My passion for wildlife and photography started in my garden as a child. Growing up in South East London, the family bird table seems to have been a pivotal symbol of my childhood. For as far back as I can remember I watched a range of birds visiting our modest patio and the chirp of House sparrows and the loud squabbling of Starlings are still sounds that sum up a lot of my early wildlife experiences.
I have fed the garden birds ever since! Even in my university days, living in student accommodation in the middle of Derby, I hung feeders outside my room and was visited by a small selection of rather grimy-looking sparrows and a few blue tits. I simply can’t imagine a life without this avian contact.
My love for wildlife has never waivered and now, I am in the enviable position where my passion has become my job and my WildlifeKate venture revolves around encouraging and showcasing how we can all connect with wildlife in our own space, whether that be a small balcony, a patio area or a larger garden.
My garden is now a plethora of feeders and feeding stations and I can boast over 50 bird species and 17 mammal species that have visited my semi-rural patch in Staffordshire. You may imagine that my garden is vast…. But it really is quite modest. Long and narrow, but bordered by mature hedgerow, it boasts 3 Oak trees, a Silver Birch, Rowan and a couple of fruit trees. Farmland surrounds it, so it feels pretty rural, yet it is only a few miles from the centre of the cathedral city of Lichfield.
Such a variety of wildlife right on my doorstep provides me with wonderful opportunities for photography, but I use a variety of methods to capture images of all my visitors. My Canon DSLR helps me record quality images of birds at feeding stations as well as all the other creatures that fly and scurry around my patch and I spend as much time as possible photographing the birds that visit my feeding stations and other creatures that frequent my garden…
My phone produces amazingly good images that can easily be shared instantly via social media sites and I often photograph when in the garden and upload straight onto my Twitter feed.
Bushnell Trail cameras remotely monitor areas, providing me with both stills and HD video footage. These cameras run on AA batteries and can be placed anywhere. The passive infra-red sensor detects an animal passing and triggers the camera to take a video or a still. I use them to monitor feeding stations, badgers setts, potential dens and trails. And they can give an unique insight into the wildlife that is around, particularly after dark.
Small CCTV and nest box-type cameras add another dimension to my wildlife monitoring and recording. I have over 20 of these small, wired cameras in the garden, that all cable back to my office. I can watch, monitor and capture both stills and videos from any of these cameras, using powerful CCTV-type software. Have you ever watched the whole process of nest building to egg laying to hatch, to fledge? A nest box camera kit has allowed me to do just that.
My cameras have captured the moment a Sparrowhawk exploded onto my bird table,
a kestrel was mobbed by jackdaws
and the gentle beak preening of Barn owls…moments normally hidden from view.
Just setting a camera on a bird feeder or inside a nest box was not enough… I started building boxes to attract small mammals and I put cameras inside those too! Experimenting with light and HD cameras, I was able to start capturing amazing footage of wild wood mice, bank voles, rats and even shrews feeding inside these artificial feeding spaces.
Fox and hedgehog feeding stations gave me an even greater insight into the mammals that scurry hidden in my hedgerow or frequent the twilight world of my garden.
Soon it was not just me watching this amazing world of wildlife, as I was live streaming my cameras from my website and sharing my Staffordshire wildlife worldwide!
You just never know what might appear on one of the cameras…..
Capturing images from this wonderful natural palette of wildlife constantly excites and inspires me… this is only the beginning!
Kate MacRae, also known as ‘WildlifeKate’ has spent the last four years turning her rural garden in Staffordshire into a camera haven, allowing her to monitor the goings on of all the wildlife visiting. She has over 20 cameras set up, all wired back to her office, where she can watch and record the visitors. From inside nest boxes, to small and large mammal feeding stations, Kate’s cameras and set-up have appeared regularly on BBC Springwatch and Autumnwatch. Kate is also a keen photographer and avid user of Bushnell trail cameras and these form big part of her wildlife filming. Kate’s cameras stream live on her website and can be watched 24-7.