Tuesday, May 29, 2007
I was standing beside the mossy rock viewing this impish brown thing for the first time. "What the hell . . . ?" I could barely make it out on the Sony's teeny weeny LCD. It kind of looked like a brown monkey. Was that a small face beneath a domed head? Or was the squinched little face higher up? Could it be a runtling Sasquatch? Was it doing step-up exercises on the mossy rock?
I clicked to the next picture, and then I knew. I had been fooled by a bear's "bum" (as the British would say).
Then I clicked up the date stamp: the bear had been there three days ago. Hmmmm. Not likely it's still around, I thought, but this little bear is too small to be independent. Wherever it is now, mother isn't far away, and any fool knows that finding yourself between a bear and its cub can be hazardous to your health.
The thought gave way to more serious considerations. . . . I mean, little bears can be dangerous too.
I learned that lesson in my curator days. One weekend in the 70s, a well-intentioned tourist from Washington D.C. delivered a bear cub to our facility. He found it crossing a country road near Shenandoah National Park. The little guy was as solid as a medicine ball, weighed about 12 lbs, and was crazed with hunger. I was finishing a tour when the cub arrived, and my guests immediately began to coo. Now the bear expert, I offered the cub my hand as if we were old friends. It was one of those Marlin Perkins moments, when the show doesn't go according to script. The jaws of little bears, I discovered, have the clamping power of a bench vise.
Which makes me wonder about a bear story that visits us every decade or so during family reunions -- did Uncle Fred know that bear wrestling was fraught with danger? Or did he have a trick up his sleeve? I mean, maybe he knew a secret hold that would render the bear helpless and allow him to collect the bets? Whatever the answer, it was a turning point in my grandfather, Poppy's life. His big brother was too reckless to be a partner in any venture.
The Norberg brothers were backwoods Swedes from Jamtland. When the earthquake struck San Francisco in '06, "Poppy" decided to find a safer haven, and succumbed to his brother's entreaties to join him in the Klondike. He arrived in Skagway as a stowaway in late summer. When they finally got to Uncle Fred's digs, it was too late for serious mining.
So the cabin-bound brothers rationed their whiskey and spent the winter playing cards, and dining on sheep meat. When the thaw came, they headed for Dawson City for supplies. That's where Uncle Fred got snockered. There was a bear tied to the hitching post outside the saloon, and Fred started taking wagers that he could whip it's. . .er . . . well, it's bum.
Poppy was appalled. The bear looked like a cub, he said, and may have been muzzled. What started as comedy became a brouhaha with calls to "get the drunk Swede out of here". Poppy decided to part ways, and became a lumberjack in Washington State.
We never did learn what possessed Uncle Fred to be a bear-fighter. Maybe whiskey fooled him like my Sony's teeny weeny LCD.
Or maybe it was just like Robert Service said,
"There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moiled for gold. . .".
Postscript: In WWI Uncle Fred fought in France with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, became a Canadian when he returned, and received a homestead grant of 700 acres in Northcentral British Columbia. In 1955 he was swept away in the Frazier River during the spring thaw. He was reckless to the end.
Monday, May 28, 2007
And this is how she appeared, panting softly in the wake of her sensual interlude . . . It was all over at 19:12:50 hr . . . on 24 May 2007 -- three days ago (last Friday).
It started about 15 minutes earlier as she padded up the creek bed -- a few molecules of the magical substance impinged her olfactory epithelium. She followed her nose, moving up the gradient of scent. She found it on the mossy rock -- a redolent smudge of beaver castoreum. She engaged it with a passionate grip. It was wonderful. She sniffed, licked, and drooled uncontrollably.
But that wasn't enough. The substance summoned a languorous need for a whole-body experience.
Another taste activated Jacobsen's organ in the roof of her mouth. She grimaced uncontrollably.
Finally, the buzz started to dissipate, and she felt a strong urge to pee.
The party was over. It was time to look for rabbits and deer again.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
You weren't expecting this, but it's time for a pop-quiz. (Beware, more than one answer may be correct.)
