Camera to capture candid crepuscular critters?
June 8, 2021 11:34 AM   Subscribe

I get a lot of critters roaming around in the night. Coyotes, foxes, possums, probably an occasional Bigfoot, that sort of thing. I would like to automatically capture quality nighttime video and photos of these critters. I would like to do this with a minimum of fuss. What't the best way?

I already have a crapy trail camera that uses about 18 C cell batteries every ten minutes and requires that I bring the camera back inside and upload all the photos to my computer before I can even see if I've got anything.

Ideally I would like something that I could keep outside for long periods of time and it would somehow send me pictures and videos when it captures something interesting.

I *think* what I want is something like a Nest security camera, though since this will be out in the yard I wouldn't want to have to hard-wire it to anything. It would probably be within range of my WiFi if I didn't put it too far away from the house.

I'm willing to spend some money for some equipment but I don't want to spend *too* much money.

What's the best way to do this?
posted by bondcliff to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I had a crappy trail camera too that also ate batteries and required a hardwire connection.

As for better stuff, if you could plumb ethernet into your backyard (I know it's kind of a wild request) you can run a PoE camera that saves videos to a NVR hard drive system. It's basically how all decent security cameras work and what I have around my home.

For a simpler option, I backed this on Kickstarter, a product called bird buddy that tries to fix all the problems of trail cameras, but I have no idea when it actually releases to the public.
posted by mathowie at 11:40 AM on June 8, 2021

Ditto. The answer is "trail cam". While they have internal batteries, you MAY want to add an external battery for longer life, or even hardwire it back to the house.

Some of the ones with only 4 batteries supposedly have impressive battery life. They are claiming a set of 4 AA Lithiums lasts a whole week. YMMV.
posted by kschang at 11:49 AM on June 8, 2021

I enjoy the nocturnal videos posted on The Daily James' instagram - they use Amazon Blink XT2 cameras (which appear to have been discontinued...)
posted by mskyle at 11:55 AM on June 8, 2021

Response by poster: Oh, and just to nip it in the bud, I want a mostly out-of-the box solution. No Linux servers, no Arduinos, no hacking, nothing like that.
posted by bondcliff at 12:06 PM on June 8, 2021

If you are within WiFi coverage, the ReoLink Argus 2 with solar panel may be a good fit.

I recently picked one of these up to keep an eye on funny business that's been happening in my front yard. I inadvertently caught a recording of an urban fox which was a fun thing. The nice thing about the ReoLink is that you don't need a cloud service. The camera will accept a MicroSD card and automatically save recordings to it that will be accessible to you from your smartphone. You can subscribe to their cloud service if you want but it is not required. The whole package is weatherproof.

The battery has never showed less than 90% full with the solar panel attached. I am not so sure how this will perform through a Wisconsin winter but so far so good!
posted by sewellcm at 12:07 PM on June 8, 2021

I have two Netgear Arlo cameras. They're battery-powered and weather-resistant, and they have infrared illuminators. They work OK, but not great. There is often a significant lag between the time motion occurs and the time that the camera starts to record images. So you end up with sequences where nothing is happening. They also tend to lose their wireless connection to the base station. Still, I've recorded some good images of the raccoons and opossums that eat food left out for the feral colony I maintain on my property (not to mention lots of videos of the cats themselves).

Caveat: My cameras are about five years old (maybe more), so perhaps the newer models work better.
posted by alex1965 at 12:15 PM on June 8, 2021

Blink may suit your needs.
posted by bink at 1:31 PM on June 8, 2021

I'm actually about to do the same thing and for the same reasons - after checking with several folks I know online, I'll probably be picking up one of these game cameras in the next week or two. But, I'll need to retrieve the SD card regularly to see what's up.

I considered a Wyze outdoor cam, but I think the camera would wind up being a bit too far away from the house for a reliable wifi signal in my case. There's a lot of plant and tree cover in that area, too. This might be a good option for you and the whole thing is supposed to be dead simple to set up.
posted by jquinby at 2:21 PM on June 8, 2021

My sister has a nest camera, and it records numerous night time critters besides her house adjacent to open space. You'd need to provide it wifi and power, but the rest is taken care of by their service.
posted by nickggully at 5:19 PM on June 8, 2021

We have a set of Arlo Ultra cameras that serve as both home security and critter cams. The newer Ultra series are definitely better than the older models (we have both). They are 100% wireless and work off wifi provided by the Arlo Base Station, so even if your home access point is in an inopportune location in your house, you can locate the base station in your home as close to the camera location as possible to increase signal consistency if it's an issue.

On the Ultras they have a floodlight you can configure to turn on when motion is detected. It does capture a little better video than the night vision, though battery life will suffer if it goes off a lot. They also capture (and can send) audio.

We replace the (rechargeable) batteries on average about once every 3-4 months. We bought an extra battery and charger so that when you need to, you just go to the camera and swap out the battery for the fresh one - takes literally 5 seconds. The included app can give you notifications of motion based on what it thinks it detected (it does a pretty good job of differentiating between a car, a person, and an animal, for instance), on a schedule, etc. so it's pretty versatile.

Like any wireless solution there is going to be a small gap between when it detects motion and when it starts recording - having the ability to record from the beginning requires recording 24x7, which cannot be done unless you have the power cord attached. You can trigger other cameras to record when one detects motion, so with a strategically placed pair you could trigger camera B, where the animal likely will be in a few seconds, to start recording when camera A detects motion and vice versa.
posted by SquidLips at 6:02 PM on June 8, 2021

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