Trail cameras have played a huge role in monitoring wildlife. The ability to leave a camera hidden in the environment has left many a conservationist excited as to what they might see. I too have used trail cameras countless times and it’s like waiting for Christmas morning to find out what walked through the trail. Largely used to monitor wildlife trails or resources such as a watering hole, I have used them up in the canopy. After years of using trail cameras to watch badgers undisturbed at their setts to keeping up with the family fortunes of the local fox family I have branched out.
Owls have always fascinated me from a young age. I think that it has been the fact that more often than not you hear them and rarely see them, and when you do it the feeling is incredible. One of the more common species is the Tawny owl with its quintessential ‘Twit twooo’ which is the male and female calling to each other. In my day job I have access to a lot of scrap timber destined for the skip, that is until I arrived. This time though I enlisted the use of my mum’s car boot instead of the usual of lugging it on the bus home with me. Now it was time to design and build the nest box.
Having managed to get the building material free from work it was time to start cutting out the pieces. Now there are many different designs online for building a nest box and you can easily get lost in ‘which is best ?’. Someone in the owl conservation space told me that all the owl is looking for is a hole. Now the box I picked provided enough space for a family of owls and solid protection from the elements. Some elements I liked were the two hinged openings, one for when you need to clean the nest substrate and one for use by ringers if you get owls nesting. So armed with my new circular saw, courtesy of my girlfriend, I was ready to go !
With the box built I had to find a suitable place to site it. It’s often best to get owl boxes up during the early months of the year, this is when owls start to pair up and look for suitable nesting sites. Some of you that read the blog will know I have a local site near me where the owners are more than happy to have me install the boxes.
Previously I have had squirrels take over nest boxes and so I have decided to place this behind the old Little owl box. My hope was to allow the squirrels to have the Little owl nest box and then they would leave the Tawny owl nest box. So with the plan set I got over to the site to set the nest box in the tree. For substrate I used wood shavings, owls mostly make small depressions to lay their eggs in.
Now this is where my friends over at The One Stop Nature shop come in. Having met the team at the Amateur Entomologist society’s trade show we discussed the possibility of using their new trail cameras to monitor raptor nest sites. This came about after hearing of the cameras built in WiFi function that is used with a phone app. Now I have seen trail cameras which send you images or short clips to your phone but this has no additional costs such as paying for a data sim. This meant that I would be able to do away with lugging the ladder around the field to check the trail cameras, now I can simply open the app on my phone and download the video or image from the base of the tree.
The team at The One Stop Nature shop kindly sent me out two of their trail cameras which were the OS WILD 4K SOLAR WI-FI trail camera and the OS WILD 4KDS MAX Wi-Fi trail camera. Both of these cameras capture super high quality video as well as images. I think so far my favourite out of the two is the OS WILD 4K SOLAR WI-FI trail camera. This is mainly as the night vision is incredible and so totally different to any other trail camera I have used. Having used trail cameras before I wanted to test the ease of use straight out of the box. Now what better way the to do away with the manual and dive straight into the menu. The menu layouts is very straight forward and having a clear bright LCD helps especially when setting different adjustments. I would however recommend reading through the manual if you are new to trail cameras but honestly I think for these cameras you will easily navigate through the system.
The app used by the trail camera is in my opinion very user friendly. To start up the app I would go through the following steps. Firstly start by turning off your mobile data as this app relies on connecting to the WiFi from the camera. Then once you open the app it asks for you to turn on the bluetooth, here you will select the camera. Once selected it asks for you to turn on WiFi for the camera. Once connected it will bring up a green tick which means the camera is connected. From here it open up to the main live feed of your camera. This is particularly useful when initially setting up the camera as you’ll be able to perfectly position your cameras field of view. To then view any recorded clips you press the logo with the deer. On the viewing page you’ll be able to view and save your media to the app, where you can then save directly to your phone.
It was now time to get the boxes up in the trees and keep my fingers crossed that we had some visitors ! The two Tawny owl nest boxes were trialled at two completely different sites, one sited in beech tree on a horse livery and one sited in a coniferous forest. The locals had heard Tawny owls calling during the evening so it was time to see whether my handy DIY were any good, at least good enough for the owls. On one of the boxes I also rigged a 4g camera to see if the infrared lights had any effects on the owls or whether they behaved as though the cameras weren’t even there. On this particular box it only took a couple of hours before a pair of Tawny owls came in to inspect the nest box. it was brilliant to watch and I couldn’t wait to check the trail camera. It took a few more weeks for the other box to attract but sure enough a Tawny owl has been inside the box and calling for a mate.
It’s been great fun using trail cameras in a new way. For years I had always used them on the ground but to have been able to easily monitor nest boxes at height was brilliant. I have to say a huge thank you to the team at OneStop Nature Shop for supplying these cameras. I will be looking at using these cameras for other upcoming projects as the ease of use makes them effortless in their practicality. By clicking one either of the images below you will be directed to their page to see more about these trail cameras.