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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Wild Isles - Behind the scenes secrets and wildlife stories from the new series

Adolescent sow (female) badger (Meles meles) taken in ancient bluebell wood in Sussex. In April when the bluebells emerge badger bring their cubs above ground.
Adolescent sow (female) badger (Meles meles) taken in ancient bluebell wood in Sussex. In April when the bluebells emerge badger bring their cubs above ground.

Filmed over the course of three years, Wild Isles will investigate how our woodland, grassland, freshwater and ocean habitats across Britain and Ireland support wildlife of all kinds.


Britain and Ireland have some of the most diverse wildlife and beautiful landscapes on Earth. In this major new landmark series, Sir David Attenborough will celebrate the wonders of the islands that we call home, revealing the surprising and dramatic habitats that exist right on our doorstep. It’s our home, as you’ve never seen it before.


Filmed over the course of three years, this new five-part series will investigate how our woodland, grassland, freshwater and ocean habitats support wildlife of all kinds. Using the very latest technology, each episode will capture dramatic and new behaviour across the British Isles, from battling butterflies to mighty killer whales on the hunt.



In Northern Ireland, the team spent time filming the Giant’s Causeway, which is a spectacular example of geology in the British Isles, and counts among the most diverse on the planet!


Traditional flower-rich meadow.
Traditional flower-rich meadow.

They also went to White Father’s Cave, a beautiful example of the hundreds of kilometres of cave systems which lie beneath County Fermanagh and County Cavan, and which is home to Daubenton’s bats.


The production team attempted to film pine martens on the Crom Estate for the landmark series, but unfortunately after ten days of filming, the pine martens evaded the crew!



Nature in our islands will prove just as spectacular as anywhere else on the planet, but it is increasingly fragile. With intricately connected species relying on habitats, and one another, for survival, we ask what can be done to protect them and the delicate ecosystems that remain, and to make our wild isles even wilder for future generations.


Early evening puffins return to the colony. Shot on location with Sir David Attenborough.
Early evening puffins return to the colony. Shot on location with Sir David Attenborough.

Episode One - Our Precious Isles


Sir David Attenborough celebrates the rich variety of wildlife that exists in the British Isles and explains why our small and uniquely positioned set of isles are so critical for the survival of species from right across the globe.


Filmed in extraordinary detail across the country, we see new behaviour from animals we think we know well, and from others whose existence here may come as a surprise. Killer whales hunt for seals in our seas, rare golden eagles scavenge in snowy mountains, puffins are chased by greedy gulls that try to steal their hard-won catch and sinister woodland plants hold unsuspecting insects hostage.



Britain and Ireland are also revealed as a globally important destination for tens of thousands of migrating birds. Each year on the east coast of Scotland, 75,000 pairs of gannets arrive on Bass Rock to nest*, forming the biggest colony of northern gannets in the world. On the west coast, abundant food and a mild climate attract enormous flocks of barnacle geese which travel to Islay to feed on the lush grass, but they must watch out for white-tailed eagles that have learnt to hunt them down.


English oak (Quercus robur) Ancient tree over 800 years old. Britain has more ancient oaks than the whole of Europe put together.
English oak (Quercus robur) Ancient tree over 800 years old. Britain has more ancient oaks than the whole of Europe put together.

One reason for Britain and Ireland’s natural wealth is its geology, which is among the most diverse on the planet. It ranges from the chalk formations of southern England to the limestone pavements of Yorkshire, and from the rugged granite of Northumberland to the volcanic basalt of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Another reason our British Isles are so diverse is due to the great range in temperature, from the subtropical conditions in the south to the frozen Arctic conditions of the Cairngorms in the north. From the varied rocks and minerals across our fluctuating isles, unique habitats have arisen.



Despite these rich and varied habitats, Britain and Ireland are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world. From a busy puffin colony, Sir David Attenborough highlights this issue and asks how we can restore our once wild isles for future generations.


