Saturday, 6 April 2013

A spy in the garden

I got a Bushnell Natureview HD cameratrap less than two months ago as a birthday present. The camera takes either video or stills, and works at night too, as its has got a battery of LEDs that activate at low light levels, but only black and white photos are taken at night. It can record the time, date and temperature on the photo itself. You set it on with the memory card in place, and wait as long as your patience allows before checking what has been photographed.
 I have been using it in the garden, to see what visits at night, or when we are not around. Our garden is quite small, with a fence on one side and a brick wall on the other, but the garden door has a large gap under it to allow cat access. First, I attached it to the small apple tree, pointing to the bird table, but the camera only took photos of Woodpigeons and Blackbirds, and not all the visits by these species resulted in photos - judging by the disappearing seed. In contrast, within a week, I got a fox photo - three in fact, as you can set the camera to take three shots every time the motion sensor is activated. It took me a bit by surprise, as we had no prior evidence of a fox visiting. After this, I set the camera on a tripod, as low at it allowed, quite often. Every time we roasted a chicken for dinner we had taken the bones and carcass outside, and recently I had noticed that even the big bones had been cracked and eaten, so I wondered if a large cat could do that, or it had to be a fox.
 The two following times we had chicken and placed the bones in front of the camera, it only got cat photos, loads of them. I wasn't expecting so many different cats to visit (about 11 so far in my garden cat list). No wonder our little female cat was afraid of feeding outside.
 I have been placing the camera on the tripod, overlooking the base of the bird feeder and a drinking bowl. This was a bit of a compromise between trying to get more photos of the visiting fox and getting some bird shots too. This location indeed has been quite successful, as birds and cats come to drink regularly, especially in spell of dry weather.
 I have to say something about bird photos with this camera. The smaller bird I got was a robin, but the quality for small birds is not very good, as they take a very small area of the photo, as the camera is set to focus about at 3 m in distance. There is a little clip on lense you can purchase to be able to take close ups, which apparently works very well with birds. A newest model of the camera includes this in the box.
 I set the camera with a fully charged battery set while we went away last week.  The drinking bowl had been emptied completely, despite the cold. I got the card out today and there were about 1600 photos in it. As I was downloading them into my photo editing software I glimpsed the profile of a fox in one of the shots. After checking them all, twelve fox shots had been taken, including one of the fox drinking on the bowl.
It is always such a thrill to download the photos (and it is only my garden!), I can't imagine how exciting it must be to check it after having set it up in the wild. It has been truly enjoyable to use the camera, and I shall continue setting it up every day. I now have nicknames for all the cats visiting my garden.
 Follows a selection of the best of last week's photos.
First glimpse of the fox head
The fox was thirsty too
A bushy tail
This is my neighbour's cat Lewis
and my other neighbours' cat Blackjack
A blackbird visits
Another thirsty cat, Yellow Collar
I have called this one Mia, looks like a female
This is Fatcat I (yes, there is a II, see below)
A very disappointed Collared Dove checks the empty water bowl
A pair of Woodpigeons
Fatcat I and II together
Black Chin...
...and our cat Mai
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