After what seemed like months of relentless rainfall, the team at RSPB Arne were relieved when the skies cleared in early January, and this special Dorset nature reserve could share its wintery glory via the BBC Winterwatch television series. Winter at RSPB Arne is anything but quiet. The reserve is especially important as a refuge for wildlife during these colder months, when daily survival becomes even harder.

As the sun rose, illuminating a frosty wonderland set against clear blue skies, months of planning were about to culminate in four days of live broadcasts from RSPB Arne and Brownsea Island. What a great start to BBC Winterwatch 2024.

Resilience and Renewal were the themes for Winterwatch this year and we saw some excellent examples of this throughout the week. Chris Packham shared his love of foxes, admiring not only their beauty as they ran through rust coloured bracken, but also their success as a widespread and resilient species. I would have to agree. I always enjoy watching the many foxes who make their home at RSPB Arne. A standout moment being the sight of a fox happily, and noisily, crunching on fallen apples.

Great British Life: Chris Packham is a fan of foxes. Chris Packham is a fan of foxes. (Image: Terry Bagley)

When we were first approached by the BBC to host not only Springwatch 2023 but also Winterwatch 2024, our team was thrilled. The staff and volunteers at RSPB Arne are passionate about the wildlife on the reserve and we relish any opportunities to share this with others. The seasonal BBC ‘Watches’ are one of the best opportunities to do this with a wider audience.

To broadcast a live show like Winterwatch from a remote location like ours requires a huge amount of planning and logistics. The BBC team worked closely with the RSPB team to ensure that disruption and disturbance around the reserve was kept to an absolute minimum. Watching the BBC install the temporary production village, run miles of cabling, place wildlife cameras and install a hydrogen generator whilst prepping for live shows was very impressive indeed.

Great British Life: Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan, filming BBC Winterwatch at RSPB Arne. Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan, filming BBC Winterwatch at RSPB Arne. (Image: RSPB Arne)

We are so lucky to live in a county that is so rich in wildlife and the BBC team were keen to showcase the wider Dorset area, not just the RSPB Arne Reserve. We regularly work in partnership with other local organisations such as The National Trust, Forestry Commission, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Natural England and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation to manage the landscape in a cohesive way that maximises opportunities for wildlife to thrive. The result of this conservation management spoke for itself on the broadcasts with some wonderful and rare wildlife featured such as the red squirrel colony on Brownsea Island, thousands of wading birds, including spoonbills, feeding on the shoreline of Poole Harbour, and a peek into the world of the great crested newt.

However, there was one highlight from that week that will linger long in my memory. Together with my colleagues Helen and Sara, we had pitched up for a daily briefing with the BBC’s Jo Brame, series editor, and Elly Hatton the series production manager. As we arrived at the production village, I heard a call on my radio to say that a white-tailed eagle had been seen flying across the reserve. I looked up and there it was, the UK’s largest bird of prey, slowly circling above our heads. The whole Winterwatch team ran out of their marquees and trailers to see this incredible sight and were rewarded with some fantastic views, even with just the naked eye. A couple of young eagles from the Roy Dennis Foundation and Forestry England White-Tailed Eagle Reintroduction Scheme on the Isle of Wight have been spending quite some time in and around Poole Harbour. Now they are regularly sighted flying across RSPB Arne.

Great British Life: The Winterwatch tipi where some of the filming was done.The Winterwatch tipi where some of the filming was done.

Throughout both shows the BBC team work hard to minimise disruption whilst filming on site. During Springwatch 2023, broadcast from the end of May into early June, they were mainly hidden away during the more sensitive nesting season. However, during the filming of Winterwatch in mid-January, reserve visitors were delighted to see that a temporary macro-studio had been set up in a large tipi at one of our favourite viewpoints. This meant that they could see rehearsals and the ‘live’ digital shows taking place each day.

One of the Winterwatch days coincided with a local school visit booked at RSPB Arne. The children watched Michaela Strachan filming and were thrilled when she came over to say hello. Throughout Winterwatch week visitors were treated to selfies with the show’s presenters as they encountered them around the reserve. The presenters created quite a bit of a buzz whenever they popped into the café or shop. Whereas, during Springwatch the BBC team tended to be filming at more remote and hidden locations, so were less visible on site.

In the build-up, and during filming, RSPB volunteers and staff shared their local wildlife knowledge and sightings with the BBC Watches Project Team. An instant messaging group enabled us to share in real time exciting sightings and photos with the BBC wildlife researchers. Tipped off, they would then head out to capture stunning footage for the live broadcasts. Appropriate permissions and licenses having been obtained.

Great British Life: One of the white-tailed eagles spotted at RSPB Arne. One of the white-tailed eagles spotted at RSPB Arne. (Image: Terry Bagley)

The abundance of wildlife at RSPB Arne was self-evident in Springwatch. It was incredible to watch nestcam footage and see in close-up, details of the wildlife that we would never normally be able to witness. You may recall those voracious jays and the shock of the nightjar eating its live chick. Although some of the footage was hard to watch, it was a privilege to see such intimate glimpses into the lives of some of our native wildlife.

During Winterwatch we were treated to some great thermal imagery of the many different species of waders feeding along Poole Harbour’s shoreline at night, as well as Sika deer grazing in the woodland pasture. And we were all entertained by the attempts to lure waxwings to RSPB Arne with the strategic placement of apples. Incidentally, on the last day of filming, our retail manager, Sarah Jane, took a day off and happened to be the first to spot the now infamous waxwings in Upton. We quickly shared the news with the BBC team and contacted volunteers who lived nearby. Before long waxwing photos started arriving, just in time for the final night’s show.

Great British Life: Spoonbills feeding at Poole Harbour. Spoonbills feeding at Poole Harbour. (Image: Terry Bagley)

And who could have failed to enjoy the mindful moment filmed at RSPB Radipole Lake, featuring those lovely, bearded tits (or moustachioed reedlings) gently swinging on the reeds as they fed on the seed heads.

If you know of any young wildlife fans who have been inspired by the BBC Winterwatch or Springwatch series, we now offer free school visits at RSPB Arne, RSPB Radipole Lake, RSPB Garston Woods and Holten Lea throughout the year. Schools and home education groups just need to book in via, and then arrange their own transport.

If you would like to experience the beauty of RSPB Arne for yourself, visit: Events coming up at RSPB Arne include Guided Birdwatching for Beginners Walks, Full Moon Walks and a Guided Nature Walk at Arne Heath. Find out more at

Great British Life: Bearded tit. Bearded tit. (Image: Terry Bagley)