides and better technology.

It became much easier to grow grass, and only grass, which was good for cattle, but not much good to other species that prefer fields mixed with lots of different types of grass and flowers.

Farmers like those working at Sherborne are now working with conservationists to find a way to improve biodiversity in their meadows without running out of food to feed the herds.

mayflies
BBC

Where is Oronsay?

Oronsay is an island off the west coast of Scotland. It’s an area of special scientific interest and it’s a protected area. This is mainly because of its chough and corncrake populations. Our friends at RSPB farm the island securing plenty of crops for conserving corncrake.

Its biodiversity has given it the nickname, the Amazon rainforest of the UK.

Exploding with wildlife, this island is a gem for seeing species you may not see in other parts of the UK. For example, there are 50 colonies of the only native honeybee in Britain - the European dark bee. It is also an important grey seal colony.

It became a Special Protection Area in 2007: this means that member states of the European Union have a duty to safeguard the habitats it contains, that of threatened birds in particular.

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How tech is cleaning up our beaches

Washed up litter? There's an app for that

Chris Hitchings

BBC Springwatch social media producer

Believe it or not, the six inches of metal, glass and plastic in your pocket can have a big impact when it comes to helping the environment.

If you're a Twitter user, you may have spotted #2MinuteBeachClean. It's not only a hashtag but also a force for good.

Devon-based wildlife lover and blogger Jan Wells recently committed two minutes of her day, every day, for a year to make sure that her local beach was clean. She tweeted about it using the hashtag, along with pictures of what she found on a dailt basis. You can read more about her beach cleaning adventures in a blog she wrote for Springwatch.

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There are also a series of Apps that are a force for good when it comes to helping out Mother Nature. We wrote about six of them on our blog, you can find out more about them here but there's a new addition we want to bring to the table.

Beat The Microbead is an app aimed at environmentally conscious shoppers keen to avoid buying products that are damaging to the planet. Upon opening the App, you're asked to scan the barcode of a product, the App then searches its database to see if it has Microbeads in.

Microbeads are bad for all aspects of nature. Produced in the initial production of plastics, they end up in our rivers, seas and oceans as they're too small to be filtered out by machinery. Sometimes smaller than the human eye can sea, the beads can be swallowed by fish and other creatures that inhabit our waters. They move up the food chain when they are eaten by birds. As animals are unable to digest the manmade beads, they remain in their digestion system of those animals, slowly starving them to death. Grim.

By now, you should be compelled to download this brilliant app. You can find it for free on the App Store or on Google Play.

Encouragingly, a lot of people seem to be taking part in the #2MinuteBeachClean, some of the recent efforts are below.

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These two bags of litter were collected from a beach at Charmouth, Dorset.

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No pocket? No problem. Great work by Jen Dixon on a beach in Cornwall.

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Great effort by Will Smith, who lives on the Skerries, off the coast of north Wales.

Chick chat

If blue tit chicks could talk...

Take part in a unique soundscape experiment

We need your ears!

Soundscape Ecology is a relatively new field of ecology, which studies the patterns, causes and consequences of sounds. Rather than individual species’ calls, the soundscape approach listens to the chorus as a whole and to all the sounds that can be heard across a particular landscape.

Dr Mika Peck and Dr Alice Eldridge have been recording on the Sherborne Park estate for the past couple of weeks at three different sites: in a small patch of woodland, on a large oak tree in a large pasture and by a river.

They have made short recordings around the clock. To take part in this mini-experiment, please email springwatch@bbc.co.uk stating the number of species you can hear in each of the three sound files, including a list of species names (common or Latin) where possible.

To get your ears in, try this wonderful recording of the dawn chorus via BBC Earth.

Exclusive BBC Earth recording of the dawn chorus from RSPB Minsmere

Your top three Springwatch moments

What were they?

We asked: you answered

Update: Peregrine falcons

Last week, the RSPB decided that the Salisbury Cathedral family that Springwatch has been following (two parents and one chick) would be the perfect foster parents for an orphaned chick they found locally. Now the peregrine chicks are exploring, sleeping and feeding together. We're delighted with the result.

The adoption was a big hit with our presenters:

It's going to be fascinating to see how that female uses that part of Wiltshire to sustain her chicks. It's been a festival of raptors and it's been great to watch the kestrels too."

