Friday, 24 February 2012

Smile. You're on Candid Camera!

A few weeks ago, after a welcome period of relative calm up on the plots, there were a series of burglaries and break-ins to most of the sheds and stores on the allotments. Sheds are a usual target for ne'er-do-wells looking for power tools etc, that can be carried away easily and sold for, well, whatever they use the money to buy... own shed must have been the last one they tried but they failed to get in. They had a go at forcing open the lock using another gardener's wooden 'dibber' but only managed to bend the steel plate I'd bolted in place and snap the dibber in half. There I found it, next to the door.

What worried me most was the proximity of the shed to the chickens. It would have been easy to grab a chicken or two for dinner (it was a Sunday after all!) Couple that incident with finding all my cockerels in the same compound, ripping the crap out of each other, on no less than three occasions over the past two weeks and you can appreciate the concern I have that someone might be interfering with my stock.

Now I can't sit there, rifle in hand, ghillie suited and covered in twigs, hiding in the bushes all day and all night up there can I? So what can I do?

Well I reckon I've found the answer to alleviating my paranoia and catching any potential felons to boot. Since a lot of you also have livestock of some sort or another (or like to covertly watch wildlife too) I thought I'd share my new bit of kit with you and see what you think.

The main problem faced by anyone wanting to have a cctv system outdoors I guess, is the need to have a power supply to the camera, some way of recording the footage / images, in a waterproof way and covertly so nobody knows your cctv camera is there (so it won't get nicked!).

If you have a field or an area well away from the house this can be a major problem. Plus, who wants to record onto tape or dvd 24/7? I've tried that at home and it's a pain in the arse.

Well my friends, this is the answer.

Front view of the Trail Camera, Wildlife Camera, Stealth Camera etc,...
Known typically as a 'Trail Camera' this design of digital camera was, I believe, developed by the military and used by snipers to track enemy troop movements through the bush. A huge success with hunters and wildlife observers too now, these trail cameras have become cheap enough that poor idiots like me can buy them from ebay off the shelf.

There are lots of brands and prices can range from under £100 to £500 and more but the basic design principle is the same. This one was £120.00 and included a free 8GB sd-ram card and delivery.

A 'Trail Cam' is basically a digital camera in a waterproof box that can shoot still images and/or digital video footage which is stored on a standard sd-ram card commonly found in digital cameras anyway. The camera runs on normal AA batteries and this is the great thing about these cameras. The camera is only triggered when something (or someone) passes in front of the IR sensors mounted under the camera lens (3 of them!) so the batteries can last a long, long time. This one can be set up to shoot a sequence of pictures or video once triggered and reset and go to sleep again after a specified period of inactivity.

Hidden amongst some garden 'debris'
In daylight the images or video is full colour at up to 640x480 pixels - big enough for sharp playback on a television. The still images can be shot at 5 megapixels or upto 12 megapixels which is not cutting edge these days but sharp enough.

At night the camera comes into it's own. Above the infrared sensors and the lens there is a block of IR led lights that light the immediate scene in front of the camera. The best bit is that this light is invisible so whomever or whatever is being filmed doesn't know it. The images are black and white at night but very clear (your Honour).

Dodgy geezer a.m....
Trail cameras have the facility to record the time of day, temprerature, even record the serial number of the camera (for multiple camera locations). The two colour images shown here were taken during low-light conditions and would be perfectly useable in court, ahem...

Dodgy geezer p.m. - performing a criminal dance.
I was made aware of these things by seeing them used by the BBC recently to record owls, otters and other shy wildlife with great success.

Tonight a friend of mine told me that councils have been using them for ages to record 'fly-tippers' in the act. Damn, I thought. Yesterday I had to stop the car and have a pee behind a bush next to a sign that said 'NO FLY TIPPING - CCTV IN OPERATION!' Seems I'll be famous after all LOL (yeah, yeah, no jokes about the high resolution needed to see my nob).

Inside the camera you can see who you've recorded taking a pee...
If you want to film the wildlife in your garden, land, tree it comes with a strap to fix it to a tree trunk or branch, a USB cable to download the images and footage straight to your computer and a power cord to link up to a bigger leisure battery for longevity. Oh and it can be used (let me read the box here) in temperatures from -22 to +158 F.


