“I know I shouldn’t be doing this” was the thought nagging away at me as I walked quietly around the Morfa Conwy RSPB Reserve in North Wales one sunny June afternoon. The Golden Rule of wildlife film making is - STORY FIRST, PICTURES LATER but all the same, no harm in taking a quick look.
My brother had called me just happened to mention that he thought he’d seen some stoats there, he’d even managed to get a photo of them as they played right next to the path.
A few years earlier I’d filmed a Wildlife on One for BBC Bristol called “Stoats in the Priory”. It was one of the most pleasant of my years filming natural history - a season in North Yorkshire working with these seldom filmed mustelids (members of the weasel family). Life became like that of my subjects, quiet spells in the soporific grounds of an ancient Priory followed by frenetic chases around the grounds playing catch up with a family of mercurial maniacs - a game I had no change of winning.
But back to Conwy and no stoats this time - probably just a “one off” sighting. The trouble is that to be in our business, you have to be a bit determined ....
.... so 5 am the following morning and it was well worth the early start. Not just one stoat but a mother with 7 youngsters. I’d forgotten just how incredibly quick they are or perhaps Welsh stoats are even faster that Yorkshire ones? No, as a Yorkshireman I dismissed the thought without hesitation.
They were right on the edge of the estuary, racing around and practising vertical take offs on an old bale of haylage deposited by the tide. How to land seemed to be worked out during a few milliseconds on the way back down! All great stuff ....
... and the end result - 10 or so visits later we had some really good stoat footage and absolutely nowhere to use it. Idiot, I should have remembered the Golden Rule - STORY STORY STORY