Megan McCubbin: 'Mostly, we have fun – there’s never a dull moment!'
Over the next fortnight on Winterwatch 2021, Chris Packham and his stepdaughter, zoologist Megan McCubbin, along with Iolo Williams and Gillian Burke, will be bringing us fascinating tales from across the country of animals thriving and surviving in wintry conditions, from badgers and red squirrels to tawny owls and brittlestars.
Due to travel restrictions, South Africa-based Michaela Strachan isn’t on presenting duties this series but will be joining in the fun via video link.
Here 25-year-old Megan McCubbin chats about the influence Chris has had on her, and why rats rock…
You and Chris will again be based at his New Forest home. How does winter transform the area?
Megan McCubbin: “Seeing the sunrise across the heather is one of the most beautiful things; everything’s covered in frost, glistening, and you’ve got the birds singing in the trees. It’s a magical time of year, but there’s still a lot of activity going on despite the fact wildlife is sleepier after Christmas – a bit like us!”
What wildlife wonders signify winter for you?
“I’m a fan of starling murmurations. Just seeing that spectacle is one of the best wildlife highlights that we have in the UK, where all these starlings just dance together as the sun’s going down. Tawny owls are really active right now, too. I love walking through woodlands and hearing their trademark ‘twit-twoo’ call. Last year, I had a male tawny owl that would sit above my bedroom window at night and call. I tried to call back on occasion but it wasn’t reciprocated!”
On the show, you’re fronting a four-part strand challenging the reputations of certain creatures…
“I like to appreciate the underdog. Slugs, for instance, play a vital role in breaking down nutrients that we rely on. Rats have a reputation because of the bubonic plague, but much of this is a myth. I like to challenge these reputations and try to get people to appreciate these animals for the work that they do.”
You first met Chris when you were two years old, and remained close after he separated from your mum when you were 12. What do you enjoy about working with him?
“I think we complement one another very well. He’s incredibly spontaneous and can talk about any species of animal at a moment’s notice. He’s got all the information in his head and has the most amazing brain. I like to be a bit more prepared and write notes. I’ve grown up being around film crews and watching Chris be on camera, so I’ve learnt a lot about presenting from that. Mostly, we have fun – there’s never a dull moment!”
What’s your earliest memory of being around wildlife?
“I remember Chris waking me up in the middle of the night once, saying, ‘Quickly, get up, get dressed, we’ve got to go’ – one of the local giraffes was about to give birth, so we went to watch. It was amazing.”
Would you say Chris has been a real inspiration to you?
“Chris absolutely inspires me! He always challenges me to be better and to look at things in a different way. Young people are talking about the climate crisis now and feeling more empowered than ever to stand up for the wildlife they want to see in the future. I’m excited that these voices are coming through on Winterwatch.”
Winterwatch 2021 kicks off on Tuesday 19th January (see our TV Guide for more shows to enjoy).