Well, Tuesday’s brief reprieve in the weather
hasn’t really held as much as we’d have liked.
The blustery winds returned and grey skies prevailed for much of yesterday (Wednesday) but that wasn’t going to dampen the mood – at at least it stayed dry whilst the programme was on air in the end!
The man in charge of the BBC’s technical planning, Philip “Salty” Brines, told us that on Monday night viewing figures showed that 5,000 more people watched Wild Week Live on BBC NI than usually watch The One Show on the channel on a normal Monday evening!
And if that wasn’t impressive enough, we then found out that that number doubled to 10,000 more viewers for Tuesday evening – wonder what last night’s figures were?
The weather conditions though have been creating a bit of extra work for our friendly BBC crew.
Filming location changes on site here at Castle Espie because of the damp and blustery skies have meant the the 6km of cabling winding its way round the centre, up paths and in and out of buildings is now – 7km!
Each has been painstaking laid one by one by BBC riggers “Young” Billy McCarroll and Roland Richards, and with the weather not playing ball, Billy and Roland are having to re-rig the cameras to fit in with enforced changes in camera positions after the afternoon production meeting.
And speaking of these cables – it’s been a talking point here at the centre with the mass of different coloured cables and what each one is actually for so – for those of you visitors to Castle Espie who have also been wondering, here’s the answer. The brown ones are for audio, the blue for power, the red are a mix of camera cables, and the grey and black ones are video cables.
Last night’s programme was another great one. Great to see how well our resident artist and WWT volunteer Lorna Hamilton is getting on with her amazing owl painting.
She’s more than halfway into the week’s project and its been great for staff and visitors alike to watch the painting’s progress over the past couple of days.
She’s getting on brilliantly with it and even plans to donate some of the proceeds of the sale of the finished painting (which you can see in the hour-long final BBC Wild Week Live programme on Friday evening) to WWT!
Lorna’s a talented and award-winning artist and you can see more of her work and even find out how you can commission her to do a painting for you on Lorna’s website.
Amongst all the exciting wildlife at Castle Espie and around Northern Ireland on last night’s programme from otters to owls to whooper swans, it was sad to see the jackdaw story come to a tragic end.
Sometimes this does happen in nature and it may have been down to the inexperience of the female that the three chicks sadly did not survive.
As if having a live TV programme broadcasting from here all week wasn’t exciting enough, on Saturday (28 May), BBC Radio Ulster broadcasts live from Castle Espie as part of the BBC Wild Week too.
John Toal will present the Saturday Magazine programme from the centre here between 10am-12noon. There’ll be interviews with some of Castle Espie’s established TV stars this week: Grounds and Reserve Manager Kerry Mackie, Castle Espie’s resident artist and volunteer Laura Hamilton and, of course, our very own birding expert and nightly star of BBC Wild Week Live, Dot Blakely.
John Toal will be spending time learning about the history of the place as well as the birds and wildlife that call the centre home.
Resident chef Paula McIntyre will be cooking live using local produce, she’s got honey from bee keeper Jim Fletcher.
Plus, Minister for the Environment Alex Atwood will be visiting the centre to see the work being carried out by staff and volunteers at WWT.
PS. Footnote from Castle Espie’s bird experts: there have been more than 1,200 pictures sent in for the BBC’s Wild Week Live website – but don’t forget when you are out and about taking your pictures in your garden or local park that you must respect nesting and breeding birds. Keep as quiet as you can, don’t disturb nest boxes and always keep your distance when taking photographs.
Gilnahirk Brownies met BBC1 NI presenter, Donna Traynor at Castle Espie last night along owl expert, Ian Patterson who brought along his Barn Owl. The group had a great time at the centre and enjoyed the experience of being present when a live broadcast was taking place.
Castle Espie has an active education programme all year round with many events and visits in the calendar. The centre can also accommodate evening bookings and welcomes many different gatherings from ladies groups and uniformed organisations to interest groups.
With experienced tour guides such as Dot Bleakley, the resident bird specialist to our knowledgeable grounds and reserve staff, there is always someone on hand to answer questions or have a chat. This makes the centre an ideal meeting place.
Snacks and after-tour meals are also available in The Loughshore Café, where panoramic views of Strangford Lough offer one of the most enviable views in the Province.
Don’t miss tonight’s programme at 7pm on BBC NI – again broadcasting live from Castle Espie.