Whooper swans – 1766
Bewick’s swans – 243
Dawn swan count
Whooper swans – 1766
WeBS count highlights
Wigeon – 2953
Mallard – 887
Teal – 561
Pochard – 174
Pintail – 107
Shoveler – 50
Gadwall – 22
Great crested grebe – 9
Black-tailed godwit – 245
Lapwing – 32
Golden plover – 22
Curlew – 12
Snipe – 12
Redshank – 2
Marsh harrier – 2
Buzzard – 2
Fieldfare – 350
Bewick’s are back
Our first Bewick’s swan flew in to WWT Welney yesterday, right on schedule and just a day after the first arrival at WWT Slimbridge. So that now we have all three species of UK swan on site for visitors to see. Water levels have peaked and currently only the Reedbed hide is closed with welly boots needed to access Nelson-Lyle, Lyle, Allport and Friends hides.
Sightings from yesterday:
Bewick’s swan – 1
Jack snipe – 1
Little gull – 1
White-fronted goose – 30
Marsh harrier – 3 (roosting in front of the main observatory)
Fieldfare (large flocks)
Tonight’s programme hasn’t started yet and we’re already glued to our TVs and computer monitors. The BBC Autumnwatch crew set their Swan webcam live at 2pm today and we’ve been watching the live footage of Slimbridge’s Rushy Lake that they’ve been broadcasting.
At around 3.45pm they broadcast the famous Slimbridge swan feed complete with commentary by Reserve Manager Dave Paynter. If you missed it today don’t worry, you’ll be able to see it every day at the same time up until Sunday, 27 November (when Swancam finishes).
You can watch Swancam online or on the BBC red button. It’ll be broadcasting daily from 10am – 4.30pm and 2pm – 11pm on Fridays. So after your fix of Autumnwatch at 8.30pm on BBC2 tonight, followed by Autumnwatch Unsprung at 9.30pm, you can press the red button for an extra hour of entertainment!
Tonight, straight after Autumnwatch Unsprung finishes at 10pm, our Bewick’s swan expert Julia Newth will be interviewed live while Swancam is broadcast.
There’s been so much Swancam excitement today it’s almost overshadowed the main event! Bill Oddie has been out on the reserve today filming for the main programme, talking about his memories of Slimbridge among other things, and he’ll be a guest on Unsprung too.
The presenters are downstairs rehearsing now – so now we’re just looking forward to watching the finished show!
Here we go again …
Slimbridge has been a hive of activity this afternoon, with the Autumnwatch team setting up for tonight’s live broadcast (BBC2 at 2030, followed by Unsprung at 2130). The presenters turned up mid afternoon and have been busy rehearsing. We’ve been out with our cameras again and captured some behind the scenes images. If you check them out now you’ll also be able to see live footage from the outdoor Autumnwatch set.
The easterly winds during the week have resulted in more Bewick’s Swans arriving, including the first of this years cygnets. If you can’t wait to see them on this evenings show then you can find out more on Julia’s Bewick’s Swan diary. With what looks like perfect migration conditions forecast over the weekend and next week we hope to see many more swans arriving.
Slimbridge warden James Lees spent some time with the Autumnwatch cameramen this week and they were fortunate enough to capture some stunning Peregrine Falcon and Short-eared Owl footage. We’re hoping that they will make the show. James has been involved in his own project to capture intimate footage of Peregrines here at Slimbridge. You can see the early results here.
With lots more exciting content in the schedule we’re looking forward to tonight’s show …
Long distance travellers arriving at a wetland centre near you!
There is something pretty magical about seeing a Bewick’s swan first arrive at Slimbridge.
They are such impressive birds navigating here all the way from Arctic Russia.
Their entrance is always spectular too as they circle in the skies above the rushy before making their elegant swanfalls onto the water below.
On Wednesday (yesterday) the Bewick’s swans surprised us all by arriving in the middle of the afternoon. First a group of five circled high above the Rushy before making spectacular swanfalls onto their winter home.
