Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games are at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's Slimbridge reserve. Martin is tracking Bewick's swans as they arrive from Siberia.
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Well, the leaves may be falling. But migration is in full swing.
And we're here to meet it. Het on, Hello, welcome to Autumnwatch live,
coming to you from the wonderful Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre
here at Slimbridge. What a place, a perfect place for us to spend our
last four weeks. It is a migration hot spot. I have to say it is
already packed with birds. A centre of conservation excellence, lots of
research is done here, lots of management, that make this is place
really attractive to lots of our winter visitors. For the next four
weeks I'm sure we're in for a treat here at Slimbridge. Our guest
presenter tonight is one of our own, Richard Taylor-Jones, he has been
out and about on the trail of the great seal mystery.
And the weekend, we had to get up extremely early, but, hey, it was
worth it, because we saw a true autumn spectacle.
You know our remit, it is to bring you the very best of British
wildlife, and the full flavour of a British autumn. So each week we go
to a different location to sample that flavour. This week we headed
to the north and west, one of the southern Hebrides, another
migration hot spot, the wonderful Welcome to the Queen of the
Hebrides, better known as Islay. It may be a fairly small island, but
it is packed with wildlife, and this is a spectacular time of the
year to see it. It is such a diversity of habitat,
and it is easy to think of it island as one giant bird table. But
these cragy cliffs are home to a special clan of aerial hunters.
Whilst these fertile grasslands attract thousands and thousands of
migrating geese. It is a fantastic autumn spectacle, and we're going
to be right in the heart of it. But Islay isn't only famed for its
wildlife, there are one twor distilleries here too. - or two
distilleries here. Eight actually. It will be a long day, cheers!
Tempts as it was to stay in that distillry, how could we stay there
drinking whiskey when there were thousands of barnacle geese here.
It has been the best year ever in Islay. They have had a bumper
44,000 grease have concerned turned up. They have come from greenland,
and travelled 900 miles and to feed and restore their condition before
the winter. It was amazing to see them. Stunning animal, really
striking their black and white plumage. They are distinct among
the geese, they are the noisiest, listen, it is noise, noise, noise,
when you are out with these birds. They arrive in family parties. You
can just about tell the youngsters, they have a slightly different head
pattern, the black from their way goes straight into the beak. They
come as family parties, because the young have to follow the add dulls,
if they didn't, - adults, they if they didn't they would get lost.
They are programmed to go and in what direction, but after that they
get lost. They will stay with them until they get back to Iceland in
the spring. When you see them in the little scales flying, that is
the families. If they didn't have the parents they would keep going.
They would get lost, it is important they stick together at
this time. They stick to the out together through the fields, they
are grazing here. This is a species that eats grass shoots. In the
evening they have to move away to find somewhere secure to roost.
This is important for all sorts of birds, of course. Roosting is all
about security, and social facilitation, commune Kateing in
the flock. These birds move out to the mudflats, they are safe from
predators there. They might find fresh part water or a mash to go,
to be undisturbed. By nightime they have found a secure spot. If you
want to get close to them, you have to get up early, you have to sneak
into the spot while they can't see you. You have to do it in the dark
and it means being a bit of a creep. It was an early 5.00am start to get
into position before dawn. You can really hear that noise. It is going
to get louder. Let's stop here. This is a brilliant spot.
Then we just had to wait for the sun to rise and the spectacle to
begin. There is a whole mass. Look at that. Wow. Look at that lot
there. Oh wow. That is what you call a spectacle, here they come,
look, look: That is beautiful. We decided to get even closer.
Let's hide behind here, they are really close, look.
Look at that. Our timing was perfect. The other
Apology for the loss of subtitles for 49 seconds
If we were over there, they would be darkening that part of the skie.
That is fantastic, isn't it? We have now get geese stretching
all the way across there. Where are they all going? To find a field
somewhere to spend the day, grazing. That was spectacular, wasn't it?
That was definitely worth the early alarm call. Superb, absolutely
superb. I'm so jealous. I have to saying,
it was a great experience, really exciting, not only to see them but
to hear them. That is it, the sound, I have been to Islay but always
missed t you swaned in and got the whole lot. You have to go at the
right time of year. You might want to see goose spectacle, you don't
have to go to Isla, there are - Islay, you can go to many places to
goose watch. Go to the website, and there is a guide there to where you
can go goose watching. And, by the way, if you have any questions, get
them in right now, and we will do our utmost to try to answer them
live during the programme, some of them any way. One of the
interesting things about Islay, is there are very uground predator,
they don't have badgers and fox, which is why it is a haven for
birds. But they do have some You were in your element, weren't
you? Coincident be dragged away. I couldn't be dragged away. I have to
say our cameramen, Lindsay and Mark, the wildlife cameramen, they didn't
pull a white rabbit out of the hat, they did some magic, they did this.
