Whose backyard is this anyway? When a wildlife camera is on duty, with ready-made heat or motion-triggered shutters day and night, the answer can be shocking.
Sally Nasser She calls the animals recorded on the dozens of cameras she monitors Trustee of reservation “Our Wildlife Neighbor” in Massachusetts. At home, in our gardens, we can call them cute – or our vegetarian enemies. But more often than not, we do not see them.
There are wildlife all around us, whether you live in the jungle or on the urban shores, ”said Ms. Naser, Director of Conservation Restrictions for Trustees, the nation’s first conservation and conservation nonprofit, with more than 26,000 public acres of land and Over 20,000 private acres of land under conservation. “In the back country and front country, if you want to bring this window into the wild, it is for recording the camera.”
In recent years, the quality of wildlife cameras has improved, and prices have fallen. Often referred to as “camera traps” – as their main market is long-time hunters who want to spot that big buck – they have become essential scientific research tools, used to study animal behavior. And is done to assess populations, even in areas as challenging as the rainforest canopy. .
In a garden, a simple setup can answer more straightforward questions: Who is eating those bush beans? Whose tunnel is under the porch? And what is happening at the bird feeder when you are not watching?
“This is a way to do your own trail-camera bird count,” said Ms. Naser, and see how many species visit feeders during the icy winter month. “
At most, a camera (or a pair of them) can enhance the feeling of awe, the garden’s most delicious produce.
Yes, your backyard photobombers are more likely to be squirrels than bobcats (Ms. Nassar’s favorite subject) due to its supernaturalism and its reaction to visitors on its CR Wildlife Cam Instagram feed And Facebook page) Belongs to. But you never know, especially when it is more comfortable about animals that roam after dusk, including oposums, weasels, and foxes.
Get ready to be informed and surprised, as if the family had spent 40 years in a house before realizing that they had shared the yard with Botak – something they would never have known without Ms. Nasser’s camera.
Answer a couple of questions
To navigate the challenging choices of camera brands, models, and accessories, start with a few simple assessments.
First: What is your target species? Have you seen a red fox all over the yard, or is it a bird feeder you want to spy on?
Subjects close to the camera are better served with an interchangeable micro lens, a feature on some cameras that focus within three feet.
Or maybe someone is knocking over that feeder or the trash can after dark? If you live in an area where black bears exist, you will need a metal security box to surround your camera, such as those manufactured by CAMLOCKbox.
Second: what is your budget? For conservation work and for private clients who need help learning to install and operate cameras, Ms. Naser often uses models by Browning, Bushnell, and the suspect. She is always looking for good prices, such as a quality camera model from last year when the latest release arrives.
Cameras can cost $ 500 or more, but for a beginner backyard camera-trapper, it is not necessary to spend that much.
Likewise, skip the low end. “It is probably better to spend a little more,” Ms. Nassar said, “instead of $ 50 per model, $ 125 to $ 175 per camera, the results of which will not be satisfactory, and it is not as durable.”
Camera Features (and necessary extras)
Critical, test-based technical review Trail Cam Pro Website Make a good starting point for research.
Features such as trigger motion – the time it takes to detect motion until a picture is taken – can mean the difference between catching the entire animal or the tip of the tail. The best cameras have speeds of one second or less.
Most cameras offer both still and video settings (with number of lines per line or video length per trigger), but some advanced models have a hybrid mode, which records both with each trigger – although you A 20-second video can be missed before you can remember certain tasks in stills.
If nocturnal visitors are your goal, then consider different types that will yield different results. Infrared brightness – red-glow, low-brightness and no-glow (which makes for some grainy photos) – produce black-and-white images. White glow – more shocking for some animals, although they may acclimate, and possibly even to human neighbors, the colors provide day and night.
Cameras come with a nylon strap to tie them to a tree or stake, but here’s a tip: “Don’t let loose parts hang,” Ms. Nassar said. “Take it in. A leash flying in the air may cause a false trigger, or a rodent may chew it to be used as nesting material.”
In your backyard, a cable lock may not be necessary to prevent theft, but Ms. Nassar connects them to all her field cameras.
Do not skimp on the battery. Ms. Naser Energizer uses lithium or rechargeable Ni-MH (nickel-metal hydride) batteries, not alkalies.
And use Class 10 SD (Secure Digital) memory cards. 16 GB of storage holds plenty of shots. Cameras with a built-in color viewing screen allow you to remove the card and check your setup on the site without downloading. Another feature is a special card reader that fits on your cellphone or tablet, so you can scroll through images in a larger format.
Location, Location, Location: Camera Setup
Knowing the behavior of your target animals will help you find out where to place the cameras and how to adjust the settings. Like a field guide, or a website Animal diversity web From the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, can be useful.
Any type of water – even a small backyard water facility – is a magnet for birds and mammals. In the jungles, the Beaver Dam is one of Ms. Nassar’s favorite spots for a camera. She calls them “wildlife superhives”.
Shore habitats – brushy areas where animals can stay close to being covered – are also lively. Stone walls are popular with hunters, including forbidden owls; Incidentally, they are also not a favorite destination for rodents. A backyard with fallen fruit is an apple tree or an oak-producing autumn location with its acorns, inviting everyone from squirrels to deer, blue jazz, and turkey.
As for the best elevation camera position, that depends on the target species. Ms. Nassar says it this way, with a laugh: “Knee height or lower for most wildlife, and head to nose height.”
For best images and to widen the field of view, place the camera at a 45 degree angle to the target area, and aim it parallel to the ground. A stick can be used as a shim on the back of the unit.
Point the camera in a northern direction; South is a good second option. If it is directed to the east or west, Ms. Nasser explained, “You can trigger the sun at sunset or sunrise.”
Similarly, identify a place without vegetation – not only branches, but also plants such as grasses and ferns. Even a ripple of water can start a picture. And remember: You, too, can trigger the camera, so try to avoid high human-traffic areas.
If your photos are out of focus, the camera may be too close to your subject. This is especially unfortunate at night, when the flash turns an animal “into a white, blown-up blob without any detail,” Ms. Nassar said.
In winter, a camera placed too low can be buried under snow, but for some small animals, less is better. Try it, and then tweak: “If all you had got was legs,” Ms. Naser said, “raise the camera.”
And don’t just use the default settings, including slow motion trigger speed (the time from motion detection to camera waking up); Fewer images captured per trigger; And a longer photo delay (the time it takes for the camera to prepare for the next trigger).
For fast-moving bird-feeder action or to catch your trash-tipping bandit, try a delay of one to five seconds with the fastest trigger speed. A longer delay and a less-than-normal trigger speed are preferable for subjects who run slightly slower, such as browsing deer or turkey.
Have realistic expectations
This is not 35 millimeter DSLR photography, so don’t expect this kind of image quality, Ms. Nasser reminds of impatient beginners. She also often calls them not to check the camera, as they will leave Khushboo behind.
This is not studio photography, either someone said to “lift your chin” or “bend a little bit more like this.”
“Scrolling through my SD card, I say to the animals, ‘Oh, turn around, please,” Ms. Nassar said. And then the next shot is another butt. Oops.
The skill comes with experience, he emphasized, including knowing the best places to set up. But fate also “really plays into the equation.”
In the meantime, learn to love the nose-maps you get when some curious animal jokes with the camera. Ms. Nassar has a word for him: “Smurfs.”