Health $ Lifestyle

David Attenborough kept away from chicks while filming after expert warned avian flu could be FATAL

Sir David Attenborough was kept away from fledging chicks while filming his new series after an infectious diseases expert warned a case of avian flu could be FATAL for the 96-year-old

  • Sir David Attenborough filmed part of his new series on Skomer Island
  • Experts kept him away from chicks as reports emerged of avian flu nearby
  • The five-part series kicks off on Sunday with the first episode, Our Precious Isles

Sir David Attenborough was kept away from fledging chicks while filming his new series after an infectious diseases expert warned a case of avian flu could be fatal for the 96-year-old.

As part of his first ever series about wildlife in the British Isles, Sir David appears on location on several shoots and gets up close to our nation’s plants and animals.

One segment called for him to be present while Manx shearwater chicks on Skomer Island, off the Pembrokeshire coast of Wales, left their underground burrows for the first time and took flight on a 6,000-mile migratory journey.

Producers were hoping for ‘TV gold’ – as the chicks would ‘almost certainly’ climb up Sir David’s arm and take off from his head.

But executive producer Alastair Fothergill made the decision to scrap the plan when, two weeks before filming, reports emerged of avian flu on the neighbouring island of Grassholm.

Sir David Attenborough is showcasing what we have on our very own doorstep ¿ and it's Britain as you've never seen it

Sir David Attenborough is showcasing what we have on our very own doorstep – and it’s Britain as you’ve never seen it

The five-part series kicks off on Sunday with the first episode, Our Precious Isles, which features killer whales, white-tailed eagles and even the humble dormouse

The five-part series kicks off on Sunday with the first episode, Our Precious Isles, which features killer whales, white-tailed eagles and even the humble dormouse

The virus, which is infecting wild bird populations across the globe, could also potentially affect endangered species. Sporadic human infections have also been recorded.

‘I have an old friend who’s an expert on infectious diseases and I rang him up for his opinion,’ Mr Forthergill told Radio Times.

‘He said, ‘Well bird flu is actually extremely hard to catch, but if he gets it he will die.’

The team decided to keep Sir David away from the chicks and instead used two infrared cameras to capture the moment – one facing Sir David and the other a boulder a few feet away where they hoped the chicks would take flight.

The plan was successful, creating one of Sir David’s ‘classic moments’.

The five-part series kicks off on Sunday with the first episode, Our Precious Isles, which features killer whales, white-tailed eagles and even the humble dormouse.

In Shetland, off the coast of Scotland, filming crew captured Britain’s largest marine predator, the orca, developing new hunting strategies to catch seals.

The animals have learned to go silent as they approach the seals so not to scare them off, and even turn on their side so their dorsal fin doesn’t stick out of the water and give the game away.

White-tailed eagles, which have a two-metre wingspan and are the largest bird of prey in Britain, are also caught on camera hunting geese – a feat which required more than 70 days of filming.

Britain’s rich plant life is also celebrated in the series.

In the first episode viewers are taken to Bristol, where they are treated to a close-up of ‘lords and ladies’ plant pollination.

This plant heats up and releases a foul-smelling scent that is irresistible to flies, tricking them to enter its flower.

The fly lands on a slippery leaf and slides down, becoming trapped inside. The plant keeps it hostage before showing the fly with pollen then allowing it to escape.

White-tailed eagles, which have a two-metre wingspan and are the largest bird of prey in Britain, are also caught on camera hunting geese ¿ a feat which required more than 70 days of filming

White-tailed eagles, which have a two-metre wingspan and are the largest bird of prey in Britain, are also caught on camera hunting geese – a feat which required more than 70 days of filming

In the first episode viewers are taken to Bristol, where they are treated to a close-up of 'lords and ladies' plant pollination

In the first episode viewers are taken to Bristol, where they are treated to a close-up of ‘lords and ladies’ plant pollination

The series, which has the tagline 'Our home ¿ as you have never seen it before', was filmed over three years and shows Sir David appearing on camera in each episode

The series, which has the tagline ‘Our home – as you have never seen it before’, was filmed over three years and shows Sir David appearing on camera in each episode

The series, which has the tagline ‘Our home – as you have never seen it before’, was filmed over three years and shows Sir David appearing on camera in each episode.

He said: ‘In my long life, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to almost every part the globe and gaze upon some of its most beautiful and dramatic sights.

‘But I can assure you that nature in these islands, if you know where to look, can be just as dramatic and spectacular as anything I’ve seen elsewhere.

‘The British Isles are globally important for nature. In this series we’ll show you why that is so and celebrate the wonders of these islands that we call home.’

Mr Fothergill said he hopes viewers will be ‘genuinely surprised’ by the richness of our natural history.

‘At the same time, I hope they will recognise how fragile and precious it is,’ he said.

‘We have among the most varied geology on the planet. Our temperatures range from subtropical in the far south to arctic conditions on the top of the Cairngorms in Scotland.

‘Our coastline is over 22,000 miles long and we benefit from the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. Our position on the globe is perfect for summer visitors form the south and winter visitors from the north.

‘All these factors combine to create one of the richest natural histories in Europe.’

Following the first episode, subsequent programmes will look at life in the woodlands, freshwater, grasslands and the sea.

Episode One: Our Precious Isles will air on BBC One and iPlayer on Sunday 12th March at 7pm.

Episode One: Our Precious Isles will air on BBC One and iPlayer on Sunday 12th March at 7pm

Episode One: Our Precious Isles will air on BBC One and iPlayer on Sunday 12th March at 7pm

In Shetland, off the coast of Scotland, filming crew captured Britain's largest marine predator, the orca, developing new hunting strategies to catch seals

In Shetland, off the coast of Scotland, filming crew captured Britain’s largest marine predator, the orca, developing new hunting strategies to catch seals

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