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Autumnwatch 2022: Here’s what to expect this season

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is upon us, as leaves on the trees display their amber, auburn and crimson hues. Autumn is a time of nature’s plenty, with a wonderful hedgerow harvest of blackberries, rose hips, crab apples, hazelnuts and seeds. Many of our much-loved creatures take advantage of this wild harvest to build up reserves of fat for migration or for hibernation.

This month, BBC Autumnwatch is exploring the wildlife adapting to a season which has come early this year, with four nights of live programmes.

With an over-arching theme of ‘The Changing Face of Autumn’, Autumnwatch will present a vision of a season which has changed dramatically in the wake of climate change. With the extremes of wildfires and soaring temperatures in the summer, how will our native wildlife have coped and how does that change our expectations of the future?

The series returns to BBC Two from Tuesday October 25 at 8pm with nature notes from our four wildlife presenters based in two locations.

Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan will be at Wild Ken Hill in Norfolk where a traditional farming landscape is being rewilded to attract species once lost from the UK landscape. Meanwhile, Iolo Williams and Gillian Burke will be at Teifi Marshes and Cardigan Bay in Wales to explore the Autumnal season on the west coast of the UK – from dolphins in the bay to the unmistakeable seasonal sound of a deer rut.

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is upon us, as leaves on the trees display their amber, auburn and crimson hues. Autumn is a time of nature’s plenty, with a wonderful hedgerow harvest of blackberries, rose hips, crab apples, hazelnuts and seeds. Many of our much-loved creatures take advantage of this wild harvest to build up reserves of fat for migration or for hibernation.

This month, BBC Autumnwatch is exploring the wildlife adapting to a season which has come early this year, with four nights of live programmes.

With an over-arching theme of ‘The Changing Face of Autumn’, Autumnwatch will present a vision of a season which has changed dramatically in the wake of climate change. With the extremes of wildfires and soaring temperatures in the summer, how will our native wildlife have coped and how does that change our expectations of the future?

The series returns to BBC Two from Tuesday October 25 at 8pm with nature notes from our four wildlife presenters based in two locations.

Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan will be at Wild Ken Hill in Norfolk where a traditional farming landscape is being rewilded to attract species once lost from the UK landscape. Meanwhile, Iolo Williams and Gillian Burke will be at Teifi Marshes and Cardigan Bay in Wales to explore the Autumnal season on the west coast of the UK – from dolphins in the bay to the unmistakeable seasonal sound of a deer rut.

Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan will be at Wild Ken Hill in Norfolk

Following a long, hot summer in Norfolk which saw parts of Wild Ken Hill hit by a wildfire, we’ll be discussing the effect climate change is having on our seasons. Devastatingly, some of our favourite wildlife was lost in the fire, such as turtle doves, deer, reptiles and amphibians. Michaela will visit the site where the fire broke out to see if it’s starting to recover.

On set with Chris and Michaela, we’ll also have some macro filming tanks to bring the audience a close-up look at some of the mini-beasts who live at Wild Ken Hill. We’re hoping for some surprises along the way and of course they will all be returned to where we found them.

Iolo and Gillian will be at Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve and Cardigan Bay

The stunning Teifi Marshes is one of the best wetland sites in Wales and has a wealth of wildlife that call this corner of Wales home.

In Autumn, thousands of starlings perform glorious murmurations over the marshes before descending to roost.

The reserve is situated on the floor of the wide pre-glacial channel left by the former course of the Teifi and now occupied by the river Piliau, which meanders through the marshes in a narrow but deceptively deep cut. A range of habitats is supported, from open pasture and well wooded hedgerows, through Alder and Willow carr, freshwater marsh with open pools and reedbeds to tidal mudbanks. The area attracts large numbers of wildfowl, notably teal, wigeon and mallard.

Otters can be found in the marshes, water shrews are numerous and sika and red deer are now present. Fish species include lamprey, stickleback, mullets, eel, sewin and salmon. Frogs and toads are numerous and both grass snakes and adders are present on the reserve.

We’re also hoping for glimpses of badgers, foxes, red kites, kingfishers and little egrets.

