Springwatch returns to Suffolk – and is set to bring a visitor bonanza to Minsmere

Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games

Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games - Credit: Archant

Suffolk is anticipating another huge economic boost this summer – with thousands of fans of TV’s Springwatch expected to flock to the county.

Last year’s broadcasts inspired many new visitors to head for the area, keen to enjoy the county’s natural environment, birds and wildlife, experience its peace and beauty, and explore the world-renowned RSPB Minsmere reserve.

The reserve and surrounding coastal area already supports more than 100 jobs and is responsible for bringing in nearly £3million of tourism income, and people attracted by the show – watched by around four million viewers – generated extra cash for accommodation providers, restaurants, pubs, shops and attractions.

Last night details were announced of this year’s programmes from Minsmere, described by the show’s producers as the most wildlife-rich site in its 11-year history, with tourism chiefs again hoping to repeat last year’s economic success.

Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games will be broadcasting live from Monday, May 25 to Thursday, June 11 on BBC TWO.

This year as well as focussing on the show-stealing stars, the bitterns, otters and avocets, the cameras will capture a host of new characters, including rare species like reedbed-specialists the marsh harriers, nocturnal moth-eating nightjars, and the UK’s only venomous snake, the adder.

Packham said: “It’s going to be better than it was last year because I know it a little bit better and I know what time the best cakes are put out in the cafe.

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“Last year I called Minsmere the Disneyland of wildlife and I didn’t mean that in any way disparagingly, it’s because it offers a great range of resources to a great range of wildlife and the chance to see that here is perhaps unrivalled anywhere else in the UK.

“Last year we had the bittern bonanza, this year we’re hoping for a feast of marsh harriers – it depends, the birds might have other ideas!”

Strachan added: “This year I’m very excited about the badgers we’ve tagged and finding out where they go.

“Then there are surprises- year to year we never know which nest we’ll be able to get cameras on – and the drama of what we might see.”

Hughes-Games said: “I’m looking forward to slightly more odd things.

“We’re going to be sampling the insect life high in the skies above Minsmere using a blimp, to try to find out what the swifts and swallows and sand martins are feeding on at different levels in the sky, which will be exciting!”

What to expect this year

Minsmere is one of the most diverse reserves in the UK, with more than 5,600 plants and animals species recorded on the site.

This astonishing figure includes more than 1,000 species of moth and butterfly, 336 kinds of bird and 37 species of mammal.

Cameras will only be able to keep tabs on a fraction of this activity but viewers will be captivated by a family of badgers living on the reserve – with GPS trackers fitted to the animals to see what they get up to and the impact they have on the reserve and its other wildlife.

For the first time an underwater nestcam will be used to watch a fiercely protective male stickleback defending his eggs.

Minsmere is home to a high density of adders and with plenty of nesting birds there will be a strong focus on these predators’ activities.

Endangered birds such as nightjars, bearded tits and Dartford warblers will also be filmed, along with reedbed raptors marsh harriers and the ever-popular avocets.

The latest technology will also be used to explore the micro-world of rare insects in close up and slow-motion.

Other highlights include roving reporter Iolo Williams travelling from John O’Groats to the Shetland Islands in search of puffins, eagles and killer whales.