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!
Well worn tracks are also good sites. Try to set the camera looking along the trail so the animal will be within range for as long as possible; unless you have a very expensive camera the trigger time will usually be over a second which means a fast moving animal can move in and out of range before the photo is taken. Light branches or long grass in front of the camera can also trigger the camera in windy areas.
Remember to think about the different types of animals that might be in the area. By including a tree stump or large rock in the frame will result in far more images of birds or reptiles than you would otherwise see.
If you are hoping to capture nocturnal animals, place the camera a little closer to where you expect them to be as the effective flash range is generally less than the motion sensor range. Alternatively you can buy an additional external flash which will increase the range.
Most cameras will allow you to choose the resolution of the images taken. If you have a large memory card it is best to choose the highest resolution; there will always be images that you’ll wish you could zoom in on just a little bit more.
You are also be able to select how many photos are taken each time the camera is triggered. Having at least two is very useful if you are having difficultly spotting the animal in the image; by flicking between the two images you will be able to see any small movements and so identify the animal.
You can also include a stamp on the photos which records the time and temperature for each image (mine even shows the phase of the moon!). This is useful to see if animals have set routines, which will make them easier to find in the future. With a large memory card and good quality rechargeable batteries a camera can be left for 2 months or more which will give you plenty of images to go through!