Watching Wildlife – Part 2 – Nest Box Cameras

This is part two of a two-part series that will look into different ways of watching wildlife in your back garden. Part 1 looked at trail cameras. In this second part, Antonia Peacock will take a look at nest box cameras and advise you on what to look out for when buying one.

There is a whole world of wildlife in our back gardens, but often these creatures can be elusive or hidden away.  Our range of wildlife equipment can offer you an amazing insight into their world from the comfort of your house, without the risk of disturbing your wildlife.

Come early spring, our garden birds will begin their breeding season. Placing a nest box in your garden will not only give breeding pairs a helping-hand in finding somewhere safe to have their young. But it also provides an opportunity for you to get up close and personal with the goings-on inside with the use of a nest box camera. There are several options and kits out there and a few things to think about when it comes to picking a nest box camera. Here, I will offer some advice and options to ensure you can find the kit that is right for you.

nest box camera
A glimpse into the nest box by Simon Redwood via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Wired, Wireless or WiFi?
The difference in nest box cameras come mainly in the way that you receive images from the camera itself. These are either wired, wireless or WiFi. Wired kits can provide better, higher quality, more reliable images, but are sometimes not as convenient as Wireless or WiFi kits. Note that even in wireless or WiFi kits, the camera itself still requires power from a nearby mains source (extension leads are available to buy separately.  Alternatively, wireless or WiFi cameras can be powered by an external rechargeable battery that can last up to 36 hours on one charge.

Kit Contents
If you are completely new to nest boxes and nest box cameras, complete kits are available with a nest camera already mounted inside a nest box. Alternatively, if you are looking to purchase a nest box camera, but you already have a nest box, then you can buy nest box cameras separately

Viewing your footage
You can view your footage in a variety of ways depending on what camera or extra equipment you have. Wired cameras plug straight into your TV with an AV cable (included in wired camera kits). If you would like to view and record footage on your laptop or computer instead, you can buy a USB video capture device for both Windows and MacOS. These devices come with software that enable you to set up motion detection or schedule recording, ensuring you don’t miss any exciting moments.

Nest Box Camera
Great Tit Nest via Nest Box Camera on Windows computer screen ©Bryony James

With wireless kits, the footage is transmitted to a receiver which can then plug directly into your TV or PC using the provided AV connectors. Alternatively like the wired cameras, you can use a USB capture device to enable PC or laptop recording.

WiFi cameras transmit their footage over their own WiFi connection. This means you can connect your smartphone, tablet or PC to the camera’s WiFi to view or record footage.

Watch live footage from anywhere in the world straight from your nest box with the live-streaming capabilities of the IP nest box camera, great to share with your friends and family. The camera plugs directly into your internet router or network switch via an included ethernet cable and once set up on a PC or smartphone app, you can share or watch your footage wherever you are in real-time.

If you need to use a wireless camera, a Digital Video Recorder kit is also capable of live-streaming. The wireless receiver can be plugged into the DVR which can be connected to your internet router to enable live-streaming. The DVR itself allows you to set up motion-detection or scheduled recording. You can also add up to four cameras to the DVR which may be useful if you want to watch from multiple angles or from multiple nest boxes.

Species
You may have a particular species of bird in mind that you are hoping to capture on your nest box camera. Our nest box camera kits with boxes are aimed towards common garden birds. The species of birds that you may attract depends on the entrance-hole size.

Nest box
Nest Box Camera Starter Kit

A 29mm hole, such as that of the Nest Box Camera Starter Kit, is suitable for Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits, Great Tits, Tree Sparrows and flycatchers. A larger 32mm hole, such as that of the Gardenature Nest Box Camera System, is suitable for House Sparrows, Nuthatches, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits and Great Tits. It also has a removable front panel that is ideal if you are looking to attract robins or wrens.

Nest Box Camera Kit
Nest Box Camera Kit

The Nest Box Camera Kit has a removable 29mm plate that can attach over its 32mm hole meaning it is capable of attracting a range of species. If you are looking to attract anything larger or a more ‘picky’ species, then you may want to buy a species-specific nest box and fit one of our separate nest box cameras to this.

Nest box
CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring – An Introduction

Suggested Reading
For a collection of handy tips, tricks and ideas, Susan Young’s book
CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring is an ideal guide for photographing wildlife in your garden. Whether you are an experienced trail camera user or a newbie looking to order your first nest-camera, Susan Young’s book will offer a wealth of information to help you get even more out of your equipment.

