After a winter that felt like it might never end, spring has finally sprung, and the Springwatch team are getting ready to decamp for the second year to the National Trust’s Sherborne Park Estate in the Cotswolds, to spend another three weeks among the wildlife.
The British weather this year hasn’t been forgiving. The “Beast from the East”, Storm Emma and the recent heatwaves have taken a toll on animals and their habitats, but Chris Packham is as optimistic as ever about animals’ ability to adapt, and says the mix of weather this year will keep things interesting.
“We’ll see some things we normally miss because usually, they’ve already happened by the time we get there,” he says. Michaela Strachan is excited, too. “I love the surprises. We usually go with a plan and it completely changes – you get such interesting stories out of the most standard stuff. We all sigh at the blue tit box every year, but one year, the blue tit was bringing up great tit chicks. That’s the wildlife writing the story.”
Packham agrees. “It’s not prescriptive, it’s always reactive: the opportunity to see stuff you’d never imagine to see in a lifetime of watching by yourself, because you couldn’t physically be there – or be awake for all those hours. The things we’ve seen on Springwatch have transformed the way we think about animal behaviour.”
Packham and Strachan will be joined at Sherborne by guest presenters including Steve Backshall, Iolo Williams, Lucy Cooke and Patrick Aryee, while Gillian Burke is on the road, travelling from Shetland to Cornwall. They’re looking forward to seeing raptors, gannets, barn owls, and badgers, but one sight they won’t see is former presenter Martin Hughes-Games, who has left, having had a precarious on-off relationship with the show for the past couple of years.
He was circumspect when RT asked him about his departure, simply saying, “I had reasons for deciding to leave Springwatch, but these are private and I have no wish to upset anyone by banging on about them. I’m going to miss Chris and Michaela terribly. Springwatch, as a totally non-scripted, live show is exceptionally difficult to present, but Chris and Michaela make it look almost effortless and great fun – it’s an amazing skill.”
The pair are sad to see him go. “We’ll miss him, he’s been an important part of the show for a long time,” says Strachan, while Packham adds, “Martin and I had some good times gadding around in the name of popularising science! We’re great mates, and we had a lot of other interests outside of natural history, which was a healthy distraction at times. I’ll miss him because Michaela knows absolutely nothing about Second World War aircraft. I’m just going to be talking to myself in the caravan!”
Springwatch is on Monday 28th—Thursday 31st May at 8.00pm on BBC2