Winterwatch 2022 is extra special this year because it's the first time the show will be broadcast live from three of our home nations in the winter months.
Over the next two weeks, the BBC2 show will see Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan back at Wild Ken Hill in West Norfolk. Meanwhile, Iolo Williams will be on the Isle of Mull in Scotland and Chris' step-daughter, Megan McCubbin will be based at Castle Espie Wetland Centre in Northern Ireland.
Here in an exclusive interview Chris, 60, tells us what wonderful wildlife we can expect to see from the team's respective bases, what topical issues they'll be covering, and which species to be looking out for this winter...
Are you pleased that 'Winterwatch' 2022 will be broadcast live from three different nations this year?
Chris: "Yes, we’re all really excited about that. Castle Espie in Northern Ireland is a fantastic reserve and because of its location gets different birds migrating from places like Greenland and Canada. Scotland has so many what we call ‘specialised’ species like pine martens, wildcats and golden eagles. And Norfolk is another wildlife hotspot with winter migrants, like huge flocks of geese, coming in from Scandinavia and Russia."
What wildlife will you be keeping an eye out for?
"I’ll be honest and say Winterwatch is the hardest of all the watches because we are broadcasting after dark so for the live element of the show we’re principally looking at nocturnal animals. To take the pressure off, we’ve had cameras out since before Christmas recording animals in various locations gathering a library of material. Those cameras will continue to pick up activity from the day and night which we can then show viewers in our live shows."
Tell us about the cameras and what footage you're hoping to capture?
"In Northern Ireland we’ve got a camera on an egret roost so we’ll be able to show people the activity occurring there. We’ve also put a camera up close to an otter holt. Otters are not the most reliable creatures so we get very excited when we see them. In Scotland we’ve got cameras on carcasses, ’Carcass cams’, where we put roadkill out to attract birds like ravens, buzzards and eagles."
What topical issues will you be covering in the show?
"One of them will be bird flu. We’ve seen it ravaging our wild bird populations and causing problems for poultry too. We’ll be getting the up to date science on why it’s been such a devastating year for that. We’ll also be looking at how climate change and the warmer winters are impacting our wildlife. We all know just how warm December was, it broke records. We all comment on it but nature has to actually deal with it."
Which animals are you excited about seeing on 'Winterwatch' 2022?
"Michaela and I will be taking a look at a group of polecats that live down the coast from our base in Norfolk. Polecats are quite cute looking. They have lovely white spectacles around their eyes but you wouldn't want to take one on if you were a rat or a mouse. They are really important in our ecosystem for managing rodent populations which is their principal food."
"Where Iolo is going to be on the Isle Of Mull there is so much amazing wildlife to see. There are two species of eagle, the golden eagle and the white-tailed eagle and people travel to Scotland from all over the world to see them."
"We're also looking forward to seeing some owls too. For tawny owls this is the busiest time of the year. They're very vocal now because they're pairing up before they start to breed. Barn owls will nest any time of the year so they're constantly active and you see them hunting in the daylight in winter."
What are some of the special features you're going to be running this 'Winterwatch' 2022?
"One of them will be looking at rockpools. Rockpools are great because you can see a whole range of species, everything from crustaceans, to fish, anemones, sponges, sea slugs, and algae as well. They're a real hive of activity in the winter. When the tide goes out it's like a game of hide and seek for all the birds that want to take advantage of them. You see birds like turnstones looking for shrimps and small crabs. You've got oyster catchers taking mussels and curlews looking for worms and larger crabs."
"Crows are particularly smart. They'll go down on the beach, find mussels, fly up into the air with them and then drop them back down on the stones to break them open. Sometimes they even put them in the road and wait for a car to drive over it to crack them open, then they'll dash back out and eat them."
Winterwatch 2022 starts on Tuesday 18 January on BBC2 at 8pm.
Live cameras will be streaming for 12 hours a day from Norfolk, the Isle of Mull and WWT Castle Espie in Northern Ireland.
You can tune in on BBC YouTube, iPlayer or at www.bbc.co.uk/winterwatch to see lots of additional content.
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