Cameraman based in Edinburgh, employed by ITN, working for ITV's Good Morning Britain covering stories all over the UK and the world. War Zones, World Cups, Royal Tours and many other less exciting assignments, like interviewing current and ex Prime Ministers have kept me busy over the years working in Breakfast Television since GMTV came on the scene back in '93 and regional TV before that. In 2009 I began to record what it is like to work, the often strange and long hours needed to bring the hard news, human interest and fluffy fun to the UK's TV screens in the morning, mostly broadcasting live.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Nick Baker and Scotland's Wild Cats

Tuesday 3rd

At just after 8 am I met Nick Baker, the wild life expert and Luke Pearson, the producer in the arrivals hall at Edinburgh Airport.

My start time had been early but not as early as these guys. Nick had left his home in Dartmoor at 3 am and Luke had left his London place not much later.

We grabbed coffees and teas to drink in the car on the drive up the A9 to Highland Wildlife Park not far from Aviemore.

We were off to do a story on how the Scottish Wildcat could be saved from complete extinction by a group of dedicated people, not a huge amount of money and support of the local human population in the north west of Scotland.

The road was quiet because in Scotland today is still regarded as part of the New Year holiday. It made the journey in the far from perfect weather as easy as it could have been.

I was expecting to drive in to a lovely picturesque white wonderland given the weather that the lowlands had experienced over the last weeks.

The lack of snow was rather disappointing. The further north and higher we got the less of it we seemed to see.

Not much sign of snow.

It was the first time that Luke and I had met Nick in person so we had a great chat in the car on the two and a half hour drive through some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery.

Even over cast and grey it still manages to look magical.

We stopped a few times for me to get some pretty shots of the low clouds nestling in the trees and the distant mountains shrouded in cocooned in delicate mist.

Although Nick, courtesy of some fast work with his iPhone beat me to the best shot of the day.

We saw a beautiful rainbow emerging from behind a hill.

I was driving through a set of coned off road works with a queue of traffic behind, in front and nowhere to stop.

At last there was a little slip road that I could jink the car into.

Buy pure chance it was an ideal spot. The rainbow was bright with its vivid colours apparently emerging from the road and arcing gently into the sky before merging with the grey sky.

We all got out of the car. Nick knocked off a quick pic with his camera phone. I went to the back of the car and pulled out the camera and tripod.

By the time I had switched the camera on and slapped it into the tripod plate the seven colours of the rainbow had faded back to white and was gone forever.

Nicks shot might not have been perfectly framed but at least he got the shot.

I put the kit back in the back of the car somewhat slower than I had taken it out whilst giving myself a mental bollocking for not being quicker.

We arrived at the Wildlife Park at the appointed time and were pleased when the first thing on he agenda was a delicious bowl of wholesome broth.

Our ideal scenario was that Nick and I would be allowed to go into the enclosures that house the wildcats so that I could get nice clean shots with no netting in the way and Nick could do a piece to camera.

Quite often what we want is not what we get particularly when it comes to filming animals.

Particularly animals that are regarded as being somewhat vicious when the fancy takes then and by all accounts the Scottish Wildcat is about as vicious as they come.

Seasoned cat experts have said that they would rather deal with lions and tigers than their smaller but tenacious cousins.

So when Dave, the keeper said that it would be no problem us going in with them, in fact he suggested it without having to be asked I was slightly apprehensive.

These moggies have been known to rip large German Shepherd dogs to shreds in pretty quick time.

Like all cats they can chill.

However, apart from giving us some rather stern looks they behaved impeccably.

There's the look.

I got some great shots of their beautiful faces and the tell tale markings on their backs and the thick stubby tail that is considered to be almost the trademark of the Wildcat.

Dave fed them with a mixture of little dead chicks and chunks of horsemeat.

They seemed to prefer the chicks.

Nick and Dave and a cat grabbing dinner, a little chick.

The large male cat had a bit of trouble getting one of the chicks that Dave had placed on a tree branch that was suspended on a rope causing it to spin and swing.

It was a cause of great amusement to us as it made repeated attempts to jump onto the swinging branch, which swung even more when he landed on it throwing him off.

Waiting to pounce, again.

He did get his dinner eventually.

Once we had done that part of the story and the shots of the captive cats were in the can we set off for Strontian on the west coast to meet the guys who would take us to the areas where there are real Wildcats living in the wild.

Although the odd of us seeing one never mine get any shots of it would be around the same as winning the jackpot on the lottery after a six week roll over and having Cameron Diaz call up asking if a date on Friday would be OK.

A couple of hours later after a dark drive on winding narrow rain and sleet swept roads, and a short trip on a ferry we arrived at the small hotel in Strontian and met Steve, Adrian and Louise the cat conservation trio.

Onboard the Corron Ferry.

We spent the rest of the evening learning a lot about Wildcats and discussing many other things ranging from the music industry to politics and the environment.

Without the aid of large quantities of alcohol by the end of the night we had pretty much set the world to rights on many things.

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