Tag Archives: Trail camera

Trail camera footage from Cornwall

One of the first things I did when I arrived at the holiday cottage a few weeks ago was to make a tour of the garden, looking for signs of wildlife. The signs were promising.

Behind an old barn was an area of, what looks from the map to be old orchard gone wild. Running through it was an animal path. On and by the path were snuffle holes, and the remains of spring flowers with the bulbs bitten off and eaten. It looked badgery to me, so I set up my trail cam in the hope of catching some footage of them passing through.

For the first few days, when the camera was set to record only at night, I didn’t get many triggers at all. I changed the setting to 24 hours, to see if anything interesting was visiting during the day (we’d spotted deer across the field). I got plenty of triggers then. All of one particular creature, but sadly not the one I was hoping for…

I’m not the world’s biggest pheasant fan. They’re strikingly handsome, but incredibly stupid, inclined to forget they can fly when faced by a car. They’re a danger to reptiles, but heavily protected by the hunting estates that release millions each into the UK wild each year for rich people to shoot.

I still think the path looked badgery, and maybe badgers do use it sometimes, just not the week I happened to stay there. Pheasants are pretty omnivorous, so it may well have been them eating the bulbs. But I’m not sure they’d make such a distinct path (whereas badgers are creatures of habit, and will follow the same path even when the obstacle it skirts around has been removed). Do pheasants make paths? Or was I just unlucky to miss whatever did make the path?

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Scrumping badgers: the proof

Last year my parents moved house, and I was delighted on my first visit to see badgers in garden several times. My suspicion was that they were scrumping the windfall apples. Sadly my camera trap let me down – the infrared light was broken, so I got lots of clips of darkness. Subsequent fleeting visits didn’t result in any badger footage either – maybe I put the camera in the wrong place, or maybe the badgers didn’t come on those nights.

A year later I returned, with a new and better camera trap, which I was able to leave in place for almost two weeks. Would I find definitive proof that the badgers were committing the crime of stealing the apples?

The camera trap triggered well over a hundred times those nights, so it took a while to sift through. There were plenty of clips of the neighbours’ cats out on the prowl, and quite a few of blackbirds.

There was also the footage I’d been hoping for: badgers. I don’t know how many individuals I recorded. There’s only ever one in frame at the same time, but it could be different ones in different clips. They seemed to visit for three nights in a row, and then disappear for a few nights, before showing up now and then.

And yes, I was able to confirm my suspicions: they were eating the windfalls.

My dad is highly indignant that badgers are stealing his apples, but given that he would have just left them on the lawn to rot, or have to move them to mow the lawn, I don’t think he’s got much of a case. If he wanted them himself, all he needs to do is pick them up before nightfall. It’s lovely to finally get pictures of badgers, in the wild, snuffling about.

Hedgehog trailcam footage

My birthday present from Dr C has finally arrived: a trail cam! This is great timing, as the nights are so short now that I miss seeing our hedgehogs (I’m in bed before they come visiting the garden).

I’ve had it running a couple of nights so far (well, three nights really, but the memory card was too full to take any footage on the middle night – beginner’s mistake!). As suspected, most of the footage has been of hedgehogs.

It’s easy to assume that the hedgehog you see is the same each night – ‘your’ hedgehog. We learnt a few years ago that that’s not the case – when we did a proper(ish) census of hedgehog visitors to our garden there were at least 6 different adults and 3 babies. I’ve spent a bit of time looking at the footage for distinguishing features. One of them is fairly easy to recognise, as he has dark marks on his back.

Here’s him again a couple of nights earlier, with a birdsong soundtrack.

Here’s another big hedgehog.

And another hedgehog (or is it the same?)

So I don’t think I’m going to be able to tell exactly how many hedgehogs visit the garden just from the trail cam footage. But even over two nights we know there are several that pass through the garden. (The hole in our fence helps!)

I often put out cat food or mealworms for the hedgehogs, so a lot of the clips are just of them with their noses buried in the bowl. But I enjoyed these couple of ones:

A hedgehog having a shake:

And a hedgehog having a good old scratch:

Most of the clips are of hedgehogs, but we did get a couple of other nocturnal visitors:

A neighbour’s cat (we call her Spot), whose territory seems to encompass most of the town we live in.

Spot the cat
Spot

And, if you look closely at the next clip, you can just about make out a mouse (although I’m not sure what type of mouse it is).