Let's start off with a creature born to kill, the sparrowhawk, here
are two females josling in the air. What are they doing? I think it is
territorial, there are 5 pairs and a distinct lack of trees, they will
- 25 payers, and there is a distinct lack of tree, they may set
up nests around Christmas time. Perhaps they are feeding and having
a little jostle, they are not being too agrossive. As this one comes
down, the bird beneath it flips on its back, you can see its legs out,
it demonstrates their extraordinary aerial agility, what they would
display when preying on one another. They don't want to fight as they
are too well armed, it is symbolism. Have you seen that before?
Sparrowhawks typically do the display abovewood land, if you are
in the trees you can't see it. On Islay, where there are so few trees,
we could see them doing all the stuff in the sky, that is unique.
If you want to watch them, March and April is the best time. Get a
advantage point above would theland and you will see the skydiving.
go to Islay. One of the birds I was excited to see apart from the
barnacle geese, is the golden eagle. They have been persecuted over the
years, they are doing well in Islay, there are nine pairs. It is such a
spectacular bird to see in the sky? This is a young bird, getting
harassed by the crows, a crow you get in the north. I can't help
feeling sorry for them, they are constantly being mobbed? If they
get fed up I have seen them flip over, grab the crow and kill it and
drop it. You are talking about a top predator there. Talking of top
predators, we have top shots of one of them. The hooded crows had homed
in and giving the site away. Aside from mobbing the eagles, the other
thing they do is hang around waiting for scraps. This one is
patiently waiting, because just to its left is this golden eagle. It
is eating, what we think is a rabbit, it could be hair, we can't
really see there. You can - hear, we can't really see there, it is
definitely a mammal. Look at the golden sheen on its naip. You can
see why it is called the golden eagle. The cameraman wasn't in a
hide was he? They were on the hill. Look it looks almost straight down
the camera. That is the look, fantastic. When the eagle leaves,
the hooded crows in attendance, it is safe enough for them to move n
and they pick over the remains of the kill. There might be a few
scraps of skin and bone left for them. That is really, really good
stuff to get on camera, isn't it. Fantastic, really. And eagles doing
very well there, not persecuted, which is good to see. It is a top
spot for raptors, we have more of that coming later.
Wonderful shots. Changing gear. 40%, around 40% of
the entire world population of grey seals is around the shores, are
around the shores of the UK. Most of the sites where you find grey
seals and common seals, are very well known. Or so we thought.
Richard Taylor-Jones, our guest present e set out on a mission to
solve a mystery, presenter, set out own a mission to solve a mystery,
almost in his back yard. The Kent coast where I live is a bruised and
battered affair. Humans have concreted over vast swathes of it.
And busy ferry routes plough the turbulent seas. It is not a place
you expect to find our largest and most charasmatic group of mammals.
To my surprise, this summer, I found a common seal pup washed up
outside my house. I certainly don't remember seals here during those
endless childhood days I spent on the beach. So could they really be
living and breathing somewhere around this coast? This is my
mission to track down the secret seals of the south-east. I'm
travelling out to one of the most dangerous ship wrecked sites on the
British coast, the treacherous Goodwin Sands. We are heading over
the English Channel, I'm filled with the mix of excitement and fear.
