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TV crew faced midge swarm for live Springwatch show

THEY came to Scotland to document the feeding habits of the majestic white-tailed eagle, but found themselves dealing with a very different type of winged predator instead.

BROADCAST: Wildlife presenter Iolo Williams did his best to remain composed during a midge attack on live television.
BROADCAST: Wildlife presenter Iolo Williams did his best to remain composed during a midge attack on live television.

A BBC crew were beset by clouds of midges when they decamped on the shores of Loch Crinan in Mid Argyll to shoot a live broadcast for this year's Springwatch programme.

Viewers who tuned in on Monday night saw presenter Iolo Williams battle manfully to stay composed as a clearly visible haze of biting insects descended while he chatted with presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan via a live video link.

Fanning the swarm away from the camera, Mr Williams said that conditions had been just right for the midges to appear in their tens of thousands.

He said: "The weather here has been a bit mixed. We've had a bit of sun, a bit of rain and no wind. That means it's perfect for that most famous Scottish beast — more famous than the Loch Ness Monster — the Scottish midge."

Each time the programme cut back to Scotland the number of midges seemed to have increased, although Mr Williams managed to appear unaffected.

The crew later tweeted pictures of some of the precautions they took to avoid the flying pests, with one cameraman hiding completely inside his jacket during the broadcast.

Welshman Mr Williams, a former RSPB officer turned presenter, joked at the end of the broadcast that he had "eaten a three-course dinner"of midges during his time on air.

Midge expert Dr Alison Blackwell, of midge monitoring company APS biocontrol in Dundee, said that the team had been in the wrong place at the wrong time as this week had seen an "explosion" in the miniscule terrors' numbers.

She said: "This is the worst week so far this year because we've seen the first big jump in their numbers.

"It's down to better spring weather and longer days, and we could be seeing a lot of midges this year because of the warmer winter.

"It'll be like this for the next six weeks and then the current generation will die off. But then we'll see the next lot coming out of the ground so we're likely to be facing two waves of midges."

The Springwath Remote Team will spend three weeks checking white-tailed eagle nests for chicks, filming the Scottish Beaver Trial and searching for one of the country's finest butterflies, the chequered skipper.

A BBC spokesman said: "The Springwatch team have lots of experience working in the Highlands and came prepared with anti-midge nets and other equipment to keep them at bay.

"This year seems to be especially bad for them, but the team are having a blast and it hasn't stopped them filming the wonderful wildlife of Scotland.

"Although the clouds of midges descended on Iolo during Monday night's broadcast, he kept his cool and was able to introduce the stunning footage of the white-tipped eagle."

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