Trail cameras

I’ve been using trail cameras at Century Wood for the last couple of years. To start with I got a camera for security: to see if people were coming in to the wood following occasional thefts from my neighbours over the years. It quickly became clear that wildlife was a much more interesting use of the camera, and I’ve accumulated a good sample of images of the wood’s wildlife.

The first camera I bought was a Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Max with 8 megapixels. I bought it a year or so before starting to use it properly, and it lasted just over a year before it was stolen. I placed it on the edge of the main clearing in the wood, and I never saw evidence of people on the images. So it may have been taken the first time someone came across it. Then I bought a cheap Apeman camera from Amazon, at 12 megapixels, which is still there – in a harder to spot location – 18 months later.

Both cameras happily run for a month or two with a set of batteries without crashing. I use a pair of 32GB SD cards, swapping them over when I visit so I can go through the images at home. I configure the camera to take a photo every five minutes, with triggering turned off. This means the camera doesn’t respond to things happening, but it extends the battery life and does provide a random sample of what is happening even if it is happening too far away from the sensor to trigger the camera.

To review the pictures quickly, I turn the thousands of images from however many days or weeks into a short film and then stare at it looking for flickers of activity, pausing it and rewinding to examine it frame by frame once I’ve found an interesting bit. This clip shows a few days with snow falling, settling and then eventually melting.

Looking at the photos themselves now, this first set show fox (both in daylight and at night), hare, and American grey squirrel. There are four squirrels in that last photo by a squirrel feeder box, baited with maize.

Then three photos with badgers. The wood has a lot of physical evidence of badgers, including setts and latrines, and I have seen them in the early morning. They do also like maize which is what they’re rooting for under the squirrel feeder.

Next pigeons, magpies, pheasants, and probably bats in the dark. You can see bats flying in the wood on summer evenings, but you can also hear owls.

Finally common buzzards, which are now very visible during the day, flying high in the sky, perching on branches or on the gables of the log cabin or barn, or patrolling the rides below canopy height. Here they are strutting around on the ground or swooping through the glade.

For me, having trail cameras gives me a picture of what is going on when I’m not stomping around disturbing everything.  I could probably get better pictures by setting the sensor up to trigger the camera and by picking locations with particular animals in mind: near a badger sett, on a ride, by a pool of water or watching bait that I lay. But these fixed interval photos do eventually catch everything that goes past.

2 Replies to “Trail cameras”

  1. Interesting piece – thanks! I’ve been using a trail camera for about a year in woods near Stirling. Initially a borrowed Bushnell, then bought my own Apeman. I’ve always used movement detection, but suspect that the camera doesn’t react fast enough for anything moving quickly. But lots of photos of deer, occasional hare, badger and fox, once a mink and once even a human! My only problem has been occasionally forgetting where I put the camera.
    I hadn’t thought of using a time sequence movie to scan quickly , I’ll try that – thanks for the tip!

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