Nest box
Nestboxes – Your Complete Guide

If you wanted to read more about how to make, monitor and maintain your bird box, Nestboxes: Your Complete Guide is a great book that will guide you through everything you need to know about your nest box and its inhabitants.”

All of our trail cameras, nest-box cameras and other wildlife CCTV equipment comes with easy-to-follow instructions. Our wildlife equipment specialists are also on hand to advise you if you encounter any issues or need any help with your kit.

Would you like some more advice on which trail camera or nest box camera is most suitable for you? Contact us on +44 (0)1803 865913 or email customer.services@nhbs.com . Alternatively, reply below and we will get back to you.

Watching Wildlife – Part 1 – Trail Cameras

This is part one of a two-part series that will look into different ways of filming wildlife in your back garden. In this part, we will take a look at trail cameras and what to look out for when buying one. 

One of our Wildlife Equipment Specialists, Antonia Peacock, shares her advice to help you choose the right trail camera for you.

Red Fox Bushnell Trail Camera
Red Fox captured on Bushnell Trail Camera

The variety of trail cameras on offer can be overwhelming, here are a few key things to look out for:

Type of LEDs
In order to capture videos or images in the dark, camera traps use infrared LEDs to illuminate the subject with little to no visible light used. There are two main types of LED flash systems that trail cameras use. These are No Glow and Low Glow. No Glow LEDs produce no visible light and so are completely undetectable by the subject. Low Glow LEDs produce a very faint red glow and so are not completely invisible, this can sometimes alert animals such as deer and foxes. However, they do have the benefit of being able to illuminate better over a longer distance.

Trigger Speed
Trigger speed is the time taken for the camera to take a photo once it has detected movement. If you are aiming to capture a fast-moving subject, then a quicker trigger speed (below 0.3 seconds) will enable you to achieve these photos before your subject has moved out of frame. 

Recovery Time
Recovery time is the time taken for the camera to process an image and become ready to take a second photo. If you want to capture multiple images of a subject as it comes into view of your camera, then a shorter recovery time will allow for this.

Badger photo Ltl Acorn Trail Camera
Badger photo captured on Ltl Acorn Trail Camera  ©Bryony James

Hybrid Mode
Hybrid mode allows the camera to take videos and photos simultaneously. A camera with this capability may be useful if you want to get as much footage as possible of anything that falls into frame of the camera. If you are more interested in capturing only photographs or only videos, this mode may not be an important feature.

Resolution and Interpolation
The quality of the images and videos that your trail camera can take will depend on its resolution. Most cameras have settings that can alter the resolution either, decreasing it through compression, or increasing it through interpolation. Compression is useful if you want to deploy your camera for a long time and memory card capacity may become an issue, whereas interpolation can produce a larger image by adding pixels. The best way to compare the quality of images between cameras is to look at sample photos and videos. The displayed megapixel value is often resolution as a result of interpolation. The true resolution of the image sensor can usually be found in the specifications as the true sensor resolution.

Screen
Some trail cameras come with screens that you are able to view your photos and videos on. This may be useful if you want to take a few test shots to check the positioning of the camera.

Our Suggestions
We have a range of trail cameras to fit all budgets and needs. Here are a selection of some of our most popular:

Ltl Acorn 5310
Ltl Acorn 5310

If you’re looking for a good entry-level camera, then take a look at the Ltl Acorn 5310, an easy-to-use camera with an impressive 5MP true sensor.                                                  LED type: No Glow                                                                        Trigger speed: 0.6s                                                                    Recovery time:  Not stated                                                Hybrid: Yes                                                                  Resolution: 12MP (5MP true sensor)                                                                                   Viewing Screen: yes (internal)

 

Bushnell E3
Bushnell E3

For the next step up, the Bushnell E3 is one of our most popular trail cameras and another ideal entry-level option producing high quality images and videos but at a relatively low price.                                                                      LED type: Low Glow                                                              Trigger speed: 0.3s                                                            Recovery time: 1s                                                                  Hybrid: No                                                              Resolution: 16MP (3MP true sensor)
Viewing Screen: No

 

Spypoint Force-11D
Spypoint Force-11D

If the subject of your trail camera photos or videos is particularly fast, it may be worth taking a look at the Spypoint Force-11D whose trigger speed of 0.07 seconds is the fastest on the market.
LED type: Low Glow
Trigger speed: 0.07s
Recovery time: 0.5s                                                          Hybrid: Yes                                                                                                                                      Resolution: 11MP (interpolated)                                                                                            Viewing Screen: yes (internal)