Over 1,000 ships and even more lives have been lost on the
Goodwins. Offshore sand banks stretching 12 miles down the
straits of Dover. They are dangerous place to visit,
but potentially an ideal home for seals. Could I really find them
living in this busy shipping lane. I have just marooned myself on a
tidal sand bank in the middle of the English Channel. There goes my
lift, I have got two hours to try to find the seals here. The
pressure is on, because as the tide comes in, this desolate desert
island turns to quick sand, eventually being engulfed by the
sea, if we stay here we drown. I have found the first seal, they are
just out here in the surf. They spotted us first. Look so
inquisitive. They are so inquisitive, no wonder, human
beings don't come out here. There is no doubt about it, these are
grey seals. It is very obvious because they have parallel nostrils
running down their nose. Common seals it is much more of a V,
almost a heart-shape. It is an absolute dead givaway. This colony
here is a group of greys. It looks like a group of males, with their
long, wide noses, along with dainter looking females, just as
you might expect in the autumn, their breeding season. Something
doesn't add up. These seals can't breed here, this is a tidal sand
bank, every few hours it is covered in water, and grey seal pup, if
they were born here, they can't look after themselves in the water
for at least three weeks, they would be just washed away. So what
on earth are they doing here. This is one of the few local people
looking at the animals, I hope he can help in the mystery? I think
these are non-breeding populations, they are trying out their
interactions until they get to the breeding stage. Give them a couple
of years and then they will be off for the breeding stations. This is
like a grey seal youth club. think that's right. If it is
juveniles here, why? Why are they coming here to the middle of the
English Channel, we have massive great big container ships passing
through, an urbanised coastline, why the Goodwin Sands? Good fish
stock, no disturbance and quiet spots. I see over here we have a
cracking big male? Fantastic, that is a fully mature male. While he's
not gone up to the farms, why he has not gone to Norfolk to breed I
don't know. They take years off do they? Yes, fantastic male. I was
expect to go see common seals out here, I haven't seen any? Common
seals have never been common here. It might be partly to do with the
conditions they face here, a bit rougher and more unpredictable.
greys are a bigger, bulker, stronger seal? It could be one of
the factors. It looks like the tide is coming in!
It doesn't answer the question of why the common seal pup I found
came from. However, I have just had a tip-off about more seals on the
mainland. So that's where I'm headed next.
I thought it was apocalypse seals, I love the smell of seals in the
morning. He only needed a stetson and boots, and he would have been
Robert Duval. That is an extraordinary place. They sound a
Second World War aircraft that crashed there. They are trying to
get it out of the sand. Can I say how much I'm enjoying standing here
at Slimbridge, surrounded by the gorgeous swan, that look absolutely
stunning, lit by our lights. When they were in Westenboroug h we were
listening out for owls, but here we have geese and swans. I have been
coming here since I was a kid, I have had great moments here, it is
a super spot. Good place to get a view of it is where Martin has
scooted off to, he's up in the tower? I have just jogged
gracefully up the 70 steps that lead to the stop here, this viewing
tower. From here, the main viewing tower, you can see out over the
whole 325 hectares that make up the reserve.
Earlier this week, on Monday, I came here to find out a little bit
more about Slimbridge and the man who started all this.
Right now, birds are arriving here from all over Europe, some as far
away as Russia. They will have travelled, a few of them, thousands
of miles to get here. Eventually around 35,000 wildfowl will turn up
here in Slimbridge. All of this is down to the ideas and inspiration
of one man. Naturalist and painter, Sir Peter Scott, founded Slimbridge
in 1946, to create a protective reserve for the flocks of wildfowl
that arrive each winter. I have been lucky enough to be allowed
into the study and studio of this remarkable man. It is full of
memories, mementos of what an extraordinary man he was.
But there is something I particularly want to have a look at,
it's over here. Back in 1964, Peter Scott started
to study the migratery swans, the Buick swans that come here every
year, with his artist's eye, he noticed something nobody else had
seen. You can see it here in the book. These are the actual
paintings Peter Scott made. Look at the beaks, he noticed that in Buick
swans, the beak pattern was unique to each individual, the pattern of
the black and yellow. By recognising that and drawing the
paintings, they go on and on, he could follow the individual life
histories of each bird. Three Buick swans have just arrived at slim
bridge, after breeding in Arctic Russia this summer, they have made
the journey of around 2,000 miles, to spend the winter here. I met up
with Dave Painter, reserve manager, to find out more about their story.
Do you know these three individuals? We do now, but one of
them we know particularly well. It is a bird called Dario, who if we
had to place a bet on who would arrive first, it would be this swan.
