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!

Trails and Tribulations

So the saga of the new trail cam continues. Two days on from the last post and I do at least have a few more bird photos – still none that are great quality, but at least I’m getting greater quantities of the duff ones, so I guess that’s an improvement! Here are a couple of the stunning examples so far:

Blackcap Sparrow

Somehow I’d thought we’d just stick the camera out and it would miraculously take perfect, in-focus shots of everything. Of course that doesn’t happen. First the camera was too far away from the subjects, then too close. Then there were twigs in the way, then it was too dark. Yesterday’s attempts were hampered by constant rain. Today the sun is out, but the wind is blowing a gale. We had the camera pointed at a bird feeder, which even from the sofa I could see was lurching around on the branch. The result – in the half hour the camera was out, 197 photos of flailing suet feeder, of which only 8 actually had a bird in!

I have been forced to take drastic action and read the manual. Whilst I grudgingly admit that the manual has some good points, there now just seems to be even more things to consider – infra-red levels, motion sensitivity, shutter speed etc. None of which will come as a surprise to anyone else no doubt, but for a technophobe like me it all feels a bit daunting.

The good news at least is that the birds aren’t at all phased by the camera, even if I am. They are happily flying around it no matter how close it is to their food – maybe I can just get them to take the photos – birdie selfies? We’ve also got lots of recordings of birdsong, so nothing wrong with the sound.

But finally after many trials and even more errors, I have managed to get a few half decent videos.  They’re only short and they’re far from perfect, but they’ve got recognisable birds! This is the highlight so far, a pair of Long-tailed Tits on the suet block.

I suppose the moral of this particular post is patience. I’m trying to console myself with the thought that if I get all the most brilliant shots in the first weekend, there’ll never be any need to put the camera out again. At least this way I’ve got months (oh god) of anticipation waiting for that perfect shot.

New Toy!!

So excited this week, hubby and I finally got round to buying a trail camera for the garden. Must admit we were partly inspired by Winterwatch (although we may have to downgrade our expectations from their Scottish Wildcats to Malvern’s domestic moggies) and partly by frustrations at our inability to get close enough for decent bird photos without one (and the neighbours probably think we’re crazy enough without stalking the birds in camouflage gear!)

I’ve always been of the “life’s too short to spend ages doing sensible research” ethos when buying anything and tend to go for the first one I see “that looks nice”. So after reading one whole review and a quick look on Amazon, we’ve got a Bushnell camera. First attempts produced a very attractive photo of my knee (available on demand) and a brief video of our cat coming in for treats. But at least this proved it worked.

The bracket to attach the new toy to a tree hasn’t arrived on Thursday, so thought we’d try out some ground shots. Camera duly positioned at ground level and left to do its thing for the day. Came home that afternoon optimistic for a memory card full of bird videos. What we actually got was a memory card full of videos of the bush blowing gently in the breeze against the skyline – I’d got it angled all wrong in the morning. One (of the twenty or so) videos did manage to capture the top of a blackbird head and one got a fly going past, but they weren’t exactly the footage I’d hoped for.

With dusk falling, the camera was out again, but the birds were of course insisting on feeding in other parts of the garden. (tempting thought that maybe we need to buy more cameras?) We left the camera out overnight and managed to capture a photo of next door’s cat – progress of sorts! Unfortunately we must have a setting wrong somewhere as most of the photo was a white out and overblown.

Friday and we finally have a photo of a bird! Not a brilliant photo, but a recognisable blackbird. Clearly still not got the settings right though as it is hardly a sharp and detailed image. So if anyone’s got any tips on how to improve, they would be most gratefully received. But in the meantime – ta-dah: