Monday, 13 February 2012



I have now completed my Churchill Fellowship report on camera trapping summarising my study trip and findings. If you would like a copy please visit and download a copy for your files.


Monday, 23 January 2012


Prior to leaving Australia I was able to assemble a list of questions and market information from wildlife researchers who use Reconyx camera traps around the world and as promised here are some answer to your questions from Recony;

Q1. There is an argument for having a PIR that has a greater field of view than the camera so that it can anticipate animals approaching. I use GJD Opal Elites to trigger video (Stewart et al, 1997) for this reason.
A1. Reconyx can customize the detection zone array to suit your needs in the professional series, so the standard design can be changed to suit a specific purpose.
 Q2. Will HC600 users ever get the coated electrical components, desiccant canisters, loop recording, telephoto lens and customizing options?
A2. The HC500 and HC600 are our outdoor series cameras and are built in a standard configuration to keep the cost as low as possible. If we were to allow custom options on the HC600 the cost would be equivalent to the PC900. The PC800 and PC900 are designed and manufactured with customization in mind.
 Q3. How can we overcome the corrosion problems in the tripod female thread, can we have plastic?
A3. Reconyx have taken this suggestion on board and will investigate options (following our meeting with Paul Meek). Reconyx uses a brass insert to prevent corrosion. If your mounting bolt is corroding, I would suggest changing it out for a brass or stainless steel part.
 Q4. Sometimes a sequence of obvious triggers only picks up one animal pass, what would cause this?
A4. If the angle of the camera does not match the slope of the ground or if the intended path of the subject moves outside of the sensing zones, the camera will not trigger. It is best to use the walktest mode and mimic the height and movement of the subject you intend to capture. If you could provide a series of photos to illustrate what you are asking that might help us better understand the situation.
 Q5. New Hyperfire need more space for desiccant, can 10 batteries be a factory alternative?
A5. Six batteries can be deployed per camera trap without harming the camera although there will be reduced LED performance at some point. Reconyx has desiccant tablets that fit in the camera and still allow use of 12 batteries. 12 batteries will give you maximum performance and runtime.
Q6. A BACKSPACE option on the camera labelling function is desperately needed because if you make a mistake in the name you have to start over. We’re finding the selection buttons too sensitive when changing labels – frequently when we OK a chosen letter it results in an OK for two letter positions and without a backspace this is very annoying! I know the labels can be changed using the configure software but there is a real advantage in being able to label the camera with the location once it is in position as it ensures pictures from that site are less likely to be labelled with the wrong location
A6. This is an option that we will look into for future models. Our current models only use 3 buttons. There are no buttons left for use as a backspace.
 Q7. What is the best camera placement for a HC600 to ensure maximum detection and why?
A7. The PIR sensors in Reconyx cameras are designed for animal passage across the detection zone, where possible the placement of your camera is best set facing perpendicular to the road and not at an angle and definitely not straight down a track. Chest height works well for large animals. This allows you to take advantage of both motion sensing beams.  Detection depends a lot upon the size of the animal you are trying to capture. If you are trying to get smaller animals, you may want to mount lower so as to avoid having the animal cross in the gap between active zones.  Walktest is your best friend in setup.
 Q8. When you complete a set of changes to the settings the final FINISHED selection takes you too far back up the menu structure so you often have to navigate forward to the point you were at to continue with your changes.
A8. We will look at this option on future releases.
 Q9. Can we request a European date format option? DD-MM-YY. We’re finding the US format is confusing for some of our non-USA technicians that are familiar with the British Empire!  Perhaps these things can be adjusted with a firmware update?
A9. This request was immediately acted on by Reconyx (following our meeting with Paul Meek) and a solution is being developed.
 Q10. In Map view, it would really help if we could import pre-prepared lists of keywords, or edit the list externally with a text editor, rather than having to enter them all by hand in the dialogue box. Some of us have long lists of species to enter as well as things like number of animals, age, sex etc.
A10. This feature is planned for a future release.
 Q11. Can you ship your desiccant pellets in a more airtight package? During a two day period of deploying 10 cameras the pellets in the packet had almost all changed colour before we even got them into the cameras.
