Springwatch’s Michaela Strachan and Chris Packham: ‘If you don’t know about wildlife, you’re not going to care about protecting it’

As Springwatch returns for its final week of live programming this year, Michaela Strachan and Chris Packham talk wildlife and preservation.

As we edge towards the summer, plenty of us are looking forward to spending more time outside.

Whether it’s tending to our gardens, heading to the UK’s beautiful coast, or adventuring through beauty spots like the Scottish Highlands, Snowdonia National Park, or the Yorkshire Dales, for many of us, the summer months mean fresh air and reconnecting with nature.

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The hard-to-swallow truth, however, is that if we don’t look after the natural world around us, from the micro level in our own back gardens to the macro scale in terms of our lifestyle and habits, we’ll lose the nature and wildlife we love so much.

Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Iolo Williams. Pictures: BBC Studios/Jo Charlesworth.Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Iolo Williams. Pictures: BBC Studios/Jo Charlesworth.
Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Iolo Williams. Pictures: BBC Studios/Jo Charlesworth.

The theme for this year’s Springwatch is “Little Things Make A Big Difference”, exploring the premise that even the smallest actions we take to help our wildlife will make a huge difference when we all act collectively.

Spring is a season full of life and hope, but if we want to preserve that new life year after year and continue to enjoy the beautiful nature on our doorstep, we must be conscious of how we can make sure our natural world is looked after.

Springwatch will tonight return with its last week of live shows for this year, and the BBC Two programme will continue to showcase its new array of live nest-cameras rigged across its locations to show off some beautiful new wildlife characters, as well as showing a range of pre-recorded films revealing what’s been going on across the UK this year.

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Chris Packham and Strachan will be stationed at the RSPB’s Arne reserve in Dorset, which comes alive in the springtime with rare breeding birds, heathland insects and all six of the UK’s native species of reptiles.

Chris Packham at the National Autistic Society garden during the RHS Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images.Chris Packham at the National Autistic Society garden during the RHS Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images.
Chris Packham at the National Autistic Society garden during the RHS Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images.

Of course, Springwatch is also not shying away from the difficult truths about the challenges affecting our wildlife, and what we can all do to help.

“The thing about Springwatch, as ever, is it will be a challenge and a surprise,” says Packham, 63.

“Our mission is to bring people new stories from the nest that we follow and the other stories that we bring in, and obviously we’ll be delving into the new science and the only thing that we can guarantee, or that we can’t say what it is, is that we will see something that we’ve not seen before, as that always happens.

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“We will, therefore, delve deeply into the new science, and we’ll come up with new stories for people… I can’t tell you what they’ll be because who knows what will unfold.

“We’ve got our camera on Corfe Castle peregrines and their nesting opposite the ravens, so there could be some interplay between those.

"Who knows what that could be, that could be the drama of the series, peregrines versus ravens.

"And then we’ll find out more about both of those species and how they behave.”

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As spring progresses into summer, the Springwatch presenters have had a chance to reflect on the kinds of wildlife they love to see this time of year.

For Packham, it’s “all the harbingers of spring”.

“The first butterflies – I had a great day yesterday when there were brimstone butterflies about, absolutely my favourite butterfly by far.

"Also, yesterday I had (my) first orange tips and holly blue butterflies,” he says.

“You get a real sense of things happening when those species appear, and it’s a joy to see them.

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"They’re all familiar species that can appear in just about everyone’s back garden.

“Birdsong, obviously, is coming to that peak of when we should have a dawn chorus, if we’re lucky enough to live in an area with a density of birds, so one species to really listen out for are blackbirds.

“Another is song thrushes – I call them the urban nightingale. Their rich, fluid and melodic song is really special, and again they’re widespread across the UK, you can find them in urban as well as rural areas.

“These are all common species, but their songs are worth listening to.”

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Puffins are a real highlight for Strachan, and she will be delving into a species facing something of a turning point this year.

“One of my favourite birds in the UK are puffins, and also I’m choosing them because we’re going to be filming some nests on the Dorset coast,” she says.

“I’m going to focus on this one species, because it could actually be a real turning point for puffins this year.

“Their numbers have dropped dramatically, mainly due to climate change and over-fishing and the loss of what they eat, which is sand eels.

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“But, just recently, the Government has got some new legislation out which is stopping industrial sand eel fishing in the English North Sea and all Scottish waters from March 26, and that’s in time for the puffin breeding season.

“I think this could be a real turning point, for not just puffins, but other seabirds as well. And I find that incredibly exciting…

“I love puffins, I love the colourful beaks, and I love the fact that they’re so interesting to watch – and they’re real characters.”

As ever, the presenters say, the aim of Springwatch 2024 is to inspire people across the UK to enjoy our wonderful wildlife, and to care for it.

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“I think, as in every Watch, our aim is to inspire our viewers,” says Strachan.

“Inspire them to see wildlife, care about it, and then protect it.

“If you don’t know about wildlife, you’re not going to be interested, you’re not going to care about protecting it.”

Springwatch broadcasts live on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer for its final week from tonight to Thursday, June 13 at 8pm.

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