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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Recluse in the snag

Three days ago at 6:13 PM a squirrel climbed down the snag and aroused the resident screech owl (who looked pretty scary to me). During the next two nights the owl took 143 pictures of its own comings and goings. Or should I say owls? If there is a pair, I can’t tell them apart.

The cavity is in a black oak and looked unused. So I was prepared for disappointment this afternoon when I went to check the camera. For nearly two weeks I have been using a new toy -- a telescoping fiberglass pole -- to raise the camera up to the level of tree cavities. This tree was second choice.

I expected a bonanza of pictures from my first choice -- a much-pecked flicker-sized cavity about 25 feet up. It had all the signs of occupancy, except the presence of a bird. The edge of the cavity had been chipped away and enlarged recently.

It was a bear of a job getting the camera into position, because when it is 25 feet overhead you can’t really see exactly where the camera's sensor is in relation to the cavity. From one angle they look like they are face to face. Then you move uphill to confirm it, and the camera looks too low. So you make adjustments and check again. And again. The other problem is pole-wobble. Even when anchored with guy lines, the slightest breeze wobbles the pole, which fools the sensor, and the camera goes wild taking pictures of moving vegetation.

After failing with a cavity that had "active nest" written all over it, I settled for one that was 12 feet up.

It looked abandoned, but I got a nice surprise. There were many shots of the little guy checking out the camera and the scenery.

And then there were shots of it clinging to the entrance.

And (whoohoo!) I got three pictures of the owl in flight.

Now to improve the set-up so I can get that picture of mini-raptor with limp deer mouse in talons.


Anonymous said...

You sure are getting some excellent shots! Alicia wants to try something similar with a lobster trap.

Lee J. Cockrell said...

We want to see all 143 of the pictures.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Yeah, an underwater camera trap would be neat, but you'd probably have to use something other than a passive infra-red sensor. A plain motion sensor or a whisker switch would work. I'd like to use one for underwater shots of otters. Are we having fun or what?

I assure Lee that the little owl's charm wore off quickly as I reviewed each of the 143 pictures in IPhoto. (Yawn) But they ARE cute.

Jackie said...

I love your animal images. You certainly get a variety of critters coming to your baits. That owl is a mighty pretty bird.

Camera Trap Codger said...

I haven't used baits for the owls, zhakee. I would like to try recordings to lure them in, but the nesting season isn't a good time (they get too obsessive looking for the intruder). So far I just hunt for nesting cavities in late winter and mark the trees so I can find them later when they leaf out. Then I stake out a camera to see if the nest holes are being used.