Autumnwatch begins again this week. The BBC wildlife show, will return to the National Trust’s Sherborne Estate just 20 miles north of Swindon.

Presenters are hoping to catch up with some of the favourites first glimpsed on Springwatch earlier this year - including Madonna the badger and Sherborne's sneezing kestrels

In the summer, we caught up with Autumnwatch and Springwatch star Chris Packham behind the scenes of the smash show. And he made some surprising confessions.

1. Chris Packham loves sniffing owls

Surprising, but true. He told us: "There’s something quite pleasurable if you’ve got a live owl and you stick your nose into its soft feathers and have a good honk of it. It smells all warm."

2. It's okay, though - apparently...

Veteran naturalist Packham, 56, said he's been smelling animals all his life. "Throughout my life I’ve had opportunities to smell both of those birds – roadkills and so on. And of course the first thing you do – or I do – is have a sniff of something."

3. And good naturalists should use their noses more

"We underuse our senses. Naturalists, by our very nature, try and enhance them. We listen a lot more because we’re constantly listening for things we can’t see – birds, insects, or whatever it is."

4. When he's not wow-ing TV viewers with his nature knowledge, he's spending time with his dogs

Poodle Itchy died just before Christmas. And, when we spoke to Chris, he was walking Itchy's brother Scratchy ahead of a long day of filming Springwatch.  

5. If some dogs are sheepdogs and others are guidedogs, Packham's poodles were trained to be nature dogs

They could tell when he wanted to stop to watch birds. He said: "They have this command that if I say ‘stop’ they’ll stop so I can birdwatch and they won’t harm any wildlife."

6. While he's a dog lover, Packham says dogs can have a devastating impact on the countryside

"Where I live in the New Forest, 45 per cent of our birds are ground nesting. We’ve got enormous numbers of dogs being walked. They do a lot of damage through simple disturbance. You say to people – 'your dog is disturbing the birds' – and they’ll say, 'well it hasn’t killed a bird'.

"In order to improve things or even maintain the status quo we have to adapt our behaviour."

7. Keen gardeners could do more for wildlife, he says

If you added all of the gardens in Britain together it would come to an area the size of Suffolk, Packham said. "Our gardens – that patch that we manage – are actually a very significant area.

“So think twice about decking it over so you don’t have to mow the grass. Think twice about doing away with your front garden and concreting it over to park your car.”

8. Apparently it's all about 'structure'

“Plant a tree, plant some bushes, then plant some herbs. It’s that structure that provides space for life."

9. Packham thinks that farming and nature can go side-by-side

He called a Hampshire friend’s farm “one of the most beautiful places on earth.” 

“He’s running a business, and yet his land is loaded with wildlife.

 “I just think we’ve got to be very careful as conservationists about finger-wagging.”

10. And he called on people to buy British food

“I’d like to see the British people show a greater appreciation for what British farmers do. And they could show that appreciation by buying their produce.”

He asked: “Do you want to live in a country where there’s a functioning landscape? How can we ask these farmers to consider wildlife if they can’t even feed their family?”

11. He thinks people watch Autumnwatch and Springwatch because it’s local

“We value our landscape, our own patch, our own garden. What Springwatch does is show us the species that live in our backyard.” 

12. And he told any would-be presenters to buy an alarm clock and get outdoors

“You can learn a certain amount from TV, you can learn a lot on the internet, you can learn a lot in the school classroom. But ultimately the outdoors is where you really develop your trade.

“I think it’s so important that young people get out into whatever environment they’ve got.”

Autumnwatch begins on BBC 2 at 8pm on Monday, October 23.