Wildlife of Celtic coasts explored in landmark new series
A forthcoming landmark natural history series to be broadcast on TG4 sees naturalist Eoin Warner take viewers on a breath-taking journey of discovery around the spectacular Celtic coasts of Ireland and Wales, exploring the extraordinary hidden wildlife around our shores - from our shallows to the deep.
IONTAIS NA bhFARRAIGÍ CEILTEACHA - Wildlife of Our Celtic Coasts - was filmed over two years in Ultra High Definition (UHD) by some of the filmmakers behind natural history series Blue Planet, in a corner of these islands which has never previously been explored in such sumptuous detail – Ireland’s sunny southeast and the Welsh coast. The camera team has captured an incredible array of species including blue sharks, basking sharks and Fin whales – all swimming and hunting off our Celtic shores. From Wexford’s Saltee Islands, Eoin observes the guillemots - seabirds that can ‘fly’ underwater, and we also encounter the humble blenny fish getting washed-up – but the blenny can breathe on land!
He says : "Our team has captured some remarkable and exciting new behaviours that have never been filmed in Celtic waters before: such as the courtship rituals of bottle-nosed dolphins as well as astonishing footage of basking sharks congregating off the Irish coast. Our dive team also filmed the wonders of the Celtic deep where we discover sex-shifting cuckoo wrasse, huge sea urchins, ancient lobsters and a giant conger eel, all hiding in a wreck."
Paddy Hayes, director comments: “Getting close to nature – especially given recent lockdown events, provides such a great escape for the soul. The Iontais na bhFarraigí Ceilteacha team captured some really breath-taking footage of our undiscovered coasts and some eye-opening behaviour of our best-known marine animals’ – and it is such a joy to know that all this occurs just off our shores.”
The three episodes of Iontais na bhFarraigí Ceilteacha are divided into three habitats - the shores, the shallows and the deep. The first episode, the Shores, sees presenter Eoin Warner explore the marine animals that inhabit the coastlines of Ireland and Wales who need to adapt to this rapidly changing environment. Eoin goes kayaking off Waterford’s copper coast and he encounters curious Atlantic grey seals pirouetting around him.
He adds: "Our camera team follow the seals through a whole year, from their courtship to pregnancy and to the birth of a gorgeous white pup. We also follow a pair of guillemots, bringing up their single youngster on a narrow rocky shelf. The parents must protect their chick from frequent aerial attacks by predatory gulls, until it’s time for the chick to make the heart-stopping first leap off the cliff’s edge into the ocean. But many don’t survive the jump…"
In episode two, the Shallows, Eoin goes skindiving in the shallow seas where he explores the seabed bursting with life.
"In this episode, our camera crew go underwater to join a female catshark as she lays an egg called a ‘mermaid's purse’ deep in the kelp forest floor. In these extraordinary waters teeming with life, we find many marine inhabitants have found ingenious ways to camouflage themselves from this visiting catshark. Meanwhile, we hear how a gang of painted goby use peculiar drum-like vocalisations to attract a female. In Summer, we visit Lady's Island Lake in County Wexford, where Arctic terns have arrived to breed. These elegant sea birds spend the summer fishing in our shallow waters to feed their young, and then embark on the longest migration of any living thing on Earth."
In episode three, The Deep, Eoin explores the charismatic animals of the deep Celtic waters - from the giant fin whale to the tiny microplankton that is responsible for 50 per cent of the air that we humans breathe.
He explains: "In this episode, we encounter a bait ball – many different species co-operating in a deep-water feeding frenzy. We first encounter a group of fin whales - at twenty-five meters long, these majestic submarine-shaped creatures are the planet’s second largest animals. Joining them to hunt sardines are two-meter-long blue-finned tuna. These sensational super hunters have only recently returned to our waters where they are joined by common dolphins entering the feeding fray. Fast-moving, super-intelligent marine mammals, they drive the hapless fish together and push them towards the surface, where they are easily picked off by diving gannets. Spectacular footage shot from above and below the water captures the freneticism of this extraordinary wildlife phenomenon."
Having witnessed all these marine marvels over 3 hours of television, Eoin finally reflects on the delicacy of this stunning submarine world, and how we must fight to preserve this fragile ecosystem for generations into the future.
Iontais Na bhFarraigí Ceilteacha is an Irish/Welsh BBC/TG4 co-production by Tua Films & One Tribe TV, starting Wednesday 12th January at 9.30pm on TG4.