How long has Dario been coming to Slimbridge? He was first seen here
in 1999, as a cignit with his family. I believe they formally,
they often travel as a pair, as a couple, has he got his mate here as
well? We don't know, Dario has had a bit of a checkered history with
his mates, he has two in the time we have known him, but not one in
the last two winters. We are watching what is going on at the
moment, we hope there might be a new mate here for Dario. His last
mate died, so the researchers at Slimbridge are hoping this swan,
name Bridges, could go on to become Dario's new mate. We have Dario and
Bridges, it sounds like Strictly. Do they look exhausted when they
come? We see a lot of sleepy behaviour after the migration.
far we have three here. How many would you expect to arrive
throughout the whole season? Last year, for example, was well over
300, we are hoping that kind of number will come through again. We
know one of the big triggers for the timing of all sorts of bird
behaviour is day length. So we have reached that period, the day length
is right, birds want to migrate now, we are waiting for the weather to
be good enough to allow them to do This will do me good. How many
steps to the tower? 70, I counted them. That is an exaggeration?
was, I counted them. Why does Dario always arrive first? That is an
interesting question. Four times in the last six years he has been the
first one to arrive. And although they are creatures of habit, they
do turn up, they tend to turn up at the same time during the migration.
He hasn't got a family, has he. So he doesn't have to stop along the
way and show his offspring the best places to feed and what the route
is. He doesn't have to look at the toy shop, buy the ice-cream, all
that stuff! But Chris, we only have three here now, where are they?
is so mild where they are, it is not push them across here. Some of
the Buicks, we do expect to have up to 400 year when they all arrive.
They have got as far as the north of the Netherlands, but the bulk of
them at the moment are still? Latvia, we are waiting for some
really cold weather over there, that will snow cover the ground or
freeze it and that will push them on. They will arrive here in the
next four week, and we will be covering T at the moment we have
just got the three. We have, but we have loads and loads of other
wildfowl here as well, haven't we. We have my absolute favourite, the
pintail. Have a look at the pintail. Look at the elagance, the way it is
dressed, the neatness of it. I believe, Chris, it is the most
common wildfowl, the most common duck. Widespread. Here is a bird I
took very much for granted, a pochard, I see them out all the
time, some of these may have migrated further than the swans,
4,000 miles. 4,000 incredible miles to get here to Slimbridge. New
respect for the pochard. 450,000 get here eventually, and 1.25
million on the Black Sea. Let me take you up with your love for the
pintail. They are elegant, but not a harm Quin duck? They are a lot
more attractive. Let's be honest. He's so messed up this guy! When we
were out on Islay, we saw some other swans, not Buicks, but
hoopers. Rather interestingly, we saw some on the flashes there, on
the fresh water, we also spotted this group supplying out to sea,
rough sea it was too. I love this, look how they go straight down into
the trough, and then they reappear again. You might wonder, if they
have come all the way from iceland and settled themselves in Islay,
what were they doing heading out to sea, they were heading westwards,
likely to Northern Ireland. A good number of these animals winter at
Loch Neg ah there, it is one of their top - Negg h bs there, it is
one - Neag h, it is one of their top spots there.
What makes Islay such a good spot for the word? A lot of hard work
goes into it. Michael la met up with some people to find out what
makes Islay such a wonderful place for sorts of birds.
One of the reasons Islay has such a large variety of visiting birds is
the rich density of habitats. I met up with James how we will from the
RSPB, to find out how their land management contributes to the large
numbers of birds here. On the reserve the RSPB manages it,
how does it manage it and how does it benefit different birds? Down
the bottom you have the mudflats, great for the geese, somewhere to
roost for them, they feel protected. That is not managed, that is
natural? It is managed in way, the salt marshes graze by sheep to keep
the vegetation short which is what the geez like. So a lot of it is
tweaking. We recede the grassland every year, the better the grass
the better the geese like T those fields are important in the summer,
we let them grow and get a grass silage crop off for the cattle. We
cut it late, because the corn crakes will be there, and they will
get the breeds off before we cut it in August. It is not just the RSPB
reserve that attracts wildlife to the island, industry plays very
much a role? The reason why it is farmed is the link between the
distilleries and the agricultural community. The distilleries need
barley, which is great, the distilleries use the barley to make
the whiskey, the by-product is called draft, and that is fed to
the cattle as cheap feed that mixes terribly well with grass silage.
Listen to that, they are right behind us. Coming up towards us.
doesn't stop, does it. I really like the geese. The chattering.
