Thursday, March 3, 2011

Trail Camera Trials

When the bears were visiting nightly this fall, we thought it would be nice to have a trail camera to take their photos at night, without having to leap out of bed, turn on the flashlight, and try to get a picture. The cameras have infrared flashes that animals cannot see. Or so the people who sell the cameras say. We finally bought one for Christmas. It then took several months to get around to figuring out how to work it. We finally installed it last week. Of course, the bears are no longer around so we set it up on the culvert crossing over the little creek between two fields.

The photo above shows the camera in its protective "bear box" in the first of the two positions that we've tried at the culvert crossing, where we're reasonably sure that wildlife, as well as our dogs and horses, pass from one side of the creek to the other. So far, our success rate at capturing critters is rather dismal. Mostly we get my horses.

The first wild thing we successfully photographed was this raccoon. At least, we think it's a raccoon. It was right at the edge of the range of the camera. The photo on the right is cropped to show just the critter. We could have had a much better photo of a raccoon the next night when Mister McCoy, the young guard dog, treed one next to the pond. But I wasn't quick enough with my Nikon before the raccoon escaped.

We then set the camera to video and captured quite a nice sequence of a coyote walking by. It stopped for an instant, stared right at the camera, and then walked on.

But mostly, we've captured wet and muddy horses.... sometimes just a rump and tail as they fly past faster than the camera can catch. This day time video shows a muddy Polly leading the herd, as always, followed by her granddaughter, the black (and dirty) Nightingale, then Polly's palomino (and filthy) daughter Jessie Anne, and last the grungy Mr. Smith who took his sweet time following the girls. I really do occasionally groom these horses but it's hard to tell from this footage.

Polly, the leader of the herd, spotted the camera in the first location and stared hard at it. She apparently didn't trust this strange thing strapped to a tree trunk, as she kept the other horses from crossing the culvert for two days before she decided it was harmless. The video of the horses crossing above was taken from the second location. I then reset the camera to take still photos again. Polly made quite sure this contraption, that she must have known was doing something, was not dangerous. The sequence of snapshots showed her grazing her way gradually closer to the camera until she put her nose right on it.

The directions say best image quality is at fifteen to twenty feet. I guess Polly doesn't care if she's a little out of focus.

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