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Highland school children capture spectacular local wildlife on camera

School children across the Highlands have been involved in a project that has brought them face to face with some of Scotland’s most secretive wildlife. The ‘Catch Me If You CAM’ project has been delivered to twenty schools in the Highlands by the High Life Highland Countryside Rangers. Supported by environmental charity Earthwatch Europe, this project engaged children with their local wildlife through the use of trail camera technology.

High Life Highland Countryside Rangers visited the schools involved to train the teachers and pupils to use the cameras, and help them to choose a suitable place in the school grounds for capturing images of wildlife. Trail cameras are triggered by heat and movement and will also take nighttime photos using infra-red light, so that even nocturnal visitors can be recorded. Over the course of six weeks, the schools visited the camera sites to lay out different treats such as mealworms, bird seed and fruit to attract wildlife, and to download any photos taken.

Each participating school was then invited to submit their best wildlife images for a chance to win a new trail camera. The competition was judged by the renowned wildlife photographer Gordon Buchanan, who commented, “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 an intimate snap shot of unseen animals. Wild moments lost in time but recorded forever!”

First prize went to Strontian Primary with their picture of a jay. Gordon commented, “I love woodland, I love jays and I love snow! This shot has three wonderful elements and nice composition.” The school won their own trail camera.

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 engaged the children and opened up a variety of cross-curricular learning. Working closely with our fantastic countryside ranger Eilidh-Ann, the project also enabled the children to link with other schools by seeing what wildlife had been captured on cameras throughout the Highlands. We were delighted to have been asked to be a part of the project and thrilled to have had our picture of a jay chosen as the winner of the photograph competition.”

Second prize went to Ardersier Primary with their photo of two buzzards. Gordon said, “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.” The school won a bird feeding station.

Third prize went to Lundavra Primary, near Fort William, for their photo of an impressive red deer stag. Gordon commented, “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.“ The school also won a bird feeding station.

Keri Langridge, who was the project lead, said, “Catch Me If You CAM aimed to inspire children to learn about their local biodiversity by using trail cameras to actually 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 to 20 schools across the Highlands and all the teachers and children who participated.”