I’m still getting used to the camera, so hopefully the quality of my footage will improve. I promise I won’t post quite so many hedgehog clips next time, I’m just quite excited with my new toy! My ambition is to get footage of baby hedgehogs visiting our garden, as we have seen them in previous years.

Top 10 Christmas Present Ideas for Wildlife Enthusiasts

The wonderful Transition Dorking’s Golden Ticket event has got me thinking about Christmas shopping. Here’s a list of my top 10 present ideas for the wildlife enthusiast in your life. Some of them I already have, so can vouch for their brilliance. Others are things I’ve had an eye on for a while, hint, hint!

1) Swiss Army Champ knife: no nature explorer should be without a Swiss Army knife, and this one is all singing, all dancing. I’ve had mine for a couple of years, and can vouch for its robustness and versatility. My one has sawn off tree branches, cut wire to repair nest boxes, removed a tick from a dormouse, prised open paint tins, helped identify which small creatures have opened hazel nuts and performed numerous other essential tasks. My superhero name would be Swiss Army Wife. The only thing that could improve it would be a torch (which I’ve added to mine via the ring). It’s comforting knowing that, should I ever have to remove a stone from a horses hoof, I’m well equipped. Don’t just take my word for it – Simon King swears by his too!

2) Motion-triggered infrared trail camera – this one’s a bit pricier, but very exciting. We didn’t know we had hedgehogs or foxes visiting our garden until we got one of these. Most can be set to take stills or film, and should have a way of adjusting the focus.

3) Animal tracks kit – this is marketed as a stocking filler for kids, but who doesn’t secretly yearn to be a wildlife Sherlock Holmes? It’s on my Christmas list!

4) Camera bird box – give your loved one the tools to run their own Springwatch. We’ve been very impressed with the quality of the camera on ours, and while our bluetits have yet to get their youngsters as far as fledging, it’s still been fascinating to follow their progress each day. Plus when the nest box is not in use you can use the camera for other projects.

5) Mammal tunnel – more wildlife detective gear! Following on the theme of number 3, this simple set-up can help reveal which mammals make use of your garden. I think it would be a good project to do with a child (although don’t expect to find hedgehogs in winter!) or the young at heart. I enjoyed trying ours out, and if your loved one already has a bird box camera it can easily be rigged up (using gaffer tape) in the tunnel.

6) Paramo waterproof trousers – another expensive one, I’m afraid. But for anyone who spends a lot of time out in the Great British weather, these are an excellent choice. Not only do they keep the water out, but they are breathable and well ventilated, so you don’t end up with steamy legs. And they are comfortable enough to wear as normal trousers (rather than over-trousers), so you can just put them on before you set off, and not have to wrestle to get them on over your boots half way up a cliff when it starts raining. Having dry legs makes the outdoors a lot pleasanter on a rainy day.

7) Wildlife books – For the stormy days when not even good waterproofs are enough to persuade you away from the fire, a good selection of wildlife books is essential. General guides are useful for identifying animals, or working out where to see them. As a good, concise guide with plenty of pictures I would recommend the Collins Complete Guide to British Animals For a more weighty tome filled with high quality scholarship Mammals of the British Isles can’t be beaten. Hugh Warwick’s The Beauty in the Beast is an inspiring read, and the British Natural History series is good. On my Christmas list this year is Badgerlands by Patrick Barkham and the new edition of Otters by Paul Chanin.

8) Camera bird feeding station – If your loved one already has a bird box camera, this feeding station can make use of the camera when it’s not spring. I haven’t tried it, but it’s on my list.

9) A hand lens (or magnifying glass) – Hand lenses are very useful for examining things close up. It can help you distinguish what sort of mouse has been nibbling a nut, whose fur has been caught on barbed wire, and give you a better view into the world of insects. Another important tool in the wildlife detective’s kit. Just the pipe and deerstalker hat to go!

10) Courses – there’s so much to learn about wildlife, and good as books and films may be, they can’t rival getting out in the wild with an expert. I’ve been on lots run by Surrey Wildlife Trust and can recommend them. I’ve also had a couple of very enjoyable photography days at the British Wildlife Centre. Other Wildlife Trusts, the PTES, the Mammal Society and the Field Studies Council all run a selection as well – have a look to see if there are any that might inform and inspire your loved one.

I hope this list provides a bit of inspiration. What would you have on your list of gift ideas for wildlife lovers?