BBC2 Springwatch team swoop back into Suffolk for new series starting Bank Holiday Monday
PUBLISHED: 09:00 23 May 2015
The BBC’s new Suffolk-based Springwatch series was launched yesterday with an impassioned call from Chris Packham for the popular TV wildlife programme to be a springboard that switches viewers on to the urgent need to reverse nature’s dramatic declines.
Naturalist and broadcaster Packham, who sees Suffolk as a home from home such is his love for the county, said society should “get out of its comfort zone” and take up the challenge on nature’s behalf.
Packham was flanked by fellow Springwatch presenters Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games as he made the call at the RSPB’s internationally important Minsmere nature reserve, which is hosting the series for a three-week period that begins on Monday following last spring’s highly acclaimed broadcasts from the site near Westleton.
“Minsmere is in a way like an art gallery or a museum,” said Packham. People visited Minsmere “having traversed acres and acres of countryside with virtually nothing in it” - in the same way that art galleries and museums contained cultural riches that contrasted sharply with the urban environment outside their doors, he said.
Citing the 2013 State of Nature report published by a broad coalition of UK environmental organisations which found that 60% of wildlife species were in decline, Packham said Minsmere’s wildlife treasures were in stark contrast to the comparative barrenness of the wider countryside, which had been “modified, manipulated, poisoned and mistreated.”
“We have forgotten that wildlife should be all around us, and that is the message we have to spread - we have got to get out of our comfort zone,” he urged.
He wanted Springwatch to inspire viewers to take action for nature. “Our job is to stimulate interest in nature and develop the expectation that people can have it in their lives because it adds to the quality of their lives - and if they appreciate that they will have a desire to protect it,” he said. “We (Springwatch) have a role to play. We need a society that is more tolerant of wildlife. The UK is 86% farmland and forestry and I am optimistic that we are making inroads.”
Springwatch would feature a farmer who had put “intelligent ideas” into practice with impressive results, for example, he said. In another instance, he cited a teenaged girl viewer who had been inspired to take an interest in nature and who had written in to tell him she had acquired a pair of binoculars on the strength of what she had seen.
“That is one more viewer effectively on the list to make sure we can conserve everything,” said Packham. “The message broadly needs to be that we have got to have more tolerance of the life around us.”
Minsmere is the most wildlife-rich site chosen to host Springwatch in the programme’s 11-year history. It is the most biodiverse site of its size in the UK with more than 5,600 plants and animals species recorded within its area of about 1,000hectares. The total includes more than 1,000 species of moth and butterfly, 336 bird species and 37 species of mammal.
Springwatch will also feature wildlife stories from other locations, including urban Bristol and Orkney and Shetland. But among the Minsmere highlights expected in the new series are revelations about the travels of GPS-tracked badgers and adders, underwater filming of sticklebacks, an “Iron Mouse Challenge” featuring rodents tackling obstacles and intimate footage of a marsh harrier nest deep within the reserve’s huge reedbed.
Action man Martin Hughes-Games fizzes with enthusiasm as he talks about the Minsmere adventures that await him in the new Springwatch series.
Bristling and bursting with a natural curiosity that seemingly demands to be fed with intimate details of the lives of all creatures great and small, he recounts some of his assignments for the next three weeks.
After his plankton expedition off Suffolk last year, the Springwatch presenter will be out on the North Sea again - but only as far as the Sizewell A inflow and outflow structures to study the hundreds of pairs of nesting kittiwakes. For these attractive, charismatic gulls, the rigs are substitutes for the towering sea cliffs of the north and form one of their most southerly breeding colonies.
“They are doing extremely well, as opposed to them struggling further north, so what is happening with them?” asks Martin, pictured above.
“That’s what we will be trying to find out - it’s really fascinating.”
He will also be using his rope-climbing skills to explore the intricate life forms that inhabit an oak tree.
“Outside and in - I’ll be getting to grips with the tiniest of things, like what lives on the leaves and what’s inside the galls. That’ll be really exciting,” says Martin.
If he sounds excited by the prospect of kittiwakes and oak trees, Martin then goes into overdrive. “But what I am really thrilled about is the work we will be doing up in the skies above Minsmere,” he says.
“We’ve got a zeppelin-like balloon thing that is going to go up and sample the microscopic animals that are up there. Swifts are one of the most extraordinary animals on the planet - they are one of my real favourites - and we’ll be finding out what they eat up there. It’s teeming with stuff up there and it’s all migratory, it’s all on the move, the biomass in the sky - it’s incredible.”
Martin comes down to earth a little when he concedes that he will not actually be going up in the balloon - on one will as it’s only a sampling mechanism - but be doesn’t come down with too much of a bump. He’s still fizzing with that enthusiasm, because his thirst for knowledge will be quenched – at least for a little while.
Springwatch begins on BBC 2 on Monday and continues until June 11.
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