 

Bushnell NatureView Live View HD
Bushnell NatureView Live View HD

Or perhaps your desired subject is on the smaller side and you are looking to capture close up images, the Bushnell NatureView Live View HD comes with a close focus lens and a live-view screen.                                        LED type: No Glow
Trigger speed: 0.2s
Recovery time: 0.7s                                                          Hybrid: Yes                                                                Resolution: 14MP (3MP true sensor)
Viewing Screen: yes (external)

Accessories
There are a selection of accessories that you may want pair with your camera to get the best out of your camera-trapping experience.
If you are worried about leaving an expensive piece of kit outside and unattended, then you may want to invest in a Python Lock. This cable lock will fit most trail cameras and and will give you piece of mind that your camera is secured in place. Here you can watch how to set up this lock with your own trail camera. You also may be interested in a security case that is compatible with your trail camera. These cases house your camera and secure with a padlock, which helps prevent vandalism and theft.

SD Cards
All cameras need a memory card to store your photos and videos on. Make sure to check what SD card capacity your camera needs, this is usually found in the specifications section. Browse our selection of SD cards to order alongside your camera so that you can get snapping as soon as possible.

Power Options
Most cameras are powered by batteries. We recommend you use Lithium Ion batteries with your trail camera to ensure maximum trigger speeds and longer battery life. Make sure to check how many batteries your camera needs. Some trail cameras are also compatible with solar panels which will allow you to extend the battery life of your camera. This is especially useful if you want to leave your camera outside for extended periods of time.

Bushnell Trophy Cam Aggressor Starter Bundle
Bushnell Trophy Cam Aggressor Starter Bundle

Starter Bundles
If you are looking to buy a trail camera and want to make sure you will be able to get out and start capturing as soon as it arrives, then you may want to take a look at our
starter bundle options. These bundles come with a memory card and batteries that are right for your camera to ensure you have everything you need to get started.”

To see more trail cameras available, take a look at our range here

Would you like some more advice on which trail camera or nest box camera is most suitable for you? Contact us on +44 (0)1803 865913 or email customer.services@nhbs.com . Alternatively, reply below and we will get back to you.

Listening In The Field: Thoughts on Field Recording

Separating the Signals From the Noise
Image from Wild Soundscapes: Discovering the Voice of the Natural World

 

 

 

 

 

NHBS equipment team member Johnny Mitchell, developed a keen interest in sound design and field recording whilst studying contemporary music. He continues to be fascinated by the technical challenges of field recording and its use for ecologists. With the recent publication of Joeri Bruyninckx’s Listening In The Field, interest around this subject continues to grow, so Johnny has provided some thoughts about the art of wildlife sound recording along with some excellent book recommendations.

‘In its broadest sense, field recording is the act of capturing sound outside of a traditional recording studio environment.

We live, it seems, in a culture that values vision and image above all other senses. In our increasingly noisy society, and as the cacophony of human-induced noise increases around us, it can be easy to forget the value of simply listening as a way to engage with the natural world.

One of the most evocative and earliest examples of field recording can be can found in the BBC recordings of Cellist Beatrice Harrison who, whilst playing in the garden at her home in Oxted, Surrey, noticed that the nightingales in the woods around her responded to, and even echoed, the notes of her cello. Broadcast just two years after the Birth of BBC radio in the early 1920’s, it was the first time that wildlife had been broadcast over live radio in the UK, and it proved to be so popular that the recordings were repeated every spring for the following 12 years.

Listening In The Field: Recording and the Science of Birdsong
Hardback | May 2018
£26.99

 

 

Advances in high-quality, portable audio equipment have led to a fascinating cross-pollination between artists, musicians and scientists. In his new book, Listening in the Field, Joeri Bruyninckx traces the development of field recording and its use in field ornithology. Drawing on expertise from experimental music to serious science, it provides a thorough and wide-ranging investigation into the power of sound and listening.

Anyone looking for further reading on the subject would do well to look to the work of Bernie Krause; in particular The Great Animal Orchestra and Wild Soundscapes.

In The Great Animal Orchestra, Krause, a former musician/composer and now leading expert in soundscape ecology, details his experiences in over 40 years of collecting wild soundscapes and explores what these can tell us about the health of various biomes.

 

Wild Soundscapes offers the reader both a philosophical guide and practical handbook- it is a highly readable and invaluable guide into the many techniques and different types of audio equipment available to anyone making their first forays into the field.