Cardigan Bay has Europe’s largest bottlenose dolphin population. It’s one of only two ‘semi-resident’ populations of bottlenoses in the UK, the other is the Moray Firth. The dolphins have been monitored for years so scientists can identify individuals and long-term data is available.

LIVE Wildlife Cameras

For Autumnwatch 2022 live cameras at Wild Ken Hill in Norfolk will bring a range of wildlife straight into our homes.

The cameras overlooking the river will hope to catch otters, red deer and tawny owls. And who knows maybe Ray the Rat or some of his close family will turn up again.

In the woodlands, we’ll be hoping to see some of the five of the six species of deer found in Britain who live at Wild Ken Hill. Fallow, red, muntjac, roe, and Chinese water deer, and we hope to see what they’re up to with our remote and thermal cameras. Also we’re hoping for woodcock, grey partridges and hares.

Cameras rigged in the bottom of the hedgerows will hope to capture the antics of our small mammals; hedgehogs, mice, and voles whilst higher in the hedge we expect to see redwings, fieldfares and bramblings.

Cameras focused on fallen fruit in the orchard will be hoping for late summer insects looking for a sugar fix. Red admiral and Comma butterflies, wasps and hornets will all be switching from pollen to sugars as the days get darker and colder.

But the star of the show will – fingers crossed – be the beavers. Cameras will be set up around the beaver pond where we know a new dam, about 1.5 metres in height, is currently being worked on by the beavers.

Beaver kits have been seen playing nearby but will they show between 8 – 9pm Tues to Fri for their moment in the spotlight?

Pre-filmed Stories

As ever, Autumnwatch have produced a number of pre-recorded films covering the length and breadth of the country, bringing geographical diversity as well as a wide variety of animal, scientific and cultural stories.

Crickets

As the season shifts into Autumn, the sounds of hot summer days linger on. Dark bush crickets continue to chirrup in chorus, as they make the most of the ebbing autumnal warmth to find a mate. The sweet soprano of the males draws in females, and in a form of cricket flirting, new couples use their antenna to fence each other. Successfully serenaded, the female mounts the male to mate. He presents her with a nuptial gift – a spermatophore parcel that’s a whopping 11 percent of his own body weight. Some of the contents will fertilise her eggs, the rest… she eats. This generous free meal was once thought to provide her nourishment, but now we know something sneakier is going on. The gift contains hormones that stop the female from mating again for over 4 days, making sure the male has a chance of becoming a father.

Children in Need, East Midlands

In our third year collaborating with the charity, we meet 10 year old Sophia and 8 year old Leo, siblings who have both been diagnosed with the same genetic cancer. They both share a passion for the outdoors cultivated by their parents Dom & Kirstie; as they visit RSPB centres on weekends away for a spot of bird watching. We hear their story first hand and learn how crucial the support provided to them by the team at PASIC has been; a charitable organisation that assists families of children and young people with cancer in the East Midlands which receives funding from Children in Need.

Ivy Spider

After a summer of blooming, many flowering plants have peaked for the year. For the nation’s pollinators, focus now turns to one of the most important late season flowers – ivy. It’s a lifeline for a whole host of insects as they fuel up before winter. But the free buffet of nectar and pollen doesn’t come without risk, for tiny dangers lurk within the leaves. At just 5mm, the bright green spider Nigma walckenaeri looks fairly innocuous, but it can bring down prey many times its size. The spider forms a sheet web across the curled leaf of ivy and hides in ambush underneath. The web looks simple but it is made up of thousands of incredibly fine, dry threads… which are vigorously combed into a velcro-like trap, capturing anything from wasps to bees. As the webs become littered with bodies, one visitor tries desperately not to be the next meal. A male is looking for a potential mate, and approaches a female spider very cautiously… for if they’re not in the mood, this species isn’t above eating one of their own.

Edible Dormice

In the last two years, there’s been a strange sound coming from the trees of conservationist, naturalist and vet Sean McCormack’s local patch in London.

Now, as the nights draw in and this nocturnal resident becomes easier to find, Sean is tracking down the squeaking and rustling to find Ealing’s newest resident – the Edible Dormouse. Whilst their focus might be on fattening up for hibernation, Sean is investigating just how many of them are calling his patch home and aiming to understand what the presence of this non-native species might mean for the area.