The jackrabbit in photo 1 (above) is:
b) a young adult
c) an aged adult
d) stretching its legs before a race
The jackrabbit in photo 2 is:
d) looking for a mate
The jackrabbit in photo 3 is:
a) beginning to leap forward
b) spraying urine on a female
c) resuming a normal posture after standing upright on the hindlegs
The jackrabbit in photo 4 is probably:
a) suffering from shin splints of the forelegs
c) waking up from a bunny nap
d) cleaning its mouth on the damp grass
The jackrabbit in photo 5 is probably:
a) hopping intermittently
b) running quickly
d) posing for the camera
a) urinating (QUITE POSSIBLE)
b) a young adult (DEFINITELY)
c) an aged adult (WRONG. DEFINITELY NOT)
d) stretching its legs before a race (WRONG. UNLIKELY)
(The animal was born this spring, and is not quite adult size yet. It still has that skinny look.)
a) resting (WRONG)
b) hungry (WRONG. DOES IT LOOK HUNGRY TO YOU?)
c) startled (DEFINITELY)
d) looking for a mate (WRONG. ITS TOO SCARED TO BE THINKING ABOUT THAT)
(This stance has all the signs of a startled animal -- hindlegs spread, body crouched, and ears forward. The sound of the camera might have triggered the response.)
a) beginning to leap forward (POSSIBLY)
b) spraying urine on a female (WRONG. DO YOU SEE SOMETHING I DON'T SEE? TRY AGAIN)
c) resuming a normal posture after standing upright on the hindlegs (PROBABLY)
d) playing (WRONG)
(Jackrabbits stand upright (bipedally) when scoping out the neighborhood for danger. I think this animal is resuming its normal stance after standing upright. Urine spraying is also a courtship behavior seen in rabbits and some rodents, but that is NOT what you are seeing here.)
a) suffering from shin splints of the forelegs (WRONG)
b) grazing (CORRECT)
c) waking up from a bunny nap (WRONG)
d) cleaning its mouth on the damp grass (WRONG)
(Sometimes jackrabbits graze while kneeling on bent forelegs, just as warthogs do. The legs may look injured, but they aren't.)
a) hopping intermittently (DOUBTFUL)
b) running quickly (MOST PROBABLY)
c) walking (WRONG)
d) posing for the camera (WRONG)
(Looks to me like this animal is running (technically, galloping), but doesn't appear to running "full-speed ahead".
If you answered all the questions right, you have wasted a lot of time watching animals and you have a healthy dose of biophilia.
If you answered them all wrong, you were probably thinking this was about two-legged bunnies.
If you answered one or two correctly, you need to spend more time out-of-doors.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
As fledging day approaches the fickle finger of fate continues to thwart my efforts to photograph screech owl fluffies. These are trying times.
I've gotten only 8 photos since last week -- a few blanks and a couple of screech owl butts as the adults entered the nest cavity. Part of the problem has been poor sensor alignment. Then the controller batteries went out, and today the camera batteries were dead.
Last weekend I was convinced that the problem was squirrels. My late afternoon visit began well. It was the first time I saw the male owl in daylight. His 'owl camou' really worked -- dark facial streaks obliterated closed eyes, and his ear tufts were at full mast. He didn't look awake, but I had a feeling he was sleep-faking.
Well that's cool, I thought. If the male is roosting here, the nest hasn't been abandoned.
There were only two pictures on the memory stick, so I raised the camera on the fiberglass pole, and tried to adjust the senor's position better. (I am embarrassed to say I forgot the periscope.) I had trudged up the slope to sight-in on the camera's position when I noticed two dainty gray squirrelettes lounging on top of the snag. They must have just weaned, and yes, they were cute. But their proximity to the owl nest only 4 feet below was too close for comfort. My warm and cuddly feelings weren't there. They didn't understand boundaries, and needed to find another tree.
I made a pathetic attempt to scare them off by tossing short twigs. They hardly noticed. Then I resorted to a long dead tree limb, but these efforts were equally laughable because I was endangering the camera. Finally the squirrels scampered down the snag and climbed a nearby oak.
I was again sighting-in on the camera when I was distracted by a big squirrel chasing one of the youngsters down the snag it had just climbed. This did not look like play or maternal discipline. They scuffled on the ground, someone squeaked, and the small squirrel broke free and bounded down the slope with big squirrel in hot pursuit. They scrambled up another tree, and -- OH NO -- big squirrel caught little squirrel again, and there was more squeaking. At this point little squirrel literally bailed out, free-falling about 25 feet to the ground, where he bounced on the leaf litter, and apparently none the worse for wear, ran down the slope and out of sight.
