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.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Some Animals Caught in my Camera Trap - Monument Valley, Utah

I set a Reconyx PC800 in the desert on some chicken bits and got some great images of a Grey Fox.

......... sadly the local domestic cat also got lucky and feasted on a local desert rodent.

Success in Switzerland

I just recieved an email from Kristina Vogt of KORA in Switzerland, while I was there we hiked up the mountains to set a camera trap for wolves - it was trickie with local people unhappy about wolves, the landscape being very rocky and the risk of losing a camera to walkers was a concern. Despite these risks we placed a track set camera trap and we were sucesful !

Saguaro National Preserve (National Park) – Don Swann & University of Arizona

Three days in Arizona wasn’t enough to capture the magic of the desert in this part of the US. Picture perfect weather, stunning landscapes and a smorgasbord of fauna biodiversity.  Don Swann the Biologist of Saguaro NP hosted me for three days and we had a fruitful  time discussing camera trapping and biodiversity surveys. Don has been involved in camera trapping since 1993-4 and has contributed many papers on the subject. Don’s team is working in East and West Saguaro NP on the outskirts of Tucson in Arizona carrying out biodiversity assessments. I spent most of my time with Don and Nick Perkins who is responsible for the camera trapping program.

The objective of their developing program at Saguaro is to determine species richness in all habitat types represented in the NP, these habitats are influenced by geography, geology and elevation.  Despite having used many different camera models over the years, they are using Cuddeback Capture because they are white flash and due to their simplicity and cost.  Although Don has used many different camera types over time.
Don and Nick have divided the NP into 1.6 km grids and then stratified the area according to habitat type and elevation. In each grid they have generated 6-7 random points and are sequentially placing 4 camera traps per plot for 6 weeks. Sites are passive, in fact Don did some comparisons of results from baited and non-baited sites are found no significant difference in detections. The camera traps are checked every 2 weeks.  Interestingly they place their camera traps very close to the ground (<30cm) on steel posts but have had good results.  They are interested in all fauna but record more of the medium to large sized species eg deer, mountain lion, squirrels, raccoons, black bear, jaguar, coyote and Javelina. Their objectives are purely management driven – know what you have, its status, its trend  and manage accordingly.  They also use camera traps for Biolblitz -  a citizen science program aimed at measuring biodiversity in NP. This has been a huge success for the Park and very demanding for staff.
One crazy issue Don raised was the purchasing constraints enforced in the US with goods made in China – meaning that any model of camera trap made in China can not be bought ??.  Go figure !. Making new acquisitions rather difficult.

One important subject that emerged from our discussions on camera traps and their fitness for purpose was that we as researchers need to recognise that camera traps are no different to any other survey method we use and that all approached have limitations and biases. The Key message  being “don’t see camera traps as a panacea to survey design – we will always have imperfect data it just depends on your identification of acceptable errors.

“you will never know what you never know”……………… Don Swann 2011

After two days of walking into two plots and setting camera traps we met with a crew of folk from the University of Arizona and the Sky Island Alliance team who are working in Mexico on Jaguars.  The SIA people (Sergio Avila and Jessica Lamberton) have been using camera for 10 years and their primary interest is in jaguar surveys north and south of the Mexico border. They also chose Cuddeback camera for the image quality, white flash, price, simplicity and reliability-longevity. This group is also intrinsically tied into the Citizen Science program using camera traps to monitor plots.

We also met with Lisa Haynes the Coordinator of the Wild Cat Research and Conservation Centre, she collaborates with a multitude of people working on big cats in Namibia, India and USA. One of her primary interests is in understanding the status of Mountain Lions in the Tucson Mountains. Lisa has also been using camera traps in monitoring predation of Upland Falcons and together with Jim Sanderson has just secured funding to survey jaguars along the northern border of Mexico.  Lisa has used many cameras over time but has Cuddeback Experts and Bushnell Trophycams.

Lisa mentioned a novel vandal of her Cuddebacks – apparently in her study area woodpeckers are attracted to Fresnel lens’ and she has had several pecked out.

We also briefly discussed the software program designed by Jim Sanderson who was unable to attend our meeting.  This program uses renamer and a drag and drop system to file your images. Again this software sounds like a useful option but only if you have a single target animal and don’t need to code thousands of images.  However the analysis part of the program sounds excellent.

The conversation continued over drinks and we had some invaluable thoughts about defining experimental designs and the importance of defining how people define an event in a series of detections.  We all had a range of thoughts on what defines an “event” based on the target species and the questions being studied.

On Wednesday we exchanged ideas on camera trapping training courses and Nick and Mary-Beth described the structure of their school student course.  I also gave them an overview of our NSW Dept. Primary Industries/IACRC camera trapping training course.

