Spy cameras in the rainforest

May 17, 2009 by
Filed under: Australian Mammals 
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Digital camera technology is just wonderful for wildlife observations.

During a recent wildlife survey at Mount Royal National Park near Singleton in New South Wales, Australia, our survey team, Richard Ali, Vicki Elliott, Richard Harris and myself deployed weatherproof cameras into rainforest and Eucalypt forests to observe wildlife.

Red-necked Pademelon

Red-necked Pademelon caught with a remote camera

The cameras automatically take a photograph once movement is detected and they have the ability to take photographs with a flash, or at night using infra-red.

Richard Ali setup cameras in areas likely to have high wildlife activity, such as small “runways” that are obvious in the vegetation, or an area which has an attractant such as some supplementary food. Balls of peanut butter, honey and oats were buried, and some white bread with strawberry jam was used as attractant.

A wide range of wildlife was photographed.

Birds, including Satin Bower Birds, Australian Brush Turkey and Eastern Yellow Robin were photographed.

Superb Lyrebird

Superb Lyrebird captured in a rainforest

Mammals including Red-necked Pademelons, Long-nosed bandicoots, Northern Brown Bandicoots, Brown Antechinus, Spotted-tailed Quolls, Bush Rats were photographed.

Spotted-tailed Quoll

Spotted-tailed Quoll captured in the infra-red camera

I think the following photos are of either Long-nosed Potoroos,  Rufous Bettongs or even juvenile Red-necked Wallabies or Pademelons. Maybe someone can help me interpret these photos?

Rufous Bettong1a?

Rufous Bettong?

Rufous bettong2a?

Rufous Bettong?

A wild dog in a grassy area and a feral cat in the rainforest were also detected.

Feral Cat

There are heaps more photos of other wildlife to see, just click here

I can’t wait to use these remote cameras again, maybe capturing something I haven’t seen before!

Anyone wishing to make a comment on these photos can just leave a comment to this blog post, by clicking on “Leave a Comment” at the top of the post.



5 Responses to “Spy cameras in the rainforest”
  1. Colin Cook says:

    Doug, I’m interested in this technique. I’m President of the Friends of Brisbane Ranges and we are starting to carry out more fauna monitoring in our park as part of a Parks Vic initiative. Mammal trapping using Elliot traps is labour intensive and we need to do a lot of broad scale survey work to determine presence and ranges of most fauna in our park, due to a paucity of previous records. We should have access to some cameras later in the year through PV, but would appreciate any feedback on techniques for placement, baiting (or not), camera settings etc.

    Colin Cook

    • Doug Beckers says:

      Hi Colin,

      Yep cameras are becoming more and more popular for biodiversity surveys and monitoring. There are lots of camera types available, some take photos in colour during the day and night using a flash, while others use infra-red technology to take the night photographs. Remote cameras are not a substitute for elliot trapping as both techniques can give you different information.

      Using elliott traps you can sex and weigh the animal and take DNA samples, which you cannot do with a camera. With a camera, you can record when the photo was taken and some models record the temperature, humidity and barometric pressure when the photograph was taken. Determining the actual species can also be an issue, for example deciding between two species of Antechinus would be problematic. We have found difficulties with determining difference between small macropods, mainly due to the quality of the photograph, and the position of the animal when photographed.

      I highly recommend the use of remote cameras, they are non-invasive on the animals and have minimal impact on the environment.

      With regard to bait, there are oodles of bait combinations. We have tried peanut butter, honey and oats and attracted heaps of wildlife. The addition of sardines seems to attract bandicoots although the mixture is disgusting! If you want to attract predators, then you could use offal such as liver or fresh meat.

      I’m not sure what approvals you will need in Victoria, but any systematic sampling of wildlife in NSW you need approval from an animal ethics committee, which is a good thing because it is always good for some experts to review your proposal and they can point you in the right direction with regard to the latest techniques.

      Placement of cameras. Well it depends on what you want to photograph, if you want to see what arboreal fauna are about, then placement in trees is the way to go, not too far up and pointing towards a section of trunk with say a honey mixture applied would be good. On the ground we use cameras mostly, and camera mounted about 800mm above the ground pointing at a specific target area. (Make sure to use a camera with a laser that indicates where the camera is pointing). Cameras without infrared can take flash photographs at night, but if the camera is set too close to the ground the flash “white outs” the photograph as we have found with trying to take photos of bush rats.

      The best way is to experiment with your cameras, just try them in your backyard or even in your house! My friend’s little 4 year old wanted to take a spy photo of Santa putting the presents under the Christmas tree! Very cute.

      I hope this helps

      • Colin Cook says:


        Thanks for the info. We’d mainly be looking at using infrared cameras to identify small mammals (Agile Antechinus and Brush-Tailed Phascogale being the main targets, but we may also get Sugar Gliders, Common Dunnarts and Bush Rats). Previous trapping studies have mainly caught Agile Antechinus. I’m planning to try adding chicken or tuna to the baits to see if that helps. I have a paper on a trapping program at Puckapunyal army base which used oats, honey, peanut butter, dried fruit, sardines and dog food. Sounds terrible, but they trapped a lot of phascogales with it.
        Previous studies with remote cameras have only given us lots of Brush-Tailed Possum photos, so I’m thinking of placing a camera in a baited tube setup so only the small mammals can get in. Do you know of any IR cameras with a close focal distance, as I can’t find one.
        We need AEC approval for our trapping program, but because we are a volunteer group we are unlikely to get approval to take DNA samples. Trap and release is about all we can get.


  2. zoidberg says:

    I’d love to know the type of camera used for these shots? (ie make, model)

  3. Kevin R says:

    I’m new to this and using a GX7 with a 300mm lens. But the depth of field seems extremely shallow (probably <1 inch), so the focus accuracy is critical.

    I find it very difficult to get good images with this setup.

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