As if that wasn't enough excitement, I now heard a wheezy cough behind me.
"Chunka-chunka-chunk! . . . chunk-chunk-chunk!".
Another squirrel -- and a very large and agitated squirrel at that, was peering beyond me toward the victorious squirrel in the tree. Was this the mother of the vanquished weanlings? (I could see from its revealing posture that it lacked testes.)
"Chunka-chunka-chunk", replied the attack squirrel.
A chunka-chunk duel went on for a full minute, and then petered out.
The squirrel episode neutralized my funk about my bad luck with the owls. I've seen squirrel chases and rough and tumble play, but this looked like child abuse by the neighbor next door. What was going on?
Pack on my back, I looked up for the screech owl as I started home. I was almost directly beneath him, and though everything appeared as before, I noticed that his head was tilted down. He was watching me through squinted eyes. The bird was definitely sleep-faking.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Check out the skunk's neck. Yes, yes, yes -- that's a mouse in its mouth (and a trespasser from my garage where no mouse is tolerated.) But that's not the point. I want you to look at the skunk's neck. Can you see that the wounds are on both sides of the neck?
Sooner or later those who live close to nature encounter the diseased and injured, and it sinks in that "nature is red in tooth and claw".
So how did this happen? I offer four scenarios based on the observation that the wounds look traumatic, rather than the result of irritation.
Scenario 1: The skunk got its neck caught in some chicken wire, and scratched itself trying to get out.
This is possible, but I don't think it is likely. No one in the neighborhood keeps chickens or keeps chicken-wire cages, and the chicken-wire under our deck has already been breeched and offers free and safe access to critters seeking shelter.
Scenario 2: The skunk suffered from a neck bite during a sexual tryst.
If we knew this to be a female skunk, and it was earlier in the year -- like January or February -- a romantic interlude would be quite possible. The courthip of mustelids (members of the weasel family) is well known for prolonged bouts of neck biting along with all the other stuff. But the breeding season is past, and little skunks should be appearing soon; so I don't think it is very likely. I might also add that I haven't seen wounds like this in skunks photographed earlier in the year when "love is in the air".
Scenario 3: The skunk suffered from a predatory encounter with a naive bobcat or coyote.
Many mammalian predators, especially cats and weasels, dispatch their prey with a neck bite which severs the spine. Note that this skunk shows wounds not only on its neck. There are also scratches on its head.
In this case the hypothetical predator might have lost its appetite when overpowered by skunk musk. This scenario is feasible. A naive predator might try to nail a skunk once, but the skunk's chemical defense and uniquely bicolored coat are highly effective teaching tools. Smart predators learn their lesson from a single experience. (Domestic dogs seem to require several trials, and some never seem to get it.)
Scenario 4: The skunk had a brawl with another skunk.
This would be more likely in male than female skunks. Carnivores tend to fight over food and sex. Since skunks don't have to defend their food (which comes in small packets), I suspect that studly skunks fight over females. Whether male skunks fight by attacking each other's necks, I just don't know. It seems possible, but perhaps a mammalogist out there can enlighten us.
We haven't solved the problem, but my guess is that the luckless skunk was attacked by a coyote, bobcat, or fox. By discharging its scent gland, it not only saved its own damaged neck, but taught one more predator that 'ole stripey' isn't to be trifled with. In other words, his own close calls and occasional misfortune benefits other members of his species.
[By the way, German-speaking ethologists identified the Nackenbiss (=neck bite) as a fixed action pattern. It is innate (=genetically programmed), typical of the species, and is tiggered by specific sign stimuli. It is used in predatory, sexual, and maternal situations with very different effects.]
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Ever since discovering the screech owl nest I've been scouting for nest cavities of other owls.
I'm about to give up. With the exception of the fortuitous encounter with the saw-whet owl, none of the tree cavities I've staked out during the past 2 weeks have yielded anything but deer mice and wood rats.
These pictures were from the most active site. A gopher snake was resting quietly at the base of the tree when I arrived. As it parted ways it occurred to me that I might be wasting my time. The snake might have eaten the occupants, but then again, maybe the snake would come back and eat the occupants after I left. Now, that would make a story.
