You might not associate yourself with the stereotypical anorak-clad, binocular-wielding birdwatching ‘twitcher’, but you may want to get a better view of welcome visitors in your garden.
Stuart Edmunds, of Shropshire Wildlife Trust, has been using the latest wildlife camera technology to record some of the UK’s more elusive species for the past 12 years, filming the first known pine martens in Shropshire using remote cameras.
He suggests some of the kit you might need, and some things to consider.
Invest in a webcam
“Webcams are really easy to set up these days, and are cheaper than they were a decade ago,” says Mr Edmunds. “They send back live pictures you can watch on your TV. You not only see birds feeding and in nest boxes, but you can find out what other wildlife you get in your garden.
“You can get webcams that just plug into the aerial socket of your TV, then you can run the wire through a tiny gap in your kitchen window and set it down where you want it in the garden on a cable.”
Wireless versions are also available, including ones that can stream HD video to your phone, computer or tablet via an app.
Set up a camera trap (trail cam)
“This is a completely remote camera that functions on its own battery power and records everything that moves in front of it through motion detection and records it on an SD card,” explains Mr Edmunds. They often come with straps or you can buy bendy tripods to secure the camera to tree trunks, branches and fence posts. Just make sure there are no overhanging branches that might set them off rather than wildlife.
Again, they are not as expensive as you might think, he says: “I paid almost $600 for my first camera trap 11 years ago, but you can get them for about $80 now.” But be aware that you’ll have to buy an SD card and batteries on top of your initial purchase. You can also buy nest boxes with cameras already installed.
Choose your camera position
“Have a play around with the camera,” Mr Edmunds suggests. “I’ve tried placing it in bushes, where I can’t see what’s going on.” Most camera traps have an infra-red night vision facility.
“If you only have a balcony, set up a covered feeder, like a bird table with a roof on top, put some peanuts and seeds on it and attach the camera to it and you can get some great close-up views. These cameras have really focused lenses, so you get to see the birds close-up.”
Boost your vision with binoculars
“I’d recommend a good starter pair of binoculars such as Opticron, which are ideal for watching birds on feeders, depending on the size of your garden. It’s the best way to get up close and personal to bird life.”
Choose the right time of day
“The best time to see birds is at first light, when it’s light enough for them to start feeding, and when the sun goes down, when they’ll be feeding as much as they can to get through the night,” says Mr Edmunds.
Place feeders and nest boxes carefully
“Birds feel much more comfortable if they have places to hide as well as the shelter of a nest box. It’s best to have trees and branches close by which they can perch on during the day.”
Think about camouflage
While many garden birds will become used to the presence of humans at a distance, if you want to take close-up photos of slightly rarer birds, camouflage can be useful, he says.
“A few people I know have constructed a willow screen, made a hole in it and observed from behind it, as it hides them from the birds,” says Mr Edmunds. “You can also buy really cheap camouflage netting, which you can drape over yourself and sit quietly and peer through it. It’s all about breaking up your silhouette and body shape.”
Plant wildlife friendly plants
“Have as many native plant species as possible. Even if you have limited space on a balcony, just plant up a few pots with wildflower seeds, which will attract native insects.”
Position bird feeders carefully
“Don’t have your feeders sitting in the middle of the lawn where any birds that may be feeding are susceptible to attacks by birds of prey. Put them around the boundaries of the garden where the smaller birds have at least got somewhere they can quickly hide.”
What birds do you get in your garden? Would you like to set up some cameras to catch the wildlife action?
– With PA
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