Chris Packham

Brett Westwood says his favourite moment was seeing the peregrine parents feeding the chicks together for the first time:

I had a lump in my throat. It was great to see the parents accept the adopted chick - that whole story's been a triumph over tragedy."

Brett Westwood
Earth's fastest bird watches Earth's slowest sport

Stick with Springwatch over the summer

Chris Hitchings

BBC Springwatch social media producer

Don't worry! It isn't all over.

Although tonight the last episode of Springwatch 2017 goes out, and tomorrow will be the last episode of Unsprung, there's plenty of UK wildlife action going on all year round from Springwatch.

This year we have plans to keep several of our cameras in place through out the summer. On social media, we'll be bringing you regular updates from our barn owls, kestrels and the peregrines at Salisbury cathedral.

So where you can you find it all?

Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Follow us on Instagram.

If you want to get involved and do something for nature, head to the website and check out these useful links.

Who is the fastest feeder of them all?

We've had our eyes on the cameras 24 hours a day for three weeks – and we've tallied up how many feeds each of the birds have had during that time.

Here's the average feeds per hour of each of the birds we've followed... bravo to the blue tits!

Graph of average feeds per hour
BBC
The average feeds per hour for each of the Springwatch bird nests
Blue tits banquet
BBC
Feed me now! Blue tit chicks demand their dinner

Look at our greedy little guts awaiting their feeds

The wrens: Our full story

Our five wren chicks, which fledged yesterday, were thriving in an old swallows' nest in a barn on the estate. They were found as eggs a month ago, had hatched a week and a half ago, and they've been an excitable brood to follow.

From way back wren: the fledge in action

Can't say feather than that

Scruffy or smooth, big or small, predator or prey, it’s doesn’t matter here: one thing our birds all have in common is feathers. They vary in size, in colour and in thickness, but they are always numerous.

The lowest recorded number of feathers on a bird is 940 on a hummingbird.

A hummingbird is normally about four inches long and weighs less than 2.5g, but still has 940 feathers at least. You see now where the saying ‘light as a feather’ comes from!

There is a science behind the feathers. Each new feather grows from a small outgrowth of skin called a ‘papilla’. As feathers mature the tips get pushed away from the ‘papilla’. At this stage, feathers have an artery or vein supplying blood and nutrients to the feather allowing it to grow. As feathers matures the blood supply is cut off.

Did you know the highest recorded number of feathers on a bird is 25,216? That was for a swan and 40% of the feathers were on its head and long neck.

Eleven differently sized feathers
Lisa Wood

Types of feathers

Contour feathers: Nope, these have nothing to do with make-up skills. These feathers cover most of the surface of the bird, protecting it from the sun, wind, rain and injury.

Flight feathers: There are the large feathers of the wing and tail. They are separated into three groups - primaries (attached to finger and wrist bones), secondaries (attached to the forearm bone) and tertiaries (the feathers closest to the body).

Down feathers: This is what's often used in bedding and pillows because they are small, soft and fluffy. They are the first feathers to develop on a chick. Down feathers are also present on adult birds, lying underneath the contour feathers.

Filoplumes: These are very fine, hair-like feathers, with a long shaft, and only a few barbs at their tips. Not much is known about their function but it is though that it's sensory.

Semiplumes: These provide form, aerodynamics, and insulation. They have a large stem, but loose vanes.

Bristle feathers: These feathers, found usually on the bird's head are stiff and have only a few barbs at the base. Normally located around the eyelids and mouth, they are thought to have both a sensory and protective function.

What is 'pinning'?

When birds are young they tend to be covered in fluffy soft material, known as down. But as they mature, the first feathers - 'pin' feathers - emerge, including the wing feathers essential for fledging.

Usually in an adult bird, feathers (like our hairs) don't have their own blood supply. But pin feathers do: chicks grow a pin feather shaft, and grow their first feather safely inside the shaft.

Each new feather grows from a small outgrowth of skin called a ‘papilla’. As feathers mature the tips get pushed away from the ‘papilla’. At this stage, feathers have an artery or vein supplying blood and nutrients to the feather allowing it to grow. As feathers matures the blood supply is cut off.

After that, it can grow feathers from that follicle again and again, and the blood supply recedes so if the feather falls out, the bird won't get hurt or bleed.

