Written by Jenny Shelton

In The News

Autumnwatch 2015: what we’ve learned so far

Drama. Passion. Poo. Nature nerd Jenny Shelton explains why we should all be revelling in the brilliance of Autumnwatch.


Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan break the sad news about Spineless Si. Photo: BBC.

There’s no need to book a Kenyan safari to experience the drama of nature: just hang out in your back garden a while. Alternatively, turn on your tellies at 8pm tonight. This week, one of the BBC’s most quintessentially British programmes returned to our screens. Fronted by three anoraks: no, not Top Gear, but Autumnwatch – possibly the nerdiest, most wonderful show about poo and slugs you’ll ever chance upon.

With its blazing colours, golden sunsets and call for snuggly scarves and jumpers it’s no surprise that autumn often trumps summer as Britain’s favourite season. Forget washed-out barbecues, sweaty sandals and unflattering hotpants: call me a bumpkin but I’ll take a crisp, country stroll under a low October sun any day.

So, for me, a show which champions the wonder of nature in its final, most glorious flush can’t go far wrong. But Autumnwatch is more than just pretty leaves and impossibly cute, snoozing dormice. This is a world where ‘leaving a message’ is the accepted term for doing a poo, and where, when men get over-excited about seeing a fine bird, they mean an actual bird, with feathers.

I’m a sucker for a nerd: there’s something wonderful about seeing someone geek out about their favourite subject, and Autumnwatch is proof that, with enough enthusiasm, even grass and fish scales can become fascinating. Did you know you can tell the age of a salmon and where it’s been from a single scale? Use that information how you will. Throw in some brilliant, unintentional innuendos, Michaela Strachan’s rubbish jokes and Chris Packham in some dodgy knitwear and I don’t know what more you could want from an evening, quite frankly.

“Birds can see the earth’s magnetic field, which helps them navigate while migrating thousands of miles. Can I trade in my satnav for that magical power?”

This week, the team are up at Caerlaverock Wetland Centre exploring the mysteries of migration, the dramatic sex life of red deer and rummaging through the undergrowth to champion even the tiniest wonders of nature. Running for just four nights until Thursday, here’s what Autumnwatch has taught us so far:

• Barnacle geese poo once every three minutes. That’s 160 loo breaks a day, readers.

• A frozen chocolate bar is the scientific stand-in for a leg bone, both of which will break when bashed with a mallet. I love science.

• D’oh! A deer, a female deer, is simply not interested in a stag with just one antler, even if he has a really good personality.

• Chris Packham doesn’t like “birds with lots of complicated bits on”.

• There is such a thing as a ‘fish-finder’. Who knew? Though it looked more like a grenade, being lobbed into the weir at Dumfries as Martin Hughes-Games attempted to locate spawning salmon.

• It’s not easy to sleep in a tent, on top of a car, surrounded by randy red deer stags. Sorry to put a dampener on any weekend plans…

• Badgers are the UK’s largest carnivore and they’re moving into our cities. Tweet if you see one, using the hashtag (ahem) #settsinthecity.

• Michaela Strachan loves a muffin.

• Michaela Strachan would elope to Gretna Green for a good starling murmuration.

• Birds can see the earth’s magnetic field, which helps them navigate while migrating thousands of miles. Can I trade in my satnav for that magical power? #recalculating

• Obi Swan Kenobi is a silly name for a swan.

• Night diving among the otherworldly creatures of the deep looks really goddamn cool.

• Worst of all: the crushing news that sticklebacks don’t live for more than a year and Spineless Si, star of Springwatch, will have “died long ago”.

Still to come! Otters, beetles, wild goose chasing and a return to the Isle of Rum for more rutting action.


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Written by Jenny Shelton

Jenny is a writer and displaced northerner who has danced, baked, flown planes and hugged giant seals in the name of journalism. She is also a secret birdwatcher, serial book-buyer and sucker for a Sunday night costume drama.