Time Lapse/Sensor activated Cameras - any suggestions

Hi,
We are interested in seeing what wildlife live at our property that we don’t know about. We know we have swamp rats quite close to the house judging by their burrows, a variety of lizards and snakes. We have a variety of birds including Red Browed Finches, Eastern Spinebills , New Holland honey eaters. Any suggestions for sensor activated/time lapse cameras? Would need to be able to “see” at night.

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Hi @allabella007 and welcome to the forum! Just letting you know that I moved this to our General category, since the Forum Feedback category is reserved for “Discussion about the iNaturalist Forum, its organization, how it works, and how we can improve it.”

Great question, and I look forward to seeing everyone’s suggestions!

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I don’t know if there are better options out there, but when I did some work out in the QLD bush we used Reconyx cameras like these https://www.reconyx.com/product/Outdoor_Series

They have night vision, but a bit pricey.

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should it be in #nature-talk, since it is’t directly related to iNat?

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I may have made an unwarranted assumption that the equipment was being sought to capture observations for iNaturalist. @allabella007 can you clarify?

Helpful Link: https://emammal.si.edu/about/camera-trap-recommendation

I also attended a talk about remote cameras for herp surveys. They found that timed cameras captured more activity since many herps don’t trigger the IR sensor. Lots of photos to go through.

I’ve thought of using a webcam and Motion for recording herps and other things. The setup would have to avoid moving background (grass in the wind) to work well. https://www.linux.com/tutorials/how-operate-linux-spycams-motion/

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

I’d be interested to know if anyone on here has experience using camera traps or other camera systems to monitor open-cup nests of birds (as opposed to nests in boxes). The situation I want to use this method for is in the understory of tropical forest, to collect information on natural history (patterns of incubation, brooding; prey species brought to nestlings) and to identify nest predators.

We have been using Bushnell camera traps, but find that they do not last more than a year or two in often difficult (very wet and humid) tropical forest conditions. I have heard that Reconyx are more reliable, and they come with a five-year guarantee, so perhaps their much higher price is worth it in the long run? However, these sorts of cameras are not set up to focus on birds, and identifying insect prey is not really feasible.

I am also looking into systems that can power a small spy-camera to film 24 hours a day, as many of the predators in this system are snakes that fail to trigger standard camera traps. It would also be a big plus to be able to operate the recorder and change the battery from a distance away from the nest, rather than having to approach the nest to change the card of a camera trap. Mains electricity is not an option, so it will need to be powered by a battery that can be recharged from a solar panel.

Again, if anyone has experience of these systems it would be great to learn from you.

The only similar topic I found was already closed, or I would have posted there:
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/time-lapse-sensor-activated-cameras-any-suggestions/6549

opened topic and moved your post

Try contacting
birdcams@cornell.edu

I found the email address in the about section of the Cornell Labs Bird Cam youtube channel… they might be able to put you in touch with appropriate technology options for your goals.
https://www.youtube.com/c/CornellLabBirdCams/featured

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Saw the ‘help me chose a timelapse’ and I thought, hey, yeah great idea I am looking at a new wildlife cam (‘hunting / game camera’) to set up on our land. The one we have is weird with rechargeable batteries (eneloops) and it’s IR is very spotty, quality not the best. What ones do you have that you like? $100 price range, unless there is like a wonderful one but please make the case for it, I don’t have much money.

current one at night - see it would have been wonderful to have a better shot of this pair of foxes!

The wildlife monitoring volunteers I advise have gradually moved to using mostly Bushnell cameras. They last better than the other cameras they’ve tried, have good image quality, and have fewer malfunctions. Also, they’ve moved to lithium batteries, which cost a few times as much each, but last many times as long.

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Depending on the set-up situation I’ve seen people use solar powered security cameras with cell-phone relays in them to send the images.

A friend of mine was involved in a project in the Middle East setting up cameras to monitor falcon nests. They found that security cameras were pretty much the only option that did what they needed and fit their budget. Worked pretty well for them.

Under $100 is tough. I would read reviews at trailcampro.com. I’ve been happy with the Spypoint Force-Pro, on sale it was about $125.

sub-$100 puts you into budget camera range, and there are going to be significant limitations to those cameras.

I deployed 62 Cuddeback cameras for my master’s degree research about a decade ago. IIRC, they were about $400/ea back then, and they had their limitations, too. I got around some of them by setting them up in paired arrangements.

I have a dozen trailcams of various brands. None of them are perfect, there are compromises with all of them. And it all depends on circumstance – at what distance is the animal? What’s the weather like (damp, foggy => LED light is reflected by the droplets)? Is the sun hitting the lens (should be avoided, but sometimes it does happen nonetheless and you lose definition)?
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&project_id=camera-traps-trail-cams&user_id=olrett&verifiable=any

Some have Wifi and Bluetooth, some come with remote controls. Gimmicks. Unless your camera is mounted high up in a tree, those features are useless. I have my cameras relatively low above ground so they are easier to access – the quickest way is retrieving the card and transferring the shots to a phone/tablet with a card reader.