The NPS is doing some excellent work in Saguaro and Don had a lot of knowledge to share and I am sure we will have further communications and collaborations.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Jean Laffite National Historic Park Baratavia Preserve- Craig Hood

I was keen to see how cameras trapping has infiltrated the US national parks system in Louisiana area and organised to meet the Ecologist Julie Witbeck and consultant Craig Hood. Unfortunately Julie had a funding proposal to write which had a higher priority so Craig kindly showed me what is happening with wildlife monitoring in the Preserve. The Preserve is in the Mississippi delta area of New Orleans, Louisiana  and is a unique habitat type caused by sediment dumps along the bayous of the river. This creates linear patches of forest between the mainland, wetlands and water ways. The Preserve is interested in assessing the biodiversity of these interesting patches of forest that is regularly inundated by flood waters – an interesting event that happens somewhat often. This is not surprising when you see the catchment of the Mississippi River.

This Preserve’s program is still in its infancy with regards  to biodiversity camera trapping and Craig is hoping to expand the design and intensity in the next funding period. Presently they have about 20 Cuddebacks and two Reconyx and they are doing presence-absence surveys. They have established  passive sites just in the linear patches of forest along the Mississippi-Bayou wetlands.  These fairly new forests are hosts to Armadillo, Coyote, Bobcat, White tailed deer and raccoons.

Their monitoring program is ongoing and evolving. Craig is still formulating his survey design and he is relatively happy with the Cuddebacks but can see enormous benefits in the Reconyx HC500’s he has deployed. Craig has adopted the standards recommended by Desk Team.

I am presently meeting with Don Swann and colleagues in Saguaro National Park Arizona and learning more about their biodiversity surveys and more about Citizen Science programs and how they work in the US. As some of you may know Don has been using camera traps since 1995 and has a lot of knowledge to share.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Trailcampro Springfield, Missouri – Rich Howe and Crew

I have spent the last couple of days with the very busy Rich Howe, his Dad and staff at Trailcampro.  Rich took two days out of his outrageous schedule to show me the traps ! Trailcampro provide some of the best independent information on camera traps on the web and most of you will know of their website. The very competent team carry out any number of comparisons between camera trap and equipment and provide excellent summaries of their findings. I have been using this website for several years now so if you are not accessing this information yet, I suggest you have a look. They have done some very interesting tests on detection zones, trigger speeds, electrical outputs and batteries;  a new report on battery power will soon be uploaded to the website and gives some very helpful insights into battery type and charge.

I was fortunate to see and have described how Trailcampro carry out their tests including seeing the Triggernator in operation – a funky device designed by their Engineer (who sadly had gone bush so we didn’t meet) to measure trigger times between camera traps. If you check out their site you will see it in action, its very ingenious.

Trailcampro has access to every camera available as well as a range of equipment. I had a chance to see the new Spypoint camera, Moultrie, Leupold and Scoutguard with SMS functionality. The Spypoint Tiny-W has is a dual system and uses a wireless function to send the images to a detector that can be buried or hidden with just the antennae pointing towards the sensor device. It will be interesting to see how this camera performs – it certainly scored well in the shoot-out tests.

I suggest everyone should read Rich’s synopsis on batteries too. He has done some interesting research on batteries and charging and gave some good advice today; never ever mix charged and uncharged batteries together in the device – it can have serious consequences, one of which is battery melt down or a reversal in polarity. Always make sure each battery is charged equally.

Rich’s knowledge, and his staff for that mater, on camera trap functionality across all the makes and models is unsurpassed. We had some interesting discussion about the Ultimate Camera Trap specifications and how some of the functions have either been in previous models or are about to be released in new models.  Trailcampro have a dedicated staff member who monitors the camera list server site so we have a great resource of knowledge reading out questions.

Handy hint 1 - for those of us in Australia who order from Trailcampro, experience shows that if you can keep your order below $1000 the additional costs at our end are reduced !!!!! ………… if you know what I mean ? .

Handy hint 2 – if you are working in dangerous critter country, I have found a dual purpose camera setting device.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


The guys at Trailcampro recommended this mounting device today, its excellent and affordable at about $20 USD. Its a Slate River Ez-Aim Game Camera Mount but does need a camera with a tripod mount. I have one to trial and will post any feedback.The device is screwed into a tree by hand or with a screw driver used as a lever.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Jay Eggert Meeting – University of Missouri & Smithsonian Institute Collaboration (Roland Kays)

This morning I had a short meeting with PhD student Jay Eggert who is working in collaboration with Roland Kays and others on testing whether image recognition software can be a future tool to wildlife camera trapping programs. The collaboration aims to establish broadscale Citizen Science programs (more to come following a meeting with Roland Kays) using camera trapping. Jay and his cohort are involved in providing the technological expertise to determine whether image recognition algorithms can be developed to extract relevant animal metrics that can inturn be used to identify animals from photos. In the IACRC and University of New England Australia, we have also been looking at this approach but these collaborators are already well down the track. I hope we can explore opportunities for some Australian connections and contributions when I return. We had an interesting discussion about their research and some of the possible barriers and complexities of using this approach.

Next stop TrailCamPro in Missouri for a few days playing with cameras and testing methods !

