Hamza: Strictly Birds of Prey, review: what a joy to see the Glitterball champ in his natural habitat

Hamza Yassin in the Cairngorms National Park
Hamza Yassin in the Cairngorms National Park - BBC

What to do with a Strictly winner? It’s an an age old question that has vexed the BBC over the years, often failing to capitalise on the surprise popularity of the winner of the coveted Glitterball. How else did Bill Bailey get stuck with Extraordinary Portraits?

At least with last year’s winner, wildlife cameraman Hamza Yassin, it can’t have taken much scratching of heads to come up with an idea: put a camera in his hands but this time make this unassuming charmer the frontman as well. And stick a gratuitous Strictly in the title, just to be on the safe side. The result is Hamza: Strictly Birds of Prey (BBC One), a whistle-stop flight through Britain’s 10 most spectacular aerial predators that cannily mixed spectacular shots of these impressive aviators with Yassin’s infectious sense of wonder and good fortune that he’s the lucky chap looking through the lens.

Upbeat at a time of relentlessly depressing eco stories, Yassin makes for the kind of eco-warrior who campaigns for change without ruffling too many feathers. Gently making the point that if you restore nature then endangered wildlife will return, there was an inspiring message here, tucked in between Yassin’s gallery of awestruck expressions. There were nods to Strictly’s role in his rise to fame – a camouflaged ghillie suit he donned to stalk a tawny owl could have been lifted from a jungle-themed novelty dance – but this was a determined effort to mark out new territory.

Wildlife presenting is an overcrowded field, but Yassin brings a fresh perspective: as he met wildlife photographer David Plummer, who finds respite from Parkinson’s disease in the wildlife haven he’s created in his own suburban back garden, you got a genuine sense that immersing yourself in nature is an effective antidote to the anxieties of modern life.

Peppered with highlights – oddly dragonflies roosting on the Somerset Levels, looking for all the world like leaves on reeds, were a bit of a scene-stealer – it was hard not to get caught up in Yassin’s infectious enthusiasm for his high-flying world. Yet for all his unassuming presence, there’s a streak of steely ambition running through him, as his sign-off revealed. “My mission in life,” he mused, “is to be the voice of the natural world.” David Attenborough, watch out.