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17 September 2014
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Nature's Calendar

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Chris Packham

A passion for nature

Chris Packham

Nature's Calendar is very close to my heart.

I have a profound interest in getting people off their sofas and into the wilds where they can look at animals, rather than just studying them on the television from afar.

Passionate about nature- Chris Packham

Home grown nature

ChicksNature needs to be experienced first hand...

You have to be able to touch it, see it, smell it and exercise your curiosity - and that's what Nature's Calendar is all about.

Sometimes we're so overwhelmed by TV images of glamorous animals in exotic locations, that we often forget that there's some really beautiful wildlife at the bottom of our gardens.

I want to destroy the mystique about wildlife. For me, home is where the heart is.

I've travelled all over the world but my favourite animals are right here at home.

On your doorstep

BadgerIt's a myth that you have to be an expert to watch wildlife. You don't have to be a life-long specialist.

You can be just like me and spend time watching and studying these animals just for fun.

Take Badgers, for example. Watching this nocturnal creature isn't a mystical art - it's practical common sense.

Anyone can go out and find a Badger sett and have great fun doing it.

When I was younger, I studied Badger excrement for five years, but you don't have to get quite so carried away with poo as I did!

I've been passionate about nature from an early age.

As a child I transformed our home in Southampton into a menagerie bristling with a diversity of species.

Snakes, spiders, finches and foxes all soiled my parents' carpets!

Passion for wildlife

Tawny OwlMy ever-growing passion for wildlife has shaped my career.

I studied Badgers for several years and this led to a degree in Zoology at Southampton University.

One of my early TV ventures was presenting the Children's BBC Wildlife programme, The Really Wild Show.

It was so good that it won a BAFTA.

My more recent BBC programmes include X-Creatures and Watch Out as well as Inside Out which has included a number of wildlife features.

Magical creatures

Dolphin c/o Charlie PhillipsOne of my favourite experiences during the filming of Nature's Calendar was watching Dolphins in the Moray Firth.

The sight of these remarkable marine creatures is truly awesome.

Another favourite moment during the series was my visit to Bass Rock where I saw an amazing bird spectacle on the cliffs of this rocky island.

Thousands of birds pack onto its cliffs and stacks in summer - making it bird central.

I've rarely seen so many birds up close and personal.

Summer highlights

Badger c/o SWTAnother highlight of the series was my trip to Gilfach Farm in Wales, a good place to watch Badgers in July and August.

And summer is a really excellent time to watch some of the UK's birds - especially breeding birds such as Puffins and Guillemots.

Check out my amazing trip to Lundy Island.

People from the UK travel thousands and thousands of miles for a sight like this without realising just what treasures we have on our own doorstep.

This is exactly what our programme sets out to do - raise awareness of the depth and diversity of wildlife, fauna and flora around the British Isles.

Wildlife through a lens

GrouseWorking on Nature's Calendar and Nest Box Special has been really great fun.

It has given me the chance to revisit some fantastic places around the British Isles as well as finding new ones that made filming a real treat.

I've stayed in some dodgy 'Fawlty Towers' style hotels, endured bouts of sea sickness, survived bad weather, and eaten some strange local delicacies, but it's all been worth it.

I wouldn't have swapped this experience for anything, and I hope that you will feel the same way too when you watch the TV series.

Most of all, I hope that Nature's Calendar will make you feel as passionate about nature as I do.

So get off your sofa, get out there and enjoy the great British outdoors. It’s sure to satisfy the most curious of creatures!

Chris' top nature spectacles

1. Seabird spectacle at St Kilda

Remote, hostile and geologically spectacular, St Kilda hosts Britain's biggest seabird colony and the sights, sounds and smells of hundreds of thousands of birds all wheeling over this rock in a blue sky mean it's an ornithological nirvana.

2. Butterfly/dragonfly metamorphosis

Butterfly c/o Natural England and Peter WakelyAs long as I live, the simple amazement of a caterpillar melting and then re-forming as a butterfly, or the aquatic stage of a dragonfly emerging as an adult to be one of the most dynamically flighted insects, is astonishing.

You can watch it on the side of your own garden pond or in a jam jar on your dining room table.

3. Dolphins of Chanonry Point

Dolphin c/o Charlie PhillipsThe Dolphins at Chanonry Point provide a spectacle which is totally surprising in the UK.

Often considered exotic creatures of the Caribbean and warm waters, most people fantasise about getting close to them far overseas, but on the beach here, you can get wet when they breach.

4. Glow-worms

Creatures from a fairy tale - the idea that an animal can produce its own light, turn itself on and off and give us such a simple yet beautiful spectacle in a patch of old, dry grass appeals to our sense of childlike wonder.

5. Nightingales

I'm not really an acoustic person, and it's not the complexity nor the beauty of all of their rich songs with all of its flutey cadenzas, whistles and trills...

For me it's the fact that this unassuming little brown bird sits in a bush and pumps out the volume. They are so loud that if you get within a metre or two it hurts your ears.

6. Salmon leaping

Salmon c/o PA ImagesThe fact that a fish can smell its way back to the very stream where it hatched as an egg and left years before is frankly astonishing.

To see them so desperate and so driven to return to their birthplace leaves you in awe of their overpowering instincts.

7. Bats swarming

Bats swirlingWatching them swirl, all chattering, in a great bat disco-go-round is amazing - the trick is to try and imagine what's going on in their tiny bat brains.

And whilst it's a visual treat for us to see so many of these enigmatic and inaccessible animals together, it's really all about the sound and what they're saying to one another.

8. Rare Orchids

Military Orchid c/o Natural England and Peter WakelyIt's an iconic and extremely beautiful plant which has been driven to the brink of extinction by everything bad that we've done to our countryside in the last 50 years.

Visiting the site where it can found is a bit like having an audience with a precious plant princess, especially as you have to kneel down to get a really good view.

9. Rooks

Astonishing numbers of what you normally perceive to be a rather dull, everyday bird can be a fantastic experience.

It's a kaleidoscopic dizzying swirling display, but the most impressive aspect is the sound… avian white noise.

10. Red Deer

Red DeerRed Deer are Britain's biggest mammal.

They're brash, brutal and if you go to Richmond Park they'll bash each other to pieces right before your eyes.

If you're sensible you can get so close that you can smell their hormones. The closest you can legally come to Britain's wildlife coliseum.

Nature team

Meet the rest of the Nature's Calendar team:

Janet Sumner
Sanjida O'Connell
Mike Dilger

Meet the web team:

Sue Wilkinson



Watch and Listen

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Today's clip:

Seal safari

Nature's Calendar


Activities (Image: Shelduck c/o Wildlife and Wetlandd Trust)

Mark your Nature Calendar

Discover nature activities. Summer is a great season to enjoy wildlife during long daylight hours.

Breathing Spaces

Make a difference for people & wildlife in your neighbourhood.

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