Wednesday 19 December 2012

The strange case of the [insert name of animal here] in the night time

Recently, a calm and reasonably dry evening (this is a weather report, not a continence statement) saw me deploying a wildlife cam at our local nature reserve.

I am not sure that I've yet discovered the secret of successful camera trapping. I seem to pick the wrong location for subjects, or a location with vegetation that triggers the camera continuously, or even the wrong weather.

Exhibit A, a whole load of nothing
But faint heart never won a fair maiden, as they say (though what they actually said was a whole lot ruder, as I recall, but you get the idea). So another attempt was ventured.

The camera was targeted on a chicane in the path, with a view of the bit between the two bends. In truth, the path at this point is also a causeway between two water bodies, a fact that will increase in prominence as this blogpost unfolds.

Having ensured that:

1. a memory card was installed;
2. said memory card was empty and formatted;
3. the batteries were fully charged;
4. the lens was clean;
5. the camera was secured firmly;
6. the camera was pointing in the correct direction;
7. there wasn't any vegetation likely to trigger the PIR unnecessarily;
8. I had uttered a silent prayer to whichever deity was on wildlife duty that day;
9. the camera was still pointing in the correct direction;
10. it was still night time and I hadn't wasted the whole evening messing about with points 1-9.

... I returned home.

Sixteen hours later, I was back on site for the retrieval mission. Well, one always hopes it will be a retrieval mission, rather than a forlorn searching in the undergrowth and a general rant about how you can't leave anything lying around these days that's not tied down. And it was tied down, so what did they think they were doing, the complete and utter b*st*rds etc.

Fortunately, the camera was still there, though a quick check of the image count showed a paltry 24 photos. As at least half of these would've been triggered by me when setting up beforehand and switching off the camera afterwards, it didn't seem like it had been a particularly fruitful night.

However, once the memory card was plugged into my pc, it became obvious that some wildlife had triggered the camera. And whilst the images weren't great (I'd set the sensitivity to Normal, when perhaps High would've been better), they did prove the presence of several species.

Shortly before 10pm, a Fox put in its first appearance.

Much later at nearly 3am, there appeared to be a Badger foraging by the bench. 

But in between these times was the real surprise of the evening.

Either side of midnight, the camera was triggered by a creature that I was not expecting to be moving around during darkness...

A Mute Swan.

As mentioned earlier, the path is effectively a causeway at this point, so the swan was obviously shuffling from one water body to another. I suppose it could be in response to the fox's movements, though whether there's any danger for a swan if caught on land is debatable.

As one of my fellow bloggers remarked, "If you're up early, you're a lark. If you're up late, you're an owl. If you can't get to sleep, you're a swan!"

So all in all, it was an encouraging and educational experiment.


holdingmoments said...

Always exciting to see the results next day. Unusual to see the swan swanning around at night though.

I regularly set mine up in the garden, and watch the antics of my visiting hedgehog. Sadly some of the local cats too.

Imperfect and Tense said...

What do the cats make of the hedgehog? Or do they stay well clear?

holdingmoments said...

They leave him alone Graeme. The trouble is they eat his food. I've now got it in a large plastic storage box, with an opening just big enough for the hog. What with the bird food, and now dog meat for the hog, it's costing me a fortune. lol
Worth it though.

Imperfect and Tense said...

If only our stewardship of our local wildlife entitled us to a subsidy, eh? :o)