A daytime video: Wasps

A nice view on the underside of an old chair outside our house. We discovered them hiding in there after my son sat on the chair and the wasps came rushing out. One stung him on the head. After taking care of that, we taped the webcam to one of his toy trucks and pushed it with a long stick, wheeling the webcam closer and closer. Creak, creak, creak, we thought the wasps were laughing at us, but the view was amaaazing.

Now with bubbles!

The light goes on and the bubbles appear when an animal walks by. This curious cat looked up to see where the bubbles were coming from. Here's the setup:
homemade camera trap animal camera


We thought the motion sensor might be able to start recording every time a firefly flashed, and not record between flashes, if we set the sensitivity just right. It worked!

Here are all the flashes projected onto one picture.
homemade camera traps

A daytime video: Mother wren feeding her chicks

We mounted the webcam in front of our birdhouse, left it on motion sensing, and caught the mother wren bringing insects to her chicks! This is a house wren. We built the birdhouse from really simple plans that we found online.

A Spooky Response to Our Green Screen Challenge

After our not-so-impressive attempt at a green screen background for possums, we posted our video online in case anyone else wanted to try. We have a response! Someone named 'Jacques DuLong' has done an amazing job - we had to look carefully to check that it really was our possum. The spooky thing... after all this technology, the new background looks almost identical to our backyard, right down to the pair of lawn statues! Welcome home, possum!

Three weeks of a robin's nest

We mounted the webcam just over a nest and filmed by motion sensing or timelapse nearly every day. The last baby flew out of the nest yesterday. Here's an almost-daily view for three weeks (click to enlarge):
DIY camera trap

Time-lapse: warming eggs, leaving for food, warming eggs, leaving for food, all day:

A kymograph below reveals the on/off the nest pattern throughout the day. We found info online stating that the mother rarely leaves for more than 5-10 minutes, but we plainly caught her taking a 20-minute lunch at 11:40-12:00 in the kymograph...
kymograph of a robin going on and off her nest all day


A fox!

We had no idea there were foxes in the neighborhood. This gorgeous animal is a grey fox who popped by at 2:01am.
(bait: some flowers... we were hoping to attract some birds at sunrise)

White cat in the snow

...or, as my son suggested, maybe it's a brown cat covered with snow...

12 species so far

camera trap animal detector in make magazine volume 17

Robin on a Cold Tin Roof

My son asked if animals walk on our roof at night, so we put the detector on the roof. No animals came at night, but a robin peered into the camera in the morning.

Possum running fast


A worm crawls by just after sunrise (film sped up about three times)

Green Screen Challenge!

Download original here.

Wild possum pretends it's hiking in the woods

5:16am: A possum wanders into our woodland scenery backdrop and takes a good look at the new decor.
(bait: cat treats)

Cat pops its head in

3:04am: Cat pops in, changes its mind.
(bait: a piece of a hot dog)

The photo at the start of the film is a multiple-exposure view, with a white trail showing where the cat walked.

Grackles bring us seven cheese doodles!

animal detector camera trap

Admittedly, we had to reverse the video to make it look like they were bringing us offerings, but it's really much more entertaining this way.

Traces of pelicans and seagulls crossing the sky

This past week, we took the device to the beach. One afternoon we set the light aside and pointed the camera skyward, leaving it recording the motion of pelicans and seagulls flying by for a couple of hours. The birds and their wings traced such elegant paths across the sky. The multi-exposure traces below were made by importing quicktime films into ImageJ and making Z-projections of the resulting stacks.

One seagull:
dramatic look

Two pelicans:
cute animals

A couple of hours of birds:
motion sensor

Link to the video

We quit... well, at least, for now...

We decided that it's time to stop leaving food outside for vermin so often after we witnessed a feeding frenzy by the back door last night.

1:21am: At least 4 raccoons feed and slobber on the window.
2:47am: Raccoons again. One faces away from the camera and pees on the lawn.
3:05am: Possum with a cut on its head finds nothing left.
(bait: cat treats)

Wild possum wanders in front of studio backdrop

Well, as long as we're getting the same wild animals every night, we figured why not see if they'd mind a background. This is just a big piece of orange paper, but since they don't mind this, we're thinking about other backgrounds...

1:54am: a possum
(bait: cat treats)

Adult, baby possum

3:04am: adult possum visits
4:31am: baby possum visits
(bait: cat treats)

This film is sped up 3x.

Young possums can walk backwards

4:05am: time warp! this young possum walks in reverse each time the light comes on. We're getting so many possums these days... we're hoping for a mother carrying babies one night.
(bait: cat treats)

Our first possum

3:48am: finally, a possum! The Virginia Opossum is the only American marsupial species. This one circles when the light comes on instead of feigning death, which we thought all possums would do when frightened. The possum is our 11th species.
(bait: an olive)

Squirrel develops a way to avoid the sensor!

6:37am: this commando-crawling squirrel is staying low enough to avoid setting off the motion detector light
(bait: beef cat food)

Catbird flips!

6:58am: We think it's a gray catbird. What kind of bird flips when lights turn on, and enjoys apple pie?
(bait: our last slice of apple pie, slightly out of date)


6:06am: A wren peeks at the bait.
(bait: sardines)

We're not quitting until we see a possum.


2:21am: Our first rabbit...
(bait: fish-flavor cat food, half of an old orange)

Jumpy squirrel

No animals last night, so we left it running through the morning.

10:21am: Jumpy squirrel! The device clicks a moment before the light comes on -- and the squirrel leaps! Here's a composite photo of the leap and a short video.

This one looks human!

7:28am: It crossed in front of the camera, without stopping to sniff the bait, setting off the motion detector lights as it passed. Still no rabbit.
(bait: last night's lettuce and a little peanut butter)


Oh yes, you are fast, kitty.
You are very fast.
But you are not fast enough for the Animal Detector!
(bait: turkey and liver cat food)

Lights? I have no fear of lights.

1:27am. This visitor doesn't even flinch for the lights. Nice use of the paws!
(bait: tuna flavored cat food)

It works! Our first animal!

We tested it by waving a hand in front of it at 11:30pm. Looks like it works... it recorded for 5 seconds. So we set it up. At 4:30am, we had our first visitor, a cat that seemed a little spooked out by the light. We were so excited when we saw that it worked! We're looking forward to seeing what we've recorded each morning when we wake up.
The light turns on for 5 seconds when something warm moves near the bait, and turns off when the movement stops. The program records for 5 seconds anytime the light goes on or off. We'll edit out most of the blank, boring times in future videos.
(bait: cheap beef dog food)