Bats in the Living Room

As autumn takes hold in Chelmsford, bat carer Kim Wallis is inundated with all sorts of new patients. From brown long-ears, which can detect the footsteps of an unsuspecting lacewing wandering along a leaf stem, to matchbox-sized common pipistrelles, which will feed on over 3,000 midges a night despite weighing less than a teaspoon of sugar; it’s Kim’s busiest season. Out on the wing to feast on the autumnal insect bonanza and mate before winter settles in, 80% of Kim’s patients have fallen victim to cat attacks. Test-flying the patients in her custom flight school, Kim will rescue, rehabilitate and release over 70 bats in her free time before the year is up – all from a shed-turned home-made bat hospital on her parent’s farm.

Orca

Every autumn, PhD student Julia Sutherland arrives in the Shetland Isles to catch a glimpse of the UK’s most powerful predator: killer whales. As the only person in Britain studying orca, Julia is leading the charge on uncovering the poorly-understood habits of these school bus-sized super geniuses. Focusing on their little-known predator-prey relationships, she can get incredibly close to the orca from the Shetland coast, where they make the most of the busy seal season in Autumn. Now halfway through her PhD, the 5-feet-tall glistening black dorsal fins of the 27s pod suddenly emerging from the surface is hard a sight to beat.

Moth Hunter

Following in the century-old footsteps of the little known but highly accomplished female entomologist Alice Balfour, Katty Baird spends her autumn meticulously charting the abundance of the magnificent moths on her doorstep in East Lothian. Inspired by Balfour – one of the UK’s first citizen scientists – Katty might gather as many as 8,000 moth records before the year is up, comparing her data with her predecessor in exactly the same locations in autumn. Far from the annoying creatures that eat your favourite jumper (just two species are guilty out of 2500), Katty believes that moths are the busy and often neglected nocturnal pollinating workhorses keeping our biodiversity ticking along behind the scenes.

Underwater Leaf Litter

As Autumn arrives in the Welsh Cambrian mountains, so does one of nature’s greatest displays of colour. But pretty soon the winds of change begin to blow, the colours fade, and falling leaves sink into the waters of the River Teifi below. Settling on the riverbed this underwater leaf litter becomes a ready-made banquet for a whole host of invertebrates known collectively as “leaf shredders”, emerging to feast on the seasonal glut the “clean up” team busily set to work breaking down the leaves.

The most efficient of them all, the translucent Gammarus shrimp is perfectly adapted to skuttle unnoticed though the leaf litter. But one shrimp stands out from the crowd. Glowing orange from within, it harbours a dark secret, inside a parasitic worm purposely attracts the attention of a brown trout, making it an easy target, the shrimp becomes both a meal for the hungry trout and a vessel for the worm to complete the next stage of its life cycle. Down here everything is on a constant journey, from the water itself to the leaves of autumn and the creatures they support.

Mindful moments

These short films allow some mindful escapism within the natural world without the distraction of music or commentary. This Autumn the subjects possibly include Brent Geese, Bats and the Sound of Autumn.

Autumnwatch Digital

The Autumnwatch digital team are already running at full pace and will be providing a wealth of exciting extra content for those that just can’t wait for the BBC Two programmes.

We’ll be bringing stories from the UK’s wild places, right into living rooms, at a time of year when we might feel detached from the outdoors. Our live wildlife cameras will be streaming every day, with tales from the Norfolk rewilding project, bird-feeders and everything in between. You can tune in on iPlayer or at www.bbc.co.uk/autumnwatch, where you can also find lots of additional content.

Our audience are engaging with the natural world right outside their window and we want to see what they are seeing! We’ll be showcasing the best of the footage and photos that our viewers send in, tagging @BBCSpringwatch on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

There will be extra clips not seen on TV, revealing the natural magic of Autumn as it arrives across the country, and regular highlight packages from the remote cameras will provide a more in-depth insight into the secret lives of the animals we are covering.

As ever, Watches’ digital team will be on hand to answer viewers’ wildlife-related questions on Facebook and Twitter, working with partner organisations and experts to respond to even the trickiest of inquiries.

Join us for what’s going to be a really exciting and colourful season. We can’t wait to share with you just what we’ve got in store!

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