Thursday, 5 May 2011

Watch this space

Watch this space for our Expedition Ardnamurchan documentary, coming in the next few weeks.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Earlier today Cain and Steve headed back over to the Sanna Bay area in order to gain some more footage of the stunning white beaches, with the Inner Hebrides as a back drop. They were also pleased to have good views of two Cuckoos chasing each other in flight on the way back to Portuarik. 

Ciara went down to the beach hoping to film some hermit crabs and Cain tagged along. We found no hermit crabs but noticed a shore crab sitting on the rocks. Ciara managed to get some footage of it before it scurried into the rock pool.

At the end of the day Steve really wanted a group picture so we all trotted to the beach. After about 50 attempts Steve whipped out his comb and brushed his hair, definitely the highlight of the expedition. However the resulting picture was the most natural and successful shot of the shoot, completely planned of course. Its a trick often played by many portrait photographers, throw the group a curve ball and capture their resultant reaction.  

This is our last day and so this will be our last post. We will update this page should the search for our final goal of seeing a wildcat this evening be successful, we hope so. And so the expedition ends.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Today Cain picked Ewan up again from the Kilchoan ferry, joined by Ciara and Steve they began the long journey up Ben Hiant, Ardnamurchan's highest summit, in the hope of seeing a Golden Eagle. Although the expedition members didn't get a glimpse of an eagle they were rewarded with stunning views of the Ardnamurchan peninsula, Isle of Mull and the Inner Hebrides. 

While Cain, Ciara and Steve ventured up Ben Hiant, Rachael decided to stay back and wander around closer to the campsite. This walk didn't last long as she met a woman called Sarah. Rachael spent her whole afternoon on this woman's patio drinking tea, watching out for voles and shrews and talking about life.


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Back ...

Here is a post to update you now we have now regained internet access.

Day 8- We arrived at the camp site mid morning and pitched up to the sounds of sedge warblers scratching away from the bushes and a cuckoo calling somewhere from the rocky hillside behind us. The campsite is right next to the beach so every morning we wake to the sound of the tide. After pitching up we went for a walk to check the ferry time tables.

Day 9- The group woke to the sound of rain that confined us to our tents for the morning. As the afternoon dried up and the sun came out we decided to visit Ardnamurchan light house, the most westerly point on mainland Britain.

Day 10- Cain met Ewan and the group headed back to the light house area, this time to explore the headland and beaches for common seal and the still elusive otter.

Day 11- Today we were sheduled for the whale watching 7 hr boat trip. Cain, Ciara & Rachael found Steve running up to the car moments before we were due to leave for the 8 o clock ferry who arrived more by the grace of extreme good fortune than planned timing. He had been filming 3 otters feeding far down the beach and had only just returned by the skin of his teeth so to speak. Highlights of the boat trip included... Great Skua flying low over the boat, good views of White-tailed eagle, multiple harbour porpoise and rafts of Manx shearwater.

Today the expedition members ventured back to the Common/Harbour Seals at the lighthouse, in order to gain more footage and stills of these curious animals. Cain and Rachael headed down to the rocks, no more than 4-5 metres away from the resting and swimming Seals, whilst Steve and Ciara explored the headland. A good amount of fooatage was gained, and a Guiellmot feeding in the same area provide some great entertainment.

Manx shearwater taken from the side of the boat.

Common seal hauled out on the rocks near Ardnamurchan Lighthouse

Cain in scout pose looking out to sea along with Ewan and Ciara

Ciara & Rachael videoing the seals from the headlands

Soaking up the sun
The search for otters led us to this area

Friday, 22 April 2011

Last day at the cottage...

Today Cain spent a few hours in the hide filming the tide submerge the salt-marsh, unfortunately it was a small tide today so it wasn't ideal. Mid-morning saw him back out, this time filming the Heronry just down the road, and the daily activities of the Herons, moving from nest to feeding grounds. Other birds caught his attention such as the Common Buzzard, Hooded Crow and Raven, all in the vicinity of the cottage. By mid afternoon he had ventured further, onto Eilean Mor the peninsula directly in front of the cottage, here he saw Rock Pipit, White and Pied Wagtail, Herring Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Hooded Crow, Raven, and also added a Black Guillemot to the list. As a Shag past close by the need to change lenses became apparent, just as he took his first step with the 100-400mm lens he spotted a Otter, feeding not too far ahead in a small bay, the Otter was aware of his presence but undeterred and continued fishing for another 20 minutes.