 

Krause encourages us to take a widescreen view of the soundscape as a whole rather than focusing on single species. Whilst listening to his recorded sounds and visualising them using spectograms, Krause also developed his ‘niche hypothesis’ – discovering that many creatures have developed temporal and frequency niches in which to communicate. What we would perceive as a chaotic web of sound is, he argues, highly ordered, and organisms in a soundscape structure their vocalisations over both frequency and time.

Tragically, over half of the soundscapes in Krause’s archive have either been dramatically altered by human activity or silenced altogether. However, as interest and technology advance it is fair to say that we are coming to understand and value the natural soundscape around us and our effect upon it’.

Field Recording Equipment

At NHBS you will find a great range of microphones, recorders and accessories for field recording.

Hi-Sound Mono Parabolic Microphone
H2a Hydrophone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sennheiser MKH 416-P48 U3 Microphone
Basic Stereo Hydrophone

 

 

 
Tascam DR-05 Handheld Recorder
Tascam DR-40 Handheld Recorder
Further reading:

The Sound Approach to Birding: A Guide to Understanding Bird Sound
Hardback | Dec 2006
£29.95

 

In The Field: The Art of Field Recording
Hardback | May 2018
£11.99

 

 

Further listening:

Browse our range of wildlife audio CDs and listen to the sounds of the Amazon, the pure voice of the nightingale or the frog calls of Madagascar.  Find the full list here.

 

Enjoy being in the field, there really is plenty to listen to.

 

Please note that prices stated in this blog post are correct at the time of publishing and are subject to change at any time.

 

Kaleidoscope Pro annual subscriptions now available

Kaleidoscope Pro is now available as an annual subscription, providing an economical way to access the excellent analysis features of this software.

A discounted package is also available for students or academics who buy a subscription using an official university purchase order.

Each subscription will give you access to the software for 366 days and an automated email will remind you to renew at the beginning of the month that your current subscription is due to expire.

For customers who have purchased a copy of Kaleidoscope Pro in 2017, Wildlife Acoustics are offering you the chance to convert this to an annual subscription. Depending on when your software was purchased, you will be entitled to a one, two or three-year subscription (see the table below). This offer is valid until the 31st January 2018.

To take advantage of this offer: When Kaleidoscope Pro 4.5 is launched, you will receive a popup window notifying you of the conversion offer. You will be able to accept or decline at this time. If you choose to accept, your permanent license will be deleted.

The NHBS Guide to Hand Lenses

The possession of a hand lens is one of the defining characteristics of a naturalist.

We use them for everything from peering at beetle genitalia and examining floral characters, to examining the arrangement of teeth in small mammal jaw bones. There are a wide variety of hand lenses on the market so how do you decide which lens is best for you? This article contains all the information you need to make an informed choice.

Glass versus plastic lens?

The optical lens in a hand lens can be made from glass or plastic. Plastic lenses are generally more affordable and lighter but are of lower optical quality and are more difficult to clean. Plastic hand lenses, however, can be a good choice for schools and young children.

How many optical elements?

Canon 400mm

An element is an individual piece of glass within a lens. When you look through a high quality camera lens you will typically be viewing what’s in front of the lens through four to six lens elements, as well as other elements used for focusing and zooming (see image below right).

Paul Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM By Paul Chin

Hand lenses are constructed with one (singlet), two (doublet) or three (triplet) lens elements. Each one is specially shaped to correct for a particular type of optical distortion, so the more elements, the higher quality the image.

Magnification

A 10x magnification hand lens will be more than adequate for most purposes. Higher magnification lenses tend to be harder to use but are very useful for viewing extremely small objects. If you are unsure of which magnification you need, or think you may need several different lenses, you might consider the Triple Hand Lens (x3, x4 and x5).

Lens diameter

Large diameter lenses provide a wider field of view which means that they are easier to use but they are slightly more expensive to produce.

How hand leOpticron Hand lens, 23mm, 10x magnificationnses are named

Hand lenses are named in the same way as binoculars, with both the lens diameter and the magnification included in the name. For example, the Opticron Hand lens, 23mm, 10x magnification has a 23mm diameter lens and provides 10x magnification.

Using your hand lens

Finally, a quick note on hand lens technique. To use your hand lens correctly, hold the lens close to your eye and then either a) move the subject closer to your eye until it comes in to focus or b) move your head (and the hand lens) closer to the subject until it comes into focus. It’s easy with a little practice so don’t get put off if you find a new hand lens difficult at first. Expect to get close up to what you’re examining – it’s quite common to see naturalists crawling around on the ground to get close to a plant they’re identifying.