Three days later there were 44 exposures; 14 were of deer mice, and 9 were of a wood rat. The rat and mouse visitations were separated by a couple hours.
The wood rat must have found the quarters a little cramped.
Nonetheless woodrats and deer mice cohabitate in the rats' stick nests. In fact, the coastal subspecies of the California mouse (Peromyscus californicus) was dubbed "parasiticus" because of its habit of living in nests of the dusky-footed wood rat.
The Allegheny woodrat, on the other hand, may not be as mouse-tolerant. If you'll excuse a flashback, I'll explain.
Many years ago a senior colleague of mine at the National Zoo had an uninvited dinner guest in the form of an Allegheny woodrat. This was shortly after Guy had moved into a partially renovated cottage at the zoo's Conservation & Research Center. Aware that the rodent was the previous occupant, and perhaps with a twinge of guilt, Guy offered it some hamburger from his plate.
Guy related the story in my office the next morning. After going to bed that night the rat had lived up to its moniker of "trade rat". It had deposited several pieces of plaster on the floor near the dinner table. (There was apparently a large supply of the relics of the lath and plaster walls under the house.)
Might the rodent become a nuisance? I asked. He didn't think so. The completion of the dry-walls would create a rat-proof boundary.
The dry walls were completed a few days later, but the rat kept showing up at dinnertime and continued delivering its nightly gift. Guy's amusement quickly wore off. I knew the game was over when he came puffing into my office one morning and deposited a bag of broken plaster on my desk. He explained that this vast amount--enough to fill a 2 lb coffee can--was deposited just last night.
It was time to catch the rat.
I live-trapped the rodent, and put it in a large cage of 1/2" hardware cloth in my chicken coop. In due course it made a respectable nest out of shredded feed bags and -- you won't believe it -- its own fecal pellets, which it heaped on top of the nest box.
The rat was particularly fond of animal protein. It tackled chunks of ham fat with the ferocity of a predator, literally throwing itself against the mesh, pulling the scraps through the mesh, and dragging them into its "lair".
Curiously, no mouse was permitted to share its domain. It promptly dispatched trespassing mice, and incorporated the carcasses into the pellet pile, which became a grotesque collection of fly-blown mouse mummies.
The rat thrived for 6 months, and then one night I left the cage open, thinking it might return for a day or two to the familiarity of its old digs.
Apparently it never looked back..
Such are the flashbacks after a bad day on the camera trapline.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Last week, after two days of no pictures and nagging fears that a squirrel had dined on screech owl eggs, I was ready to throw in the towel. I decided to wait a few days for my luck to change before going back to pull the camera. When I checked the camera yesterday I found 368 pictures (4 days worth) on the memory stick! Hallelujah!
There were no pictures of nestlings, but all signs indicate that there are young in the nest. Up till now, I never got a photo of two owls, and rarely got pictures of either owl going into the nest cavity. That's no longer the case.
And up till now, I only occasionally found pictures of the owls in the cavity. Now, 40% of the pictures were of the commotion in the nest cavity. There's a lot of flapping and excitement when the food is delivered.
Oddly, there were only three photos of prey: a Jerusalem cricket (or potato bug), and an insect larva.
Where are the mice? The woods are crawling with them. Or do dismembered mice invite blowflies and predators? I plan on keeping a camera on this nest until they fledge. Maybe I'll get a few pictures of the "fluffies".
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Ever tried to aim a camera trap on the end of a pole at a hole in a tree 12 feet above your head?
What is that nut talking about, you ask?
I'm talking about the trials and tribulations of photographing cavity-nesting birds. You are looking up into the foliage, the sun usually in your eyes, and from one angle the camera looks dead on target. Then you move for a different take, and it looks off target. Photographing the comings and goings of a small bird up close with a camera trap takes the patience of Job. It's a bear adjusting the camera so that the passive infra-red sensor (or PIR) detects the critical area of activity.
If you're not dozing yet, you may be wondering "what's the problem?"
Well, the fresnel lens helps the PIR detect moving heat in a cone-shaped volume that expands with distance from the sensor. At short distances the sensor's area of reception is quite small. I measured it in one of my cameras and found that when my hand was moving only 3 feet away the sensor detected it only within a 5 inch circle.
This means that it takes a lot of trial and error eye-balling to get the PIR 'spot-on' the nest hole.
