So, following on from my last blog where I found lots of signs of mammal activity I decided to set up the trail cam I got for my birthday, which I had thus far been unsuccessful with. I placed it near a patch of bare ground surrounded by some trees, near where I had seen signs of mammals foraging. I was finally successful and got this shot of what I think is a red deer:
Red deer wandering down a path through the reserve - Cara Bell camera trap
Now as I grew up in the Scottish highlands I confess I can be a little indifferent at times to red deer, them being so commonplace there. However, when coming back from adjusting the camera, I found these tracks and had a wee shiver of excitement:
Deer tracks - Cara Bell
Close up - Cara Bell
These were fresh deer tracks that weren’t here ten minutes earlier! It was really exciting to think that there are animals very close by and yet unseen, and perhaps even watching me! It gave me a real sense of the wildness of wildlife, despite it being an animal I’m very much used to.
Experienced trackers are able to determine a rough size and weight of an animal from the prints and the depth of the indentation left. A series of tracks like this can also be used to establish the animals gait and how fast it was travelling. It all helps build a picture of what is going on in the woods. I hope one day I can be that good!
After my first photo I adjusted the camera to face a trail through the grass to see what’s been using it. After a few more days I came back to find more photos of red deer:
Peek a boo! - Cara Bell camera trap
Red deer grazing - Cara Bell camera trap
And even more excitingly (for me as I’ve never seen one), I also got a couple of photos of a badger:
Foraging badger - Cara Bell camera trap
Another badger foraging five hours later. Is it the same one? - Cara Bell camera trap
So from my limited experience of using a trail cam I can safely say that it works a lot better when you do some groundwork first. Pay close attention to small details, like tracks and disturbances on the ground and try and set it to the height of what you’re expecting to find. Then it’s a case of trial and error. I am excited to see what more I will discover during my internship at Coombes Valley.