A11. The packaging of desiccant cylinders (see pictured) is problematic and we are exploring other options.  We have taken steps to improve this (especially in bulk packs).  We have tested extensively, and generally the issue is that the bags do not get sealed
Q12. Can you recommend a small portable card reader/viewer for checking camera positioning in the field?  I wouldn’t argue for a viewfinder on the cameras, but a simple cheap accessory to achieve the same purpose would solve a big unknown during deployment. My personal camera (a Panasonic) won’t read the images as they are in an unrecognized folder structure (DCIM>100RECNX).
A12. The simplest option would be to take a Reconyx SD card full of pictures to your local camera store and try to view the images on different models. There are some good “point and shoot” cameras that are $100 or less that make good viewers. The Nikon Coolpix L24 is a great option.  It takes AA batteries, SD cards, view our pics and costs $79 USD.  Another good option would be a tablet pc or netbook. 
 Q13. The picture of a moving animal in the night (with IR on) becomes blurry and shaky making it difficult for individual ID (e.g. tiger, fishing cat, leopard), how do I fix this?
A13. Change setting on the camera to Fast Shutter. If there is still blur, go into configuration software on PC for Pro cameras and move shutter even faster.  You can run 4x the shutter speed the camera defaults to with settings in the config app.  Note, range will go down with faster shutter, as you have less time to absorb the IR energy on each pixel.
Q14. The images are recorded in one folder all through the occasions the camera is on. If an option is inserted to record images on separate folders every day will be of use for some studies particularly when one gets hundreds images over a week. This perhaps can be given as an option while configuring the camera.
A14 The simplest way to sort pictures by date is to import them into MapView or BuckView. On import the software will rename the pictures with a date/time/event code.
Q15. Could Reconyx set up their website like DELL websites where you could select the options you want to have built in your camera
A15. This is a feature that we are working on. Reconyx professional series cameras have a lot of custom options available.  Our goal is to provide valuable information so customers can easily build a camera that best suits their needs.
 Q16. Can we get an adjustable IR flash level in lower level cameras
A16. “night mode” is available on all of our cameras. This setting allows you to choose the best night time setting for your application. The options available are, Max Range, Balanced (default), Fast Shutter and High Quality. Each option has pros and cons. Details about each setting can be found in the user Manual.
 Q17. At what point will low battery levels effect camera operations? and what are the effects of different battery types on camera performance ie alkaline is not recommended - why ?
A17. Batteries do make a big difference; Energizer Ultimate lithium is the battery of choice. If you check cameras often NiMH are an economical alternative, but they do not run well in extreme cold, and they self discharge quickly at high temps.  Lithium and NiMH both have flat discharge curves…i.e. they can deliver current pretty reliably until they are almost dead.  We recommend swapping batteries at around the 20% level to be safe.  If you will not be back to camera for a long time, you might swap them sooner.  Alkaline batteries cannot power the illuminator – they are not designed for high performance devices.
Q18. With detection zones does the area projected at different distances vary with distance and subsequent shape- we need details on detection zone projections and subsequent limitations and need a way to calibrate individual cameras before deployment (camera vs camera and camera vs job).
A18.  Our detection zone overlay is very effective in helping you understand where the camera’s active zones are in an image.  The absolute most reliable way to set up and get desired results is with the Walktest mode.  If you cannot use it, then use the overlays to get a good sense for what to expect.  If you can use the Walktest mode, do so.
Q19. Why is it that two camera traps on a similar track can detect differently, recently I had two cameras facing each other in a dune system and both detected different triggers in day light.
A19. Two weather conditions will impact on your data, rain and radiant heat from the ground in exposed sites, as such camera trapping in deserts is problematic esp. away from trees and shadows. Aim is also critical. You want to make sure the body of the subject stays within the motion zones. Things like legs and arms tend to have smaller heat signature and will be more difficult to detect in extreme conditions.  Also, if sunlight is falling on the face of one camera and not the other, it will affect the PIR performance as one camera will be warmer than the other.
Q20. Can Reconyx add different language settings to make it easier for non-English speaking field technicians to use their cameras?
A20. This request is being considered on future models (following our meeting with Paul Meek). The goal is 7-8 languages as a standard function.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


You are cordially invited...

