Of Mice and Apples

I decided to play dirty this week in my ongoing attempts to capture wildlife footage with the trail camera, so offered bribes to the mice in the garage. We had a load of apples and some cheapo cake from the supermarket,  so I thought I’d see what the mice made of them. The mice clearly don’t take after their garage owner, as they went straight for the apples first and only ate the cake once all the fruit had gone. They must have been really keen on the apples too, as they triggered the camera within 5 minutes of me putting the food out. The first film shows one determined to drag a piece of prize fruit back to his nest – it took him 4 attempts before he managed to carry one off. I am slightly worried that this now means I’ve got a stash of rotting apples somewhere in the garage, so I hope they eat all they’ve carried off.

The video was shot using the 460mm lens and isn’t quite as sharp as I’d like (having seen other bloggers’ much better images), but it’s not too bad.  I’m still practicing getting the camera set at just the right distance and angle. I did find a very useful video tutorial from Wildlife Gadgetman, which suggested tying a piece of string to the camera, with a knot at the correct distance to aid positioning. A simple trick, but very effective.

The second video I liked just because of the mouse’s nonchalant flick of his back foot as he trundled through the food. Both videos suffer slightly from glare at the beginning of each film as the infrared light flares before it settles down – I have at least seen this on other people’s videos though, so it’s not just our camera!

The third video shows how good (to my mind at least) the colours are on the daytime shots. This clip was taking earlier today on a very grey morning, but the colours are still good. The pink bits are some berry flavoured suet pellets (not sure the colour is entirely natural though) that the blackbird seems to be particularly enjoying.

Today the postman delivered my new 250mm lens, so I have high hopes for better close-up shots. The camera’s out with the new lens as I type, so hopefully by tomorrow I’ll be able to post some better videos and/or photos – although it may depend on what I find in the cupboards to bribe the mice with tonight!

After Dark

So my mission to master the Trail Cam goes on! It seems there’s a lot more to it than just pointing the thing vaguely in the direction of some animals, but I guess if it was that easy, we’d all be professional wildlife photographers!

Latest attempts have been at filming our little mammalian friends after dark. We’ve known for a while that we had mice in the garage (merrily munching their way through the bird food supplies), so they seemed a logical subject for our nocturnal trials.

Hopefully what the garage footage shows is a typical house mouse and not a baby rat! For some reason mice in the garage seem quite cute, but rats are less appealing.

We then turned our attention to the garden at night. Although we do get hedgehogs in the garden they are hopefully still hibernating somewhere and though we’ve seen foxes out the front, we’ve never seen them in the back garden. So the best bet for nocturnal mammals was once again rodents (and next door’s cat) and so it proved to be.

Again I think it is a mouse and not a juvenile rat, but if anyone can confirm either way, it would be much appreciated. The images still aren’t perfect by any means, but I’m hoping that with a bit of practice we’ll be ready to take better shots once the hedgehogs emerge.

So I am making progress and learning a few things along the way, most of which are fairly obvious when you think about them – but clearly I didn’t think about them first. For instance if you leave the camera out to run through a very cold night into the next day – the first few hours of daylight photos will suffer from the dewy condensation on the lens until the sun warms it up enough to clear. I have a lot of very foggy photos of early morning birds due to this! Ideally you need a fair amount of sun (virtually non-existent here since we bought the camera), but you don’t want to be pointing too much up at the sky. Videoing a swinging bird feeder produces (not surprisingly) lots of films of swinging bird feeders, not necessarily with any birds (258 videos one day alone). At night you need to balance the strength of the infra-red light against the distance to your subject – too strong and too close and it’s a white-out; too weak or too far and it’s a blurry image.

Hopefully spring will come soon bringing more photo ops and tempting this fair-weather blogger out into the garden to rummage through the weeds for invertebrate subjects – I’m missing my little spineless friends!