Springwatch presenter Gillian Burke will be broadcasting from her home turf of Cornwall as the BBC2 series returns. Here she tells us why this season's show will be very different....
Springwatch presenter Gillian Burke reveals how this season’s show is going to be a little different due to lockdown because unlike all previous series the presenters won’t be venturing far from their homes. Presenter and biologist Gillian will be broadcasting from Cornwall where she lives, while fellow presenters Chris Packham and Iolo Williams will also be sticking to their home turfs; Chris will be in the New Forest while Iolo will be in Mid-Wales.
Meanwhile there will be guest presenters joining the show from their respective bases including wildlife presenter Steve Backshall, ecologist Ellie Harrison, wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan and Chris Packham’s step-daughter, Megan McCubbin.
We spoke to Gillian to find out what wildlife she’s hoping to show us from the rugged Cornish coastline and which creatures she’s been missing most during lockdown….
We speak to Springwatch presenter Gillian Burke
You can’t all be in the usual Springwatch hub this year but will be working from your own bases. How different will the show be this season?
Gillian Burke: “I think of this as an incredibly unique spring. There hasn’t been one like it and for obvious reasons let’s hope there’s never one like it again. We’ve been handed the mother of all curveballs. It’s meant that we have to find new ways of delivering these stories from the natural world that right now, judging by all the social media feeds and online, people are really hungry for. This year’s Springwatch will be unlike any previous years, we’ll be doing things differently but we’re also going to bring that sense of community and find a way to connect with other people and with the natural world.”
Are you going to be broadcasting Springwatch from your garden in Cornwall?
GB: “Well this might come as a shock to people especially as I’m a wildlife presenter, but unlike Chris and Iolo I don’t actually have a garden. I live in the middle of town and I’ve only got a tiny 2m by 2m space outside with a few pots and plants so I really can’t broadcast from there. Instead I’m going to be based a short distance from here at the Cornwall Beaver Project which is a site we featured a couple of years back on Autumnwatch. By the time we go live there’s every chance some of the restrictions could be lifted and we might be able to widen the net and go elsewhere. I’m very lucky to live where I do in terms of having access to really rugged coastlines and beautiful places, so I’m really hoping to bring a lot of that to viewers.”
Do you think wildlife has benefited during lockdown?
GB: “In the first week of lockdown I could almost sense the birds looking around and going ‘What do they know that we don’t know? Something’s happened!’ It was just so quiet here in town. The local heron gulls are really missing out on people dropping their pasties everywhere! In terms of our coastline, beaches that would normally be covered in people have been really quiet. I’ve seen so many more birds foraging than I would normally see.”
What wildlife have you been missing during lockdown?
GB: “What I miss most is not being able to get in the water and snorkel and free dive in what I think is some of the most stunning habitat of any coastal or marine habitat with the kelp beds and the sea grass meadows. But having said that, I’ve noticed grey seals coming up regularly in areas where I wouldn’t normally expect to see them so they might be making an appearance on Springwatch. It’s interesting seeing which animals are making the most of having a lot less people around.
Have there been some positives then?
GB: “I’ve actually quite enjoyed the slower pace of life and having to stick to my own patch for the last couple of months. Every year I like watching about eight or nine nesting pairs of fulmars that return to a very unassuming little stretch of coastline. They returned again this spring and because I’ve been around I’ve been able to check on them daily unlike previous years.”
What has lockdown been like generally in Cornwall?
GB: “We’ve been taking it very seriously on the Cornish Peninsula because there’s only one major hospital which serves all of Cornwall which is based in Truro. Even before lockdown I had started looking at the commitments I had and was cancelling things. I don’t think it’s responsible to be travelling to talks and events which really aren’t essential, especially as a biologist when I understand the mechanisms of how epidemics and pandemics are created. My family in Kenya are in lockdown so I don’t know when I will see them and there are family members I’m concerned about. For now everyone is ok in my little circle, and I’m grateful for that.”
Michaela Strachan is in lockdown in South Africa so won’t be able to join the Springwatch presenting line-up this year. Are you going to miss her?
GB: “Definitely! I’m going to miss her a lot. No disrespect to my colleagues Chris and Iolo but the sisterhood is strong. I really love having Michaela to talk to and I’ve had a few chats with her from South Africa over the last few weeks. She always brings this amazing energy and passion to the show. It’s going to be really weird, not having around.”
Springwatch begins on BBC2 on Tuesday 26 May, BBC2
Pix: (C) BBC – Photographer: Jo Charlesworth