On his return to the cottage Cain notified Ciara, Rachael and Steve about his otter sighting. Filled with excitement they all returned to the spot where it had been fishing. We discovered many signs that indicated otters were frequent in the area, such as spraints, crab remains and runs. We sat for a while on the rocks, hoping for a glimpse but another mammal literally popped up and surprised us. A common seal. Curiously staring at us, it would dive underwater and then reappear somewhere else. We ran along the rocks trying to stay within sight of it. Cain got some footage of its head bobbing about in the waves and we also got some pictures.

We paid a last visit to the Natural History Centre in the morning to check on the pine marten live den footage and heronry live camera.
 The highland cows had retired to their island for the entire day today content their mischievous deeds against Cain's hide could wait for another day.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Fort William

Today the expedition members travelled back to civilisation, in the form of Fort William, to stock up on food for the coming weeks camping. We didn't collect any footage or stills today, but we did manage to stop off at the wildlife hide overlooking Loch Sunart, a number of Common Seal were present and a White-Tailed Eagle flew overhead.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Day 5…

The intention of filming a few ideas that had been thought about the day before was originally on the cards for this morning. Instead, as the day presented a bright but grey appearance, Steve decided to make a change of plan and practice a few slow shutter speed shots at the river a short walk from the cottage. 

Cain, Rachael and Ciara went on a nice long 5 hour walk up the river to a Loch. Some parts were quite challenging to walk through, due to slippery rocks, strong currents and deep pools. There were some beautiful waterfalls on the way as well as large amounts of ticks which weren't a welcome sight! When we eventually reached the Loch we were surprised at how calm and quiet it was, Cain had anticipated seeing some red throated divers but apart from a few fish jumping the Loch was very still. 

Cain's 7D only seemed to have 10 seconds on the self-timer, so what at first seemed like a good idea, became an uphill challenge for Cain, literally. The first three attempts can be seen below.

Cain spent another couple of hours in the hide tonight filming the Grey Herons, two birds were present along with a White Wagtail, and the lone calling Corncrake. On his return a second Pine Marten made a visit to the cottage at roughly 22:25, this individual showed less coverage of dark fur on the face and seemed to be slightly smaller.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Day 4...

 High tide came at 7 o clock this morning. Swamping boot deep at times through the extremely boggy networks and leaping the weaving water channels that ran the course of the field made taking a direct path to the hide increasingly difficult. Steve snaked his direction for a while as one path would run out and new ones were found eventually making his way safe but somewhat soggy into the hide.

This afternoon, all 4 expedition members walked for almost an hour to reach a beach called "Camas nan Gaell". Along the way Cain wondered aloud as to why we hadn't seen any signs of otters yet. When we finally reached the small bay, there was one there to greet us, casting away our doubts whether we'd ever see one. Cain just managed to capture it on film, as it dived, while Ciara got a shot of its head bobbing in the water, though it was quite far away we found it very exciting just to catch a glimpse of one. The beach looks to be a promising area and we will in no doubt be visiting again!

These tiny critters were huddling together in the rock pools on top of the water. Not quite sure what they are yet! Any ideas?

This evening Cain made a visit to the hide, he spent 4 hours filming the Grey Herons fish as the tide came in and went out again, exposing channels of water which held the Herons prey. A Pied Wagtail kept him company in the early part of the visit, and a lone Grey Heron continually hunted. As the sun began to set a strange call could be heard coming from the left of the hide, a Corncrake, a first for Cain and a first for the expedition.

Another visit from the Pine Marten at 00:00, taking the biscuits we left out, this time all the expedition members got a chance to see this magnificent creature. Once it moved on the moon appeared, glowing orange, and its reflection passing over Loch Sunart. Cain went outside to see if he could photograph it.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Early Start...