When they leave the island actually goes quite quiet. You walk out the
door and the first thing you realise is they have gone, because
the noise. Not because you can't see them. Obviously when the geese
leave the wetland areas down there, the grass is very, very short, that
is what the breeding waders are looking for, it is all linked
together. I have to say, whatever you are doing, management wise, you
are doing it right. Let's hope so. So farming and wildlife on Islay,
at least, works well together. Fatastically well. Win heard there
were 44,000 barnacle geese turning up, I thought maybe the farmers
would be very concerned about it, but they usually manage to get the
barley harvest in before the geese arrive. It works very well With the
grazing and growing of barley with the early harvest it works well, if
they were working winter week and the 40,000 geese would come in, the
farmers wouldn't be happy because they would damage the crop. It is
not just the geese, it is the waders and raptors. It is a whole
circle of life. It is. Wildlife and whiskey. It is birds and booze,
nothing better! But Martin, does whiskey help you have a wildlife?
don't actually like whizz kee, it is too strong, I can't take it.
Any way, Richard Taylor-Jones, our guest presenter, had one surprise
already, where he found a colony of grey seals where they didn't ought
to be, nobody knew they were there. But there were more surprises in
store. I'm on a mission to uncover the
life of seals on the Kent coast. I particularly want to find out where
a young seal pup, washed up outside my house, may have come from.
Scientists have no record of a breeding colony of seals along the
mainland here. But a brand new seal safari business, based in the port
of Dover, thinks there is one. I'm joining members of the public,
not to see grey seals, but to find our only other UK species.
We have got common seals, about six miles down the coast, that is where
we are headed today. I know the bay we are being taken
to very well, I used to spend hours building sandcastles on the beach
here years ago. To find common seals here is just astonishing.
With the boat keeping its distance, they are clearly relaxed in our
presence. What an incredible sight. Just underneath the power station
towers here, fantastic, look at this. I'm not the only one
impressed. I didn't really think we'd see any. To come round that
corner and just see them was really amazing. We have lived round here
in Kent all our lives. We didn't know. To see something like this is
quite amazing. I have been speaking to researchers up in Scotland, who
are trying to co-ordinate all the data on seals around Britain. They
had no idea that this colony existed. Really. None at all.
best kept secret. Skipper, James Salmon, thinks the
reason skiens haven't noticed the colony is simple, he's sure it
hasn't been there that long. I have been seeing them seven or eight
years, I remember coming originally there were only three or four down
here, gradually the numbers have increased, this year we saw 84 back
in August time. 4 of them. I have never seen that amount here before.
It is fantastic to see the numbers increasing. The grey seals like it
more rough and ready out by the sands, but this is nice and
peaceful for them, they have found this spot now. Is that a seal right
by the boat. A seal is coming right up to the boat, very inquisitive.
That inquisitive nature is very important when living in a murky
environment like this, seeing fish is not going to be an easy thing to
do. They will have to be down in these murky waters, using those
whiskers, that are very sensitive, to hunt out their prey, prodding
and probing everything and being inquisitive.
The common seals are clearly doing well here, so well that I suspect
it could be somewhere they are happy to give birth.
We saw one pup here in July time, which was very rare to see.
Generally they reckon the breeding grounds are elsewhere. So, there
may not be many pups being born here, but this colony is only a few
miles from my house, and from what James tells me, I think it is just
possible that this is where the seal pup, I found, came from. I
won't be seeing any more pups today, as common seals breed in the summer.
Autumn is simply a moment for the seals to kick back and have some
Popping up out of the water, going bonkers.
I suspect that it could just be a bit of horse play, he might
literally be playing around. Perhaps showing off to some of the
other males, it could all be to do with dominance and getting place in
the hierarchy. It is great to watch. I just can't believe I'm seeing
this, in front of an airport, a power station and a busy main road.
A fleeting moment from so many people's busy lives. These seals
are simply enchanting. And, as the trip comes to answered, it seems
all of us on board have been swept up in their hypnotic charm. This is
the first time I have seen them, and there is something miskal about
them, there is - mystical about them, they are so calm. Everyone
should come and do this, it is just once, it would be nice just to come
and see this. Seals, I think they bring out the spiritual side in
everyone. Do you feel spiritual when you see seals? Oh my goodness.
I think that's a no. If you want to know what where to watch seals,
there are many places around that there are many places around that
you can do that. Go to the website, and there is a great guide to seal
watching on the website. We are migrating now, inside. We are
leaving Swan Lake and jette into the new studio. Same old chairs.
will wipe my feet, nobody else Z I think it is looking very kosy.
It is all here. A live question, Lorraine on the
blog says do Kingfishers migrate, an interesting question? They
certainly intertrain steerm movements, if we get cold weather,
they are fresh water birds and if it gets cold they move to the coast.