Keeping your hand lens safe

It can be very hard to find a much-loved hand lens dropped in long grass or woodland. To prevent this happening, we recommend a lanyard for your hand lens – this has two functions: a) if you have it round your neck you won’t drop it, and b) if you put it down somewhere the bright blue lanyard is easy to spot.

The table below provides a guide to the hand lenses sold by NHBS. More information and specifications of each can be found by following the links. Our full range of lenses and magnifiers can be found at nhbs.com.

 

Kaleidoscope 4.3.0 Bioacoustic Software Now Available

The newest version of Kaleidoscope, version 4.3.0, is now available to download from the Wildlife Acoustics website.

See below for details about the new features included in this release, as well as a handy table to see which version of Kaleidoscope is right for you, and some useful tutorial videos.

New features include:

New Bat Auto-ID Classifiers
New bat classifiers for North America, Neotropics, Europe and South Africa as well as updated common names for some species. The default setting for classifiers is now “Balanced” which is a useful compromise between the more sensitive and more accurate options.

New time-saving workflow features
New features in the results viewer window include:
• When opening a saved results spreadsheet, a file browser allows you to easily locate the folder containing the corresponding input files
• Bulk ID multiple selected rows
• Bulk copy files in selected rows to a specified folder

Full support for GUANO metadata (Kaleidoscope Pro only)
Kaleidoscope now reads and write GUANO information alongside Wildlife Acoustics metadata (WAMD).  This will been shown in the file at the end of the metadata notes window.

Bug fixes
Several bugs have also been fixed in the new release, details of which can be found in the Kaleidoscope documentation.

Which version of Kaleidoscope is right for me?

Kaleidscope Tutorial Videos


Kaleidoscope UK, Kaleidoscope Neotropics and Kaleidoscope Pro are all available to purchase from NHBS.

 

What’s new for 2017 – Trail camera news

The days are getting longer and the clocks are set to British summer time here in the U.K. With the arrival of the warmer weather, our local wildlife is also becoming more active and now is a great time to set up a trail camera to see what’s going on in your garden or local outdoor space. If you’re lucky you may even spy young animals emerging from their burrows for the first time.

In this article we will take a look at some of our new and favourite trail cameras for 2017.

Bushnell Trail Cameras

This spring has seen a new range of cameras arrive on our shelves from Bushnell, featuring an exciting selection of brand new features.

The new Trophy Cam Aggressor range is available in four models. All of these share an excellent 0.2 second trigger speed and a recovery time of just 0.5 seconds, ideal for moving animals. A new Dynamic Video function means that the camera will record continuously while there is a subject in the detection range and an Auto Exposure function helps to avoid bleached out images when the subject is too close. Three preset functions allow easy configuration of advanced settings based on the location of the camera (choose from trail/scrape, feeder or food plot). The design of the case has also been improved with a strengthened cable lock channel, stronger latch and illuminated button panel.

The four models differ in their image/video resolution, type of night vision LEDs, screen type and case colour. Take a look at our handy guide below to see which is the right model for you.

Trophy Cam Aggressor HD No Glow 24MP Camo

Trophy Cam Aggressor HD No Glow 24MP Camo
* Bushnell code: 119877
* 24MP images
* 1920 x 1080p videos
* No glow LEDs
* Colour viewing screen
* Camouflage bodyshell

Find out more

 

Trophy Cam Aggressor HD No Glow 20MP Tan

Trophy Cam Aggressor HD No Glow 20MP Tan

 

* Bushnell code: 119876
* 20MP images
* 1920 x 1080p videos
* No glow LEDs
* Text screen
* Tan bodyshell

Find out more

 

Trophy Cam Aggressor HD Low Glow 24MP Camo

Trophy Cam Aggressor HD Low Glow 24MP Camo

 

* Bushnell code: 119875
* 24MP images
* 1920 x 1080p videos
* Low glow LEDs
* Colour viewing screen
* Camouflage bodyshell

Find out more

 

Trophy Cam Aggressor HD Low Glow 20MP Tan

Trophy Cam Aggressor HD Low Glow 20MP Tan

 

* Bushnell code: 119874
* 20MP images
* 1920 x 1080p videos
* Low glow LEDs
* Text screen
* Tan bodyshell

Find out more

 

Also new for 2017 is the Trophy Cam Essential E3 which improves on the popular E2 model with the addition of low glow LEDs, an improved flash range and higher resolution images. The fantastic NatureView Live View HD is also still available and features two close-focus lenses and a detachable viewing screen.

