You actually began your career in children’s TV, what prompted the change to presenting natural history programmes?
When I was younger, I was passionate about dance and theatre and after college, I toured with 7 Brides and 7 Brothers. Whilst in the West End, I auditioned for the Wide Awake Club, which I began presenting in 1986. Then a few years later, OWL TV (Outdoors and Wildlife TV) wanted a well-known children presenter.
I always had a love for animals and wildlife, especially animal welfare, although I didn’t know much at the time. I was then poached for The Really Wild Show, and the rest is history!
Michaela working on OWL TV. © OWL TV
I use this transition as an example when speaking to children and young people about careers – just because you’re not passionate about something at 12, doesn’t mean you won’t become passionate about it at a later time!
You’ve been presenting the Watches since 2011, what’s your favourite thing about the programmes?
I love the unpredictability of the Watches, where nature has written the script. Spineless Si, the three-spined stickleback fish, always comes to mind. A very familiar animal that most people actually don’t know much about! We had to bring in fish experts to find out more Si and his behaviour.
Are there any questions from the Watches audience that make you laugh?
I am always quite amused by the questions we get asked via Twitter. For the most part, Martin and Chris would be asked the wildlife questions, whereas I would get asked questions about where I got my hat!
I do find it irritating when the press would ask about how I cope with leaving my child for filming programmes, whereas the others would never get asked that.
What are your favourite natural history programmes, aside from the Watches?
Although I enjoy the big wildlife series such as Blue Planet II and Dynasties, I prefer the natural history programmes which also include people.
That’s also been the case for the wildlife programmes I’ve presented, such as Wildlife Rescue, Saving Planet Earth UK and Animal Rescue Squad. I’ve met some amazing people around the world who are helping wildlife.
Michaela Strachan on The Really Wild Show
If you could recommend one UK wildlife spectacle for people to see, which would it be?
Definitely starling murmurations. They’re so accessible and in so many places around the country, including cities. They are free, absolutely beautiful and every night is different. They will wow people of any age and wildlife-watching experience.
The most memorable starling murmuration I’ve seen was at sunset, when we were filming in Poole Harbour in Dorset. The light was stunning, and the birds were forming incredible patterns in the sky.
Do you have a favourite British species?
Definitely puffins – they have a sensible side, but they are also flashy. I love wildlife with a bit of character.
I love golden eagles, and after Spineless Si, stickleback fish!
If you were an animal, which one would you like to be?
It has to be a dolphin, I love them! They make people smile, and I would like to be an animal that does that.
Plus they have the ocean as their playground! They always look like they are having a great time!
What species would you most like to see?
I’ve been lucky to see a lot of wild animals, but top of my bucket list would be the blue whale! One day we will get out to Baja California to see them.
I would also like to go back to the amazing places I’ve been and introduce my son to them and the wildlife there. Although wildlife isn’t his main passion, he does love it.
Michaela Strachan on safari with her family.
Do you have a favourite book?
Born Free influenced me the most as a child. I always wanted to grow up to be Joy, and it gave me a love for Kenya and African wildlife. Although I didn’t grow up to be exactly like Joy – I’ve certainly cuddled and seen a lot of animals!
I love fiction, and using reading to escape. I’ve just finished the Langani trilogy by Barbara Keating. Its about three girls from very different backgrounds at boarding school together in Kenya. They become friends, and the trilogy follows their lives. I’m currently reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, which is beautifully written but not much happens in it (so far).