I've had it strapped to a fence post all day and so far nothing.

Pre Post Rant

I shan't keep you with this as I'm about to post a much more interesting (yeah right) item but I need to get this off my chest first so bear with me.

Those that know me here know I'm a fairly easy going idiot, perhaps a bit of a twat, but one who likes to engage with life on a lighter note (you can stop agreeing now thank you).

Recently though, I have felt the need to leave a perhaps rather terse comment on a woman's blog who was having a bit of a dig at anglers. I tried to point out that anglers and fishermen (and women, ok fisher-people then) are on the whole decent sorts who actually contribute to the welfare of the natural world and wildlife protection, contribute to the national economy, are actively engaged whole heartedly in conservation (often the ONLY people engaged in the conservation of wildlife on some stretches of water / ocean) etc.

I attempted to suggest that this individual might think hard about where that nice Cod fillet came from that they may have purchased from the chip shop the other night, how it may have met its end asphyxiating in the hold of a giant commercial fishing trawler, and how many of its mates were needlessly and wastefully killed and then thrown overboard in the name of financial gain and customer demand (come what may), click on the 'Fish Fight' banner opposite to see what I mean.

All to no avail I'm affraid as the comment was deleted within seconds of me posting it. Now, all that is left on that particular blog post is a handful of other 'like-minded' folk saying 'hear-hear', 'I agree' etc. Cake and Tea.

I had occasion to pull this individual up once before when she had another senseless dig, this time at Christians, simply because one or two of the follwers of this particular faith appeared to irritate her.

Her blog, she can write what she likes, fair enough (etc, etc.)

Anyway, rant over, moving on...

Monday, 20 February 2012

Esox lucius

I can vividly remember the very first time I saw a Pike.

I was about 11 years old and had just trekked up the hard and frosty track in the (very) early winter sun, side by side with my Dad. It was hard work carrying our heavy tackle over the frozen ground, and we struggled on through the tall grass and stinging weeds towards the stony promontory of flat land that eased itself out into the waters of the glassy smooth lake.

Fred Buller's superb book on all things Pike
The gravel pits where we fished that day were known locally as the 'Finger Ponds' due to the long excavations cut deep into the earth like the fingers of a glove. Nature had re-colonised the earthworks with lush green vegetation and the adjacent river had filled the deep chasms in the ground with cold, dark water and a multitudinous array of freshwater fish.

I think we were after Bream or Roach or some other innocuous, placid shoaling fish. In those days I fished with my Dad on a Sunday for the sport alone. The spot we had chosen was next to a large Willow tree whose delicate gold green fronds trailed into the slack water to our left, and where aquatic debris and algae formed a pretty layered frill between lake water and bank.

As we emerged though the tangled jungle there it was. A huge Pike lurking in the green black slick. Seemingly dead, it's pale white belly was peeking out of the water as it floated upside down in the still water under the boughs of the tree. To me back then, a gangly youth of 11 years, the fish was a monster. Even now it would be classed as a specimen fish by most anglers at over 3 feet long. We guessed that it must of weighed close to 20lbs. A tiddler really though in Pike terms.

Esox lucius (Northern Pike) grow even bigger than this...
We went back a week or so later when, armed with a wire trace, some treble hooks, extracting forceps and a tin of sprats from the supermarket (no really), my Dad proceeded to catch a young 'Jack' pike. I will always remember the look of panic on his face and the trepidation on retrieving the hooks from the pike's large, teeth filled jaws after he landed the fish.

I have had a fascination with Pike ever since and have devoured numerous books on these freshwater monsters over the interceding years but have never actively sought them out since.

Now I've mentioned before that I don't hunt fish that I can't eat as a rule. But Pike are actually quite good eating. In days gone by thier white flesh would fetch a high price, above that of Salmon and Cod in thier day. And a 6lb Pike is a very worthy meal indeed.

I'm awaiting a much sought after magical gate key this week. One that will gain me entrance to some predator filled waters here...

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

My name...

...Michael Pain!

It's cold. That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it!