Michaela Strachan reveals Winterwatch will go on, whatever the weather…

Weather, it’s everywhere. There’s nothing quite like a good chat about wind and rain, or their absence (sometimes known as ‘summer’). So when we caught up with Michaela Strachan to discuss Winterwatch’s return to Sherborne Park Estate in Gloucestershire, naturally the elements came up in conversation.

“Winterwatch is definitely the most challenging Watch for us, but funnily enough I think it’s the most successful one. We tend to have a lot more pre-planned items because obviously wildlife is scare at this time of year,” says Michaela. “It’s great to be back at Sherborne Park. It’s been an interesting challenge going on a National Trust site, as we’ve had to really look for the wildlife – but we’ve found loads!”

Here Michaela tells TV Times what to expect from Winterwatch 2018, explains how live shows go wrong, and reveals why she’s delighted to be back with co-hosts Chris Packham, Martin Hughes-Games and Gillian Burke…

Martin Hughes-Games, Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Gillian Burke keep warm on Winterwatch

What’s planned for the new series of Winterwatch?

“We’re sending Gillian to the Isle of Islay, which is stunning – Scottish wildlife is fantastic. She’s doing interesting things like following families of otters and Golden Eagles. Chris and Martin are planning one of their parodies. This one’s called Game of Crows, with a raven and a crow going head-to-head in intelligence, learning and skill sets. We’re also planning pieces on kingfishers, hedgehogs, badgers and hen harriers. Martin’s going to look at our Red Kite roost, which should be fantastic, and he’s hoping our cameras catch the mating behaviour of bats in the bat roost we set up in Autumnwatch.”

Because it’s cold, dark and animals are hibernating, how do you cope when plans go awry?

“With Winterwatch we have a wish list of what we’d like to happen, but often it goes completely out the window because the wildlife writes the script. If they want to change it, we change it! The camera team are highly specialised and very talented, they always find interesting things, like the birds of prey nests in Springwatch, that provide great telly for our viewers. I’m always relying on Chris too, his memory is unbelievable! Sometimes he goes off on one because he knows so many fascinating facts and I’ve to bring him back but he’s fantastic to work next to.”

“I’m always relying on Chris,” reveals Michaela

Despite the planning, what are the worst things to go wrong?

“Sometimes you can have a blank or fumble for certain words when trying to present a piece. Or it can be the weather. It was comedy TV when Chris and I were presenting outside by a fire in Cairngorms. A storm was blowing, trees were swaying, the rain was lashing and it looked like Chris’s hair was about to go on fire! Another time in Wales we had major floods and the entire production site was flooded out – it was knee-high because the river burst! Amazingly we managed to go on air.”

Sounds scary but exciting – do you enjoy it?

“I love it. I love the challenge of it. I also love the fact that once it’s done, there’s no going back, no second take. The Wide Awake Club was the first job I did so, over the years I’ve had lots of live TV experience. It’s made me at ease with it. Sometimes there’s panic when things change and I’m not as prepared as I’d like, but I don’t get too stressed about it these days.”

Great attitude…

“The worst thing that can happen is it goes wrong and I look a bit of a twit! I’m not doing brain surgery. It’s an entertainment show as well as a wildlife programme. That’s what’s nice about working with Chris, Martin and Gillian; we enjoy the entertainment side as well as the wildlife side. We can try something ridiculous or silly to add humour – sometimes it doesn’t work, but the audience forgives us. We take what’s thrown at us and keep smiling!”

Winterwatch is on BBC2 next week: Monday 9pm, Tuesday 8pm, Weds 8pm and Thurs 9pm.