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Meeting with Reconyx, Holmen Wisconsin

Well this meeting was more valuable than I could have hoped for, the Reconyx team were a great bunch of blokes and we had between 5-6 people for the most part of the day discussing various aspects of camera traps. I provided them with a copy of the Ultimate Camera design and this was discussed at length, they were very grateful to all of the contributors for the list of functions and again some of the wish list are either in place or soon to come on line. One big message for me was how willing Reconyx is to listen to researchers and that there is flexibility in what features you can have customised on the Professional Series.
Interesting fact – did you know that the very first Reconyx camera was designed for a small mammal researcher and was not for hunting ?

Hunting cameras is now a major part of the Reconyx market but closely followed by researchers and they are very keen to further develop and refine this market. I found the team very keen and they were very willing to listen to any issue and try to solve reasonable suggestions to improve the products for research.

I was able to raise many of the questions that I gathered from the Camera Trap LISTERVER and have some great feedback and advice, but Reconyx have also asked me to put the list to them in writing and they will address anything else they can. They urged users to email their help line on with any problems or suggestions because they have a system in place to manage volumes of queries and they want to be able to provide customer support as quickly as possible. I have also suggested that they might set up a Q&A troubleshooting page on the website that is updated regularly and that has a search function so that our first point of call for advice is their website. I have also given them the list server address to keep an eye on so that they can contribute to the continuous questions that are raised between researchers. Hopefully this will provide an additional help avenue for use Reconyx users.

Here are a few answers to some of our questions;

Blurry images – check the settings in night mode firstly to make sure you have increased the setting to high because the default setting is medium, you can also reduce the flash intensity to get better images but your range will be reduced.

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. 

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, but to my surprise I was told that during rain the heat signature of animals will be significantly reduced. Apparently rain and heat create a blanket to the PIR sensor, so your data will be affected. 

During setting we all know how important the walk test function is but Reconyx urges everyone to use it every time to maximise your detection success.

5.       Reconyx can customise the detection zone array to suit your needs in the professional series, so the standard design that I have been highlighting over the last year can be changed to suit a specific purpose, in particular some that the DZ is centrally focused.

6.       Reconyx is looking at how they can add a language function to their settings or a language choice in the customise settings so that when you program the settings in the software you can name the custom in a different language for the benefit of non-English reading field staff.

      They are looking at providing a date format in dd/mm/yyyy as well as the US form.

      Batteries do make a big difference; Lithium is the battery of choice. The team could not say with any accuracy at what point battery life effects performance but they confirmed that the camera will be affected by low battery levels. I suggested that lower than 60% may be a time to review changing batteries before deployment and this was thought to be reasonable.

      If using rechargeable batteries they are affected by extreme cold and hot weather, if you are working in very cold or very hot sites they advise only using Lithium batteries.

           Six batteries can be deployed per camera trap without harming the camera although there will be reduced LED performance at some point.

      The packaging of desiccant cylinders (see pictured) is problematic and Reconyx is exploring an air tight packaging option to reduce them crystals absorbing water during transport. They are looking into a great idea which should overcome this problem.

      Reptile and frog camera trap users – a better way to use cameras given the heat differential problem is to set the camera in time lapse mode at high intervals in daylight ?

     Different lenses are available in the professional series,  you can get a 2 x telephoto lens.

     While there is a function to adjust the PIR sensor sensitivity, the default choice should always be HIGH this overcomes any issues about detection variability the further the animal is from the PIR. If you reduce sensitivity it will reduce detection of small animals, so unless this is your objective always leave it on high.

Having never bought a HC800 I had never had a chance to use the Map View data base that Reconyx continues to develop for its users and I must say there are some very nice features, although in its basic capacity (Buck View) this program will reduce filing and coding time by over 50% for me. The software accessed your data, extracts the meta data (exif) including photo quality data eg saturation etc and send it to a data base, it also have a very fast viewing function that allows you to view images at a customised speed or manually. It uses Google or a map of your uploading to mark camera sites and then relates future data to those points. It also allows tagging and basic coding of your data. The data can also be exported in a CSV file and entered into your data base of choice. If anyone is using this program already, make suggestion to Reconyx on allowing some more research based customisations because they are keen to improve this software. There are still some modifications that I think would improve it and I have passed these comments on, but over all a nice bit of software. I now have a copy and will be testing it. I have also suggested that they might put a demo clip on the website so interested people can look at it and get a feel for its functionality. 

The other benefit of the professional series is the additional setting that can be accessed through the software, this is also available in the outdoor series eg HC600 but the features are fewer. I have never used this software and now realise how useful this is to fine tuning settings that could just make all the difference.

A significant take home message for me was that the extra cost of buying the Professional series of cameras eg HC800 is well worth doing, the design features are a bit more suited to our needs, the electrical coating to reduce moisture issues and the software are well worth considering.

Keep your eyes on the Reconyx website because they have a number of new products in the pipeline that are very exciting and some that will be released very soon !  Also for those facebook users, Reconyx have a site and it is worth checking it out because they keep their followers updated with new information and advice. This is also a good way of getting the research voice hear d even louder so I suggest we should all check it out. Pixcontroller also have a Facebook site so check it out.