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.

Enhancing habitat connectivity for hedgehog populations

Hedgehog

Hedgehogs are in the news with a serious decline in numbers – according to this recent report by David Wembridge, “at a conservative estimate a quarter of the population has been lost in the last ten years”. But things are moving in a positive direction with the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust leading the way in hedgehog conservation in Britain, thanks to funding from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. Find out more about their pioneering Solihull Hedgehog Improvement Area – part of the Help for Hedgehogs campaign.

Simon Thompson, Hedgehog Officer at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, gave us some tips on how to help your local hedgehog population:

“There are measures which we can all undertake to provide space for our hedgehogs, the simplest and most important of these is to provide access into and between our gardens. Walls and fences create an impenetrable barrier to hedgehogs and a small hole, about the size of a CD case will easily allow hedgehogs to pass between gardens. Ask your neighbours to do the same and all of a sudden there is dramatically larger landscape through which hedgehogs can find food, nesting sites and potential mates. Once your garden is linked to the wider landscape then having a hedgehog box instantly provides a structure within which hedgehogs can construct themselves a safe and secure nest to sleep during the day or perhaps even hibernate through the winter.”

Hedgehog Homes

Hedgehog homes are a safe retreat for the hedgehogs in your garden and provide a warm and dry shelter along with valuable protection from predators. Site your home in a quiet position, out of the prevailing wind, ideally in an area with some cover.

Hedgehog Nest BoxHedgehog Nest Box

The Hedgehog Nest Box has been designed and extensively tested by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and provides a safe and snug environment for these wonderful creatures. The box has a predator-proof tunnel and removable roof and is approved by Dr. Pat Morris of London University.

Igloo Hedgehog HomeIgloo Hedgehog Home

This attractive wicker Igloo Hedgehog Home is designed to blend into your garden. The built-in entrance tunnel provides protection from predators and the Igloo is spacious enough for a family group.

Hogitat Hedgehog House

Hogitat Hedgehog House

The Hogitat Hedgehog House has an attractive appearance and will fit perfectly into any garden environment. Made of principally natural materials, it has a waterproofed roof and predator defence tunnel. Provides a safe retreat for hedgehogs and other small mammals.

Hedgehog reading list

Hedgehogs by Pat Morris (Whittet Books, 2014)
The Hedgehog by Pat Morris (Mammal Society, 2011)
Hedgehog by Hugh Warwick (Reaktion Books, 2014)
The Disappearing Hedgehog by Toni Bunnell (Independent Publishing Network, 2014)
A Prickly Affair: My Life with Hedgehogs by Hugh Warwick (Allen Lane, 2008)
Britain’s Mammals: A Concise Guide by The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (Whittet Books, 2010)
Urban Mammals: A Concise Guide by David Wembridge (Whittet Books, 2012)

Main photo attribute: Hedgehog by Milo Bostock on Flickr – licensed under CC BY 2.0

Five FAQs About Attracting Birds to Your Nest Box

We’ve put together some answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about bird nest boxes – follow this basic advice to ensure birds take up residence in your nest boxes.  You can browse the full range of nest boxes we sell online and if you’re keen to find out more – check out the BTO Nestbox Guide, it’s packed with essential information.

When is the best time to put up nest boxes?

Barn Owl Nest BoxTraditionally people have put up nest boxes in the early Spring so they are ready for the breeding season.  However, there really is no ‘best’ time to put up nest boxes.  By putting up nest boxes in the Autumn you can provide much needed winter refuges for roosting birds and increase the chance of them staying and nesting.  However, any box erected before the end of February stands a good chance of being occupied.  Even after February there is still a chance of occupancy.  Tits have been known to move in during April and house martins as late as July.  Whatever the time of year the box is erected, it is likely to be used for roosting so shouldn’t stay unoccupied for long.  Therefore, put your nestbox up as soon as it is available rather than leaving it in the shed!

Where should I put my nest box?

When it comes to nest boxes, the ‘where’ is much more important than the ‘when’.  Nest boxes must provide a safe comfortable environment, free from predators and the worst of the weather.  This may be difficult to achieve; a safe location out of reach of predators may also be exposed to the weather, so have a good think before you start bashing nails in.