The other day I bought a cheap laser pointer with the idea of solving the problem. I was going to make a mount for the laser on top of the camera case, so I could aim the PIR quickly and with more certainty.
Then I thought I'd better run the idea by my neighbor Richard.
Richard is a submarine veteran (remember the mechanic Johann in "Das Boot?"), and he's a wizard at all things mechanical.
Well, Richard suggested going with a periscope. At first I was skeptical, but he rummaged around his shop, and in no time assembled a miniature periscope from a piece of square metal tubing, a piece of aluminum bent at 45 degrees, and a small mirror. We velcroed the device to the back of the camera, and aimed the laser up the tube. It worked like a charm.
Next I had to measure the distance between the laser spot and the PIR sensor. To correct for parallax the reflected laser spot should be several inches above the target (depending on the distance between the reflected beam and the center of the PIR). Then you adjust the camera's position on the pole till you get it right. This is pretty easy when using a telescoping fiberglass pole. It's a more tedious process when using square tubing with connecting sleeves.
The next day I hauled the gear down the hill to a cavity located in the end of a broken limb. The periscope indicated the camera was too low. I raised the camera on the pole, but I couldn't tell if I had it right. You see, the trunk wasn't vertical, and after I raised the camera I couldn't see the laser beam from the ground.
The joke was on me. I could only conclude that while technology can solve a lot of problems, nature doesn't always cooperate.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Does a deer mouse really need this much space?
When I discovered the den last week, there were auspicious signs that the tenant was larger than a mouse or rat. For one thing, there were no spider webs across the entrance. Something big and furry had been swabbing it out. And there was plenty of bunk space upstairs in the apartment. I had high hopes the occupant would be an opossum or a raccoon (which for some strange reason I rarely photograph here), or maybe a spotted skunk.
I staked it out for four days, but the place was so promising that I paid a visit after the second night.
"Well, I'll be . . ." Something had knocked the camera askew.
And not only that . . . it had bitten off the camera trap's "eyebrow" (a PVC ring hot-glued to the case to protect the lens window from rain). Fortunately, none of the three windows was popped or broken.
The anticipation was killing me. Was I about to find an image of a beady ursine eye peering malevolently into the lens?
I opened the camera, flipped the switch to view mode and clicked through the images . . . deer mouse, deer mouse, blank, deer mouse, blank, deer mouse, deer mouse. . . Get the picture? My spirits were rapidly deflating. Then came the last picture.
This was the only visitor who could fill the den, but Ole Stripey was only passing through and had only paused for a sniff. I had to ask myself--was this skunk my camera's abuser? It seemed so out of character. Surely a skunk wouldn't take on the camera with its teeth. I don't think it could have even reached it.
When I got home I found two sharp indentations, 22.6mm apart (as measured with a caliper) in the base of the PVC ring. Now I ask you, can someone tell me the distance between the canines of a striped skunk? A raccoon? (My skull collection is still in a box somewhere in the garage.)
Anyway, two more days yielded more pictures of (yawn) Peromyscus -- both adults and blue-coated juveniles. The cushy upscale den was only a flop house for deer mice, and I am left with an unsolved puzzle.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
My first glimpse of Macavity was back in February. I was puttering around outside when I surprised a large tabby cat slipping under the deck. My best falsetto "Here kitty kitty kitty kitty kitty. . ." had no effect. Joy. A new stray was here to prey on birds at the feeder.
Two days later the same cat dashed out of the garage when I surprised it gulping chicken parts consigned to the garbage. I had left the door open for only a few minutes, but Macavity had been watching and made his move. This cat clearly knew far more about us than we knew about him. When I didn't see the cat for a couple of months I concluded it had moved on.
Then one day about three weeks ago I was putzing about the garden, and I kept smelling cat piss. Wherever I went I would suddenly catch a whiff. I was on hands and knees sniffing for a scent post when the redhead casually observed that a cat had urinated on the polar fleece I was wearing.
"Isn't that the polar fleece you left hanging outside for the past few days?" she asked.
(How come women are so perceptive?)
She was correct, of course, and offered to wash it right then and there.
My woodsy codger musk had offended the cat, and my wife advised me not to leave it hanging outside anymore.
