It hardly seems a year since the BBC Springwatch team rolled out of Minsmere after another exciting series, in which a 5 cm long stickleback stole the show and won people's hearts.
A year on, and the BBC production village is complete, the set has been re-dressed, and the everything is gearing up for Springwatch series 12, the third season that this popular programme will be broadcast from RSPB Minsmere.
There is one big difference to the BBC schedule this year, as Unsprung has been moved forward to become a pre-show celebration, starting at 6.30 pm on BBC Two, with shows every Monday to Friday, starting next Monday (30 May) until 17 June. The main show airs from 8 pm to 9 pm Monday to Thursday, again starting on Monday 30 May.
As with previous years, Minsmere remains open as usual during the series, with overflow car parking, extra toilets and extra volunteers provided. The only closures will be during the live shows, with the path up Whin Hill closed from 6 pm Monday to Thursday, and occasional brief restrictions after 8 pm elsewhere.
This year's series was officially launched this morning, when presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan, series producer Adam White, and Minsmere's Senior Site Manager Adam Rowlands met local TV, radio and newspaper reporters in the BBC village (Martin Hughes-Games will join the team later this week). We were given a sneak preview of some of the potential wildlife stars of the show: golden eagles in Scotland, puffins with Iolo Williams on the Farne Islands, little owls in the West Country and Suffolk, and sparrowhawks and collared doves here at Minsmere to name just a few. As the team are still looking for nests, the full cast list will change during the next three weeks.
Michaela Strachan at the Springwatch launch
During the launch we heard how the Springwatch series is regarded as one of the jewels in the BBC's crown, thanks to the incredible dedication and ingenuity of the entire team, from the cameramen to the producers, the editors to the web team, and of course the presenters themselves. We also heard that Springwatch is the wildlife equivalent of the Olympics, while Adam Rowlands reminded us that Minsmere has the biggest variety of wildlife on any RSPB nature reserve - more than 5700 species so far.
Talking of variety, there's an impressive list of species to look for at the moment. Bitterns, bearded tits, hobbies, reed warblers and reed buntings are all regularly seen at Island Mere, with sticklebacks again present under the boardwalk. Bitterns, hobbies, water rails and marsh harriers can all be seen from Bittern Hide too.
On the Scrape, the long-tailed duck that turned up on Tuesday is still present close to East Hide, little terns and kittiwakes are still on South Scrape, an Arctic tern and sanderling were on East Scrape this morning, and there's the usual mix of nesting avocets, black-headed gulls and common terns, with a few Mediterranean gulls, redshanks and oystercatchers mixed in. Many species now have chicks too, so we're hoping the Springwatch cameras will have lots of action to show us.
The flowers are looking particularly impressive too, with yellow flag and the first southern marsh orchid in flower at Island Mere, thrift in the dunes, common vetch in many areas, and carpets of red (sheep's sorrel), pink (common storksbill) and blue (cornsalad, changing forget-me-not and common field speedwell) across the acid grasslands. It looks particularly impressive around the Springwatch studio on Whin Hill, as you can see from the photo below..
I'm fully braced!! Wouldn't it be nice if last year's albatross made a guest appearance?