Camera trapping is the hot technique for wildlife monitoring, but do we expect more than the technology can provide?
The Australasian Wildlife Management Society in collaboration with the Invasive Animals CRC and partners are hosting a Camera Trapping in Wildlife Management and Research Colloquium in Sydney Australia in September 2012. To help us finalise the exact dates and location of the Colloquium, please register your interest. We will then confirm the dates and location and upload them to this webpage, along with updated information as it becomes available.
This Colloquium is open to any researcher, land manager or student who uses camera trapping to carry out research and monitoring of wildlife. The two day Colloquium will include short presentations of camera trapping projects and results and open discussion sessions to tackle issues such as data management and analysis, project design, technical constraints and ecological challenges.
The Colloquium will also bring together Australian and International camera trap trade displays.

Register your interest

This event is hosted by
The Australasian Wildlife Management Society (AWMS)
Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre
NSW Department of Primary Industries

Monday, 12 December 2011


I have been back in Australia for a few weeks now and have been trying to write my Churchill Report whilst distilling the information into the Camera Trappig Manual/Protocol that I am writing for the Invasive Animal CRC. I have also had the opportunity to speak with some of the people who I could not speak with while in the USA. The ideas have come think and fast since returning home and I am trying to keep the ball rolling on some collaborations and papers I want to write and research we need to do.

When I was in Monument Valley in Utah I stayed in a Hogan Bed and Breakfast next to the Navajo Community and set one of my camera traps outside on some chicken to see what was around. Interestingly I recorded some great footage of a grey fox and the owners cat preying on native desert rodents. The owner of the B&B has posted the images on his site, check it out or

Monday, 14 November 2011

San Diego Institute for Conservation Research – Mathias Tobler and Colleagues

Thank you to Mathias for organising an interesting group of people for our camera trap workshop and lunch time seminar, both were well attended by San Diego Zoo staff and other Californian researchers and students. The researchers covered a diverse range of interests and study areas from Red foxes in Nevada, Jaguars in Central America, the Channel Islands, Burrowing Owls in the US, Apes in Cameroon, Galapagos birds reintroductions, nest monitoring in the Cactus Rim, Condor Recovery Programs, Biodiversity research in Mongolia, Bears in Peru, human impacts in San Francisco, reptiles in Jamaica and a number of new and emerging projects in Costa Rica and elsewhere around the globe. It was an eclectic mix of people and subjects, all using camera trapping to carry out their research and monitoring.

The morning discussion focussed on ways to improve camera trap designs for wildlife research which led to a series of discussions about both camera and survey design.  A re-emerging issue was the cost vs quality issue in camera models.  There was common agreement that the product made by Reconyx was superior to other models but the cost was too prohibitive and as such people were buying cheaper brands so that they could deploy larger numbers in the field. Mathias is using Scoutguards and believes they are doing a pretty reasonable job in his research; he expects a failure rate of about 20% but regards them as consistent. There were a range of other cameras being used including Deercam, Trailmaster, Cuddeback and Bushnell Trophy Cams. Both Bushnell and Scoutguards were regularly deployed in tough country and the researchers felt the results were very good. The video quality of Scoutguards was considered to be very good by one of the researchers and a primary reason for choosing this model camera trap.  We had a brief discussion about the new Acorn tri-sensor camera trap and one of the researchers will be letting us know what her thoughts are on this new camera trap; I understand another of our colleagues is also using them in Italy.

