Recommended second chance
Chris Packham & Michaela Strachan
Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games are journeying north from their usual basecamp as Autumnwatch relocates to the Aigas Field Centre in the Highlands of Scotland. We’re promised beavers, buzzards, stags, spiders, hedgehogs and much, much more across an eventful four days.
It’s been a wet summer — what effect has that had on our wildlife?
Martin Hughes-Games Well, there have been lots of winners and losers. Not so many butterflies, lots and lots of slugs. But those are all sort of anecdotal things. In the long term I think they’ll level out. Nature’s very, very resilient. Think about things like kingfishers or wrens. Their numbers can crash violently but they’ve got strategies to quickly build them back up. I don’t think there’s going to be any long-term effect from the wet summer.
Michaela Strachan But I guess that depends on what next year brings…
Chris Packham Where you might have long-term problems are with creatures who’ve been impacted by other factors. So if you’ve got animals which have suffered catastrophic habitat loss, or they’ve got problems with pesticides… well, it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Then, if you’ve got a succession of wet years, that might just knock them over the edge and fragment their populations, which means they’re not as viable. But that would be specific to a few types of animal. Butterflies, as Martin mentioned — some species have had a catastrophically bad year. But they lay hundreds of eggs. They’re mobile, they fly from place to place. So, again, as Martin says, they’re designed to bounce back. Ultimately wildlife has evolved to survive weather. What it hasn’t evolved to survive at the moment is climate. And climate is long-term trends, not one wet season.
When you’re recognised on the street, who is it by? Kids? Older people?
Chris Packham All of the above, quite frankly. I think the programme goes out a little too late for family viewing, but because of iPlayer and Sky Plus and everything, a lot watch it the next day. I’m very keen on that. I think it’s important we engage young people and sitting down with a family and watching it is a way of achieving that. So it’s a real mix of people who come up.
Do they always want to talk about wildlife?
Chris Packham Yeah they do. They invariably want to tell you about their lame squirrel, their blind blue tit or what can they do because badgers have destroyed their lawn. It’s the very ethos of our programme, which is about interacting with our audience. We’re constantly requesting and they’re constantly offering — photographs, comments, questions, films. Whatever they can!
Martin Hughes-Games I would have to say that with every single person, bar one, who has come up to me, it’s always been a positive thing. It’s really lovely, you think, ‘I’m lucky to be associated with that programme because people like it.’ Except the one guy…
Martin Hughes-Games He came up to me at Springwatch, just as we were about to go on air. He walked in off the street and stood there abusing me. At first I thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to say a nice thing.’ No. He said, ‘There’s much too much of you presenters. Get off! Get off, and let’s have the bloody animals and not you presenters!’ And I said, ‘Oh I’m sorry you don’t like that…’ And he said, ‘WELL, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!’ It really upset me, actually. But generally it’s a really positive, good feeling. As Chris says, often they want a bit of advice.
Do you mind that?
Martin Hughes-Games No, it’s great, because I love talking about animals. So it’s generally really, really nice.
Michaela Strachan But also, I think you tend to get a lot of positive comments about the programme because it’s not a programme that you just think, ‘Oh, Autumnwatch, yeah, I’ll watch that, but I’m not really interested in wildlife.’ People who watch it watch it because they want to watch it. Do you know what I mean? It’s not like a Downton Abbey where everyone watches it. Half of them will think it’s rubbish. Half will think it’s brilliant. But our audience tune in because they’re really interested in the subject.
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