Tools and Technology
Using a motion sensor camera is a great way to get an intimate look at wildlife in your local area. With a trail camera you can observe animals in their natural environment, including shy or nocturnal species that you might rarely catch sight of with your own eyes.
Most trail cameras have an infrared flash to take images at night without disturbing animals and can be set to take single or multiple images or record video whenever the motion sensor is triggered. I have been using a mid-range camera for the last year and have found the following points will help improve the quality and quantity of the images you take.
Choosing a location
This is the most important decision you will make when setting up your camera. Water sources are always a good place to start and it is easy to have a quick look along the muddy edges for tracks that will give you a clue as to what species are in the area and how often the water source is used. Try to avoid areas where livestock congregate as a mob of cattle milling about can fill up your memory card pretty quickly!
Humpback migration will be starting soon on the East coast of NSW. The “Whales NSW” app is the official whale watching guide to New South Wales, developed by NSW National Parks and Wildlife. It’s available for both iOS and Android.
The app is free, and according to the official summary, you can learn about different whale species you might see, see tips for spotting them, get the latest whale sightings, record your own sightings and connect with other whale watchers via the Wild About Whales Twitter and Facebook accounts.
I’ve been using the Android version since last year and it’s very handy. I can find out if whales are approaching Sydney by checking the sighting reports from north or south of here. Of course, this only works if people actually post their sightings!
A lot more information on whale watching in NSW can be found on the official website: http://www.wildaboutwhales.com.au/
I came across something the other day called a “trail camera”. Basically it’s a weatherproof stills/video camera with an infra-red sensor that you can leave outside in your yard or anywhere you like. You program it to take either a series of stills or video clips when the sensor is triggered, e.g. if an animal walks in front of it. It can be used for wildlife watching, farm surveillance, security, etc. One website I saw suggested you could use it to find out what’s been secretly eating your prize veggies at night!
Output photo/video quality is apparently lower than typically found in today’s ‘normal’ digital cameras, but bear in mind that these cameras are capable of taking video in complete darkness without using normal flash lighting (most use a special ‘dark flash’ that doesn’t affect the animals). They are also weatherproof, so can be used in ways you couldn’t use your normal digicam or mobile phone. I think it’s the ability to remotely capture nocturnal activity that appeals to me the most.
Prices seem to range from around $200 to $1000. Images/videos are saved to a standard SD card. So you set your camera up, leave it to do its thing, then go back later and retrieve the SD card and upload to your computer and see what you captured. And because it only records when the sensor is triggered, you won’t just have hours of empty footage like a normal video camera.
I found a couple of Aussie websites that are selling them.
Anyone out there using one of these? Send us your thoughts. Or lend us one to review!!!