Spypoint Trail Cameras

Spypoint produce consistently high quality cameras and their range features several models that are exciting for wildlife enthusiasts.

Spypoint Force-11DThe Force-11D has an unbeatable trigger speed of just 0.07 seconds and an adjustable detection range of 1.5m to 24.4m with a curved motion sensor to improve the detection angle. 11MP images and 720p, high definition video can be captured while no glow LEDs make your camera completely inconspicuous.

 

Spypoint SolarThe Spypoint Solar provides another fantastic option, particularly if you want to leave your camera unattended for extended periods of time. The built-in solar panel will power the camera any time that the sun is shining, only switching to battery power at night or when there is insufficient sunlight. A 2″ colour screen lets you preview your images in the field.

 

All of our trail cameras can be purchased as a starter bundle which include an SD card and all the batteries you need to power the camera. The complete trail camera range can be found at www.nhbs.com

Can’t decide which camera you need? Why not take a look at our guide on choosing the camera that’s right for you.

 

CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring: An interview with Susan Young

susan-young
Susan Young – Author of CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring

Susan Young is a writer and photographer with a background in physics and engineering. She is the author of the fantastic CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring published earlier this year. This great handbook provides lots of practical information on the use of CCTV for survey and research.

Your book on CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring, published earlier this year, is packed full of practical information for the researcher or amateur naturalist interested in using CCTV to monitor wildlife. Could you explain a little bit about your professional background and how you came to write this book?

I have had a very varied career and have always tended to look for new ways to do things. After graduating, I worked using applied physics in the manufacture of aero engines, and later, after a Masters in Engineering Management, worked in a large electronics company. For the last 15 years I have been a writer and (mainly) wildlife photographer, and found my experience of great value with the more technical aspects of photography.

After using various photographic systems for recording wildlife, I came to believe that CCTV had many applications for both the amateur and professional naturalist. As I have always enjoyed doing something different, I spent the last few years researching CCTV systems for use with wildlife.

I wanted to test CCTV in more formal environments and thus I volunteered for Natural England and the Wildlife Trust. With Natural England I have been researching the use of an underwater system for studying fish in rural rivers, and have also developed a system for monitoring rock pool life. With the Woodland Trust I have developed a portable CCTV system for bat monitoring, which is being used for a research project at the moment, and which can greatly reduce the need for night emergence surveys.

With this research I became convinced that there were many applications where CCTV could be of great benefit, but that the lack of clear, relevant technical information was a barrier to wider use. The more I discovered about CCTV, the greater my enthusiasm for the subject, and the greater the number of applications that became apparent. For this reason I decided to write CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring with the aim of encouraging wider use of what I believe is a valuable tool.

Do you feel that there is a need to bridge the knowledge gap between manufacturers/engineers and the individuals using field equipment? As an extension of this, do you feel that it would improve the quality of research or survey data if people had a better understanding of the functions and limitations of their kit?

In meeting both professional and amateur naturalists, I have often heard it said that manufacturers/engineers do not understand their problems. Without that understanding, they are unable to advise on the areas of use. In addition, the biological sciences are not generally taught with an emphasis on technology, which can leave graduates unfamiliar with technical language. Companies such as NHBS and, hopefully, books like mine, can help to bridge what is a very large gap in communication.

I feel very strongly that there could be great steps forward in research and survey methods if people were more aware of the possibilities of their equipment, together with an understanding of the limitations. For the keen naturalist, there is also a great number of applications for filming for pleasure.

We have found trail cameras to be extremely popular both with amateur naturalists and researchers. How do you feel these compare with CCTV systems and in what types of situations would you recommend each of them?

This is a difficult question to answer briefly!

I have used trail cameras for many years and without doubt they are of great value for indicating the presence of wildlife, especially in remote areas, but their short filming time makes them less practical for monitoring. CCTV is much more flexible and responsive, and has the capability of giving higher quality images, especially at night. CCTV can be used with underwater cameras, and with cameras that fit into small spaces such as bird or mammal boxes.

One of the main advantages of a CCTV system is that it can be set up to record at certain times as well as being triggered by motion or event. The wide range of CCTV cameras means that variable focus lenses can be used, allowing one to zoom in to the subject, noise reduction can produce clean images and features such as ‘smart IR’ prevent over exposure of nearby objects, a problem with night images with trail cameras.

