Winterwatch 2020 From The Cairngorms Mountains
Winterwatch returns to our screens tonight and to say we’re just a little excited at Bird Spot HQ would be an underestimate. Despite the grey skies of what can sometimes seem the longest month of the year, Winterwatch fills our evenings, for a week at least, with some much-needed warmth and cheer.
Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Gillian Burke, and Iolo Williams will be presenting 2020’s show over the next 4 days from their base in the beautiful landscape of the Cairngorms mountain range in the Scottish Highlands.
Cairngorms National Park is twice the size of the Lake District and home to a vast array of birds and other wildlife. In this arctic-alpine region, snow can fall in any month of the year and weather conditions can be unpredictable and hazardous. The UK’s lowest temperature of −27.2 °C has twice been recorded in the Cairngorms, at Braemar on the 11th February 1895 and on the 10th January 1982, and it also holds the record for the UK’s fastest wind speed of 283 km/h measured at the summit in January 1993.
Despite the sometimes treacherous conditions the surroundings are stunning and the Winterwatch team will explore snow-capped mountains, ancient forests, raging rivers, and deep, silent lochs in intimate detail to discover how the local wildlife adapts to survive the tough winter season.
Crested tits, redwings, and egrets
In the first episode cameras are poised to capture pine martens, red squirrels, golden eagles, and crested tits. The series will also look at the impact climate change is having on our winters. This year has been particularly mild with swallows and house martins spotted in the South East of England, butterflies and bees on the wing throughout January, and in Bird Spot HQ’s garden we had a passionflower bloom in December and our tulips and daffs are well on their way to flowering.
Cold-adapted species are particularly sensitive to climate change so the wildlife and mountains of Cairngorm act as Britain’s early warning system for environmental changes. A site located high on the western flank of the Cairngorms, near Aviemore in Speyside is part of the UK Environmental Change Network, a long-term monitoring and research programme that measures the effects of environmental change on ecosystems. The area includes low altitude pine forests, bogs, and moss and lichen heaths on the highest grounds. The Red Listed capercaillie can be found in the pine woods and several species of deer can be found grazing in the area.
The Aviemore site is also part of the UK’s first Long-Term Social-Ecological Research (LTSER) platform, a European initiative to encourage the use of data and infrastructure with social and economic research to facilitate sustainable management of an area.
As well as the discussions around the impact on climate change on wildlife, other stories we’re looking forward to on Winterwatch 2020 are the spectacle of 30,000 redwings descending on a remote forest in Lancashire’s Ribble Valley, wild geese descending on a Dublin park, and the 3 types of egrets thriving in Glastonbury.
Winterwatch starts tonight at 8.30 pm on BBC 2 and runs for 4 episodes until the 31st January. Don’t worry if you miss an episode. You can find them all on iPlayer and go behind the scenes with exclusive footage at the Winterwatch website.