Wild Isles is produced by Silverback Films and co-produced by RSPB, WWF and the Open University.


Northern gannet (Morus bassanus) nesting colony gathered on Bass Rock, U.K.
Northern gannet (Morus bassanus) nesting colony gathered on Bass Rock, U.K.

RSPB on wildlife in Northern Ireland:


• Northern Ireland is home to all sorts of wonderful wildlife, from Irish hares to Red Kites.

• It has roughly 400 miles of coastline and is hugely important for populations of waterfowl and seabirds

• NI also has significant areas of peatland and large areas of wet grasslands, particularly around Lough Neagh which is the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles

• But these wildlife and habitats face a number of threats including intensive agriculture which is having devastating impact on farmland birds and other wildlife. Curlews and Corncrakes are now at risk of extinction across the island of Ireland.




• Around half of all NI’s wildlife is found in its seas, so protecting and restoring the oceans are a key priority. Sadly, Puffins, Kittiwakes, and Razorbills are now on the Red List of Conservation Concern.

• The RSPB is working with landowners and teams on the ground to restore both land and sea for wildlife and people. From planting nettles to make homes for Corncrakes, to working to protect huge swathes of our seas, to helping people connect with nature.

• The RSPB also manages six nature reserves in NI, ranging from urban areas to remote islands where we can take targeted action to keep common species common and protect rare species.


White tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) hunting barnacle goose.
White tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) hunting barnacle goose.

Wild Isles Series Stats


Total Shoots: 200 (over 3 years)


Filming Days


  1. Our Precious Isles - 382

  2. Woodland - 286

  3. Grassland - 322

  4. Freshwater - 369

  5. Ocean - 273


Total - 1631


  • Across the 5 episodes, the crew filmed in 145 locations over 3 years.

  • Across the 5 episodes, the crew filmed 96 species.


Longest shoot by sequence (cumulative days on location over multiple periods)


  1. Salmon – 71 days

  2. Eagles & Geese – 65 days

  3. Tuna – 57 days


Longest individual shoots 


  1. Shetland (orca, otters & gannets) – 35 consecutive days

  2. Tuna – 34 consecutive days

  3. Beavers – 30 consecutive days


Highest point filmed was just off the summit of Cairngorm which is 1,245m high


Sir David Attenborough,Sir David Attenborough introduces the Wild Isles series at dawn at Old Harry's Rocks, Dorset, U.K.
Sir David Attenborough,Sir David Attenborough introduces the Wild Isles series at dawn at Old Harry's Rocks, Dorset, U.K.

Sir David Attenborough attended six filming locations


  1. Old Harry Rocks, in Dorset, to introduce the series

  2. Richmond Park to introduce Woodland

  3. A hay meadow in Dorset to introduce Grassland

  4. A chalk stream in Wiltshire to introduce Freshwater

  5. Green Bridge on the Pembrokeshire Coast to introduce Ocean

  6. Skomer Island, off Pembrokeshire, to do the closing piece for Our Precious Isles and Ocean



Filming Locations & Species Filmed (Episode One)


Orca & seals: Shetland Isles

Diverse geology: Cumbria; Lake District; Dorset; Scottish Highlands; Skye; Yorkshire Dales; North Pennines; Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Arctic Britain & golden eagle: Scottish Highlands

Ancient oaks & dormouse: Oxfordshire; Sussex

Badgers & bluebells: Oxfordshire; Somerset; Avon; Kent

Meadows & pollinators: Avon; Gloucestershire; Wiltshire

Foxes: Gloucestershire

White-tailed eagles & geese: Islay

Demoiselles: Somerset

Kingfishers & chalk streams: River Stour; River Avon; River Frome

Bass Rock gannets: Bass Rock; Firth of Forth

Puffins & gulls: Farne Islands, Northumberland; Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire


Wild Isles will air on BBC One and BBC iPlayer from 7pm on Sunday 12 March.




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