'Springwatch' presenter Oddie to host 'Wild Autumn' on effects of climate change in UK

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The Independent Online

The BBC hopes to repeat the surprise success of its Springwatch wildlife show, which monitored seasonal change, with a new programme reporting on the first signs of autumn.

Bill Oddie, whose wildlife programmes have regularly pulled in more than three million viewers, will front the new show, tracking events from the first blackberries to the ripening of conkers and trees changing colour.

Wild Autumn will report on the results of Autumnwatch, a survey being conducted by the Woodland Trust, which is asking people to record the effects of climate change in their areas. The trust already runs a seasonal monitoring project, the UK Phenology Network, but historically people are less keen to monitor signs of autumn than of spring.

Recent results from the survey have shown that some of the traditional signs of autumn are creeping into summer. Brambles are flowering earlier and for the past two years there have been ripe blackberries in time for Wimbledon, with a potentially devastating effect on wild animals who depend on stored energy from the fruit. At the other end of the season, trees are staying green for longer because of the warmer weather.

Jill Attenborough, of the Woodland Trust, said: "Ripe blackberries are just one early sign of autumn that we're asking people to look out for. Look out also for swifts leaving for their long flight south to Africa and ripe hawthorn berries. Later, we want to hear about ripe conkers, flowering ivy and the first autumn colours on oak trees. Climate change is affecting autumn as well as spring."

Springwatch gained an average audience of 3.3 million when it was shown live on BBC2 four nights a week this month, giving it a 15 per cent share of all viewers, considerably higher than the channel's overall share of 9.6 per cent in this period. Its appeal was strongest among older viewers, with 67 per cent of the over-55 audience tuning in.

More than 80,000 people participated in the Springwatch survey, which asked people to record the appearance of six key signs of spring across the UK.

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