If mains power is available, the advantages of CCTV become more apparent. Recent technology means that HD cameras can be used, giving high quality HD videos, and images can be viewed live on a monitor. If the internet is also available, images can be viewed remotely by smartphone, tablet or PC.

HD analogue video (AHD or, more recently, HD-TVI) is an amazing step forward in CCTV, giving videos of great quality at a reasonable cost and without the complexity of more traditional HD methods which require some knowledge of computer networks.

You have a vast amount of experience in the field using CCTV and must have collected huge amounts of footage from this. How does it make you feel when you are reviewing your videos and come across something amazing? Do you have a single favourite video or image?

There is nothing to beat the excitement of coming across a video of something unexpected. The otter swimming underwater was caught by accident while filming fish and is very short, but still very exciting, and something I never really expected to get, although I was always hoping. I try to plan a CCTV session to reduce the number of ‘empty’ videos and to make sure that I review small numbers without letting them build up over days. That way, the excitement is always there.

Finally – if you could set up a CCTV system anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

I would choose the UK. UK wildlife is very elusive and offers a great challenge. I am an ‘otterholic’ and would love to set up cameras on the Shetland islands. I have photographed otters with a DSLR, but there is nothing to beat the excitement of filming otters in action.

CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring is available from NHBS.

 

How to choose a nest box camera

Bird Boxes
Installing a camera into a bird box is a great way to keep an eye on the nesting birds in your garden. Image by Simone Webber.

Deciding which nest box camera to choose involves a complicated tiptoe through competing technologies and equipment. Before you start watching birds you have to decide what sort of system is best for you and, crucially, how much money to spend.

The first question you need to consider is whether to choose a wired or wireless system.

Wired systems have a cable running from the nest box back to your house or classroom, which carries both power and the television signal. This results in excellent image quality but may not be ideal if you have children or pets in your garden, or if a cable running to your bird box will interfere with the gardening. You will also need to feed the cable into your house, either by drilling a hole in the wall or by feeding it through an open window.

Wireless systems do not require a cable to run between the bird box and the television but instead transmit images to a small receiver situated inside the house. However, a power supply will still be required for the camera (i.e. from a shed or outbuilding) and the signal can be compromised by other wireless devices in the area or by trees and other structures between the nest box and the house.

Next you will need to consider whether you require a complete kit or just the camera.

Nest Box Camera Starter Kit

If you are new to this particular aspect of watching and listening to birds, a complete kit, such as the Nest Box Camera Starter Kit is a good and economical choice. This starter kit includes a bird box with a camera mounted in the roof, which provides colour footage during the day and black ­and ­white at night. A 30 ­metre cable plugs into your television and supplies the camera with power. Another option is the Gardenature Nest Box Camera System, which includes a bespoke red cedar nest box made to RSPB and BTO guidelines. A small sliding drawer at the top of the box houses the Sony CCD camera, which adjusts automatically depending on light levels. A 30 ­metre cable connects the camera to your television.

Nest Box Camera with Night Vision

For the handyman or woman who wants to put a system together themselves, either in a bespoke or existing nest box, the Nest Box Camera with Night Vision is a good choice. The tiny camera will focus from a few centimetres to roughly 30 metres, with high definition for excellent daytime and night ­time images. The camera comes with a 30 ­metre cable and extension cables are available to purchase separately. The Wireless Nest Box Camera Kit is a great option if you want to fit a wireless camera to your own bird box.

What about watching on your computer?

All of the cameras and kits that we sell come with either a cable or wireless receiver that will connect directly to your television. If you want to view or save your footage onto your computer then an additional USB capture device is required. These are available both for Windows and Mac operating systems and come with all the software you require to get started.

 

How to choose a pair of binoculars

Image from hawkeoptics.co.uk
Image from hawkeoptics.co.uk

 

A good pair of binoculars are invaluable for identifying all sorts of animals at a distance and are a fantastic addition to the naturalist’s field kit. However, there are many different makes and models available, all with different specifications, and choosing a pair can be confusing. In this post we will take a look at the anatomy of a pair of binoculars and explain the things you need to know in order to make an informed decision about which binoculars are right for you.

