Sunday, August 3, 2008
The camera trapping workshop
Top (left to right): Patrick Kobernus (Coast Range Ecology, SF), Kim Hastings (US Fish & Wildlife Service, Juneau, Alaska), Bill Levinson (Alpha Spectrum Productions, Oakland, CA), Karen Carter (San Bernardino County Museum, California ), Bill Wilson (ret'd, Modesto Junior College, CA),
Bottom (left to right): Craig Fiehler (Endangered Species Recovery Program, Bakersfield, CA), Lisa Ware (National Zoological Park, Washington DC), Chris Wemmer (Codgers Anonymous), Mike Rathbun (San Bernardino County Museum, California), Lorna Dobrovolny (California Fish and Game, Newcastle, CA)
In case you are wondering (or not wondering) what happened at the workshop, well, . . .
most of the 9 participants arrived Sunday afternoon and pitched camp in anonymity. When the mess hall's triangle rang out at 6:00 that evening we assembled for dinner and started to mingle. Afterwards we introduced ourselves formally, and broke the ice by sharing whacky stories (limited to one per participant). Late comers joined us for breakfast the next morning.
The daily routine was to rise in time for breakfast and lunch-making at 7:00AM. After that we met for lectures and discussion. I brought several boxes of gear, books, and eight extra cameras, so the class had ample opportunity to use additional cams and equipment.
After morning lecture on the first two days, we checked my cameras (the ones set a month earlier), and the prizes were aplodon and pine marten. Mike Rathbun and Karen Carter were also rewarded with a marten picture. Apparently the animal made the rounds on Monday night, a full month after I had set my camera.
It was just good fortune that Sacramento Bee writer Mickie Enkoji's research on camera trapping coincided with the course. She and staff photographer Bryan Patrick dropped in on day 1 to see us in action. I failed to get her to reach into an aplodon burrow to appreciate the subterranean microclimate. Nonetheless, the result was a lot of good publicity (2600 blog hits over two days, mind you).
We spent the rest of the week exploring the terrain up and down State routes 49 and 89, making new sets, and discussing results.
Most everyone took off in small groups during the day to set their cams, and some creative sets, like the one below held great promise, but damn if time didn't run out.
My friends Marshall and Kate Reed kindly made arrangements for us to watch northern flying squirrels at a bird feeder on their neighbor's deck. The big-eyed rodents were only 4 feet away so the photo frenzy yielded quite a few full frame shots. Only the codger did it the hard way -- setting a camera trap 12 feet up the tree the next day. Many thanks to the Reeds and Tom & Julie Castro for the consideration.
Wednesday night we called owls. A California spotted owl responded lustily to playback of several different species.
The class was enthusiastic and seemed to be pleased with the experience. Though I harbored ambivalent thoughts beforehand, I'll definitely do it again. In the meantime I am revisiting the area and compiling mammal locations for next year's course.
Here are the species we photographed with our camera traps:
Water shrew (Sorex palustris)
Vagrant shrew (Sorex vagrans)
Long-tailed meadow mouse (Microtus longicaudus)
Brush deer mouse (Peromyscus boylii)
Shadow chipmunk (Tamias senex)
Golden-mantled ground squirrel (Spermophilus lateralis)
Western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus)
Douglas’s squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii)
Northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)
Showtl (Aplodontia rufa californica)
Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)
Gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)
American marten (Martes americana)
Song sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
Dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis)
American robin (Turdus migratorius)
Hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus)
Yellow-rumped warbler (female)(Dendroica coronata)
*/ shrew identifications are based on color, relative length of tail, and color of tail, but are not certain.
TOTAL: 13 mammals, 5 birds = 18 species
Many thanks to Lisa Ware for photos of the activities and the flying squirrel.