Autumnwatch returns to BBC Two at the end of October. Across four days, from Tuesday 29 October to Friday 1 November, Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games follow the stories of the UK’s wildlife in autumn, broadcasting live from a new location on the coast of Lancashire in the North West of England.
Autumn is a key time of change. The series will examine how the unpredictable nature of the UK’s weather can dramatically affect our wildlife. Collaborating with the BBC Weather Centre, Autumnwatch will feature weather updates throughout the series giving audiences a weather report for wildlife, which will cover topics such as how winds in the North Sea affect migrating birds crossing from Scandinavia, and how falling temperatures influence the changing of colours for leaves. Autumnwatch will also showcase the beauty and drama of this diverse season, exploring nature’s key events and wild spectacles as well as explaining why this season is such a critical time for all of the UK’s wildlife.
Autumnwatch will react to stories as they happen, and report on the latest wildlife news from across the country. The series will be truly multiplatform, round the clock, streaming wildlife action live on the web and on BBC Red Button. This year Autumnwatch aims to be more interactive than ever, inspiring everyone to share their stories, photos and videos, and get outdoors to enjoy the season for themselves.
RSPB Leighton Moss
The new location for this year’s Autumnwatch is the stunning RSPB Leighton Moss. Set within the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Leighton Moss will be right at the heart of this season’s action.
Just south of the Lake District and on the edge of Morecambe Bay, this area is where thousands of migrant waders gather in the autumn months; otters and kingfishers hunt for fish in the reserve’s reed beds, and rare species such as bitterns and bearded tits prepare for winter.
Other highlights will include:
- Starlings – Viewers will see a flock of up to 100,000 starlings roost on the reserve, gathering in huge numbers and making incredible patterns and shapes as they pick their spot to spend the night as the sun sets
- Red deer – Are the largest residents of the reserve, and cameras will follow them as they rut among the reed beds. The males will go head to head for the right to mate with the females, bellowing across the reserve at one another and locking antlers in battle
- Scenes showcasing the huge flocks of oystercatchers, knot and turnstones as they gather to feed in the rich Lancastrian mud out on Morecambe Bay
- The fascinating transformation of the leaves on the rugged hills around the reserve as they change colour
The best of autumn wildlife
Chris, Martin and Iolo Williams will be out and about, exploring the most exciting autumnal wildlife stories as they unfold.
A major theme for this year’s Autumnwatch will be migration – when animals move to warmer climates as winter draws near. Particular focus will be given to the extraordinary long-distances travelled by birds, insects and marine creatures during the autumn months.
- Britain’s Greatest Migrant: For a young Manx Shearwater, leaving home is the most daunting mission imaginable. Abandoned by its parents and fearful of predatory gulls, it emerges from its cosy burrow only on the darkest nights. Barely able to walk, and never having flown before, it must throw itself into the darkness… and head for Patagonia. Attempting to put this remarkable undertaking into perspective, wildlife expert Iolo Williams provides an unwitting launch pad.
- Britain’s Mystery Migrant: Britain’s eels have declined by 95% since the 1980s. But this spring, a massive surprise: a bumper crop arrived on our shores, perhaps a hundred times more than in 2009. Now it’s the adults’ turn. Will they fare as well? When the October rains arrive, adult eels undergo an incredible physical transformation as they set out on a 3,000 mile migration back to their mysterious breeding grounds. Autumnwatch meets a scientist hoping to help them through the man-made obstacles that could thwart them before they even leave our shores.
- Magical Moth Migration: Amazingly, tiny Silver Y moths are the UK’s biggest migrant species. They leave our shores in their hundreds of millions each September, heading south to the Mediterranean to escape the freezing winter. How these tiny insects achieve this momentous journey has, until recently, been an unsolved mystery, but new advances in radar technology have enabled scientists to unravel the story. Martin Hughes-Games heads to Rothamsted Research to find out more.
Fascinating UK wildlife stories
Autumnwatch will also cover seasonal stories from around the UK, uncovering the latest science behind the wild animals that we think we know, showing their autumnal behaviour in a whole new light.
- Wild Goat Rut: Think of the autumn rut and the animal that springs to mind is unlikely to be a goat. But in fact across the UK the wild goat rut has been in full swing this autumn and it’s got all the drama, danger and excitement that you’d expect from the rut. On the beaches of Mull, with a stunning backdrop of crashing waves, the billy goats clash as they fight for the right to breed.
- Red Squirrels – the good news: Red squirrels are back on top on the Isle of Anglesey – the greys are gone and the reds control the woods. A 15-year project led by Craig Shuttleworth of the Red Squirrels Trust Wales is about to come to an end with the final release of the last red squirrel kittens to the island. Autumnwatch sent Iolo Williams, self-professed red lover and patron of this charity to Anglesey to witness the exciting final chapter of the project.
- Urban Foxes in Brighton: Our cities’ foxes are on the rise… and a spate of reported attacks means they’re being scrutinised like never before. Autumnwatch is joining forces with the University of Brighton in a ground-breaking study, aiming to separate fact from fiction. Using the latest in tracking technology, we will follow the progress of two fox families living in Brighton’s city centre and the leafy suburbs – to reveal their lives in more intimate detail than ever before. Chris Packham will analyse the results to unveil the urban fox’s true nature.
- The Changing of the Guard: World-renowned wildlife cameraman John Aitchison lives on the coast of Scotland. In some magical years, swallows – about to depart to Africa – share the same air space as white-fronted geese newly arrived from Greenland.
Drama in the Leaf Litter: Many trees drop their leaves all year round but in autumn the leaf litter habitat increases by a third as trees across the country shut down for the coming winter. When their leaves fall to the ground, a wild, three dimensional habitat is created that provides a home and a hunting ground for creatures great and small – a functioning, living ecosystem vital for the UK’s wildlife. Specialist filming techniques transform the leaf litter into the backdrop for real drama, revealing the extraordinary lives of seemingly ordinary creatures.
- The humble earthworm is perhaps one of our most overlooked animals. Hidden beneath the ground, these nocturnal herbivores emerge under cover of darkness and stealthily remove the fallen leaves. Using time-lapse shots, viewers will see earthworms dragging huge leaves underground revealing the extraordinary industry of their work. Theirs is a dangerous life, every night they run the gauntlet of hedgehogs, toads and birds all of whom view them as a tasty snack.
- There’s also life and death a plenty in the leaf litter. Filmed in exquisite close-up, tiny slug hatchlings newly emerged from a cluster of eggs are a wonder to behold. But like a scene from a horror film, tiny snails face great danger when a long nosed slug hunter is on the prowl.
The effervescent and interactive sister show, Autumnwatch Unsprung, makes a welcome return, this time with new host Nick Baker. Nick is a passionate and knowledgeable naturalist, and he’ll be reaching out to the audience asking them to send in questions, photos and videos.
There’ll be surprise wildlife visitors in the studio and an exclusive look behind-the-scenes at how Autumnwatch is made.
Autumnwatch Unsprung will be live online and on the BBC Red Button Tuesday to Thursday followed by Friday’s show, which will air on BBC Two at 9pm.