Tracking the badgers in the garden...

If you've read my other posts you'll know we've got badgers in the garden and earthworks to suggest a sett too.  The question to be asked is: is the sett active? To find out requires a bit of investigation, so I'm looking through where I place the Trail Camera and how the badger is filmed to try and backtrack the badgers movements.

I know it would be easy to say that we should put the Trail Camera over the sett to see for sure, but this hasn't been successful, partially because of the overgrowth there and partly because the camera is not as sensitive as I would like.

The success of capturing on video by feeding the badger has prompted me to look at where I site the camera in an attempt to see if I could work out where the badgers were coming from in the garden.  I'll do a simple plan of the garden shortly, but for the moment let me show you a couple of photos to explain my thinking:

First a wide angle view showing the area of the garden I'm looking at:

The area I've filmed the badgers in is on the left centre of this picture and the camera has been attached to each of the trees visible on the left of the picture looking towards the boundary of the garden at the back of the picture.  The sett mentioned above is in amongst the trees on the right.

Yet, as I said above, despite putting the camera so it overlooks the sett, I've had no photographic evidence of the badgers there.  However, in the area to the left of the trees I have had fairly repeatable results (admittedly with the bribery of some scattered nuts) with the camera attached to any of the trees there.

(note here the addition of a silvered plasticised sheet arranged over the IR LED's (but with a hole over the day/night sensor - thanks to a suggestion from Ron)) This provides better exposure at night and avoids whiteout during the videos.  This photo shows the camera mounted slightly higher than normal (at about 600mm, whereas the previous camera positions have been set lower at around 300mm).  This was very quickly successful last night with a more circumspect badger walking round the top of the field of view but this time only 15mins after I put the nuts out...  Was he waiting for me???  Who knows.

The consistency I have noted in each of the videos is that, more often than not, the badger approaches the feeding area from the left.  Not from the right, which would be the case if approaching from the sett.  So over the next few nights I'll position the camera on a different tree to see if the different view will give us some more information.

Update for 10th April:  Walnuts eaten but no images.  Camera didn't trigger.  :(
Update for 11th April:  Walnuts eaten but no images.  Camera didn't trigger.  :(
Update for 12th April:  Walnuts eaten and an image - nicely this was the badger looking for a scratching post - the camera was dirty when I recovered it this morning!

Update for 13th April:  Walnuts eaten but no images.  Camera didn't trigger.  :(
Update for 14th April:  Camera set up to record while we were away on holiday.  Various animals and birds captured, so will compile a composite movie of them all.

I still think this camera is flawed.  Insensitive PIR (only works upto 2m); infuriating 5sec delay (I get frequent empty videos because the subject has wondered off after triggering) and the LED's are too bright close to so I get whiteout.  This means to get images that are useful, I have to:
  • Make sure subjects are within 2m of the camera to trigger it
  • Hope that the subjects hang around the camera for more than 5secs and stays around for a further 15 secs to register a worthwhile capture
  • Mask out the infra red LED's cos all the action is too close to the camera and the LED's are too powerful at that range
Come on, ProStalk: Why design it one way but have to use it another to get any results?  It's time I designed my own camera, methinks...

We've badgers in the garden...

We had been worrying about the sudden spate of small shallow holes appearing in the garden - some with a deposit of animal poo in - over the past three months

I'd already been round the garden to see what other clues there were and, while in an area of trees, I came across a number of holes tucked away at the top of the garden:

You can probably estimate that these holes were between 20-30cm across.  To see if the holes were still active, we put a stick across one as you can see in the last picture.

We suspected badgers as the prime candidate, but suspecting is one thing; having photographic evidence is quite another, so I set up the Trail Camera on the tree on the left in the first picture to see what was doing the digging.  For a number of nights I didn't see anything on the camera (despite seeing that nuts and dried fruit put out in front of the camera were being eaten!)  This increases my confidence that the sensor for the trigger on the camera is not sensitive enough but reading another users' experiences with the camera I decided to persevere this time trying video rather than still shots.  The first night I tried this produced this rather fine example:

Still no evidence of activity from around the holes but that is where the camera is now situated, so I will leave it for a week or so and see what I can see by the weekend.

