In the night garden with Daryl Peters

25 January 2021 | Posted in Emma Chaplin , wildlife photography
In the night garden with Daryl Peters

Daryl Peters has been contributing photos to the Sussex Wildlife Trust Facebook Nature Table group for a long time. Recently, he's been experimenting with a new technique, a DSLR camera trap, for capturing shots of night-time wildlife in his north Worthing garden. 

The result has been some great images, and he has learnt a great deal in the process about his nocturnal visitors. We talk to him about it.  

Tell us a bit about yourself

I mostly work from home at the moment, and where I live is quite suburban, although on the cusp of the downs. My garden is a work in progress though I've tried to make it wildlife friendly, with log piles, leaving leaf litter, installing feeding stations and nest boxes. My aim for this year is letting the grass grow and a wildflower strip to attract more insects and butterflies. 

I do have a passion for bats, reptiles, and I find moths fascinating, running a moth trap whenever I can.  

Fox close up

Tell us about your photography and photographing wildlife at night

I used to dabble with a DSLR camera a few years ago. I became interested in bushcraft, and then tracking and trailing animals where I was introduced to using trail cameras to record what is in my garden at night. I've had a number of trail cameras over the years and enjoyed seeing what they capture - things you never normally see because you're not there, and therefore not interfering with how wildlife behaves. I also try to record those sightings on Irecord

You can get some funny moments when people trigger the camera accidentally. 

I'd noticed a lot of people getting good results using a DSLR camera trap, but assumed it was very difficult or technical. I looked on YouTube and read a book, and, surprisingly, it wasn't as difficult as I'd thought. You get great image quality, so I’ve been experimenting with that, and very much enjoying what I’m finding. 

Badgery

I'm very careful with how I use the flashes, using snoods and reducing the power to limit the light to a very small area, so as not to disturb the wildlife or my neighbours. I also do not photograph every night.  

Being interested in bats, I was especially aware of the effect of artificial light on wildlife. I have found that my night-time visitors are largely oblivious. Wildlife is under a great deal of pressure, so it's really important that we protect it and have a little impact as possible. 

I've learnt a lot and I'm still learning. Sometimes, you wake to find the camera knocked over or the lens fogged over, and there are always lots of ‘bottom’ images.

 Mouse

Look carefully for the little mouse

What do you need to do this?

You can use a PIR sensor and trigger, like you get with security lights, and an off-camera flash gun, plus I use a Canon 80D camera. You don't have to spend a fortune, it works very well with second-hand equipment, and in fact if you are leaving it anywhere, this is better, in case it goes missing or gets damaged.

What has surprised you?

I hadn't realised I had five foxes and two badgers visiting so regularly. I didn't realise that the foxes mate quite so early, as they did in November. 

Fox garden

 Any advice for anyone interested in taking this up?

What's great about Nature Table and other similar groups, everyone is really helpful and supportive and happy to offer advice or answer any questions you have. The best tip I have is to persevere and learn a little about the wildlife you are wanting to photograph.  

Badger steps

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