This morning the day began for Cain and Ciara at 05:45am, although Steve had already been up and out by this time (photographing the setting moon). Cain and Ciara made there way down to the salt-marsh for the first visit to the hide, in order to photograph the Grey Herons. It was high tide at 06:15am so a lengthy period of waiting was on the cards, until the grassy bars of the salt-marsh emerged, giving the Herons the perfect position to strike at their prey. The hide worked amazingly well, at one point a Heron landed only 3 metres away, but unfortunately both cameras were set up in the front window and neither of them wanted to move and possibly ruin their chances for a return visit.

The area is full of Willow Warbler song, this one was feeding just outside the window.

At roughly 09:00am Cain, Ciara and Rachael headed back to the Glenborrodale reserve in search of reptiles. We didn't find any Slow Worms, but we did find plenty of Lizards, which proved to be challenging to film. After spending time in the valley we steadily moved off to higher ground, eventually coming back down to the cottage by following the deer tracks.

At half 4 Ciara and Rach went for a walk up Glenmore River. At only a few metres in Ciara spotted another Slow Worm, which also just sat while they watched it. They then carried on up the river, for about 45 minutes then suddenly there was a big splash. Rach had fallen in the river and was sat with a very shocked look on her face, thankfully she was quick enough to keep her camera from even getting splashed, skills!

Cain, Rachael and Steve headed out for a walk in the dark in the hope of spotting a pine marten, around 12am. Ciara stayed in the cottage on her own, and it was lucky she did. At long last a pine marten appeared, feasting on the jam and biscuits that we had left out. When the trio returned it quickly disappeared back into the darkness from which it came. 

This big bad moon was dipping below the horizon increasingly quickly with the encroaching dawn as Steve stepped outside to photograph it. The sound of snipe drumming could be heard in the cold still morning air. 

Sunday, 17 April 2011

First Post...

 A 7 hr journey from Penrith, past Glasgow, stopping off at The Green Welly and into the highlands found ourselves in the wild wilderness of Ardnamurchan. No radio signals or phone signal. A place where the weather had twisted the shape of this once volcanic land to create ancient birch and oak woodlands that stand contorted and worn against the might of the wind. We passed twisted tree after twisted tree of lush forest that clung to the steep rocky slope to one side of the road and the sea lock with its rocky outcrops crops on the other as Cain drove the single road that led us to the cottage.

The message Youtube showed when we tried to upload our first piece of HD video.

 The ghosts of which you never see become the ghosts of which were never there become the legends that were never told. Sweet dreams anyway.
Cain's shadow and the fireplace, glenmore cottage. Creeeeppy

Rachael is mainly focussing on macro photography and these are some of her first pictures.

Caterpillar vs fly

Fox Moth caterpillar Macrothylacia rubi


Zippy the Red Deer munching some grass for it's lunch.

This afternoon we visited the Ardnamurchan Natural History Centre to meet John Polak for some advice on where to find wildlife on the Peninsula, and for a walk round the centres interactive exhibition. We were privileged to see the first Grey Heron egg of the season, thanks to a live camera link. 

After some lunch we headed down to the RSPB's Glenborrodale reserve, a large ancient oak woodland, we found it to be blanketed by ticks, and other insects, so without surprise we found a Slow Worm and a Common Lizard.

Once we returned to the cottage Michael Macgregor came to visit, he further enriched our knowledge of the peninsula, and allowed us to set up a hide to photograph and film the countless Grey Herons which come to feed on the salt-marsh. Normally a simple task, but not today, in order to complete our set goals we have to film key points of our expedition, which meant, in order to set up this hide it took 3 people, 2 cameras, and 2 tripods, all positioned at different locations. Once up, we felt like professionals, although Cain was slightly un-easy due to the increasing threat of a herd of Highland Cattle, who were very curious, licking the guide ropes at one point.

We aim to keep this blog updated everyday for at least this week, we hope you enjoy it.