Through the stillness of an early morning mist, a shape appears, carefully stepping through the short undergrowth. She weaves through the trees, stopping to pick and browse as she goes. Then she stops, motionless. Ears pricked she listens out into the gloom, something catching her attention. Magnificent silhouette, the more impressive for her swollen belly, a sign of new life to come. Here she is captured, a glimpse of a world unknown, forever immortalised in a frame.
Camera traps provide a window into another world, one that is often unseen and unknown. As technology improves and efforts increase, humans are now capturing the natural world in increasing detail, observing new behaviours, and keeping track of wildlife that would otherwise be difficult to monitor. Camera traps also provide us as individuals with the opportunity to open our eyes to the world that lies outside our doors. To find out more about camera traps, how to use them, and for some inspiration, check out my ‘How to… Use and Make the Most of a Camera Trap’ post.
Since I got my camera trap a few years ago, it has become an important way for me to explore the hidden world around me. In particular, during spring 2019, I spent 10 weeks conducting camera trap surveys across 5 sites on my family’s land in Dorset. It was a lot of fun to see what species I could detect and in what numbers, whilst seeing how things changed over a period of time. For my results, check out my ‘Spring Countryside Camera Trap Surveys’ post on my blog.
Camera Trapping 2020
This year, despite COVID-19 leading to a national lockdown, I tried to utilise the time I got to spend outside to get my camera trap out as much as possible. The result was some successful and really enjoyable camera trap experiences throughout the spring, which helped to keep me going. On my adventures, I chose to focus on a mixture of 5 new and old sites, including Badger setts, a footpath, a Sycamore copse and a meadow. It was great to once again monitor the animal populations on our farm, experience new life, and to see if something interesting might turn up!
The real stars of my camera trapping this spring just happened to be our British large mammals. In particular some of my highlights involved fantastic sightings of charismatic Badgers. One of my favourites was capturing 2 cubs playing and fighting outside the entrance of a sett at all times of day in April, with a parent often popping in to check on them. I also had some great luck at another sett in June, where my camera trap captured 2 Badger cubs interacting with each other in their natural habitat, in an open area within a hedge. It was really great to see!
This year Foxes were also popular sights on my camera trap. These ranged from adults and cubs at their dens to being captured on the move, giving me a new insight into their lives and interactions. Roe Deer were also a popular sight on my camera trap as they moved through their habitat and spent time foraging, with does and bucks often being seen separately at these same locations. All wildlife are fantastic to be able to experience in this way though!
When Things Go Wrong!
With the highs of camera trapping, there are always bound to be some lows. With many successful days camera trapping this year, my low came in the form of one project not quite going to plan! After sightings of a new fox den at the border of a hay meadow, I set out to try and get photos of this family. Over the course of two weeks I threw all my ideas and efforts at achieving my goal, but over and over again the cubs alluded me. Instead my camera seemed to spend more time capturing the local Roe deer population in this particular location! Here though are some of the glimpses I did catch of this elusive family:
The Best Bit!
There is always going to be one highlight that stands out from a season camera trapping. For me this year my best bit came in the form of a surprise. Whilst having my camera trap out on an active Badger sett for a week in May and then in June, my camera, amongst many photos of Badgers and their cubs, caught some unexpected shots of a lone Fox cub. In my photos, most days the cub would spend its time sleeping and playing alone in the central area of a hedge above a Badger sett. Sometimes it also made an entrance at night, but it was always seen alone. It was an interesting insight into this cub’s more unusual world.
As the natural world now begins to descend into a deep slumber, get out there now and explore, allowing your surroundings to give you strength, whilst leaving nothing but footprints.