How our kites blew up

Chick, chick, chick... boom

Kite chicks on average increase their weight from 50g on hatching (about the same as a chocolate bar) to as much as 1kg (about the same as two pints of milk) over the eight-week period to fledging. Ours have had a pretty impressive transformation in just three weeks.

At the start of Springwatch our three kite chicks were downy and small
BBC
At the start of Springwatch our three kite chicks were downy and small
Three weeks after cameras started rolling the chicks are branching, flapping, and treading all over one another
BBC
Three weeks after cameras started rolling the chicks are branching, flapping, and treading all over one another

Barn owls: so far

Our three chicks are thriving - although the oldest is still the biggest, by far.

That said, the littlest and youngest owl managed a whole vole yesterday - painful watching, but heartening none the less.

Chicks gaped in the hot weather again today - a typical behaviour in the nest box when the mercury rises. We hope they all survive the summer so we can see them again on Autumnwatch.

Catch up with the buzzards

Our buzzard chick, now four and a half weeks old, is bigger than ever - it ate a whole frog and a vole yesterday morning, so its appetite appears to still be growing too.

The chick's starting to pin, and it's steady on its feet. We won't see it fledge - it will probably be off in about three weeks' time - but the close relationship with both parents has been a favourite among the Springwatch team this year.

Our observers have lovingly recorded everything our parents have brought in to feed the chick and seen everything in those talons, including worm (at least 33), rodents; voles, moles (at least seven), water shrews, a small rat, frogs (six), toads (five), red-legged partridge, a possible pigeon, a wader, a game bird, a whitethroat and a duckling. Yum.

Buzzards are best known for their incredible hunting skills: they take prey by dropping out of the air or from a perch to catch something in mid-air or on the ground. We hope that after our cameras go off tonight, you'll know what to look for next time you're in a buzzard-friendly habitat.

buzzard
BBC

Catch up: Kestrels

Our kestrels haven't yet fledged, but it'll only been another two weeks at most until they take to the skies.

This nest has a clear favourite food: voles. Our observers caught them eating over 40 of them, among the slugs, thrushes, shrews, mice, and small birds

We loved watch the runt fight for food and hold its own against its three siblings.

Watching the parents fight off mobbing jays was also an incredible moment of triumph in this series.

kestrel chicks
BBC
kestrel chicks
BBC
Birds of spray: Our kestrels' most talked-about moment

The end of the road for the wagtails

The moment a jay predated our grey wagtail nest this morning

'Nature is my refuge'

Last night we met Paul, who says nature helps him cope when his health suffers. Watch his story here

One year rat free

Rat out: Scilly's rodents are gone for good

It's been over a year now since two of Scilly's islands have been declared rat free.

The islands, located off the coast of Cornwall, began the scheme two years ago to protect eggs and baby birds from being eaten by brown rats.

Numbers of manx shearwaters and storm petrels had declined by 25% on St Agnes and Gugh in 25 years.

But colonies are recovering thanks to the rat eradication measures - which we'll cover tonight on the programme at 8pm.

You can read the whole story on the BBC

Whack the rat

Non native brown rats have caused real issues for the manx shearwaters on Gugh and St Agnes. As shearwaters live in underground burrows, rats can move in and kill them.

The good folk at the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project met Martin and the team this week to talk through their work.

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Manx shearwater

Features and facts

How to spot a manx shearwater

  • Long slim wings
  • Black wings above
  • White wings below
  • Rapid stiff-winged flaps
  • Long glides with stiff wings

Manx shearwater in flight
sea bass steve

Sea bird, see bird

You'll rarely see a manx shearwater out and inland during the day. They spend most of their time offshore. They come inland during the night where they find old rabbit burrows to nest in.

Old school

Did you know Manx shearwaters are known to be the longest living birds in the UK. According to BTO the oldest is 50 years, 21 days old. It was ringed in May of 1957 on Bardsey Island, Gwynedd. The same one was last seen there on 8 May 2008. They’ve also been breeding here a while, and by a while I mean yonks - 349 years. The first record of them breeding was in 1668.

West is best

These Manx shearwaters mostly live in colonies on islands off the west coast of the UK, with the largest breeding colonies in the UK being on Skomer (Pembrokeshire), Scilly (Cornwall) and Rum (Lochaber, Scotland). They are attracted to islands because they are safe from rats and other predators on the ground. They leave their breeding ground in July migrating to the South America coast until March.