Tree Creeper Nest BoxNest boxes can be fixed to walls, trees or buildings.  Fixing to artificial surfaces means the growth of the tree does not have to be considered (Schwegler nest boxes last at least 20-25 years; a significant amount of time in the life of a small tree).  If you’re planning any building work, remember that some Schwegler bird and bat boxes can also be built directly into walls and roofs.  Nest boxes placed on poles can be exposed to the weather.  Locating boxes out of reach of predators is virtually impossible (weasels can climb almost anything), but you can make it harder for the predator.  Boxes in gardens must be located where cats cannot get to them, making walls a better option than trees.  Prickly or thorny bushes can also help to deter unwanted visitors.  Some nest boxes also have anti-predator designs (e.g. Schwegler’s Tree Creeper nest box).  Avoid nest boxes that have a combined bird feeder, and even avoid placing your nest box too close to a feeder.  Visitors to the feeder will disturb the nesting birds and the feeder will attract unwanted attention from predators.

For many species the height of the box is not crucial.  However, by placing it at least several metres off the ground you can help prevent predators and human interference.  The direction of the entrance hole is not important; it is far better to ensure a clear flight path to the box.  Crucially, the box should be sheltered from the prevailing wind, rain and strong sunlight, so in most UK gardens aim for an aspect of northerly, easterly or south-easterly.  If possible, position the box with a slight downward angle to provide further protection from the rain.  Wherever you position the box, try to ensure that you can still get access to it for maintenance.  And finally, if possible, try to put it somewhere where you can see it so as to maximise your enjoyment of watching wild birds in your garden.

Is there anything else I can do to deter predators?

Forest Nest BoxAs already mentioned, location is the most important factor when trying to deter predators.  Whilst some mammals can climb walls, a blank wall is as safe a place as any.  Ensure that the box cannot be reached by a single jump from a nearby branch or the ground.  Box design can also help deter predators.  An entrance hole reinforced with a metal plate will prevent grey squirrels and some avian predators from enlarging the hole and gaining access to the nest.  Schwegler’s wood-concrete boxes are too hard for any predator to break through.  However, you can also reinforce a nest box yourself with metal and plastic sheeting, or even prickly twigs.  Not only can these prevent predators from getting to or finding purchase on the nest box, but they can also help insulate the box from the weather.  Deep boxes may prevent predators reaching in and grabbing nest occupants, although some tits have been known to fill up deep boxes with copious quantities of nesting material.  An overhanging roof will also help prevent predators reaching in.  If using open-fronted nest boxes, a balloon of chicken wire over the entrance can prevent some predators gaining access, although weasels will still be able to slip through.  If you live in an urban area, cats are likely to be the most common predator.  Gardeners have long since used various methods to exclude these unwanted visitors, such as pellets, electronic scarers and even lion dung (available from your nearest obliging zoo), all with varying degrees of success, so you may want to do some experimenting.

How do I manage the nest box?

A well-designed nest box will only need one annual clean in the Autumn.  Do not clean out nest boxes before 1st August as it is against the law and boxes may still be occupied.  Wait until Autumn and then remove the contents of the box, checking first that the box is definitely unoccupied.  Scatter the contents of the box on the ground some way from the box to help prevent parasites re-infesting the nest box.  Use a small brush or scraper to remove debris from the corners.  Do not wait until the winter to clean out nest boxes as birds may already be roosting in them.

How many nest boxes do I need?

The exact amount of boxes required will depend on the species and the surrounding habitat.  As a very general rule of thumb, start with ten assorted small boxes per hectare (ensure uniform spacing between boxes).  Keep adding several more boxes each season until some remain unused and hopefully you’ll hit on the correct density of boxes.  However, even if you only have space for one box, remember that one box is better than no box (providing it’s suitably located).  Many UK bird populations have plummeted to worryingly low levels and they need all the additional nesting habitat they can get.

Further information about individual nest boxes, including advice on positioning, can be found alongside each nestbox in our range.  If you have any other questions then please get in touch with customer services.