After recently moving from a 30-story apartment building in Beijing to a secluded country cottage in rural England, one of the first things I wanted to do was buy a wildlife camera. Living downtown in one of the world's most populous cities, seeing and hearing birds and other creatures right outside my window is something I didn't realize I took for granted.
But after spending a week or so researching online for the best wildlife camera, it seemed like none of them really did what I wanted them to. As a long-time user of smart home devices, I wanted a camera that would do things like send motion alerts straight to my phone, use cloud storage, and work with the minimum of fuss. On top of that, I didn't want a re-badged version of a generic, mediocre dashcam with a camouflage casing stuck around it, which Amazon seems to be flooded with.
Admittedly, I've been stung by one of these cameras before. As the resident tech nerd of my family, I was in charge of picking up a wildlife camera for my parents' Christmas present a couple of years ago. I chose one which reviews said was simple to operate and retrieve footage from — perfect for my elderly parents, or so I thought. This purchase was definitely counterproductive, as it led to countless hours of me offering remote tech support to my parents, who couldn't figure out either how to operate the camera, or how to retrieve footage from it. And even I, the apparent tech nerd, was quite baffled by the thing.
Recalling those frustrating hours on the phone made me put the the idea of buying a wildlife camera for myself on ice. It seemed that nobody made my dream wildlife camera, which was inexpensive, smart, and something even my parents could use. But after noticing a sale on the Blink Outdoor camera, it made me wonder. These things aren't strictly meant to be used as wildlife cameras, but they still have all the features my dream wildlife camera would have. And I already use a TV as a computer monitor, so would this be so different? It's all just marketing, right?
So, after some research, I thought I'd go all-in by ordering a three-pack — and I'm glad I did.
Setting the cameras up was quick and painless, and being wireless and weatherproof they can go straight outside into trees, bushes, or anywhere else within Wi-Fi range. After placing the cameras around my garden and retreating to the comfort of my couch, I was getting pinged with cute clips within minutes.
By the end of the week, I'd become acquainted with the greedy robin that eats most of the day's supply of seeds I leave out in just minutes, the two squirrels that love leaping between trees like stunt actors, the mouse that emerges at exactly 1 AM each morning to forage any leftovers the robin may have missed, and the fox that prowls the field behind my house after dark looking for dinner. Watching their 30-second clips has become like my own private TikTok. And I'm not the only one — one of my U.S. colleagues also uses a Blink Outdoor camera to bird watch in his backyard.
Granted, while the Blink Outdoor is one of the best outdoor security cameras, doesn't exactly take breathtaking footage worthy of a BBC documentary — it shoots at 1080p, and its night vision isn't the best. But if you just want to capture quick clips of critters to share in your family group chat, who needs 4k/60fps, Dolby Vision, and a commentary by Sir David Attenborough?
The takeaway from this purchase is that we should sometimes think outside of the box when it comes to buying tech. One person's home security camera can certainly be another one's private wildlife channel.