Far from home

A ringed manx shearwater was found dead, sadly, 16,675km from where it was ringed only fourteen months earlier. Where was it? Australia! Crikey, mate.

Manx shearwater
mediocreimage

Coming up tonight: Sun, sea, and suspicious errands

The Springwatch team's remote team reports back from Scilly at 8pm
BBC
The Springwatch team's remote team reports back from Scilly again tonight

Legends of fledge

Nests in numbers

In the 19 nests we observed, we saw 44 chicks fledge.

Here are three memorable debuts on the wing:

Our blackbirds flew the nest this morning
Our bluetit chicks had the biggest fledge of the series...
...But our robin fledge was the fluffiest

What was your favourite fledge?

Swallows: Our second nest did best

After a jay predated the swallow chicks in the first nest we observed, we had to find another one. These five have stayed safe from the beaks of jays this time and are, we think, ready to fledge.

Male swallows are easy to spot because they have long streaming tales (like the double letter L in its name). Female swallows look for a male with long and elegant streamers.

Fact of the day: in Greece, swallows are lucky

Learn to tell swallows from swifts and martens

Brett Westwood presents the story and sound of the swallow.

You can watch these chicks on our cameras until 9pm tonight.

Bye bye blackbirds

Our blackbirds have flown the nest

Our blackbirds: The story in full

The five blackbird chicks in the nest we've been watching fledged this morning.

Ours have flown the nest, so now it's up to you to look for a new family to observe.

Blackbirds are one of the most common birds in the UK and the males are one of the best birds to learn to identify, because of their distinctive black colouring, song and bright orange beaks.

Blackbird, fly: Our chicks fledged earlier today

Best of the nests: Our fledglings

Legends of fledge

Our bullfinches hopped, then flew, to freedom
Four adorable robin chicks safely flew the nest
Bluetits, our biggest fledge

Swallows: the whole story

Our five-chick nest is close to fledging - we've seen them flapping and preparing to leave soon. Some are standing on the edge and stretching their wings: you can spot their adult coloration, which suggests they're getting more mature.

This nest was our second on Springwatch, and so far it's been much more heartening to see it. We haven't had a fledge yet, but frankly, we've had a great time watching them grow up.

swallows
BBC

Wagtail drama

Our most scenic nest this year is that of the grey wagtails - nestled in a wall near the boathouse.

At about 9.30am, the jay took one chick, and the first wagtail chick fledged trying to get away.

Then the jay returned at 11.15 for one more chick, and back just after 6pm for the fifth chick

That chick was quite well grown. There are the chicks, all serene; here comes the jay. Having done a reccie it makes a second visit for the chick. These grey wagtail chicks know there' no escape - they can't fly yet,remember. Wagtails don't really branch. We heard alarm calls from the parents: they can mob it but there's little they can do to deter it. Jays are opportunistic feeders with great memorises and remembering the location of a nest like this is no problem. The only hope is that the jay finds out food sources. Even weather doesn't make much difference for an open nest with a perch."

Brett Westwood

One chick remains in the nest, and the parents have returned to check on it while the jay was away.

Earlier in the week we were asked a good question: Why do wagtails wag their tails? The short answer is: we don't know.

  • Does it help the bird to see through the water? But then herons don't wag or dip.
  • Does it help them balance?
  • Maybe it's a form of camouflage, helping them to blend into the turbulent water around them?
  • Is it a form of communication?

Begs the question, don't they expend a lot of energy constantly dipping and wagging? We can only assume that they must do it a reason and that it's worthwhile. Some of nature's mysteries remain just that.

Check out these beautiful reflections of a grey wagtail before it took a mayfly from the water's surface in otter barn that one of our observers spotted last night- Chris Packham's favourite moment of this year's Springwatch so far.

Fantastical Beasts

Pam Ayres and Steve Backshall came up with our latest Fantastical Beasts...

Paining of a hedgehog.
Pam Ayres
Pam's titanium tipped hedgehog can make its own holes in walls and fences so it can roam around as many gardens as it likes!
A drawing of an ant holding some litter.
BBC
Steve's litter bug takes plastic and other litter from the street and brings it down into its burrow where it breaks it down.