Magnification

Binocular models generally have two numbers in their description. The first of these relates to the magnification. (For example, 8 x 42 binoculars will have a magnification of 8x). In general, binoculars have a magnification between 8x and 12x. As you would expect, the higher the magnification, the larger objects will appear when looking through them. As magnification increases the field of view is reduced, although higher quality models maintain a good field of view even at higher magnifications. You will also need to hold your binoculars steady with higher magnifications as hand shake will have a greater effect.

Lens Diameter

Dawn on river scenic
Larger diameter objective lenses provide brighter images during dusk and dawn. Image by Dan Cox via Public Domain Images.

The second number in the binocular model description (e.g. 8 x 42) refers to the diameter of the objective lens. Standard size binoculars tend to have objective lenses of 32mm to 42mm whilst lenses in compact binoculars usually measure 25mm. Larger lenses can dramatically improve low light performance and are particularly good for use at dusk or dawn. The trade off is that larger lenses are heavier.

Opticron Adventurer
Opticron Adventurer Porro Prism (left) and Roof Prism (right) binoculars

Prism Type

There are two main styles of binocular:  Porro Prism and Roof Prism. Porro prism binoculars have widely separated objective lenses which are further apart than the eyepiece (ocular) lenses. This gives them a “dog-leg” like appearance. Roof Prism binoculars have objective and eyepiece lenses which are in line with one another, resulting in a more streamlined and compact instrument. Traditionally, roof prism binoculars would produce an image that was less bright than that of an equivalent porro prism model, due to reduced light transmission. However, modern binoculars, particularly high quality ones, have remedied this problem through innovations in lens coatings. All of the binoculars sold by NHBS are of the roof prism style.

Glass Type

Glass of binoculars
The type and quality of glass have a huge impact on image quality. Image by Bicanski via Public Domain Images.

The type of glass used to manufacture the lenses can vastly affect the quality of the image. Two types of glass to look out for are extra-low dispersion (ED) and fluoride (FL) glass. These reduce chromatic aberrations giving clearer and sharper colours and reduced colour “fringing”. (Fringing is the blurring that can occur between light and dark parts of an image).

 

 

Lens and Prism Coatings

Lens coatings reduce the amount of light that is lost between the objective and the eye (ocular) lens helping to produce a brighter and sharper image. Lenses which are multi-coated have multiple layers of lens coatings. High quality binoculars are fully multi-coated which means that they have multiple layers of coating on all lens surfaces.

Roof Prism binoculars have a particular problem with “phase shift” where the polarisation angle of the prism causes the light passing through to be split into two slightly out of phase beams. This results in an image which has lower resolution and may look slightly blurred. Prism coatings correct this problem by forcing the split light back into phase. Look out for binoculars with Phase Correction (PC) prism coatings.

Other Key Comparison Features

As well as the physical characteristics of the binoculars discussed above, there are a number of other specifications which you might want to consider.

Field of View – The field of view is how wide an image can be seen at a specified distance (usually 1000m). A wide field of view is useful for large landscapes and for fast moving animals.

Close focus – The close focus is the minimum distance at which the binoculars are able to focus. People interested in viewing insects using their binoculars would be advised to choose a model with as small a close focus as possible.

Eye relief – This is the maximum distance from the eyepiece lens that the eye can be positioned at which the full width of the image is visible without vignetting (darkening of the image around the edges). Longer eye relief is useful for those who wear glasses.

Weight – The weight of the binoculars is incredibly important, as it is likely that you will be carrying them around for long periods. Higher quality models of comparable specification will tend to be lighter than more entry-level models, and those with larger objective lenses will weigh more than those with smaller ones.

Price – Although we have mentioned this last, your budget will most likely be one of the key things to consider when choosing binoculars. Entry level models such as the Hawke Optics Vantage or Opticron Oregon 4 LE are great value for money and ideal for the beginner or infrequent user. However, if you are using your binoculars in a professional capacity or will be looking through them for a considerable amount of time each day, then choosing something of higher quality will be beneficial. Top of the range models such as the Zeiss Victory and Swarovski EL produce a superb quality image and can be used continuously for many hours without causing severe eye strain. They also come with the assurance of 10 year warranty. For most users, there will be a model in between these two extremes that will be perfect for you and your budget.

The NHBS Binocular Range

At NHBS we stock a large range of binoculars made by Minox, Hawke Optics, Opticron, Nikon, Zeiss and Swarovski. These range from economical and compact models up to full size, top of the range varieties. All of the models we sell have a roof prism design, come with a case and neckstrap and are waterproof.

Still unsure about which binoculars you need? Contact us on +44 (0)1803 865913 or email customer.services@nhbs.com for some advice.