If it gets cold in the north they migrate to the coast. They suffer a
lot if it they migrate. The term LBJ, "little brown job", is fairly
derogatry one when applied to birds. A lot of people use it for birds,
but it is a shame, a lot of little brown jobs are my favourites.
These are special little birds, these are twite, they are closely
related and similar to linnets, they are a fich, they have that
fich bill, they are much warmer in terms of the colouring the RSPB
have planted this fabulous field. It has radish, kale, mustard, they
have left it to go to seed, to cater for these birds in the winter
time. It is certainly working, there is a fantastic flock of them
here. They frequently fly out on to this track, they will all gather
down here, they seem to keep going back to the same spot, they have
found some grit of exactly the right size and texture. This is
what it is about, they will pick up very small pieces of this. It
passes into their stomach, they eat the seeds, the stomach moves it
around, it helps grind the seeds up, which speeds the process of
digestion. This passes through the bird, so they are constantly having
Look at this hen Harrier coming over here, look at that.
They are finding refuge in the tree. What a view, who an absolutely
stunning view. It is a female, or a young bird, look at that. It is
just hoping to flush one loitering twite, out of the field. It will
snatch it. It is doing what they do, quarter back wards and forwards.
Very much like a barn owl. That is because harriers use their ears as
well as their eyes for hunting. It is listening. This bird is so close,
look at that. Of course, these raptors couldn't
prosper here unless there was a healthy population of the smaller
birds. This is what conservation is all about, it is starting,
literally, from the ground upwards. Listen to that. I have seen twite,
but I have never heard them producing that flock call. It has
been a great day for flocks, not just flocks of geese, but flocks of
twite. Look at this, big smile! Chris is also very happy, because I
have just made a howling error, live on British television. I said
that Kingfishers migrate to Shetland, that would surprise
people there, I meant the silly Isles.
Serious moment, I have to give a public service announcement, if you
are watching your screen now with a keen ornithologyist, you might want
to shackle them. We are about to see some images that could easily
lead to an excess of leg rubbing, if this happens, sometimes you can
get so carried away you can rub someone else's leg, this could lead
to unforeseen circumstances. Are they shackled, I give you the male
hen harrier. You can't contain yourself. It is a
beautiful bird, what is interesting is it is very different from the
female. The male on the right is very
sexually diamore moveric, they are the same size but distinct in
colouring. As it turns and flies underneath it is paler, a black
line that runs around the edge of its second rees, the black
primaries and pale grey make it distinctive from the female. Islay
has 40 pairs of hen harrier, they are persecuted elsewhere. Really
drug struggling in England. You didn't know where to put your
binoculars there. Scourging thighs, I went through three pairs of
trousers! Remember the Twite tree, there are no twite in it, but
something else exciting. We can watch that again if you like.
is not my twite tree, clearly not. Let's have a look. Here it is. You
see, no twite, but what is there. little bird has sneaked in here,
the smallest British falcon, the female Merlin, a dashing little
bird. It is having a sniff around for the twite in the tree. They are
not in that tree, they have gone off to the bottom. That is what the
Merlin does, this bird is all about speed. Watch it hunting, it
absolutely rockets in. What it hopes to do, as soon as it hops off
the tree, having spyed the twite at the bottom there, it comes in low
across the top of the grass and swoops straight into the middle of
that flock of twite. It then rises up, hoping to catch one, it has
missed one, but it has one other strategy, it gets underneath one of
the small birds, it drives it up and up in the air, they both circle
round and round often to a get high. About 300ms, finally the little
bird is so in fear of a shadow to fall, that is it starts to dive
down and then the Merlin puts in repeated stoops at the small
birbgsd you can just see it there. It is amazing. It is called ringing.
That is what they do, they ring them right up and put repeated
stoops in. I have actually seen that myself, I was on Exmoor
cycling, I suddenly saw the Merlin coming in chasing a skylark, they
were dipping up and down, the sad thing about it was the skylark was
singing loudly the whole time that this was going on. I wonder whether
that was the skylark saying I'm still strong, I can still get out
of your way. It was a bit distressing. Going out with a blaze
of glory. I had the best view of a Merlin ringing flight, right here
in Slimbridge, in the fields behind the centre, he did a serious of
stpe stew pendous stoops and the chaffinch got into a hawthorn bush
and we never saw it again, we hope it got away. How often are they
successful? Not too successful because there is no twite but not
too unsuccessful because it would starve. It is one in five, we
didn't see t but had we hung around we would have done. A quick
question, Sam from Facebook, what is the largest and smallest
migrating bird? The smallest, a fire crest, they are tiny, weigh
the same as a 5p piece, the biggest ones the Hooper swans, I would
imagine the swan would be heaviest. You may remember the Osprey, the
three we had met hatching out from the egg in Springwatch. Let's
remind ourselves about their story so far.
