The splendour of Morecambe Bay’s rich wildlife will be showcased to millions of viewers from tonight as the BBC’s Autumnwatch programme comes live from RSPB Leighton Moss.
Renowned TV presenters Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games are at the Silverdale nature reserve all week as thousands of birds flock to the Lancashire coast from around the world.
Four nightly episodes, between 8-9pm on BBC Two, will be shown from the conservation site, chosen by producers as the best location in northern England to demonstrate the theme of migration.
The first programme in last year’s series was watched by nearly three million people and the attraction is confident visitor numbers will boom.
Conservationist Chris told us: “This reserve is fantastic and it’s been brilliantly managed and sculpted by the reserve’s managers and the RSPB for years to provide a rich mosaic of habitats to support the greatest biodiversity of life that it can.
“It’s an oasis for the kinds of birds which are the specialists of the type of habitat that’s here.
“The UK shoreline is internationally-important and birds from all over northern and central Europe come up to this area because it’s milder.
“Although we may moan about the cold, it’s nothing like it is in northern Germany, Poland or Scandanavia.
“The reed bed is a phenomenal habitat and it’s home to bearded tits, marsh harriers, widgeon and birds that you just don’t find anywhere else, so you have to come to places like this to see them.
“I came here a very long time ago and I’m very excited to come back.”
Otters and kingfishers hunting for fish in the reed beds - the largest such habitat in North West England - and male red deer locking antlers in the fight for the right to mate with a female are also set to feature on screen, along with the incredible patterns painted in the sky by around 100,000 starlings as they gather to roost.
They will air along with features filmed elsewhere in the UK.
Michaela, who has also visited Silverdale before, has already had a close encounter with the sticky Morecambe Bay mud.
“My sides hurt because I was laughing so much, because once you’re stuck with those wellies, that’s it!” she joked.
“What I find amazing is you look out and it doesn’t look like a wildlife haven - until you put your binoculars on and you see thousands of birds!
“It’s so impressive and then they all fly up in a big flock it’s beautiful, absolutely gorgeous.”
The show will be ‘more interactive than ever’, the BBC said, with viewers encouraged to share their stories, photos and videos.
And the presenters appeared relaxed about the impact the unpredicatable weather could have.
Chris explained: “The whole point of us being live is to be topical, so if there’s a storm, we’ll just deal with it and talk about the impact that it’s having on wildlife.”
First-time visitor Martin, who described Leighton Moss as ‘autumn idealised’, added: “I think it’s the weather further away that matters - it’s what’s happening up in Iceland and Norway because that will affect what migrants come down and what we can feature in the programme and the latest report is that it’s looking good.
“Something like 27,000 starlings are here and I was lucky enough to be able to go out and watch some of them going into the reed beds so that’s helping build up some of the spectacle that we hope to feature.”
Annabel Rushton, RSPB Leighton Moss marketing officer, said producers first contacted Leighton Moss in April with confirmation Autumnwatch would come to Silverdale in mid-September.
She added that another RSPB site had seen visitor numbers treble after TV cameras had been in and that Leighton Moss would definitely benefit.