Need to shoot black crows at midnight

Not a joke. For a project I'm doing, I want to shoot some video of nesting crows at night. There are some simply fantastic crow roosts at night in downtown Sacramento.

I can probably get some still shots of the crows by (1) long exposure on a tripod, or (2) using some sort of illumination.

I suppose I could use a high-powered light to light up the trees, but I don't want to scare the crows off. I also might have a REAL problem shining lights into apartment windows at night. The police WILL wonder what I am doing.

I'd like to get a night vision product for my camcorder. I'd rent if I could but I just don't know if anyone in cow town Sacramento would have anything such as this. Maybe. Maybe also San Francisco might. I'll have to check there as well.

Prices are VERY, VERY high to buy. I'm talking $2k and up. Not worth it for a one-time shoot. (Though it might come in handy if I want to do a military or zombie film, lol.)

Any thoughts?
Coordinate your shooting witht the moon. A full moon gives off a lot more light than a partial one. If you're shooting with a DSLR, use the fastest lens you have. You'll likely have to boost your ISO and your footage will be grainy, but I don't see you having much of a choice. Shining a light will just scare the birds off.
I suppose I could use a high-powered light to light up the trees, but I don't want to scare the crows off. I also might have a REAL problem shining lights into apartment windows at night. The police WILL wonder what I am doing.

I don't know the layout of your location, but could you set up lights on a rooftop or balcony, aimed down at the roost? Set them and power them up during daylight while the crows are away, then just leave them on until after dark, that way the crows won't notice them.
I've seen shots of birds at night before-usually there's a backlight-mind you maybe those birds are trained-but the idea of turning it on before they get there would be a good idea.

Another idea-any chance of maybe finding stock footage that would be free/minimal royalty?
Look at ebay for the Sony Handycam DCR-TRV series. I believe most if not all have night vision. They do use miniDV tapes though, so you would have to transfer to PC via Firewire. They seem to average around $100. Maybe less?
Use things like these:

In combination with a camera that will respond well to it. I was on a job in Janurary we had a pair of Sony A1U's as backup cameras to use with our pair of IR lights for "surveillance" scenes and what not. (Another "reality" gig, meh, they pay the bills).

Probably out of purchase price range for the project, but depending on your location you might be able to rent them, or at least equivalent stuff. Small Lightpanels like that don't need to be mounted on the camera - you could pre-rig the tree with them during the day while the crows are away, hypothetically. Hmm. Switching them on at the right time might be interesting, but not impossible to do. Anyway, the tree would be lit, no neighbors or birds disturbed, and you could document them with reckless abandon. Or meticulous caution, whatever floats your boat.

I'm pretty sure that almost all night work on nature docs light with IR rather than just relying on the camera picking up enough from the natural environment.

Having said that, I want to say I recall reading about one shoot or another which was done just with extremely light sensitive equipment and a full moon over the African Savannah. I could also be completely off base about that.

Oh, I just looked back at the OP and realized that you are in Sac. I know a couple of folks out there with kit - but I don't think they have the IR panels.

I consumed more alcohol in 4 weeks of working with those guys than I have in some entire years. Or at least it seemed that way. A little crazy but good folks and generally looking to keep the kit working. They might have or know of something you can use. They're also really good with rigging, something you'll need for working in the trees. I know they've got a lot of work in the next few months, but a straight rental on some oddity gear should be no big deal. I don't think they have an A1U, but they have a couple of other small cams that might do IR.

There's also Silverado in Sac, but I don't know anyone there - at least not really.

If you look in the Bay area; check these places first:

DTC Lighting and Grip in Emeryville. If they don't have an IR panel or two for you, they will probably know who does.

Chater Camera in Berkeley - expensive, but probably the best cared for rental equipment you'll find. Probably another good referral source.

Don't be terribly daunted by the posted pricing, it tends to be somewhat flexible, but still spendy. It looks like they want about $250/day for their Sony 1U, give or take what sort of package you can negotiate.
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Thanks for the suggestions! I did see the Sony DCR-TRV line. On e-bay they vary greatly in quality and cost (as one would expect. I've gotten burned on e-bay buying electronics, but who hasn't?).

Not possible to rig up lights. This is an urban setting and power, permission, theft are all problems.

Don't want to use stock film. This is going to be sort of a demo doc, so I'm doing all the shooting and interviewing etc myself.

Full moon is a definite idea. Sounds creepy. Which is cool.

Day for night won't work because the only reason I'm shooting this is that they roost at night. Very cool/creepy looking...

LOVE litepanels but I already have a full set of LED panels and just can't afford a whole set of new ones, plus the theft potential. Plus I don't think they'd light up the dark corners of urban SacTown.

Unfortunately, the crows like to roost where the homeless, drunks, and crazy people do as well. I'm going to have to get 'help' to shoot there, primarily to act as security. But they can help shoot as well. I'm also going to get the sounds of the birds along with usual urban sounds.

Will check the links on rental equipment.

Thanks again, all!
Just a thought... start with what you want to see, and work backwards from there. Most solid state video sensors are IR sensitive, so go from there. LED-based solid state IR illuminators are plentiful and cheaper every day. There are also easily set up motion detectors, so a combination of the two might well achieve what you need.
I tried my Canon and I got...nothing.

The ambient light is poor. The night sky is very dark, and, of course, crows are black.

There is, of course, a solution. I just have to decide how much to pay to get that solution.

Video will work. We have all seen night vision shots. It's going to look either black and white (and gray) (IR) or green (image enhancement).

I'm going to see if I can find any rental houses.

The best option if I decide to buy something is a Sony DCR-TRV 70 or 80, or an adapter that will allow me to use a night scope with my camcorder.
Well, Mr. Funk, I'm not Ken Burns! Wish I was, wish I had his resources!.

Video is definitely the right way to go. Found that the Sony HVR-1000u Digital has super nightshot. I'm investigating whether this will shoot at 25 feet or so, with additional illumination. That is definitely the way to go.

Also continuing to investigate the rental market for night vision camcorders.

BTW, went downtown and notices crows are roosting in many places. I've identified several locations that would be good for shooting. Interestingly, crows avoid quiet parks and the state Capitol area, with its fantastic arboretum. I guess they like the hub-bub of people and cars.