This spring, with the help of Montgomery Wildlife Trust, we
followed three Osprey chicks as they grew up in west Wales, before
setting off on the long migration. Last week we found out all three of
our young Ospreys, had made it safely through Europe. And into
North Africa. But ahead of them lay the biggest challenge of their
lives, crossing The Sahara desert. Deserts are extremely hot during
the day, and bitterly cold at night. Not exactly the place for a fish-
eating bird of prey. And worst of all, they are bone dry, there is
nowhere to stop and fish for the entire 900-mile crossing. So, what
happened next? We left all three birds poised at the northern post
tip of Africa. Right away Einon went down, skirting the edge Sahara,
Dula went the same way, but Leri the little female covered the whole
there, may have exhausted herself a bit. All three ended up in Senegal.
We are very worried about Leri, we are getting strange bleeps from her
transmitter, it is not doing what it should be doing. So we're
concerned about her. Wouldn't it be wonder ffl we could some how go out
there and - if we could some how go out there and try to find out what
our Ospreys are up to. We are going to, tomorrow, Royden nis, our
Osprey expert will - Roy den sis, our Osprey expert, he's going out
to find the Ospreys, he will report back later on in Autumnwatch. Roy,
good look. What are we doing next? Seals. Seals, it's time for the
last report from Richard Taylor- Jones, our guest reporter, what
will he find out about the mystery seals next. This RSPCA centre here
Hastings, is usually home to hedgehogs and birds. But, in the
last few years, they have started to receive some very different
patients. Seal pups. Including the one I found. Which had to be
rescued, having been abandoned. Although, sadly, she didn't make it
back to health, the majority do. I wonder what these new arrivals say
about the population of these animals in the south-east. Good
morning. Wildlife manager, Richard Thomson, is on hand to show me
around. They are just gorgeous.
rehydrate them, and then they get a fish soup. Once they have
progressed from fish soup, they get small fish and bigger and bigger
and bigger. We have herring today. Am I allowed to give him a fish,
has he had enough for the day. might do. How much fish a day will
they eat at this stage? Between two and three kilos. They are putting
on weight, once they get to the target weight, that does drop off.
We just throw the fish in and walk out. There is very little contact.
Is that a gentle hint we need to get out? It is, yes.
Once the pups are up to weight, they are moved to a bigger, deeper
pool. Where they have space to swim and gain strength.
He has just put seal snot all over my lens. Not much work is being
done on seal numbers across Kent. I wonder if these pups can shed any
light on how healthy the population is. Has there, to your mind, been
an increase in the number of seals on the Kent coast, going on the
pups that are coming? We have seen an increase in the number of seal
up pups entering this senter from the Kent coast in the last number
of years. That must indicate the population is growing? It is hard
to say, whether the population is sicker than normal, that is the
reason we are getting more of them, or they are finding it more
difficult to find places to breed, so they are breeding on the
outsides of the colonies, perhaps they are being driven away, young
parents. It is difficult to know why these animals come into our
care. Whatever the reason, the pups end up here, it is certainly time
for this young male to be released. He came in on the 31st July, with
an infected eye and split lip. After two-and-a-half months of care
and attention, he's ready to go. Look at that fella. There you go,
home. You This seal is desperate to be
released and I can't open the door. There we go, fantastic. Off you go
fella. All the pups need to be release
during the autumn, before winter set - released during the autumn,
before winter, this pup is the second to go this year. There are
three more to follow. How did that make you feel? Really good, really
good to see them go. He will surf out there now. This is a great day
for him. So really pleased. He's heading out into one of the
busiest shipping lanes in the world. He has to live along one of the
most urbanised coastlines in Britain, what do you think his
chances are? We know from evidence that with the tag that is we put on
the animals, and also some work has been done with putting satellite
tags on seals, that have been released from a rehabilitation
centre, they do really well. There isn't a great deal of difference
between them and their rival counterparts, we know survival is
good. Your work here works, it is worth putting the time and effort
putting the guys back to sea. Definitely. This is where they want
to be? Definitely. He's surfing in the waves there. Goodbye seal and
good luck. My journey for Autumnwatch started with an
abandoned seal pup. Although she never made it back to the wild. I
have now learned so much about the seals of the south-east. And
watching this young male bravely head out into the English Channel,
gives me a sense that they might just have a very positive future
here. Richard has written a blog about
his adventures and the seals, that is on our website. In fact, he will
be joining us later on in Un sprung. Can I say we have been incredibly
lucky for the live show, this is the fourth week and it hasn't
rained, the fifth week, it has been raining all day here at Slimbridge.
