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Monday, 30 July 2012

Phantom Red Squirrel, Pine Marten and Red Deer.

Fast moving Red Squirrel travelling right to left.
Shutter speed was 1/25sec which was too slow to catch
anything other than the squirrels tail.
Notice the blond tail which is a fairly common feature of
red squirrels in this area of Scotland.
End of last week I collected several camera traps that had been set on forest deer trails. Red Deer are regularly culled to help forest regeneration in this area, which makes them nervous and elusive.

I was hoping to get an idea of how many animals were regularly in this section of forest and the video clips below follow on from my post a month ago.

Co-incidentally I discovered two obscure but identifiable reasons for apparent false triggering.

The image on the left is of a passing squirrel, which I nearly missed and the following video shows three frames taken with an Acorn 5210A camera trap, which captured a moving stick in the ground vegetation. Each frame is a centre crop of the
original at full resolution and these are preceded by the original, un-cropped frame, to show the location and relative size of the detection area.

The reason for the camera triggering wasn't immediately apparent and you'll probably need to view the clip more than once to catch it.

It's a good illustration of why it can sometimes seem that a camera trap triggers (false triggers) with no cause. Why this stick was moving, I have no idea, but there was obviously a moving heat source involved which the camera managed to detect.  I'll see if there are any clues, next time I visit the location.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Hey Ron...

      Great clips!

      Love the marten...

      Curious, how do you get these to imbed in your blog at this size? I can't get this to work on my blog and all the video clips I embed are in small windows on my blog. I use blogger (don't know if you do), and maybe that's the problem?


    2. Thanks and yes I use blogger, but not to upload videos. I take the embed code straight off uTube after selecting the size I want, which is usually 640 x 480 pixels. Then paste the code into the HTML tab on blogger.

      You could try changing the width and height sizes in your existing source code but that may affect the quality.

      Regards Ron

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  3. Hi Ron. I find that the 5210 is extremely sensitive at its "normal" sensitivity setting. Last week it picked up a small movement by a marsupial mouse 1.5m from the camera - admittedly it was a pretty cold night, so there would have been quite a heat contrast. But I'm not sure why you say that the moving stick must have been caused by a moving heat source (other than the stick) to trigger the camera. I often get hundreds of images in a night if a wind springs up and starts moving the vegetation - and even sometimes in a sheltered situation where only a grass head near the camera catches the wind (and again this is on "normal" setting). I would assume that a "stick" would have a different heat signature to background green vegetation, or in my case, grass heads on a cold night would have a different temperature to leaves on shrubs.

    The Little Acorn cameras have a bad reputation among some government staff here in Queensland for their "false" triggering. Personally I find that clipping as much vegetation that might trigger the camera removes a huge proportion of these events, and then doing a fast "back and forth" review of apparently empty images often shows some small beastie moving slightly, or something larger but mostly obscured by veg, that I otherwise would have missed. This is, of course, mainly an issue with the night-time images where it is often difficult to discern something among all the shades of grey.

    Thanks for the very useful blog.


    1. Hi Gordon.

      I could have probably worded that a bit better on reflection. What I was trying to say was that it could either have been the stick acting as a heat source or something else in the herb layer (which may have been the heat source) that was causing the stick to move. I'm not sure that sounds any better!!!

      Either way it was interesting to prove that the trigger wasn't false.

      With this sort of event, I find it can be either the moving object which is the heat source or that the moving object is in front of the heat source, and the movement makes the heat source appear to be moving.

      It seems that many people just see an empty (of animals) frame and assume the camera is at fault without bothering to look any deeper. I completely agree with your analysis and would add that, to the Acorns credit, even when set to high sensitivity, it doesn't go unstable.

      Moths passing will also trigger at night and I got really surprised recently when it seemed as if slugs(I know they're cold) were triggering until I realised a Woodmouse was in the frame. As you say, very difficult to spot in IR and only given away by its eyes.

      Thanks for your interest and comments.
      Best regards


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This web site is about the wildlife, particularly the mammals, of the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve area in the north west Highlands of Scotland, UK; and the equipment I use to search for them, which is chiefly trail cameras.

I provide a technical support and parts service for the Ltl Acorn range of cameras and the income from this provides for the upkeep of this site and the purchase of cameras for my own surveying.

I hope you find the site useful and informative; and please contact me if you have any questions that I haven't already covered.