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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, July 28, 2010

2010 Workshop

Top: RandomTruth, Aviva, Jake, Christian, Sean, Richard. Middle row: Theresa, JoEllen. Front Row Kneelers: Bill, the Codger
(photo by Bill Wilson)

A few words about last week's camera trapping workshop.

The venue was the Sierra Nevada Field Campus, San Francisco State's hideaway among the red firs . . . . on the North branch of the Yuba River . . . where the skies are clear, and tumbling water and pine-scented air lulls you to sleep in the starry night.

Adjusting the camera for a full frame shot. 
We started on Sunday evening with introductions, goals, and a powerpoint presentation on the history of camera trapping.

The next morning I introduced the students to "set theory" -- otherwise known as staging wildlife photos.

I wanted the class to become familiar with the strengths and limitations of their own cameras as well as the home-brews I put at their disposal.

As you know, young folk are vulnerable to cravings, and wild places like this feed that understandable craving to camera trap big charismatic animals.

Large mammals usually play hard to get with camera traps and thus spawn disappointment.

So I encouraged the class to target rodents whose squirrelly ways can be highly entertaining.

They are also more cooperative than mountain lions, bears and coyotes. 

For a few sunflower seeds on a stump countless photo ops are the reward, and by varying the camera's height, distance and angle to the "stage" the greenhorn can appreciate the photographic effects and learn about optimal camera placement.

So we started by setting cams for chipmunks, golden-mantled ground squirrels, and chickarees near camp, and the class captured them all in pixels, as well as an acrobatic long-tailed meadow mouse.

We also devoted two mornings to collecting the cams I had set in June, and I am pleased to report that aplodon generously supplied self portraits which you'll see in the next post. 

My annual fix of aplodon reassures me that some things in this state aren't going to hell in a handbag, and seeing the little buggers was a relief.

There were so few burrows back in June that I was sure the population had crashed.

We also added two new species to the list -- Nuttall's cottontail and a bobcat, not to mention a hermit thrush feeding its fledgling.

Viewing results of camera trap sets
Post-prandial powerpoint presentations treated set theory, use of attractants ("To use or not to use"), animal psychology for camera trappers, and survey methods.

To keep the class jazzed about camera trapping possibilities, I showed the work of two fellow camera trappers from Minnesota.

Sean Hall provided images from the north woods, and Chuck Gackstetter covered the prairies of SW Minnesota. (Thanks a lot, guys.)

RandomTruth sets a camera unaware of 
encroaching man-eating ferns.

Sean by the way is the maestro who orchestrates Camtrapper.com.

It's a camera trapping forum full of useful hints, advice, and inspirational pictures of wildlife and sets, and is definitely worth bookmarking.

Thanks to the class for a great week, and to RandomTruth for enthusiastic assistance and splendid photo-documentation of the botanical wonders of the northern Sierra.

I'll talk about the outings and recces next time.


Anonymous said...

You are very welcome Chris. Looks and sounds like you had a nice turn out full of useful information.


Owlman said...

Hey Chris
Wish I could have taken part in your class and what's that growing below your nose?