Surprises in store as Winterwatch returns to Norfolk

Chris Packham and Machaela Strachan on the set of Winterwatch at Wild Ken Hill in Snettisham. Pictur

Chris Packham and Machaela Strachan on the set of Winterwatch at Wild Ken Hill in Snettisham. - Credit: Danielle Booden

A red kite drifts overhead as Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan wax lyrical about the wildlife to be seen in a  corner of Norfolk which is being given back to nature.

The two presenters are back at Wild Ken Hill at Snettisham for Winterwatch - part of the BBC's flagship nature series, which focuses on our countryside through the changing seasons.

Parts of the estate, which stretches from the chalk downs to the edge of The Wash, are being re-wilded, while others are regeneratively-farmed.

Chris Packham on the set of Winterwatch at Wild Ken Hill in Snettisham. Picture: Danielle Booden

Chris Packham on the set of Winterwatch at Wild Ken Hill in Snettisham - Credit: Danielle Booden

From its first episode, broadcast on Tuesday night, the team's array of cameras, concealed around the farm, have been capturing some surprises.

"I like the things you can't plan," said Mr Packham. "Last night, jack snipe were on the programme - that's a surprise to see those birds here.

"We've put down a deer carcass hoping to attract scavenging birds and animals - red kites and buzzards, foxes at night.

"But another deer approaches it and behaves in quite an unusual way."

Machaela Strachan on the set of Winterwatch at Wild Ken Hill in Snettisham. Picture: Danielle Booden

Machaela Strachan on the set of Winterwatch at Wild Ken Hill in Snettisham. - Credit: Danielle Booden

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As Ms Strachan reveals her favourite amid Wild Ken Hill's diverse inhabitants, a pair take to their heels across the fields.

"I've always been a big fan of the hares here," she said. "I've never seen so many hares in one place."

Winterwatch follows on from Springwatch and Autumnwatch, which were both broadcast from Wild Ken Hill.

The rewilding area at the Wild Ken Hill estate in west Norfolk

Guided tours have been launched for visitors to explore the rewilding area at the Wild Ken Hill estate in west Norfolk - Credit: Wild Ken Hill

Dominic Buscall, who is project manager for the rewilding and regenerative farming projects, said: "We continue to get fantastic engagement and interest in the work we're doing.

"We've brought important ideas like regenerative farming to a mass audience. I think people are beginning to understand how bad the nature crisis is and how it's linked to climate change."

The show is doing its bit when it comes to going carbon-neutral.

Power is generated by a whispering hydrogen-powered generator presided over by Alan Hobbs, field service engineer with renewable energy firm GeoPura.

Alan Hobbs, a field service supervisor with GeoPura on the site of Winterwatch at Wild Ken Hill in S

Alan Hobbs, a field service supervisor with GeoPura on the site of Winterwatch at Wild Ken Hill in Snettisham - Credit: Alan Hobbs

Fuel cells extract electricity from the gas, while the only emission produced is clean water which trickles into a drum. Mr Hobbs sloshes some over his hands to prove the point.

"That's the exhaust," he said. "I wouldn't like to do that with a diesel generator."

Footage from remote cameras is broadcast back to mission control, in the shape of mobile studios containing batteries of screens.

Behind the scenes of Winterwatch at Wild Ken Hill in Snettisham. Picture: Danielle Booden

A producer watches footage from cameras deployed around Wild Ken Hill by Winterwatch - Credit: Danielle Booden

Several are trained on different areas of the enclosure where beavers have been released and reared at least one kit.


What to watch for

Viewers are being given a tick list of things to watch out for during the show's two-week run. They include: 

Starling murmuration

Mumuration of starlings at the reed beds, Picture: Eleanor Bentall / RSPB

A mumuration of starlings - Credit: Eleanor Bentall

Lesser Celandine flowering

Winter gnats

Mammal tracks

A Wigeon flock at Carlton Marshes near Lowestoft.

A Wigeon flock at Carlton Marshes near Lowestoft. - Credit: Gavin Durrant

Whistling wigeon

Nest building herons

Red deer

Various images of wildlife seed around Fakenham - Red Deer Stag at Holkham,Pair of Robins bonding an

Red deer - Credit: Richard Brunton

Identifying winter trees

Harvest mouse nests

Goldeneye

A Goldeneye.

A Goldeneye. - Credit: BTO

Brambling

Snow fleas

Winterwatch is being broadcast on BBC 2 on Thursday, Friday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (all 8pm).