Sunday, 27 July 2014

I Spy with my Infra-Red Eye...

As you may know I have been keeping track of a small piece of my patch with a Bushnell Trail camera. I have been using trail cameras for about 8 years now. My first camera was bought from a company in America as at the time there were few on sale in my price range, although I was stung by the import duties.
I am what some might call a lazy naturalist. I enjoy listening to the dawn chorus only from my bed. I m not one who gets up at 5 am nor am I able to manage to stay up much past 11 pm. This proves somewhat of a problem in that most of our countries more interesting species only come out at night. The trail cam allowed me to explore my patches wildlife through the night whilst I selfishly slept the hours away. At first I experimented with a number of locations and was pleased with reasonable picture of badgers coming out for bait – peanuts. I found later that the smaller of my now two cameras was perfect for catching the antics of mice. I lowered its positioning and began to record the antics of Wood mice and Voles.

With my latest acquisition I have opted for a more scientific approach. A fixed camera point on a well used animal track along a hedgerow separating a wet meadow and Alder Carr from a barley field. The camera is mounted at about chest height on a beech tree. The trees canopy ensures there is little understory providing clear lines of sight.

To track movements rather than get good sightings I decided not to bait the camera and just record what passed by over the course of several weeks. I started on the 14th April and barring 2 weeks when I moved the camera to the river, it remained in situ until today when it was revealed that the batteries had run out (these will be replenished tomorrow and the survey will continue with only a week’s gap). I now therefore have 11 weeks’ worth of data and patterns are beginning to emerge.

It has been a pleasure to watch the Vixen rearing her single cub that seemed to use the tree as a marker as to how far he could travel from the earth whilst she was absent. It has been fascinating to watch the Badgers rocketing by. They seem to not stop to forage in the spot. Instead this is definitely a highway and one that is used intermittently perhaps once or twice a week. It is some 200 metres from the sett and not far from a latrine pit area that probably marks the edge of their territory. Muntjac are an occasional visitor. They do not seem to be residents, moving into the area for a day or so before moving on. 

The last sightings have encouragingly include a male and female pair rather than a lone male. Lastly there are the smaller mammals, Grey Squirrel, Brown Rat and Wood Mice. These are all infrequent visitors.

I am hoping to keep up this tracking of animals for as long as possible with as few gaps as possible and see what further patterns emerge. At present I have recorded 6 species of mammal and 7 species of bird but am holding out for my holy grail species, a Weasel. I have recorded them at this exact location in the past but have never managed to catch them on trail cam. Heres hoping the next few months are as productive.