Stable, lightweight and sharply focused, you can take amazing nature photos with a great trail camera
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Bird and wildlife watching can be a rewarding, relaxing pastime. A decent set of binoculars is often all you need, but sometimes you might want to get up close to your subject for a closer look, or capture the movements of an elusive, wary creature.
A wildlife camera can often provide easy covert surveillance of places otherwise invisible, right on your TV monitor or smart device.
Wildlife cameras are motion-triggered devices that can store digitally captured images and video onto a transferable SD card or similar removable storage device.
So perfect for studying shy nocturnal visitors to your garden or finding out what exactly constantly turning over your trash cans.
We spied on unsuspecting wildlife using a handpicked range of devices. Here are seven of the best…
The RSPB clearly knows a thing or two about birds and their nesting habits. As you might expect, this statuesque bird box with an integrated 700TVL Sony camera is designed to make them swoon.
It’s a terrific looking dwelling made from chunky FSC wood and features a 32mm entry hole (with an optional 25mm entry hole to attract some of the smaller species) and the option to remove the faceplate to convert it into a open box for robins or transform wrens.
Setup is easy – just position your box (at least 2m high, against a tree or a wall) and then connect the box camera to your TV using the 30m cable.
The Dinky camera is installed in the ‘attic’ to provide a bird’s eye view of the nesting area, providing crisp day or black and white infrared images in low light.
It also has a super-sensitive microphone built in, so you can overhear them chirping too. It’s worth noting that this box connects to your device via yellow and white AV connectors.
A scart adapter is included, but it’s worth checking your TV’s compatibility before purchasing.
Although designed primarily for home security (i.e. a device that lets you watch helplessly from afar as someone breaks into your shed), the Yale all-in-one camera is also a surprisingly good trail camera .
With a 1080P camera that offers a wide 110-degree viewing angle, you can stream live footage via a smartphone or tablet, or view motion-censored video sequences that notify the user via a downloadable Yale View app.
The 10m infrared range for capturing nocturnal animal movement is somewhat limited, but position this camera on an outside wall near a bird feeder or nest box and you’ve got a great, inexpensive wildlife observation device.
You can also use this camera as a room monitor to spy on pets on the go.
The camera also has a two-way talk function, a 160 lumen spotlight and a 110db siren alarm, all of which can come in handy if rover or tiddles start tearing up the sofa in your absence.
If you are lucky enough to have hedgehogs visiting your garden, providing a box for them to crouch down and hibernate in will hopefully encourage them to stay for a few good seasons.
Better yet, if you install one with a built-in camera, you can spy on your prickly tenants, Big Brother style, and learn about their cunning ways.
Constructed from weather-treated plywood, this sturdy, hand-crafted pigsty comes with a high-resolution 1920 x 1080p camera that monitors both the entrance and the separate living area, sending images directly to your smartphone or tablet via a downloadable app.
Although the camera transmits in color, color images are only transmitted when sufficient light enters through the input tunnel.
Most of the time you’ll get black and white infrared images, but the image quality when shooting at night is impressively sharp and rich in contrast thanks to the camera’s ten night vision LEDs.
A sensitive microphone integrated into the camera allows you to listen to your hedgehogs as they go about their daily tasks.
Some animals can be startled by the trail camera lights flicking on and off if they get lost in range, so you may need to use a no-glow camera to record the movements of certain shy species.
This robust camera from Bushnell’s core range features 36 no-glow LEDs that are completely invisible to animals (and humans too). I
In video mode, this camera shoots 1080p video at 30fps, while stills weigh in at an impressive 24MP, but what we like best about this camera is the shutter speed (the time it takes for the camera to recognize you and then record).
In video mode it’s just under half a second, in photo mode it’s twice as fast.
In practice, this means that you should capture fast-moving animals in their entirety, not just their hairy rumps as they disappear from the frame. It’s also an easy camera to set up – once you’ve programmed your settings, all you have to do is pop off the cover, flip a switch, and the camera is primed and ready to go.
This integrated bird feeder and camera will help you attract a variety of birds to your garden while sending nose-to-beak footage of them feeding and flapping straight to your TV screen.
The weatherproof wooden feeding station accommodates a movable 2 megapixel camera that transmits color images to your TV via a 20 meter cable.
The camera works in infrared mode too, and while you probably won’t see much action after dark (other than maybe rats raiding your crazy stash), it’s a nice feature to have in low light at dusk and dawn should.
Footage from the camera is clear, close-up and distortion-free, but HD fans should note that it plays straight out of the box in standard definition.
However, for an additional £60 you can upgrade with a ‘Coax to HDMI’ Full HD converter for maximum birding enjoyment.
Updated for 2021, this compact camera from Browning is one of the best on the market for videotaping the comings and goings of wary wildlife.
While the still images captured are impressive enough at 22MP, the star of this camera is the Full HD 1920 x 1080 video capacity (with a choice of 30 or 60 frames per second).
During the day, videos look beautifully sharp with natural colors, while infrared footage is high-contrast and blur-free. We also like the ability to view captured footage using the small internal screen.
There are more expensive cameras out there with better specs, but for a Hue under £170 we think this is an absolute steal.
Also, the previous incarnation of this camera was used extensively by BBC SpringWatch for covert wildlife photography. So if she’s good enough for Chris Packham, she’s good enough for you.