Chris Packham is eager to see how the mildest winter on record has affected our wildlife as Winterwatch returns to BBC2 on Tuesday, January 26…
There’s been unusually warm weather for the past few months, will this be highlighted in the new series?
“The remit of the show is to be topical and explain what’s going on with the UK wildlife and, at the moment, people have lots of questions about what impact this weather has had on our wildlife, especially the flooding. So we’ve changed quite a few of our ideas and are trying to leave things very last minute.”
You’re heading to the Caingorm Mountains. What’s it been like in that area recently?
“It’s been very wet! One of the bridges is down, as we’ve seen on the news, and the river is way up, all over the area where we were working last year. The water is receding now and we could have a cold snap, but that could create confusion if we’re talking about the warmest weather on record while surrounded by snow and ice! But I like going into a programme where everything isn’t polished as it means you have to think on your feet and that’s what I get paid for.”
What kind of animals are you focusing on?
“The River Dee has flooded so we’ll be looking at how otters, water voles and kingfishers cope. Do some die, if not, where do they go? We’re always after shots of otters as they’re pretty unpredictable but their habits are changing. In Hampshire and Dorset, there are shopping centres with cold water springs running through, where you can do your shopping, then look over the fence and watch otters!”
Of the filming you’ve done so far, what are you most excited about?
“At the Mar Lodge, we put out a deer carcass and set up cameras hoping to get shots of an eagle. The first year we got some very smudgy shots, late in the afternoon. But this year, we got up a bit earlier and got some amazing pictures. I was particularly excited by that because the eagle is a hugely attractive and enigmatic bird.”
What else is in store for viewers?
“Last Springwatch, Dave Culley gave us those amazing films of the tawny owl and her chicks. This time, we’ve made a film about a man who has a pole cat visiting his garden. They were normally only found in Wales but they’ve spread out. They are very shy, nocturnal and difficult to get to know, but he filmed one in his garden and sent it to us. It’s always so reassuring to have so much audience participation, through Twitter, Facebook and videos that people send in.”
The show’s been going since 2009, why do you think it’s still so popular?
“It’s very simple. We teach people about the wildlife they can’t see in their back garden and try to make it entertaining. I try particularly hard to make it informative too because if people learn more about the animals, they’ll like them more and help look after them.”