Then they were swiftly followed by a crowd of 11 Bewick’s. Normally the swans arrive on a clear night and although the winds were in the right direction (easterly) it was surprising to see them arrive on a such a grey afternoon. Our swan expert Julia Newth busily sketched their bills so she could ascertain exactly who they were, but recognised many as familiar birds.
Migration has been a bit slow so far this autumn. We think this is a combination of unfavourable wind directions and the mild weather, so over the next couple of weeks we expect a massive influx of swans, geese and ducks.
Since I last wrote pochard numbers have risen to 200, teal to 2,200 and wigeon to 900. The pair of short eared owls are back too and are very visible from our Holden Tower. White fronted geese numbers are still rising slowly up to 40 now.
The evening roosts are nice to watch. The jackdaw one is pretty noisy and impressive as there are about 4,000 in the roost and there are 1,000 or so starlings circling the skies at dusk too.
Soon our Bewick’s swans will be featured on an Autumnwatch Swancam. This will allow people from far away to see their antics on the lake!
Lights, camera, action!
What a fantastic first Autumnwatch broadcast here at Slimbridge.
The rain that has quite literally been chucking down on and off all day finally held off for the live broadcast and it all went brilliantly.
Slimbridge looked fabulous bathed in the TV lights and the swans on Swan Lake certainly enjoyed their moment of fame!
It was great that Chris spoke so affectionately of Slimbridge on the programme and the conservation work that WWT does here, and we really enjoyed the VT of Martin Hughes-Games in Sir Peter Scott’s house here on site – a rare treat for anyone to go into Sir Peter’s famous studio.
The Scott studio is frozen in time and is exactly how it was when Sir Peter and his family lived there.
What a cameo from our very own Dave Paynter – Reserve Manager here at Slimbridge. He sat in the Peng Observatory overlooking the Rushy Lake and talked Martin through the arrival of our first three Bewick’s swans of the winner, headed – predictably – by Dario.
Keep watching Autumnwatch next week because if the wind direction changes then we expect a few more of the Bewick’s to arrive ready for next week’s programme.
Can’t wait to see what’s in store for next week!
The excitement builds …
There’s a certain air of anticipation around the centre this morning – almost like the calm before the storm, but with a heavy chunk of excitement! Yesterday was a hive of activity on site, with cables laid, lights rigged, sets built and, when darkness fell the lights and cameras were tested. A quick peak at the monitors in the Outside Broadcast truck saw Slimbridge bathed in stunning studio lights, to the bemusement of the swans preparing to settle down for the night on the main lake outside the centre. In fact, our webcam looks out onto one of the main areas where the live programme will be broadcast from tonight so, if you take a peak later on this afternoon you will almost certainly catch a peak of the crew and presenters rehearsing.
Check out the Autumnwatch Behind the Scenes page to see the webcam.
The set arrived yesterday afternoon and the designers spent several painstaking hours putting it together and dressing it so that on screen tonight, it will look exactly like the familiar Autumnwatch set we all know and love. And the great thing is, the BBC will be leaving much of the set in place – all month – so visitors to Slimbridge will be able to come down and see the set, even have their pictures taken with it – almost as if they were an Autumnwatch presenter themselves! And speaking of Autumnwatch presenters, we’ve a lifesized cut out of Chris, Michaela and Martin in the centre, so visitors can come down and have their picture taken with the trio – and if you’re down here on a Friday, you might even catch a glimpse of the real thing.
Three days and counting…
Three days to go and the Autumnwatch buzz is underway here at Slimbridge. Yesterday, a BBC wildlife cameraman spent dawn till dusk capturing the latest wildlife goings on around the reserve, then our visitors had their first chance to mingle with Autumnwatch presenters when Martin Hughes-Games and a BBC crew pitched up to do some filming in advance of Friday’s broadcast. Tune in on Friday night, 8.30pm on BBC2 to see what they filmed!
