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Catch Me If You CAM

School children across the Scottish Highlands have been participating in an exciting new project bringing them face-to-face with some of Scotland’s most secretive wildlife, from mischievous pine martens to a majestic red deer stag.

Catch Me If You CAM – a pilot project delivered in collaboration with the High Life Highland Countryside Rangers and supported by Earthwatch – engaged children with their local biodiversity through the use of trail camera technology, with the ultimate aim of inspiring them to take action to protect their planet.

Fur, feathers and photographic finds

Each participating school was invited to submit their best wildlife images for a chance to win a trail camera or bird feeding station for the school. The competition was judged by renowned wildlife photographer Gordon Buchanan.

“Congratulations to all schools that took part – your photos highlight the incredible diversity and character of Scottish wildlife. The Catch Me If You CAM project is a truly wonderful way of encouraging young people to engage and interact with the outdoors and nature. The entries were insightful and entertaining, with many showing a high degree of field craft. Each one was an intimate snapshot of unseen animals – wild moments lost in time but recorded forever!”

 Gordon Buchanan

First prize was awarded to Strontian Primary, with their picture of a jay. The Head Teacher of the school, Pamela Hill, said: “The Catch Me If You CAM project provided a fantastic opportunity to further engage and inspire the children at Strontian Primary in learning about local wildlife and habitats. It was a hands-on experience which opened up a variety of cross-curricular learning and also enabled the children to link with other schools by seeing what wildlife had been captured on cameras throughout the Highlands. We are thrilled to have had our picture chosen as the winner.”

 

 

Gordon said: "I love woodland, I love jays and I love snow! This shot has three wonderful elements and nice composition."

Second prize went to Ardersier Primary with their photo of two buzzards.

 

 

"This image makes me feel like I was there, peeking out from the edge of the woods. The clouds and the birds in flight really draw you in."

Third prize went to Lundavra Primary, near Fort William, for their photo of an impressive red deer stag.

 

 

"I love this image as it has a little story almost. It makes me think of the people tucked up in the houses in the background unaware that a beautiful stag is a stone’s throw away."

"Catch Me If You CAM aimed to inspire children to learn about their local biodiversity by using trail cameras to show them what was there. One school found a pine marten living in the school grounds, and another discovered a stag destroying their bird feeders every night! It has been a great success, thanks to the knowledge and enthusiasm of the Rangers who helped to deliver the project and all the teachers and children who participated.”

Dr Keri Langridge

The future of Catch Me If You CAM

Dr Langridge hopes to involve conservation groups and primary schools around the world in the project, starting with India, allowing children the opportunity to share an appreciation for their local wildlife on a global scale.

Connection to nature and an appreciation of wildlife begins with an awareness of its existence.

Catch Me If You CAM’s use of trail cameras presents an ideal opportunity to highlight the variety of species – many of them rare or elusive – found in and around school grounds.

The project ran during the 2017 autumn term, providing trail camera kits for 20 primary schools across the Highlands.

Trail cameras – also known as camera traps – are triggered by heat and motion, and can be left outdoors to automatically photograph or video animals in a particular location both day and night.

High Life Highland Countryside Rangers taught pupils how to set up the cameras and provided training on species identification and the use of recording forms.

The history of Catch Me If You CAM

The idea for Catch Me If You CAM arose while Dr Keri Langridge was camera trapping with a local primary school for the elusive Scottish wildcat as part of her work with Scottish Wildcat Action. The pupils thoroughly enjoyed the project, but many were unable to identify even common species such as wood pigeons. Dr Langridge entered the Earthwatch competition ‘Lost connection – how can we re-engage people with nature?’ in September 2016, and won a £5,000 grant to take her camera-trap project forward.

“Our organisation aims to empower people to save our planet through hands-on science,” says Steve Gray, Chief Executive of Earthwatch Europe. “Catch Me If You CAM provides a great opportunity to get young people engaged with their local wildlife, build a sense of community and learn how research projects are carried out.”

During the project, pupils submitted their findings to the National Biodiversity Network Atlas Scotland, giving them the opportunity to contribute to scientific data capture.

Each class submitted their best photo for judging by naturalist and wildlife presenter Gordon Buchanan, with the winning school receiving its very own trail camera courtesy of Pakatak.

"I thought it would be wonderful for different schools to share their wildlife images and videos with each other, comparing Scottish wildlife from west coast to east coast across a variety of habitats."

Dr Keri Langridge

Image: Mark Hamblin

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