So much so that my feet are still wet, are they going to stay wet
this weekend? Don't ask me, let's ask the professional, John Hammond,
ask the professional, John Hammond, will it rain all weekend?
No it is not, the good news for you and for most of us, it's going to
be a nice weekend. Lots of sunshine, it should encourage you to get out
in the countryside. Some exception, as we will see here. There is one
blob of blue, wet weather across northern England, that should
largely clear out of the way. For most of us it will be a dry night.
Fog forming, humid air, southern parts of the UK not cold. Maybe a
touch of frost across Scotland and Northern Ireland. We lose that blob
of blue and gain another. It will turn damp across eastern England.
Most of us settling into a fine day. Beautiful across Scotland, Northern
Ireland, more north western parts of England and Wales, that probably
does include Slimbridge, not as mild as it has been, temperatures
pretty good for the time of year. After the fireworks parties and
bonfires, things settled and sunshine. Best of that across the
more north western parts of the country. A bit drab across England.
With the feed off the North Sea we will get a lot of moisture and
cloud. Disappointing across this parts of the world.
Southerly winds, we are going into a different regime, north-eastly
wind, we will talk about it in the moment.
All the mild weather, I'm not happy, it is causing a real hiatus in the
my grai, we need some good cold, windy weather, coming from the east,
are we going to get it? I don't think we are going to get it, for
those birds stuck out there in Moscow, it has been mild, seven
degrees in Moscow, we got a big change in the weather, the general
circulation pattern is having a substantial change. We will see a
plunge of blue. That is properly cold air coming from the Arctic to
affect much of Eastern Europe, with temperatures sub zero in Moscow I
think the birds there will get cold feet for sure, and be more
encouraged to fly westwards. The other factor in the equation, ace
mentioned, up until now we had southerly winds, hence the warmth,
come the weekend and the early parts of next week, easterly winds.
I'm no ornithologyist, I would imagine birds across the continent
and Scandinavia will be encouraged to fly in our direction.
I think what we will do, we will have to wait here, these swans over
in Latvia at the moment, not so much waking for the blackout but
the whiteout. If it does move in, we might see some of these Buicks
towards the end of the week joining those already there at Slimbridge.
In the meantime, with those east lease, we might get the wood
pigeons, they are a migrant bird, they used to come in vast numbers,
not so much now with the weather. Maybe starllings, you might get
those. One wax wing in Orkney, no Woodcock yet, if you are into
rareties, the east lease are always a bonus. We have had an eastern
crowned warbler, it should be in south-east Asia. If you are a
twitcher you might be happy this weekend.
We have a picture haven't we? at this, this was taken by Ian
Watson, in Cumbria, one of four that he saw. And what this is a
lukistic wild geese. Does that mean pale, lukistic? I can't get into
that, we only have a minute left. Next week we have another top show
for you, we are off to investigate how seabirds are affected by
plastic in the environment. We join a team from the RSPB to see just
how negative this litter problem can be.
I'm going to be catching up with our family of foxes down in Pitsy,
and things are getting messy. special guest next week is Yolo, he
will look for these fin whales, the second-biggest whale, off the Irish
coast. He will be joining us in the Send in any questions you have got,
keep uploading your pictures on to flickr. If you have any movies of
Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games broadcast live from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's Slimbridge reserve.
Martin is tracking Bewick's swans as they arrive from Siberia to overwinter at the reserve. Chris and Michaela report back on their visit to the Scottish island of Islay, where they have been meeting the resident otters and eagles, and experiencing the spectacle of thousands of migratory barnacle geese.
Meanwhile, guest presenter and wildlife cameraman Richard Taylor-Jones is on the trail of one of Britain's least known seal populations in the south east, which live in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.