General considerations

My first trailcam was a Stealthcam and was awfully sloooooow to trigger. Had lots of shots without a subject because the subject had already moved on by the time the camera was ready to shoot. No matter what brand you get, make sure that trigger time is below 0.5 secs.

Don’t fall for high megapixel counts. Natively trailcams have 3 or 5 MP, and I leave them at that resolution. Any larger setting will only yield interpolated shots that take up more space on the SD card, also take longer to write to card, delaying the camera.

Speaking of cards: Don’t be stingy with the card. Get one that allows faster writing speeds (reading speeds are less important, but they are more prominently advertised). Especially if you record video, the faster the buffer clears and the video is written to the card, the sooner the camera is ready again.

Speaking of batteries: I use lithium rechargeables. More expensive, yes, but they are indeed 1.5V and not 1.2V like Ni-MH rechargeables. Ni-MH rechargeables become weaker over time, and when they reach the point where they are too weak to fire the LEDs at night, you end up with black shots. I prefer the lithium type because they keep the voltage up until the end. When empty, they’re empty all of a sudden, they do not gradually get weaker; the camera just stops taking pictures. Lithium rechargeables last much longer. I have my cameras set to take series of 3 shots in a row. I normally have to recharge the lithium batteries after 4-6 months, depending on traffic and time of day/night when said traffic is detected. With Ni-MH batteries I only get weeks of use. If you record video, you’ll go through batteries like nothing. One more reason to get lithium rechargeables and a fast card.

Field of view: There are wide-angle cams (>100 degrees) mainly advertised for surveillance. In my experience, they are less suitable for capturing and IDing animals. I prefer a narrower FOV. Of course, that all depends on your needs. Some cameras have sensors left and right at a 120°angle, even if the camera has a narrower FOV. When a sensor detects movement, there is enough time normally for the camera to be ready to shoot when the animal enters its FOV.

Shots in daylight are almost always fine, so you can disregard positive reviews about how good the daylight shots look on a particular camera. The proof of the pudding is the night shots. While they are never 100% tack sharp, regardless of price range, brand name, or place of manufacture, some models (even by the same manufacturer) are better or worse than others.

Cameras

One of the cheapest (80 euros) and smallest (only 4 AA batteries) models I have surprisingly turned out to be pretty good. They come from China and were (are?) sold on Amazon and eBay under various names. What they have in common is that the screen is located outside, as are the various buttons. They take the smaller type SD card which can be a hassle because the card is easy to drop while retrieving it from the camera with cold hands to transfer the files to a phone/tablet. Here is what they look like: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09F9TDC33/ They are all identical, regardless of name.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/92388170
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/74772898

Victure trailcams have a tendency to fire strongly at night, and I often end up with washed-out shots with too little contrast, or the animal standing in a cone of flashlight: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/92539099 But the daylight shots are very good.

The cameras that have so far yielded the best night performance in my experience are made by Secacam and Bresser. My Bresser cameras only have 3MP but yield useful night shots:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/48438347

One of my Secacams is this one : https://www.amazon.com/SecaCam-Raptor-Degree-Camera-Surveillance/dp/B01IFG7LUC/
which has a number of issues however in my opinion when it comes to handling. The camera splits in two halves (monitor, buttons, card and 4 batteries in the front half, 4 in the back half which remains attached to the tree), and I find that not very practical because I only have two hands.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/36217911

A newer (more expensive) model is this one that handles much better but I can’t find it on US Amazon, hence here is the German Amazon link: https://www.amazon.de/-/en/SECACAM-Remote-Control-Wildlife-Camera/dp/B095X8THLM/
It has the same good battery drawer that the Victure cameras have: At a press of a button, the battery drawer pops out a bit (it points downward but doesn’t fall out, you need to pull it out hard). Whereas my Victure cameras with that system however are not 100% water proof (rain tends to collect at the bottom) the Secacam is much better in that respect.

Deployment
Don’t point the camera against the sun, if you can help it: https://www.inaturalist.org/photos/165859207
Keep the camera at the level where the subjects are.
Watch the distance: The closer the subject, the better the detail. The farther away, the stronger the LED should be. However, strong LEDs work not so well when the animal passes too close, you may end up with contrastless white silhouettes.
Set sensitivity to medium or low, otherwise the camera will trigger at the slightest breeze moving a leaf.
The camera should have a clear view – plants grow, and what was a clear view at the beginning may suddenly no longer be when a twig reaches into the frame and triggers the camera all the time.