A couple weeks passed before our next encounter with Macavity. My wife needed help in the garden. An unknown mammalian herbivore had started to nip buds off the plants. I assured her that the codger could solve the problem, first by identifying the offender, and then by prescribing appropriate measures in behavioral modification. I set a camera trap in the patio.
The only mammal photographed (above) was Macavity on his nightly beat, strolling down the garden path to the back gate, looking confident and in fine fettle. The herbivory ceased and the plants started to recover.
Finally, yesterday I went to the potting shed and noticed a trail of blood and rabbit hair on the ground. I followed the drag mark through the leaves to the water tank. In the narrow space beneath the platform was a dead fully-grown black-tailed jackrabbit.
I put a camera trap under the platform, and this morning found 6 photos. Macavity returned to his prey at 8:12 PM, and apparently fed for 25 minutes. In the last photo at 1:18 AM he had moved the carcass closer to the camera. In the morning there was no trace of it.
The felid body plan is a design for killing warm-blooded vertebrates, and even a house cat has the equipment to take down prey as large as itself.
Monday, May 7, 2007
The snag looks promising, wouldnt you agree? As soon as I saw it I thought of small owls or large woodpeckers. So the next day I trundled down the hill with my rucksack filled with sections of a mounting pole, nylon cord, camera, and tool kit. I staked the camera about 6 feet away from the cavity so the sensor would monitor a large area.
It rained that night, but I got one picture. I zoomed in on the LCD, and Whooppeee -- it was a saw-what owl! A new subject to camera trap.
The image was trashed by a drop of water, but I was buoyed by my discovery and moved into action. "Don't bother changing memory sticks", I told myself. "Be patient. In one more day you can savor a whole series of owl shots."
I moved the camera closer to the cavity and messed around for a half hour getting the sensor perfecty aligned. I was feeling the thrill of the camera trapper's chase. Envision the scenario, decide on the optimal angle and distance, double check all the settings, then study the camera's position from all the angles. When I was finished I marched up the hill and felt nice ("like sugar and spice"). The happy prospect of finding a new species does that to you.
The next afternoon I lowered the cam and found . . . WAAHHH! -- 141 pictures! I clicked through a dozen pics of the snag, but the absence of owls didn't worry me. I knew that the nesting screech owls often come and go before the shutter releases--which accounts for empty frames. Then I got home, and found only three images of an animal.
The snag was a high rise for deer mice. Apparently the opening of the nest cavity connected to an "elevator shaft" all the way to the ground. The mice climbed past the nest hole all night long, and triggered the camera on average every minute and 18 seconds.
I consoled myself with the good fortune of getting one picture of a saw-whet owl, and pulled down the camera set. A half hour later I found another promising snag -- a butt-rotted oak with a large den opening at the base. You'll be hearing from me soon.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
I moved the camera closer to the boulder last week, and used three lures--the Furfindr, castoreum, and fresh crushed catmint--to attract whatever is out there. I wasn't really expecting another appearance by the beige panther, but the surprise image is what gives camera trapping its thrill.
So today I found 19 photos of the very same cat I posted here a couple weeks ago. The cat with the notched left ear seems to be spending her time in the two ravines on either side of the house.
Study her changing mood. As you can see above, when she arrived at 3:24 AM on April 27th, she was immediately drawn to the scent of the castoreum and catmint.
Next, she settled on the rock and waited for the noisy prey (the Furfindr) to appear. Ahhh, the patience of a cat. The noise-making device, however, was hanging 7 feet above her tail.
The miserable rodent failed to present itself; so she adjusted her position.
Now her head was beneath the periodically sqaulling rodent locked in a section of PVC (just kidding, troops -- it's really a recording device).
She finally accepted defeat, and satisfied herself with a few more snorts of catmint and beaver scent. Then she sat there with the unmistakable look of a forlorn puss.
After twenty six minutes of trying to see, smell, and find the elusive rodent, she parted ways.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Not much happened on the trap line this past week, so I pulled a few cams and will find new sets soon. This skunk with attitude is the best I can offer. It's a full frame picture, and obviously it reacted to either a previous flash or perhaps the sound of the lens extending. I've seen this stand-off posture in other photos. This should suffice to warn any savvy predator about imminent danger. The next step is an about-face, at which point the stubborn predator is face-to-face with the weapon of musk destruction.