Well, it's Thursday night, and I scattered a few old walnuts around and set the camera up again.  This time I put a sheet of metalized anti-static plastic across the Infra Red LED's to reduce the light output and hopefully improve the pictures.  As suggested by Ron Bury on a previous post I punched a hole in the sheet to leave the daylight sensor fully exposed to the light in the garden.

I was rewarded by two decent films of a badger again.  They're linked below for your pleasure:
It would be good to know what you think.  Please feel free to add a comment below.

ProStalk PC2000 - is the PIR working?

I was given a ProStalk PC2000 Trail Camera by my children as a Christmas present in December 2010 and have been trying to use the camera in my garden - unfortunately with little success.  All I have been able to capture is the tail of a fox and plenty of pictures of me walking away from the camera after fitting it.  Now the reason for this could be me; it could be the camera - or it could be the wildlife are all playing tricks - so I decided to run a series of tests to see what was happening.
Looking at the situation with my engineering hat on it seems that the the only pictures I have had 'triggered' by the camera are when the triggering subject is close (ie within 2m of the sensor). This means that at night, the IR flash is too strong and I only get whiteout (see my blog post about this here)
Outdoors, all I have managed again is close-triggered shots, which, with the 5sec minimum delay between trigger and shot, means I get an empty picture, or a picture of the departing animal's tail.

With the above in mind I looked up the specification of the camera and then set out a test:

  • Resolution: 2MP
  • Size: Ultra Compact 82x122x41mm
  • Display: TN Digital screen without backlight
  • Motion Sensor: One PIR, 45Degree, 45 feet range (at 4 Degrees environment temp)
  • 15 LED IR with a range of 10 meters
  • Photo Take Delay: 5s-60min (Default 1 Min)
  • Storage Image Size: SD Card up to 32G
  • Resolution: 1600x1200 (2.0M)
  • Movie Resolution: AVI 640x480
  • Powered by 4 x AA Cells
  • Working Time: 6 Months, (6,000 images)
  • Shutter Speed: 0.9seconds
For the test, I carried out the following:
  • Brand new Duracell batteries inserted in the camera.
  • Camera set up as recommended by the suppliers
  • Mounted the camera on a pole, with sticks marking 5m from the camera and 10m from camera 

  •  Arrange for a small animal look-alike (my nephew, in the picture at 10m point) to walk in front and wait five seconds on the 5m/10m mark
  • Repeat this activity five times at 5m and again five times at 10m
  • Analyse the results
The camera specification talks about the IR flash and photographs working upto 10m away so with this in mind, I have to assume that the PIR sensor would also work to the same dimensions. However, the results from my test were quite conclusive: The ONLY pictures I had from the camera during this test were when I was setting up the 5m and 10m marks and when my nephew walked directly in front of the camera.

Both these were close passes at less than two metres. No photos were triggered for any of the walkthrough tests at 5m or at 10m.  Disappointing to say the least.

So far, the supplier has replied with:
We would recommend that you move the trail camera closer to the subject like a trail, path or feeding station about 1m-3m away. This give a large enough subject in the footage. If we had a way to set this, then this would be better.
My thinking is that the pictures show that sharp focus on the camera is from about 3m to infinity, so for best results I need the subject at least 3m from the camera.  Additionally, why should I have to use a camera that focuses from 3m to infinity with an IR flash designed for up to 10m range at a trigger range of 1-3m?  Image quality is reasonable, considering the optics, but I would rather the unit was more sensitive. I'm looking to record squirrels, rabbits, foxes, badgers and an occasional deer in my garden, so reasonable sized mammals should trigger a properly working camera.

Or am I being too optimistic?

Last night I tried another test.  I put the camera at 300mm height on a tree close to an area that is being dug up in the garden.  In this area I scattered a few Brazil nuts and raisins and waited overnight.

In the morning I found no nuts left and no photographs of animals.