Trail Camera Setup: Waterfowl

Covert Trail CameraThis setup is fast becoming one of my favorite sets for amazing wildlife photos. There is such a wide variety of ducks, geese, and shorebirds and not knowing what you are going to get on camera is half the fun. Take advantage of these numerous opportunities and make it into a personal challenge or friendly competition between friends and family as to how many different species you can get . There are three things you need to take into consideration when setting up for the perfect waterfowl trail camera photo: location, camera settings, timing.

Mallards preeningLocation
This step should be obvious, water! Of course you know where to find the waterfowl, but you will need to be set up for the best photos. Try to pick a spot where the birds naturally hang out, whether it be a shallow shoreline, a floating log, rock pile, or on the dock. Setting up your camera where they frequent will produce the most photos. Try to think about what they will be doing, flying, swimming, or sitting still. If flying or swimming, set the camera quartering too or away from the area. This will allow camera enough time to capture the photo. Allowing you to capture the full bird in the frame not just parts of the bird. But don’t only think about quantity, you will want to focus on a quality photo. What is in the background of the photo? Set the camera up as low as you can, getting an angle that would be eye level with the birds. Now get down to that level and find which direction would provide that picture perfect photo. Looking to find a unique back set that will make your photo stand out among other photos.Ducks feedingCamera Settings
Now that we have the perfect location with the camera positioned right, lets make sure the camera is setup properly. You will need to decide weather your going for photos, video, or both. Video will be the easiest for this set, the main thing to worry about will be the size of your SD card. The bigger the SD card the more video you will be able to capture. Depending on how frequently you can check you camera would depend on the size of card. A 4Gb to 8Gb card should be big enough for a 2 week set. Setting your camera up for waterfowl photos can take some thought with trial and error. I like to use a camera with a fast trigger speeds as well as a burst mode. This gives the camera time to capture that perfect shot. If the camera is facing the open water I would set the IR on the highest setting. Where as I am facing shore I would choose a medium setting, you know those cattails will blowing in the wind.

Trigger speedTiming
This step could be one step that slips most people’s minds, but timing can be everything! Think about when the waterfowl will migrating through your area. Here in Iowa that is usually early spring and early winter. These are the keys times for me to have my cameras out for waterfowl photos. During the migration you will never know what what flock of birds might show up. Or you might have some local birds that live on your pond all summer, so get your camera up before they return you never know who might be traveling with them! Also think about nesting, here nesting time is April/May. Do not disturbed a mother on the nest, but try to get the trail camera as close as possible. This will give you some amazing photos when the babies arrive!

Pintail ducks Mallard pair

(Photos by Adam Boysen and

Good Luck!

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