Infra Red Wildlife trail cameras can provide a fascinating insight into the nocturnal and daytime movements of elusive species such as otter, deer, foxes and red squirrels.
Infrared trail cameras are essentially mobile digital cameras which have a motion detection system that detects a human or animal intruder into an area, and triggers a camera which takes either a series of still images, or video footage.
Primarily designed for hunters to scout deer patterns in a hunting zone, these cameras are now more and more used for wildlife observation.
BBC Countryfile recently featured their Stealth Cam Prowler HD infra red scouting camera, showing how they can be used to great effect to capture footage of elusive animals such as river otters and badgers.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show coverage on BBC also recommends the use of these infra red cameras for people looking to see who or what is lurking around their garden at night, and suggested they are particularly useful for capturing footage of the nocturnal movements of the badger.
Infrared and incandescent wildlife cameras
Some trail cameras are equipped with an incandescent flash which works similar to a home compact camera. This flash although powerful, should not be used when capturing footage of nocturnal animals as a bright flash can often scare and disorientate the animal causing injury, and also attract unwanted attention from humans who may steal the camera.
The Spypoint infrared cameras and Stealth Cam Prowler HD trail cameras feature a Stealth IR system which uses a series of high power infra red LED emitters to illuminate the subject some distance in front of the camera.
These infrared cameras are invisible to the human and animal eye, and will take either still or video footage in complete darkness without alerting the subject to the fact it is on camera.
Which Trail Camera
There are so many wildlife cameras on the market today, it’s often difficult to decide which is the best for you.
It really depends on a few different factors, but we have listed the most popular with their essential differences.
Most modern trail cameras utilise the SD memory card format and have their own built in, limited, storage capacity.
We recommend the SanDisk memory cards, and a capacity of 4Gb or more.
These memory cards can be swapped over on location, and the footage downloaded to your laptop when you get home for review.
Some cameras feature a LCD screen to review captured footage and this is ideal for on location checking of what the camera has captured.
Stealth Cam Prowler HD
This camera is the ultimate High Definition video camera, and is the perfect choice for obtaining high quality video footage in 1080P High Definition and also captures sound, so you can hear conversation and/or movement through foliage.
It uses a stealth infra red combined with an 8MP camera to capture high quality still footage.
The Prowler HD is the most popular trail camera for wildlife trusts as they often like to play back footage in visitor centres, or at meetings.
Spypoint PRO X
The Pro X from Spypoint is the ultimate still image camera, and features a 12MP CCD to capture ultra high quality still shots. It also captures video with sound but although not HD, we think it is fantastic quality, with rich colours, depth of field and detail.
PRO X also has a built in LCD screen for watching captured footage and is ideal for on location reviewing of what the camera trap has captured.
It also operates with a High Power Infrared emitter but has the most sensitive detection of any trail camera we have experienced.
The Stealth Cam Prowler uses a PIR detector to capture movement, but the PRO X goes a step further with a motion detector and a heat signature detector. This not only makes the Pro X ultra sensitive, but it means less false alarms as the unit will only trigger when it detects a real target, and means less false alarms with branches of trees moving near the sensor etc.
The Pro X as with all the IR/B and IR/C, can be powered by a 12V or Lithium battery pack for when you may need to leave your camera unattended for extended periods.
SpyPoint IR/A and IR/B Trail Camera
We think the Spypoint IR/B is the best allround trail camera for wildlife monitoring. It provides high quality still shots from the high resolution CCD camera, and also provides video footage in black and white at night, and colour during the day.
Using an Infra Red IR emitter, the subject never knows its photo has been taken.
Prostalk 2MP Nature Camera
The Prostalk series of trail cameras are ultra small, and ideal for locations where the camera needs to be hidden.
A low resolution however means that the images are not the best, but it’s ideal for security footage or for reviewing animal movements without needing high res images for publishing.
Setting up your Infra red wildlife camera
Location really depends on the level of security your camera will need to have. If the device is on your own ground, or garden, then placing it on a tree trunk or even in a bush, will be adequate.
However if you are scouting for wildlife in an area that is visited by the public you may need to secure the camera using a security cable kit, or mount it high enough out of reach, but remember to angle the camera down to the level you wish to capture.
No point capturing birds flying past and seeing a nice bit of sky instead of the badger eating grubs below!
The Spypoint trail cameras have an adjustable detection zone which is ideal for capturing footage of animals likely to walk close by or far away from the camera.
This is crucial in a situation where you have wildlife on a path approx 15meters away, and you have vehicles on a road approx 25meters away. You do not want to trigger the camera every time a bus goes past, but you don’t want to miss out on the badger at night snuffling up the trail.
When placing your camera it’s crucial you test out the detection before leaving the camera to capture wildlife. The Spypoint and Stealth Cam wildlife cameras both have test modes, where you can set the camera, and then walk about in front of the camera in the area you feel is most likely to get animal traffic.
I use my labrador pup as a bit of a “test dog”. By simply leaving a few dog biscuits on the trail, I set her off to find them and watch that the camera picks up movement. My theory is a small lab pup is a more realistic target than a 15stone human.
Once you know the camera is detecting the zone you wish to capture, you need to think about what type of footage you need.
A series of still shots can be fired off, or a video of a variable duration. You can also set a time delay between triggers, so that you can have as little or as much footage as you like.
A customer of ours who monitors badger growth finds it handy to scatter a few raisins in front of the camera, and she records footage of the badgers as a video clip, and then has plenty of time to review the footage and record any data she needs.
Whatever camera you decide to go for, it’s amazing just what goes on at the bottom of your garden whilst you are asleep.
We have seen lots of amazing footage from bears to badgers, and wolves to window cleaners, and even some footage from the USA captured on a Prowler HD which is mind boggling, could it really be bigfoot……?
Enjoy using your Trail Camera, and look out for the many online “best trail camera photo” competitions.
Visit our website news section for further help and advice in Trail Camera set up.