Springwatch It'll be a HOOT!Michaela Strachan says she’ll have a wild time with old friend Chris Packham when she joins the BBC's seasonal nature show
22:13 GMT, 18 May 2012
There is a new female of the species on Springwatch and she already has a nickname.
‘They call me the girly swot,’ says Michaela Strachan, who has replaced Kate Humble on the show. ‘Because I like to look everything up. But that’s because, while they were building bird boxes in their gardens when they were five, I was in a tutu doing ballet.’
Cue peals of laughter from her fellow presenters Chris Packham and Martin Hughes-Games. Clearly, the new girl has had no trouble fitting in.
Michaela with Martin Hughes-Games (centre) and Chris Packham
She may have started out as a pop star and music show presenter but, in recent years, Michaela has reinvented herself as a wildlife expert. Her friendship with Chris, Springwatch’s geek-in-chief, goes back nearly a decade to when they worked on The Really Wild Show.
They’re an odd couple, but thrilled to be working together again. Chris, 51, talks like an accountant and has an opinion on everything while Michaela, 46, is more likely to see an argument from every angle. But she’s one of the few people to get away with taking the mickey out of Chris who can, on occasion, be a bit self-important.
‘When we met on The Really Wild Show I wondered what Chris would think of me,’ recalls Michaela. ‘I was known for being a smiley presenter on The Wide Awake Club and Chris is very dry and sarcastic. I thought he’d hate me. But we got on brilliantly.’
I used to be black and white about culling but the more you learn the more you realise you can’t be.
Chris adds, ‘We’ve been great mates for years. Michaela approaches the job differently to me; she’s very diligent and dedicated. She’ll read the notes whereas I like spontaneity for live television.’ Michaela sniggers. He looks slightly wounded and says under his breath, ‘That’s not just an excuse.’
For the first time Chris will have a competitor when it comes to his habit of including song titles from favourite bands into his Springwatch commentary: The Smiths, The Cure, The Damned and The Manic Street Preachers have all featured. ‘I do it for the people who’re watching the show with their partner and thinking, “I’d rather be watching footie,”’ he says. Now Michaela will be trying to insert Kylie Minogue songs. ‘I’m not as clever as Chris so I’ll need the titles in front of me,’ she says. ‘I should be so lucky if I can get one in,’ Chris groans.
Michaela Strachan, has replaced Kate Humble (pictured) on the show
Over the years the pair have regularly holidayed together with their families and, at Michaela’s behest, Chris has tried out vegetarianism. But it’s still a surprise to learn that Chris has convinced Michaela, who quit Countryfile because she did not want to film in an abattoir, that some animals should be culled. ‘We have to focus on the bigger picture and because we’ve taken out large predators, we have to do their job,’ he says. Michaela admits, ‘I used to be black and white about culling but the more you learn the more you realise you can’t be.’
With Michaela and Chris around, poor Martin, 56, barely gets a word in – ‘They’re like terrible twins,’ he says. If this were the animal kingdom you’d say he was the subordinate one. At one point Chris tells him, ‘You talk now Martin while we eat our flapjacks.’ A producer turned presenter, he is Springwatch’s sensible voice, the one who tries to keep our conversation to what Springwatch has in store for us. Now in its seventh year, the show, which focuses on British wildlife, regularly draws audiences of 4 million.
Things to look forward to this time include the first images of wild moles in their underground holes for more than 40 years and footage from a kingfisher’s nest. The live part of the show is filmed over three weeks at the Ynys-hir nature reserve in Wales; but there are reports from all over Britain, while viewers become incredibly involved with the show, sending in animal footage and keeping the presenters up to date with what’s been going on in their gardens.
‘We got sent incredible footage of a rabbit with her babies,’ says Martin. ‘It’s real blood and guts in a rabbit warren. A subordinate family is not allowed in the main warren so when she gives birth, a subordinate female has to go to the edge and dig a hole and put her babies there. She visits them once a day to suckle them. We also got some amazing footage of a sparrowhawk drowning a magpie in a pond. The audience are actually making the programme.’
While the men will be presenting many of the outside broadcasts and recreating their boyhood days of badger watching and den making, Michaela will be holding it all together. ‘Chris and Martin have this amazing knowledge, while I’m more a storyteller into baby birds or bunnies.’
But it won’t be all cute and cuddly; the show will be treading on controversial ground this year. There will be a big focus on cats. ‘Don’t get Chris started on cats!!’ Michaela and Martin scream in unison. Too late… ‘People need to start treating cats differently,’ he says. ‘I like them, they’re amazing predators. But it’s the way people keep cats that I have a problem with.
'We just need to do a few simple things to dramatically reduce the impact they have: put on collars to alert birds; keep them in at night; get them neutered. They kill 55 million birds a year and something has to be done.’ It looks like all three of them could be locking horns on this one.
Springwatch is on Mondays to Thursdays from 28 May, 8pm, BBC2.