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The Bushnell Otter Challenge!

As part of my guiding role with the Shetland Wildlife Tour, I take a range of Bushnell trail cameras and set them and to show the clients some of the unseen wildlife of the islands. It is always a challenge to capture good footage in such a short period of time, but with help from  Magnus, who lives on Shetland and Tim, who was guiding before me, I was able to check out some locations and try to capture footage before I got there. My previous visits have also helped me to identify good places to put the trail cameras as well, maximising the chance of me capturing good clips.

Many of us go on holiday and are in a new location for just a short period of time. A trail camera can give you an insight into some of the wildlife that may be around when you are not! Whereas a longer period of time on a site is better, even a week can give excellent results, especially when it comes to the elusive otter. These animals are pretty habitual, so if you know what field signs to look for, then you can maximise your chance to monitor a site and capture footage. In all sites, I aim to spend as little time as possible there, with the cameras all preset before I arrive, so it is just a matter of positioning then leaving. These cameras on otters are all ‘covert’ or ‘black’ IR. This means they do not glow at all, so are the least likely to be seen. As you can see by my footage, the otters are not disturbed by the presence of the camera.

One of my favourite sites did not disappoint. This site has delivered some amazing clips over the last 3 years and, once again, it did the same.

My favourites are here, but you can see others on my YouTube channel. This site often produces some really interesting clips. Having a trail camera at a site 24-7 for a few weeks means it captures footage than can be quite unusual. The interactions between individuals are what interest me most. Many of these clips are showing two males. I can only presume this is a father / son relationship, but male otters are thought to be pretty solitary. The vocalisations in many of these are pretty amazing too.

There were a series of other locations that I set cameras. One of these is on a small spit of land where there was evidence that otters were passing over. A small, lush grassy hollow showed lots of spraint and evidence of a rolling spot. I set the camera up facing this location. Due to the windiness of the location, I had to set it quite low, so there was quite a lot of sky. This can cause issues within the camera as the land can be underexposed as the trail camera sets the exposure on the brightness of the sky. The camera coped pretty well and I was pleased with the clips captured in such a short period of time, indicating at least two individuals passing through here. This video shows a series of merged clips from this location.

Tim had been guiding up in Shetland for several weeks and told me about a harbour site where there was evidence of a lot of otter activity.  We travelled to the site and set a camera facing a corner that was literally full of spraint! It was most obviously a very well used spot with lots of activity! We were not disappointed with the footage we captured of this female with 2 grown up cubs…..

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Another site that I had cameras on last year was another location we set cameras on again. Tim had had a Bushnell on this spot for a few weeks and captured some great clips, so I chose this location to set one of the new Bushnell camera models that I had just received to trial. I had been concerned that the most conveniently placed post for the cam, was a little close at about 2 metres, but I decided to risk it. There is a lovely roll spot here, along with some great sprainting points. I set the camera facing the rolling point. Otters like to dry off and will use areas of grass, like a towel! This individual seems to just like lounging in the sunshine and these clips have to be some of my most favourite.

The quality of this new camera is looking fantastic and I will be posting more about it in the coming weeks when I have trialled it in some different locations as well.

Shetland has been a brilliant place for my Bushnells, yet again. The almost constant daylight at this time of year means lots of lovely daytime footage with lovely light. Roll on next year!!

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