The Civil Air Patrol in Scotland is currently carrying out a trial on behalf of the Marine Conservation Society https://www.mcsuk.org/ and the Moray Firth Partnership to survey and catalogue rubbish on remote beaches. This is part of a national drive to rid beaches of plastic detritus which contributes to plastic pollution in our oceans. The trial is being called SCRAP – Scottish Coastal Rubbish Aerial Photography and so far one trial survey sortie has been flown to evaluate and define the required techniques. More trial sorties are planned for the very near future and we hope to be going ‘live’ with the actual survey early in 2018. While UKCAP Scotland provided photography over 6100 miles of Scottish mainland coast, local teams will be despatched to recover rubbish from the most affected areas. Eventually the initiative will expand to the entire UK coast..
This year has apparently offered the best examples of agricultural parch marks for many years. These are areas of differential browning of crops/grass which shows up sub-soil features. Of interest are those which show up historic man-made features such as building foundations and industrial relics. Where the soil is deeper (ancient excavations) the grass has access to more water and the turf is greener and where the soil is thin, perhaps due to foundations just under the surface, roots have access to less water so the crop browns. The effect is, of course, ruined by rain, irrigation or ploughing. Features under woodland or rough ground don't show up at all but those under crops can stand out very vividly.
A short notice request come in from the Dept of History at St Andrews University to provide photographs of specific areas of interest in NE Fife plus anything else that stood out in between. Whilst many of the features are probably natural variations, some were of very obvious interest. The full significance of these is still being evaluated and there will likely be more sorties to investigate further before the present dry spell comes to an end.
Click on the Archaeology tab in our image gallery: Aerial images showing sub-soil features
In preparation for a future project (more about that at a later date), crews have been issued with powerful new cameras and have been trialling them by taking pictures of short sections of Scottish coastline from around 800 feet. The purpose is to capture various pollutants (mainly plastic) by accurate imagery. The photographs are taken in large file format and analyzed after the flight to reveal the extent of any pollution and its exact location. Images are taken if plastic is spotted from the air by observers but also of areas where accumulations of washed-up plastic are typical. With experience, crews quickly get a feel for these areas and analysis of the subsequent images often reveals significant pollution even when not immediately apparent from the air. The advantage of large file sized digital images is that they can be expanded considerably to reveal extra detail.
The Buffalo's Owner said, “It’s great to have UKCAPS on board with this search. I hope that their aircraft and crews will be able to cover a much larger area than we have previously on the ground. I also understand that the search they are undertaking will be co-ordinated with a vehicle on the ground that will be able to direct us directly towards any sightings immediately.”
UKCAPS Deputy Unit Chief Pilot Norman Sutherland said: “UKCAPS has supported a lot of wildlife related searches over the last 10 years. In that time we’ve looked for dogs, seals, whales, even birds of prey but I can’t recall us ever searching for a buffalo – although it’s not unknown! The kind of light aircraft we utilise are regularly used in Africa to support wildlife conservation projects, including looking for elephants, rhinos and other endangered species. They can fly low and slow with excellent views of the ground. The challenge is always searching for something in wooded areas – especially when it is actively trying to hide – as is the case with this fellow!”
“We were able to get an aircraft to support the search within an hour of making contact with the buffalo farm today and have a number of additional sorties planned for tomorrow if required.”
He noted “Anyone can contact UKCAPS if they have a humanitarian need for airborne assistance whether it’s a search for a missing person, aerial photography, environmental monitoring or event support. Contact can be via firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ukcaps/
Latest news (21 Dec) - several aircraft have now searched the area and there has been good coverage in the press, radio and TV of Sky Watch involvement. The last aircraft today reported a sighting but this turned out to be a second buffalo, put out as a lure for the missing beast. At least it shows we know a buffalo when we see one.