Visitors who had come down to see the first three Bewick’s swans at one of the afternoon wild feeds in the Peng Observatory had to do a double take when they saw Martin Hughes-Games sitting with Slimbridge’s Reserve Manager Dave Paynter taking in the commentary from one of the reserve wardens out on the Rushy. The first three Bewick’s – led by serial first visiting Bewick’s, Dario (pictured above), arrived last week and, thanks to mild weather and unfavourable winds, are yet to be joined by any more.
We’re watching the skies and apparently some wind changes might be due over the weekend, according to Julia Newth, our resident Bewick’s expert here at Slimbridge, so Dario and the newly named Humbug and Bridges will soon have to share the plentiful food they’ve been enjoying at the regular daily feeds on the Rushy.
Tomorrow the BBC trucks and rigging crew start to arrive so there’ll be lots of cable laying, and setting up of studios and lights ready for the first broadcast on Friday by which time there’ll be some 40+ crew on site – plus of course Michaela, Chris and Martin!
Don’t forget, we’re running a weekly competition to give away two pairs of tickets to Slimbridge’s Friday evening Floodlit Swan Feed in the Peng Observatory, to include supper and the opportunity to join the Autumnwatch Unsprung audience. To enter, simply fill in an entry form in the centre – making sure you give us a daytime contact number and email address – and drop it in the box provided.
Wild stars of Autumnwatch swoop into Slimbridge
Like many big stars they kept us waiting but this morning the first Bewick’s swans touched down at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre.
The much-loved swans return each year after spending the summer in Arctic Russia. They are due to play a major role in the BBC’s Autumnwatch Live, when it is broadcast from Slimbridge next month.
The four swans took advantage of the break in the wild weather and flew on the easterly wind to arrive on a sunny clear morning.
Among the group was Dario – a 12 year old male swan – who has been the first to arrive in four of the last six years. He was with two unnamed young swans (yearlings) and a mystery adult swan who he may have paired up with over the summer.
Bewick’s swans develop an individual bill pattern when they are around one year old which allows WWT researchers to identify them. In a tradition, dating back to 1965, each swan is given a unique name.
The yearlings and the unknown adult swan will now be given a name and their bill pattern will be recorded so our scientists can follow the swan’s progress over their lifetime.
About 300 Bewick’s come to Slimbridge each year, so many more of the rare swans from Arctic Russia are expected to arrive over the next few weeks.
Last year the swans arrived early on October 18, this year their arrival time is about average.
Julia Newth, swan expert, said: “It is great to see Dario is first again. He obviously likes his winter home here at Slimbridge!
“I will be watching him and the other adult swan closely over the next few days to see if they are mates or just acquaintances.
“I will be looking out for signs of courtship and the distance between them as indicators. The swans are enjoying their first well-deserved feed on the lake after their exhausting 3,000 km journey.”
This year the swans’ antics will be caught on camera by the Autumnwatch team when they broadcast from Slimbridge throughout November.
Sally Munro, marketing manager, said: “We are delighted the swans have arrived in plenty of time ahead of the Autumnwatch filming at Slimbridge.
“We are really excited about welcoming the whole Autumnwatch team including the presenters Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes Games on the site and hope our visitors will enjoy watching Slimbridge on their TV screens, as well as coming to see all the winter wildlife here.
“The first show will be broadcast from here on Friday November 4 so remember to tune in!”
Visitors can also see the swans up close during our daily wild bird feeds at 3.30pm and 4.30pm, which are included in the cost of admission.
For a truly magical experience you can also come to one of the floodlit swan feeds which are every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in November from 6.30pm (adults £5, children £3).
From Monday one family per week will win tickets to the floodlit swan feed event, followed by a meal and places in the audience for that week’s Autumnwatch Unsprung show, which will be filmed live from Slimbridge every Friday.
To enter just pick up a form and hand it in at Slimbridge. The draw will take place every Wednesday.