With camouflage nets, webcams, and good binoculars, you have a better chance of seeing wildlife up close, as Hannah Stephenson finds out.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021, 4:45 p.m.
“/>A pair of blue tits on a nest box. Image: iStock / PA
You may not associate yourself with the stereotypical anorak-clad, binocular-wielding bird-watching twitcher, but since the lockdown has brought more people into their gardens and wildlife, you may want a better view of the welcome ones Receive visitors to your green spaces.
As The Wildlife Trusts prepares for nature’s annual 30-Day Wildlife Celebration in June, there is plenty of time to stock up on clothing, tech, and animal feeding supplies for the best chance of seeing wildlife.
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Stuart Edmunds of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust has been using the latest wildlife camera technology to capture some of our elusive species for the last 12 years, filming the first known pine martens in Shropshire on remote cameras.
He suggests some of the kits you might need and things to keep in mind …
“Webcams are very easy to set up these days and cheaper than they were a decade ago,” says Edmunds. “They’re sending back live images that you can see on your television. Not only do you see birds feeding and nesting boxes, but you can also find out what other wildlife you are getting in your yard.
“You can get webcams that just plug into the antenna jack on your TV. Then you can run the wire through a tiny gap in your kitchen window and wire it to where you want it in the garden.”
Wireless versions are also available, including those that can stream HD videos to your phone, computer or tablet through an app.
Set up a camera trap (Trail Cam)
“This is a completely remote camera that runs on its own battery and uses motion detection to record everything in front of it and record it on an SD card,” explains Edmunds. They often come with straps, or you can purchase flexible tripods to attach the camera to logs, branches, and fence posts. Just make sure there are no overhanging branches that are more likely to trigger them than wildlife.
Again, they’re not as expensive as you might think, he says: “I paid almost £ 350 for my first camera trap 11 years ago, but you can get it for around £ 40 now.” Note, however, that in addition to your initial purchase, you will need to purchase an SD card and batteries. You can also buy nesting boxes with cameras already installed.
Choose your camera position
“Play with the camera,” suggests Edmunds. “I tried to put it in the bushes where I can’t see what’s going on.” Most camera traps have an infrared night vision function.
“If you only have a balcony, put a covered feeder like a bird table with a roof on it, put some peanuts and seeds on top, and attach the camera to it, and you can get some great close-ups. These cameras have really focused lenses so you can see the birds up close. “
Increase your vision with binoculars
“I would recommend good starter binoculars like Opticron, which, depending on the size of your garden, are ideal for bird watching on bird feeders. It’s the best way to get up close and personal with bird life. “
Choose the right time of day
“The best time to see birds is the first light, when it’s bright enough to start feeding, and when the sun goes down when they’ll eat as much as they can to get through the night,” says Edmunds.
Place the feeding troughs and nesting boxes carefully
“Birds feel much more comfortable when they have hiding places and the protection of a nesting box. It is best to have trees and branches nearby to sit on during the day. “
While many garden birds – like great tits and blue tits – get used to the presence of humans from afar, camouflage can come in handy when you want to get close-up shots of slightly rarer birds like goldfinches and bullfinches, it says.
“Some people I know built a wicker umbrella, made a hole in it, and watched it from behind as it hid it from the birds,” says Edmunds. “You can also buy really cheap camouflage nets that you can drape over yourself and sit quietly and see through. It’s about breaking up your silhouette and body shape. “
Plant wildlife-friendly plants
“Have as many native plant species as possible. Wildflowers such as yellow rattles, seed producing grasses, knapweeds, thistles and nettles attract all kinds of insects and birds. Even if you’re limited on balcony space, just plant a few pots of wildflower seeds, which will attract native insects. “
Look for hedgehog hotspots
You can capture other wildlife visitors like hedgehogs with strategically placed cameras near a bowl of dried cat food (which hopefully doesn’t just attract the moggie next door), says Edmunds. “In Shropshire we found that hedgehogs like birdseed that falls from bird feeders,” he notes. So keep an eye out for hedgehogs under your bird feeders.
Carefully position the bird feeders
“Don’t leave your bird feeders in the middle of the lawn where any birds that may be eating are susceptible to attack by sparrowhawks or other birds of prey. Put them on the edge of the garden where the smaller birds have at least one place to hide quickly. “
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