Holt Island Nature Reserve, St Ives, January 2022


A recent birthday brought me a trail camera present. This was exciting but I needed assistance to programme it from a series of (to me) complicated options. It is triggered by movement and can be set to record still, or video images of varying lengths, both during the day and night. As the light fades it switches to infra-red and a white light is cast ahead of the camera which animals cannot see – much used on Winter Watch recently! Mine is a basic model, battery driven, and with a limited infra-red range – but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

With permission from a nearby nature reserve I set up in two positions a few days apart. The first was a few metres back from a sett exit hole just behind a fallen log. Into the cracks and crevices of the bark was smeared peanut butter, and whole nuts were scattered around to present hopefully tempting delicacies to precede an evening’s foraging for roots, worms and grubs.

The excitement on replaying the recordings is palpable. But often it not obvious why the sensor has been activated. But then a pair of bright luminescent eyes will bounce across the field of view with ears raised as a Wood Mouse pauses, selects a peanut and then bounds off again. Jumping Jack I called him. Then the dainty presence of a Muntjac deer drifts into view and nibbles around. And finally, another pair of eyes appears, cautiously at first, from the burrow and then, when satisfied, hauls out a bulky form to start hoovering up the nuts. She follows the baited trail to the peanut butter and stays a while on the hors d’oeuvres. Marvellous to see.

The second location was facing an obvious track leading from the back of the sett to the boardwalk. She approached the camera slowly sniffing the air. When filming, a tiny red light winks and this seems to generate puzzlement, but not fear. She snuffled closer and closer along the peanut path until, after one final stare at the lens, she turned abruptly and returned in the direction of the sett. Enough peanuts for one night.

I say ‘she’ because it is hoped this may be a pregnant female feeding up prior to giving birth and suckling cubs next month. Better get some fresh batteries!

Trustee Ian Jackson

The links below will take you to each of the three videos:

Video 1. Jumping Jack Mouse

Video 2. Mrs Badger Appears

Video 3. Following the Peanut Path