Chris Packham: ‘Winter is exciting because you never know what will happen!’

As the winter weather closes in TV Times talks survival for both animals and humans with Winterwatch presenter Chris Packham, as the show returns to BBC2 tonight.

Tell us about your base this series…
“Our snowy base in Scotland’s Cairngorms – Mar Lodge Estate – is regarded to be the coldest place in the UK.  The Great British weather let us down a bit last year and we didn’t get the white stuff that we wanted. But we are hoping for snow again because our theme this year is to explore the strategies that animals living in those hostile winter environments use to survive.”

One of last year’s highlights was seeing the lek, or male black grouse…
“They’re extraordinary birds and to see them so active in winter is a treat, but they are very difficult to film and extremely shy. In 2014 we used very powerful long lenses, but this year we are trying to do something different and have two motorised spies in the lek, an artificial black cock and grey hen, which we will put in to see how they react.”

Will we see the golden eagle this time?
“The only way we will get good views of them is if they come to us. The way to do that is to put food out for them. The team have already been scouring for road kill and leaving it out, so hopefully they will come, but you just never know.”

And how about squirrels?
“Red squirrels are doing OK at Mar Lodge, but as a species they’re in trouble. We will be looking at their choice of food and how they store that food to get through the winter.”

What will winter be like this year?
“That is one of the reasons why every autumn and winter season is exciting because you never know what will happen. We are definitely going to see an unusual winter because of that extraordinarily mild and late autumn.

“I know most of us are skint and it’s dark and the longer periods of bad weather tend to keep people indoors, which means we all start sneezing on one another and giving each other diseases. But there is a simple solution – get outdoors! I hate to say it, but rain doesn’t actually do you any harm so do some walking in the fresh air. Before you know it, it’s the end of January, the snowdrops are coming up and the worst is over.”

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