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Bird spotting and wildlife watching can be a rewarding, relaxing pastime. A decent pair of binoculars is often all you need, but sometimes you might want to get up close and personal to your subject matter for a closer look, or capture the movements of an elusive, wary creature.
A wildlife camera can often offer easy covert monitoring of places otherwise unseen, direct to your TV Monitor or smart device.
Wildlife ‘trail’ cameras are devices that are triggered by movement and can store digitally captured images and videos on a transferable SD card or similar removable storage device.
Perfect then for studying shy night time visitors to your garden, or to find out what exactly keeps turning over your bins.
We’ve been spying on unsuspecting wildlife through an array of choice devices. Here’s seven of the best...
The RSPB clearly knows a thing or two about birds and their nesting habits so as you might expect, this statuesque bird box with an integrated 700TVL Sony camera is designed to bring them flocking.
It’s a grandiose looking abode, made from chunky FSC timber and comes with a 32mm entrance hole (with an optional 25mm supplied to attract some of the smaller species) plus the option to remove the front panel to convert it to an open box for robins or wrens.
Setup is easy – just position your box (at least 2m high, on a tree or wall) then connect the box camera to your tv via the 30m cable.
The dinky camera is installed in the ‘attic’ for a birds eye view of the nesting area and delivers crisp daytime images or black and white infrared shots when the light is low.
There’s also a super-sensitive microphone built in, so you can also eavesdrop on their chirpings. It’s worth noting that this box connects to your set via yellow and white AV plugs.
A Scart Adapter is included but it’s worth checking on your TVs compatibility before purchase.
Although primarily designed for home security (i.e. a device enabling you watch helplessly from afar as someone burgles your shed), the Yale all-in-one camera also makes a surprisingly good wildlife camera.
Featuring a 1080P camera which offers a wide 110-degree viewing angle, you can stream live footage via a smartphone or tablet device or watch motion censored video sequences which notify the user via a downloadable Yale View app.
The 10m infrared range for capturing night time animal action is slightly limiting, but position this camera on an external wall near a bird feeder or nest box and you’ve got yourself a great, low cost, device for nature spotting.
You can also use this camera as a room monitor to spy on domestic pets whilst out.
The camera also has a two way talk function, a 160 Lumen spotlight and a 110db siren alarm, all of which may come in useful if Rover or Tiddles start tearing up the sofa in your absence.
If you are fortunate enough to have hedgehogs visit your garden, providing a box for them to hunker down and hibernate will hopefully encourage them to stick around for a good few seasons.
Better still, if you install one with a built-in camera you can spy on your prickly tennants, Big Brother style and learn about their wily ways.
This sturdy, hand-made hog house is built from weather treated plywood and comes packing a high definition 1920 x 1080p camera which monitors both the entrance and the separate living space and sends pictures directly to your smartphone or tablet device via a downloadable app.
Although the camera broadcasts in colour, it will only broadcast colour images if there is enough light streaming in through the entrance tunnel.
Most of the time you’ll receive black and white, infra-red images but night time image image quality is impressively sharp and full of contrast thanks to the camera’s ten night vision LEDs.
A sensitive microphone built into the camera means you can also listen in as your hedgehogs go about their daily business.
Some animals can be spooked by trail camera lights going on and off as they stray into range, so you might need to go for a no glow camera to record the movements of certain shy species.
This robust camera from Bushnells core range boasts 36 no glow LEDs which are completely invisible to animals (and humans for that matter). I
n video mode this camera will capture 1080p videos at 30 frames per second, whilst still shots weigh in at an impressive 24mp but what we like most about this camera is the trigger speed (the time the camera takes to detect then record).
In video mode it’s just under half a second but in photo mode it’s twice as fast.
In practical terms, this means you should fully record fast moving animals, not just their hairy backsides as they disappear out of shot. It’s an easy camera to set up too – once you’ve programmed your preferences, it’s just a case of releasing the cover, pressing a switch and the camera is primed and ready for action.
This integrated bird feeder and camera will help you tempt a wide variety of birds into your garden whilst sending nose-to-beak footage of their feasting and fluttering directly to your TV screen.
The weatherproof, wooden feeding station accommodates a poseable 2mp camera which beams colour images to your TV via a 20 metre cable.
The camera also operates in infrared mode, and whilst you are not likely to get much action after dark (except maybe rats raiding your nutty stocks), it’s a nice function to have for low level light conditions around dusk and dawn.
Footage from the camera is clear, close-up and distortion free, but HD-heads should note that it plays in standard definition straight out of the box.
For an extra £60 though you can upgrade with a ‘Coax to HDMI’ full HD converter for maximum avian enjoyment.
Upgraded for 2021, this compact camera from Browning is one of the best on the market for video recording the comings and goings of wary wildlife.
Whilst the 22mp still pictures it takes are impressive enough, the 1920 x 1080 Full HD video capacity (with a choice of either 30 or 60 frames per second) is this camera’s star turn.
Daytime videos look beautifully sharp with natural colours, whilst infrared shots are high contrast and blur free. We also like the ability to view captured footage via the small internal screen.
There’s more expensive cameras out there that have better specs, but for a shade under £170 we think this camera is an absolute bargain.
Besides, the previous incarnation of this camera was used extensively by BBC SpringWatch for covert wildlife footage, so if it’s good enough for Chris Packham, it’s good enough for you.