Springwatch presenter Chris Packham will be joined by his step-daughter Megan for this season's show. Here he explains why and what he's looking forward to most....
Springwatch presenter Chris Packham is teaming up with his step-daughter Megan McCubbin as the series returns for three weeks of live broadcasting.
Zoologist Megan, the daughter of one of Chris's previous partners, Jo, was first introduced to Chris when she was 18 months old and despite her mum and Chris separating when she was 12, Megan has continued to enjoy a close bond with her step-dad, often accompanying him on his wildlife trips around the world.
She has been living with him at his home in the heart of Hampshire's New Forest, since the start of lockdown. "Megan's mother works for the NHS so Megs came here to self-isolate," explains Chris.
Megan and Chris have already been broadcasting regular wildlife videos on YouTube that have been hugely popular. Chris says, "We've had over 5.5 million views over the last month for something that we are making with two mobile phones and some help from our colleague Fabian on a laptop in Norwich. It's fantastic."
Now Megan will be joining the Springwatch team and presenting alongside her step-dad for this season's series.
Due to lockdown restrictions, this year's Springwatch will be different from previous years. Rather than being broadcast from a collective hub, Chris and his fellow presenters will all be broadcasting live from their separate home areas and Chris is looking forward to guiding us round his home turf with Megan although he says he will also find the experience quite emotional.
"It’s an area we haven’t covered much before on Springwatch," says Chris. "It’s such a great national park with a unique selection of habitats and species so I’m actually quite pleased to be able to show off some of my patch. These woods are part of the fabric of my life."
Fellow presenters Iolo Willams and Gillian Burke will also be staying close to home, Iolo in Mid-Wales and Gillian Burke in Cornwall. Meanwhile regular presenter Michaela Strachan is currently on lockdown in South Africa but will be joining in by sharing her all time favourite Springwatch moments from the past decade.
We caught up with Chris, 59, via Zoom to hear what other changes are in store, what wildlife outside his front door he and Megan are looking forward to sharing with us and why it will be an emotional experience for him too....
Chris Packham talks to us about this year's Springwatch
How different is Springwatch going be this season?
Chris Packham: "It’s going to be very different but we are completely embracing the change. I’m seeing it as an opportunity to engage with viewers in a different way and make a different type of programme but our mission remains very much the same, to bring the very best of British wildlife and put joy in people’s lives. Of course people are locked into spaces where they can't access the world as they normally would and so we want to put a little bit of that world into people’s homes."
What can we expect to see in the woodlands surrounding your home?
CP: "It’s changing all the time, a few weeks ago there was an enormous explosion of wild flowers like celandine, anemone and there’s wood spurge everywhere which I’ve been taking the time to photograph. The beech has also come to life. I was walking up the lane recently and it had just rained and the bright green of the beech was so intense it was almost painful, I was grinding my teeth. I thought maybe lockdown craziness was kicking in but it’s not, it’s just me engaging with that extraordinary sensory experience."
Why is the New Forest such a special place for you?
CP: "I’ve been living in a rented farmhouse here for the last 13 years and I love the seclusion. I’m a person who can be solitary without being lonely. I love the woods surrounding my house and more than any other habitat on the planet it’s where I feel most connected. I've had brilliant, bad and sad moments in those woods and they're part of the fabric of my life. So being able to share some of that with the audience will be great but it will also be quite emotional too."
What wildlife are you looking forward to sharing with us in this year's Springwatch?
CP: "May is the time when birds have young in the nest. There are blackbirds, greenfinches, we’ve got some marsh tits and we’re hoping that we can put some cameras on at least one or two of those nests that are nearby. Hopefully we’ll have some fox cubs to show people and I’ve been feeding the nearby badger sett too."
Do you think people are finding more comfort in nature right now?
CP: "Definitely. A lot of people are finding respite and solace in wildlife, whether it's in their gardens, out of their windows, or on their daily walk when they're taking exercise. There’s no doubt about that. I haven’t had this much time to engage with the plants and animals that surround me since I was a teenager."
Are some species flourishing because of lockdown?
CP: "There are all sorts of things happening. For example in urban areas with less traffic pollution, flower scents will be working more effectively for bees and that will be better for the plants in terms of pollination and better for other pollinators too. More pollination means more insects, more insects means more birds and more baby birds being fledged from the nest. There will be lots of cases in which nature is having a bit of a breather to be quite honest. The only problem is that the zoologists can’t go out right now to record and collect all the data."
Have you spoken to Michaela and how does she feel about missing this season's Springwatch?
CP: "Michaela and I have been speaking a lot and she’s been been playing a role in the live broadcasts that Megan and I have been doing every morning on Youtube. Michaela’s camera antics and pictures of me dancing around have proved unusually popular! We will really miss her. She’s such an integral part of the series but we look forward to her coming back for Autumnwatch hopefully."
How are you managing generally in lockdown? Are you keeping well?
CP: "As far as I’m aware I’ve been well. My partner, Charlotte, who I haven’t seen since lockdown started, had Coronavirus symptoms but she wasn’t tested so we don’t know for sure. I’ve been in lockdown here with Megan. The only time we’ve been away from the house is to get provisions or prescriptions for my father who is very vulnerable. We’ve been taking lockdown very seriously."
Do you think the way you’re making the series this year might shape future series of the show?
CP: "Yes I do. I think we’ll fuse all the things we have learned from the restrictions and impositions of lockdown. I sincerely hope in a way Springwatch is never the same as it was. I hope it gets even better, because we've been forced to think about opportunities which were hidden to us before. As my mum always used to say, ‘You've got to see good in the bad.’"
Springwatch begins on BBC2 on Tuesday 26 May
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