Highland’s Loch Duich on Springwatch

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If you were watching BBC’s ‘Springwatch’ programme on Thursday night, you would have seen something quite alien lurking under the waves of Loch Duich in Lochalsh, Highlands.  A beastie called the Pink Spotted Sea Cucumber (Psolus phantapus).

The film of these creatures lasted 3.5 minutes, but the story of how that film was made is a little bit more complex.

Andy Jackson came to Lochalsh from the 2nd to the 10th of May to dive Loch Duich. He is a wildlife cameraman and diver, whose films have been shown on BBC favourites such as ‘Spring' and 'Autumn Watch’. Who could forget the lovely film of flame shells from Lochcarron on last year's ’Autumn Watch’, yet another of Andy’s masterpieces.  Staying in Lochalsh at the Highland Seashore Project Cooridnator, Janet Ullman’s home near Loch Duich, Andy was able to go diving twice to three times a day.

Callum Ullman-Smith, aged 12, was able to see the film develop and said: “I had the pleasure of going out and seeing Andy dive Loch Duich with the Inverness Seasearch volunteers as they searched the loch bed for beasties on Andy’s first dive [3rd May]. I stood on the shore holding bits of lens and regulators; I watched these brave souls put on their wet suits in the biting cold of a Highland May.  After that Andy then went out in all weathers and all conditions twice to three times a day for a total of seven days. In the end he had enough footage, from over 24 hours of film for a three and half minute snippet of the Sea Cucumbers on the Loch bed."

Watching the film you will see the Sea cucumbers feeding, their long tentacles pulling food from the tide, stuffing it through a grasping maw, like something from Dr Who. It is hard to believe these sedentary animals are related to star fish.

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Andy said: “These amazing creatures colonise a muddy bank, 14m deep, near the tiny hamlet of Inverinate. Each May, they appear, and then they disappear. No one knows why.

They haven’t chosen an easy filming location. Even dancing scallops make silt clouds that hang thick in next-to-no tide. Ambient light changes rapidly. The Pink Spotted Sea Cucumbers are skittish. A passing crab will stop them feeding or make them dart under the mud.

Their ten arms spread out of a soft body and feed the central mouth. At the other end, their bottoms wink, disposing of waste – and breathing.” Hard to believe it, but there is something that breathes through it’s posterior.  

Andy Jackson will be returning to the Highlands soon to shoot another informative and beautiful video, this time for the Highland Seashore Biodiversity Project. The short feature will be premiered at the Summer Isles and Seashore Festival on the 29th of August.

If you missed Andy’s film you can see it on the BBC I-player on Spring Watch 11th June.

15 Jun 2015
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