Anne’s Autumnwatch Adventure
4th November 2015
Well, it’s been a busy 24 hrs. On Tuesday morning, I headed up to Scotland to film with Lindsey Chapman on Autumnwatch Extra. This is a behind-the-scenes, in-depth, look at the major stories in the main show. I was on the show to talk about the #StarlingSurvey that we are running with the Royal Society of Biology.
After a 5.30 am alarm call, four trains and a taxi ride (plus a spot of impromptu running at Carlisle station that underlined just how hard it is to run in walking boots) I arrived at the amazing Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Caerlaverock on the Solway Firth and met the BBC production crew.
What struck me first is the sheer scale of the operation: it is truly incredible! They must have 80+ people working on site, from presenters to camera and sound operators, directors, producers, tech-savvy live webcam operators, runners, fixers, lighting gurus, and cabling boffins. Oh, plus the web and media teams, catering unit and makeup artists.
I did a 25 minute feature with Lindsey Chapman on the what, where, how and why of starling murmurations. This was all done live and without rehearsal. I’ve done some filming before but this was the first time I had to juggle not only the information I was trying to impart but also direction of where to move, how long was left, and what the viewers were seeing at any one time (which was often still images or other film sequences).You can see the finished thing here http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06p58gf/autumnwatch-extra-2015-6-afternoon-03112015
The main show contained information on the survey, and the outline map of starling murmurations created by Rik from last year’s data (https://uniofglos.blog/bioscience/murmuration-map/). A slight gaff by Chris Packham live on air meant that I was initially referred to as Dr Holly Goodhead, who was a character in the 007 film Moonraker! I’ve always wanted to be a Bond Girl, but I never thought of it happening this way… …at least it makes the survey memorable, I guess.
After the main show, it was straight into Unsprung, which again is recorded live. I was in the audience but primed and ready to answer audience questions should any come my way so couldn’t relax until the closing credits.
As I type this in Dumfries, where Tuesday has almost turned into Wednesday, I’m thinking back over the day and trying to pick out the best moment. Actually, this was something away from all the media glitz: I saw my first ever ring ouzel! It might seem odd to pick seeing a white-necked thrush as my highlight over and above appearing on live telly, dinner with the production crew, and chatting with the Autumnwatch presenters after the show, but once a birder, always a birder!
Please submit new records here – www.rsb.org.uk/starlingsurvey. To see locations of records from last year, please click the “murmuration map” at the top of the blog homescreen.