The key requirements for a good camera trap design according to this group was a small unit, fast trigger time, 3-5 rapid fire function, good image quality, long battery life, video and still and the ability to use any size SD card.

An interesting discussion emerged about the differences between baited and unbaited sites (passive vs active) on analysis and the potential bias this can introduce in some species. Some researchers reported that in their assessments lures and baits introduced a bias, in bear studies lures were found to initially attract bears but then they showed avoidance.  The group were particularly interested in the effects of using a lure in occupancy analysis and Mathias was of the opinion that passive and active surveys can both work in this analysis. One thing was agreed – we need to undertake research on the effects of passive vs active stations and the effects this can have on detectability. I know that at least one of my host researchers has collected data on this subject but at this stage it is still unpublished, so contacting our colleague will be the first step towards resolving this question.

Mathias gave a seminar on his camera trap data base – Camera Base V1.4. This data base is an excellent platform for managing and analysing image data. At present he is aware of about 40 projects currently using his software and a new version, with some of the glitches resolved will be available early next year, time permitting. The software uses ACCESS as a back end and is designed to store single or paired camera data, which is neat. The software also enables analysis and comparisons between paired camera trap data to test for detection and allows image assessment that can in turn be used in pattern analysis for target species. The program has all the functionality of ACCESS in terms of queries, sorting and reporting etc and data can be exported to other formats if necessary. The data can also be analysed in CAPTURE and has a very nice Occupancy Modelling tool that removes the need for hand coding of data. A feature we are very excited about is the temporal activity pattern analysis function.
 Camera Base screenshot
Copies of Mathias’ software can be downloaded from and he is keen to get any feedback on how to improve the program.

We also listened to a short presentation by Mathias on occupancy modelling and other analysis techniques which raised some opinions about camera trap survey design and the implications of making sure that you have several years of data before attempting to use occupancy models. A case study example was presented on Peccaries showing how movement variations between seasons and years can influence the results of analysis.

In an un-planned session after the workshops had finished I was treated to a very interesting but quick presentation by Susan Townsend on her camera trapping research in Mongolia -  a very impressive project with some sensational images of the truly unique wildlife of Mongolia….. envious !

I was very privileged to have met such a large number of researchers using cameras from so many different backgrounds and projects, I am very interested to see how the reptile, bird and crocodile research progresses. I established some great contacts at this meeting and I think many participants have established new links and developed new ideas based on the days’ deliberations.  I was very encouraged to hear from many of the people in attendance, that they were supportive of the camera trap symposium being sponsored by the Australasian Wildlife Management Society in Australia next year. Moreover, that many people were keen to come to Australia or at least hook up on line through web based conferencing. I will provide updates on this Symposium in the next few months but keep the end of 2012 open for a few days of interesting discussion and some opportunities to travel around our great Country.


This is not an advertisement for Reconyx, you can all make up your own minds about their camera traps but I thought this was pretty interesting. Last week I set a HC800 in the forest overnight to see what was moving around the lodgings I was staying at in the Grand Canyon National Park. Overnight it snowed 2-3 inches and went down to -5 degrees Celsius, and when I retrieved the camera in the morning this is what I found.

To my amazement I took the camera back to my room and assumed the components would be frozen and so I didn't open it to turn it off so as to avoid any moisture getting inside the camera. When it finally did thaw out and I could open the casing, I was flabbergasted to see that the camera had been taking photos even when the Fresnel lens was frozen over. Obviously the images were not clear but it was pretty impressive to see the camera trap was still able to detect movement despite the ice and snow !

Thursday, 10 November 2011


I set up a Leopold and a HC800 at the B&B I was staying at in Tucson, Arizona. Only had two nights but got some nice new animals for the camera trap album.

 Coyote that was hanging around the house, I saw him in daylight too.

 Beautiful birds, the above is Gambell's Quail, nice top knot

Still need to key out some of the species but great diversity for one site.