Ever since we visited a local garden centre years ago and Sally saw a man with a Tawny Owl perched on his arm, she has been obsessed - first with owls, and then with all birds (but especially owls). It's something I can understand; they're special, slightly magical creatures. (There's a wonderful owl poem here.) For months she'd talk in hushed tones about the man with "a ow-ul" on his arm (there was an owl sanctuary at the garden centre, in case you're wondering). And a burgeoning interest in wildlife was nurtured by successive 'Springwatch' programmes with nest-cams, infra-red night cameras, badgers, seals, deer and - of course - owls. We learnt a lot during the Springwatch years; it was nature red in tooth and claw, for sure. There was barn owl cannibalism, for example, as well as stags rutting, boars fighting, badgers er... hiding and foxes foraging. Oh, and birds nesting. And Bill Oddie innuendo-ing.
The banter between Bill and Kate (Kate's tits - I ask you!) was lost on Sally, thankfully. All she saw was someone with endless enthusiasm for her new passion - wildlife. And the erudition, too. Here was a born communicator, as well as someone who could wear his learning lightly. But this year's series will be presented not by Kate and Bill, but Kate and... Chris. Bill Oddie is, apparently, suffering from depression. I'm sure Chris Packham will be a worthy stand-in. (At least Sally's too old to have to endure PC Plum on the CBeebies version of the programme.) But for her sake (as well as Bill's) let's all wish Mr Springwatch a swift recovery.