Saturday, February 11, 2023

Wi-Fi Trail Cameras: a Window into My Rural Land

Photographs are memories, and I have many fine photos of my rural thirty-five acres of Midwest land that remind me of the good times that my wife and I have enjoyed on our land. Those photos are of times past, though; they are, indeed, memories of past experiences. Sometimes, though, when I'm at home thirty-nine miles distant from our land, the dawn rises bright and clean and full of promise. The air is still and the sky is turning from starry night to shades of blue, the horizon amber and orange with the rising sun. That's when I think, I wonder what's going on with our land? What's it like out there? What we've discovered is that although our trail camera with wi-fi linkage to our cellphone is not a live-streaming video, our Verizon-linked trail cam can provide us with a virtually real-time visual link to our land--when an animal happens to wander into the camera's motion-capture space. 

At this time, our trail camera is a Spartan GoCam M 4G/LTE which we have connected to an app on my cellphone. It's always a joy when I hear that little chime notification that a photo has downloaded from our land. Originally we placed the camera down in our bottomland near the creek, where our neighbor's cattle sometimes wriggle through gaps in the fence to gain access to "the other side of the fence," where, or course, the grass is greener! When winter arrived, we moved the camera up to top of our land near the driveway entrance. The wi-fi reception is better there, and also we had scheduled some construction work on the bottomland and wanted to get the camera out of the way. We're planning on buying a second camera soon so that we can have one camera up near our living area and one down by the creek. Spartan does manufacture a camera that can take photos or live video on command so that we wouldn't have to be dependent on an animal wandering by to receive a video; however, that camera is twice the price of the one we purchased.

A bottomland buck
A coyote?
About half of the photos we receive are infra-red photos of animals out and about at night. The quality of these photos usually is not as good, especially if the animals are more distant. We have a lot of photos of what, after scrutiny, we feel are raccoons, and a few photos of what we think are coyotes or foxes. Since our main impetus for setting up the camera was for managing cattle that escape our neighbor's farmland, we will eventually have perhaps three or four total cameras to monitor the weak spots in the fence--which are mostly where the fence crosses the creek. Spotting wildlife will be an enjoyable "extra" to our land management plan.

My wife and I enjoy our little "window" trail cam app that connects us to our land when we aren't physically there. I find myself not only checking out the deer or raccoon in the photo but also just looking at the land, especially with the daytime photographs. Is there snow on the ground . . . or frost? I imagine the silence, the sense of space, the smell of rain and wet leaves. Eventually we may be able to have one "roving" camera that we will place in diverse, wilder parts of our land, moving the camera around to see what life is like in the more inaccessible parts of our property. I think this technological tool (and toy!) will not only come in handy in the future but will also provide us with a lot of pleasure. Whether it's a steer ambling across the trail cam's target zone, or a wild, strutting tom turkey, whenever that little chime alerts us to a new photo downloaded to our phone, we'll be sure to eagerly open to the Spartan app and see what nature has brought our way.

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