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Nature: as good as any soap opera; Chris Packham, Kate Humble and Martin Hughes-Games are dusting off their binoculars for another series of Springwatch. Kate Whiting catches up with the nature-lovers.

Byline: Kate Humble

ADULTERY, murder and infanticide? Definitely. Badgers? Possibly. The annual animal soap opera that is Springwatch is coming back to BBC Two and, as any fan will know, that means high drama and more than a little patience.

"It's surprising the range of emotions you get for a natural history programme," says producer-turned-presenter Martin Hughes-Games. "You get awful disasters, terrible deaths and moments of great joy."

"And on that note, we're opening a special helpline this year - Springwatch Samaritans," jokes co-host Chris Packham. "If you've been concerned by any of the issues in this programme, we'll console you."

It's this natural banter between the presenters of the live show, as well as the up-close views of nature's biggest events, that make it such compelling viewing.

Packham, who's just turned 50 and feels he's "moving into my autumn", recently accepted a special Bafta award for the programme, which is on almost every week night for three weeks, and places its success firmly at the feet of all those involved.

"Across the board, down to the people that do the washing-up, there's a great sense of event, it's almost like a little World Cup," he says.

This year, the action is moving from Norfolk's Pensthorpe nature reserve, home to the show for three years, to the RSPB-managed Ynys-hir nature reserve in mid Wales, where viewers could be in store for some Springwatch firsts, including wood warblers and nuthatches, as well as lesser-spotted woodpeckers and red kites.

In the most ambitious set-up yet, the technical team have laid nearly 40 miles of fibre-optic cable to bring all the action from nests and badger setts as it happens - or sometimes doesn't.

"We just got the latest news in from the site: Badgers, the main sett appears to be inactive," reads 55-year-old silver fox Hughes-Games in his plummy tones.

The second to last day in May might seem like a strange time to start looking at spring, which has well and truly sprung in many parts of the country thanks to the warm weather, but the team insist there'll still be plenty to see.

"Every year we panic, going 'Oh my God, there's going to be nothing nesting, everything will be done' and this could be the year that happens, but we won't know that until we get to Wales," says curly blonde Kate Humble, 42, who also hosts Lambing Live with farmer Adam Henson.

"The truth is wildlife takes advantage of a good situation, we'll hopefully see birds that have multi-broods, on a second or third brood. That's the beauty of Springwatch, it's a surprise every year."

The biggest, and saddest, Springwatch story for the crew last year was the fate of the four ringed plover eggs, as Humble relates.

"It's real-life soap opera. The plover is an adorable little bird that nests on the ground. We had a camera trained on the nest and suddenly there's the panto baddie in the background, the jackdaw, coming up and having a look. It nailed one egg and you know it's just a matter of time.

"Sure enough, over the next two or three days three eggs go, now there's one there and the parents have done the equivalent of razor wire, they've got sub-machine guns and they're guarding this egg.

"It hatches and we think, 'Yey, at least they had one' and then the jackdaw comes back and eats the chick. That's nature, the jackdaw has to eat, but do you get emotionally involved? Of course you do."

While the trio will be sitting safely on the Springwatch couch after rambles on the reserve, Welshman Iolo Williams will be bringing reports of puffins from Skomer Island, Charlie Hamilton-James will be spotting beavers in Scotland and Irish presenter Liz Bonnin will be on a landfill site in Essex.

Packham and Hughes-Games have also filmed a couple of boys' weekends away which see them zooming around the Isle of Man on a motorbike and sidecar.

"You were like the two fat ladies," says Humble. "No, we were Marlon Brando and Paul Newman," counters Packham. "It was more like Wallace and Gromit to be fair," admits Hughes-Games.

? Springwatch begins on Bank Holiday Monday, May 30 on BBC Two

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SITTING COMFORTABLY? : Martin Hughes Games, Kate Humble, Simon King, Chris Packham and Gordon Buchannan
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 28, 2011
Words:718
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