Thursday, 29 May 2014

Ladybirds spotted on Springwatch Unsprung

Two of our CEH colleagues were live on the Red Button and web this week, appearing with Nick Baker on the Unsprung element of the popular BBC Springwatch series. On Wednesday, Dr Steve Thackeray spoke about nature's calendar and climate change, which he investigates as part of the shifting seasons phenology project he leads. Earlier in the week, Dr Helen Roy chatted about biological recording, citizen science and, of course, ladybirds! Read more about Helen's day on the Springwatch set in her blog post below.

BBC Springwatch provided an exquisite insight into the life history of the 2-spot ladybird, Adalia bipunctata, on Monday night (25 May). The short film was inspiringly beautiful. The detailed perspectives on the secret lives of these familiar beetles were accurately and quite brilliantly portrayed.

The life history of the 2-spot ladybird featured on Springwatch 2014.
Photo: Richard Comont

I had the privilege of providing some information on the ecology of ladybirds to the BBC Springwatch production team during the making of this film. The excitement and enthusiasm expressed by Vicky Webb (Producer) and Rob Morgan (Researcher) throughout the filming was fantastic. I remember Vicky calling after the hatching eggs had been filmed. She conveyed such delight at what is undoubtedly one of the (many) most aesthetic moments of the ladybird life cycle. Rob had spotted some exciting signs of parasitism and we enjoyed discussing the likely parasitic suspects. I was extremely excited just anticipating the broadcast of this film, which I knew would be in the first episode of Springwatch 2014. So imagine my excitement when I was invited to contribute to Springwatch Unsprung - and it was an amazing experience!

The buzz about the Springwatch Production “Village” of portacabins, trucks and marquees is incredible. The passion for natural history and science communication is so apparent. All day people are running around with cameras and sound equipment to convey the brilliance and diversity of all aspects of wildlife from the RSPB Minsmere Reserve. Conversations on booming bitterns, the delightful miniature suffocated clover, stalking stoats, glimpses of hawkmoths and, of course, the magical ladybirds provide an inspiring atmosphere.

The bittern hide - looking for some of the stars of Springwatch 2014 at RSPB Minsmere

During the day I was invited to contribute to Springwatch Extra with Euan McIlwraith and we enjoyed a magical afternoon talking about ladybirds, their predators and the ways in which ladybirds interact with many other species. The Minsmere woodland provided the perfect stage. I joined Brett Westwood for a short walk in which he revealed the delights of some tiny and obscure (and, in some cases, rare) plants exploiting the sandy soils on the reserve. It was great to find an 11-spot ladybird, Coccinella undecimpunctata, in amongst these hidden treasures (I have to confess it was Marcus Brent-Smith of webcam fame who actually, and quite literally, unearthed the ladybird).

In the evening I joined the Springwatch Unsprung team. Springwatch Unsprung gives the BBC audience an opportunity to contribute questions and comments on wildlife. It is broadcast immediately after Springwatch and is a fantastically lively show. For me Springwatch Unsprung provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate the legacy of ladybird recording in Britain in conversation with Nick Baker. The quiz, a regular feature on Springwatch Unsprung, was on ladybirds for the night and enabled some hints on identification to be conveyed. It was fantastic to be a small part of Springwatch and I am looking forward to another contribution from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology when Stephen Thackeray is released on Unsprung on Wednesday night.

I would like to thank Sheryl Bawden, Vicky Webb, Rob Morgan, Brett Westwood, Euan McIlwraith, Marcus Brent-Smith, Anna Place, Nick Baker, Anne Gallagher and many others (catering, security, make-up, film crew...) for such a fantastic opportunity and for ensuring I was so welcome.

Helen Roy

The Springwatch Unsprung episodes are available to view on iPlayer for 3 weeks:

Ladybirds (episode 1)

Phenology (episode 3)

Related links

Details of how to download the iRecord Ladybirds app for Android and iOS

UK Ladybird Survey


When and how to use citizen science for environmental projects

Helen's staff page at CEH

Steve Thackeray's staff page at CEH

Shifting seasons and ecosystem consequences project

BBC Springwatch

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