Friday 31 October 2008

There's a storm brewing...

Thursday arrived and the last day of the live broadcast for the week for the team. However it wasn't about the team this time, but what was developing on the north beach colony on Brownsman. One's a handful, but four... its rarely been seen before (and never filmed - nice work Autumnwatch) and sadly, one which may not end on a happy note. The fact four pups are attempting to suckle from one cow is exceptional in Grey Seals and it will raise more questions than answers. Under normal circumstances the mother would defend her own pup and have a 'zero tolerance' attitude on all intruders. Sadly this does not appear to be the case and only time will tell if this will have a disastrous consequence on her own pups and indeed the three 'opportunists'. Watch this space...

As for the rest of the pups, Nemo snuggled into a rock out of the wind, and appeared to enjoy all the shenanigans around him (he even crept into the above photo in the top left corner). As for Lucky, he just keeps putting on weight and enjoying the comforts of an attentive mum (top marks to her). Before I go on, I had better explain all the terminology so everyone can keep up with my ramblings. A female Grey Seal is known as a cow, males are known as bulls and the young are pups! Away from the Seal biology lesson, the colony was generally quiet with a few new arrivals although the bulls are starting to rear their ugly heads so watch out for tensions to increase and fights to start. Add the spice of a possible Northerly gale forecast for the next twenty-four hours, anything is possible. There's never a dull moment in a Seal colony.

Away from the seals, the birders amongst the team rejoiced as the wind (at long last) switched from the west to the east bringing with it a lot of small passerine birds including Redwings and Blackbirds. However two Short-eared Owls and a stunning Long-eared Owl brightened up the day. Following a seamless 'live' link to the islands early evening, we settled down with a whiskey to celebrate sound recordist Andrew's birthday (21 again) and the success of the first weeks filming. Then the wind start increasing....

Thursday 30 October 2008

Seals Galore

Gordon in action

Day three (its like a Big Brother introduction) of the live broadcast and the Brownsman cottage stirred into life as the morning sun broke the distant horizon. Don't be fooled, at this time of year, when I mean sun - we can see it, but its still below freezing out here (honest). It was the start of another brisk cold day on the 'rock in the north sea', known as Brownsman. 

As usual, Gordon disappeared to the north end of the island to film seal action as activity is increasing on a daily basis as more and more seal pups are born. Its positive news at present as despite the cold conditions, we've avoided the huge northerly storms to date which can wreak havoc in the colony at this time of year. Sound recordist Andrew and producer Richard visited another seal colony on nearby Staple Island for more footage leaving Matt to get his head down and concentrate on editing the film for this evenings program. As for me, well, plenty to keep me busy although the distraction of a Waxwing flying over the island (fleeing the cold conditions of Scandinavia and probably the Farnes) was nice, otherwise an uneventful day in the life of a Head Warden on the Farne Islands.

At long last the wind eased and darkness fell as 'Autumnwatch day three' was whirling and the 'live' went out without a glitch. When I say glitch, maybe just one or two moments of panic as we lost power on the islands just before broadcasting, but that's another story... As usual, the de-rigging of equipment and a beer or two soon followed although my day ended on a disappointing note, as my beloved football team lost. Well there's always tomorrow. 

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Nemo in the snow.

"It never snows on the Farne Islands" famous last words of a certain Head Warden to producer Richard, as moments later the snow storm bleached down from the heavens and the Seal pups of Brownsman were experiencing snow for the very first time. That is how Tuesday morning began and for those people who have not had the 'privilege' of being on an island in the north sea during a cold icy blast, only one word can sum it up; bitter! I'm glad to report that the weather gradually improved as the moody skies gave way to sunnier conditions although the temperature never got above 'cold' all day.

The second day of Autumnwatch had arrived and the team were hard at work, with Matt encamped within the bowls of the the editing suit (also known as the Brownsman cellar), Gordon was taking on mother nature to capture yet more stunning images, Andrew was picking off the sounds for this evenings program and producer Richard was as busy as ever, making sure everything was running smoothly. The team of four work like a well oiled machine, having been living on Brownsman (complete with no running water) for the previous seven days. There hard work is just starting to pay off...

As for me, it was just another day at the 'office', keeping everyone and everything happy, ensuring all was well in the world of planet Farnes. As for our Seal pups, Nemo was out for a swim (not a wise move at just a few days old), Lucky was taking on yet more milk and the Seal pups were generally happy with life, but that may all change...As the day progressed, the 'serious' heads came on and thankfully all went well with the evenings 'live' from Brownsman and the world of Nemo and co was brought to the homes of millions of people. It was a successful day and one which I won't forget "I thought you said you don't get snow on the Farnes..."

Friday 24 October 2008

This year, the Farne Islands (or more specifically the seals on the Farne Islands) are appearing on Autumnwatch. Head Warden David Steel will be posting a picture of the day, so you can see what is happening on the islands when the television cameras aren't rolling...