About Me

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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.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The camera bully revealed

This may be the rascal that dislodged the camera in the tree cavity last week. 

You may recall that finding the camera on the ground changed my game plan. 

Before getting creative again and stuffing the camera down the cavity, I had to see what creature had sent the camera tumbling.  

A bear was the first thing that came to mind, but maybe a ringtail chimney- stemmed the hollow trunk and jarred the camera loose. 

Even a spotted skunk could have knocked it down. 

These were the more exotic possibilities, but more realistically a rotund wood rat might have pushed it aside while trying to squeeze through the gap.

I learned last Saturday that gray fox and wood rat were the only ones to show. 

One photo captured gray boy doing the unexpected.

Look at this odd posture.

It resembles the scent-marking handstand done by a number of carnivores, including some civets, mongooses, and the stubby-legged bush dog of Latin America. 

Even the oddball dog has been known to defecate in a handstand, but I never knew gray foxes performed this charming maneuver. 

Following this little stunt gray boy examined the camera at close range and left 6 telling images.

After that the camera stopped taking pictures.

When I found the camera it was ajar and no longer aimed at the hollow tree.

I can only conclude that the fox was the camera bully. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Struck out

Last week was a no-show. Three cams, no pictures.

The hollow canyon live oak was my biggest disappointment.

I was about to leap squirrel-like into its mossy arms when I noticed my camera lying there face down at my feet.

Apparently something dislodged it to reach a dab of castoreum, and it tumbled down through the hollow trunk. 

What to do?

Defer further attempts at a cavity set.

I set the camera away from the tree to see what manner of beast caused the disturbance.

Plan B will depend on the critter. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Room with a View

The snag -- a canyon live oak.

If hollow trees were sentient beings, they would cringe when they see me coming.

You see, the codger regularly administers an examination of hollow trees that resembles a colonoscopy.

Looking up from the bottom.
My point and shoot camera is the endoscope.

It's a harmless procedure for tree and examiner, though there's a remote risk that something inside might clamp down on your arm during the examination.

All you do is stick your handheld camera into the cavity, point it upward, press the shutter release, and check the resulting image on the LCD.

Most of the time the cavity is shallow and filled with rotten wood and spider webs.

The conjoined trunks of this oak however measured 12 feet around, and both were hollow and free of spider webs, indicating that furry mammals used it regularly.

Looking down from the top --  a distance of 11 feet.

One trunk had a capacious space that tapered upwards and extended into the limbs.

The cavity opened to the outside 11 feet up, where a limb had snapped off some years ago.

There was another "window" 5 feet above ground.

The cavity was a room with a view, but the most interesting view was from the outside looking in.

I could see inside from three openings, and decided the best view for the camera trap was looking down from the top.

A camera trap wedgie

I lodged the camera into the opening, and when I came back a week later found 353 photos of brush mice and dusky-footed wood rats.

Wood rat ascending the hollow trunk.

There were no surprises. It was a busy place, and I expected rodents, but I wanted to show them in a setting we don't normally see.

Brush mouse caught in the midst of a grooming session. This picture was taken at noon, long after bedtime.

The upper reaches of the cavity seemed to be a wood rat's feeding perch, but for the life of me I cannot identify the food.

Wood rat eating unidentified insect??? 

Mr Smiley of Bunyipco thinks it might be the instar or larval form of a cicada.

If so, the rat dug it up, because at this time of year all cicadas are immature and live in the soil.

Glimpsing natural history in a hollow log can raise unanswered questions, but that's good.

If images from a camera trap don't make you wonder you are missing one of the simple pleasures of the sport.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Deadwood Stick Real Estate.

Anyone with an ounce of sense knows that winter is the time to check out real estate.

The irrepressible Random Truth has been doing just that.

He's been regaling his fans with photos of properties on the SF peninsula and their stunning homeowners, and his candid reportage has gotten a lot of folks off their duffs.

They're out cruising the neighborhoods, scoping real estate.

I had already filed and almost forgotten this photo of an impressive mansion I recently encountered.

It was in an upscale community near Arcata.

Thought you would enjoy a glimpse of luxury.

Here's the listing from Deadwood Stick Realty.

"Spacious construction in a gated community on a quiet country road.
Intimate setting. Built to last. Arts and crafts home with pleasing rustic touches. Hardwood stick floors, walls, and ceilings. Great dining room with 3 attached larders. Master bedroom generously provisioned with bay laurel. Passive solar heating warms the home in winter, and 2 composting toilets keep the master bedroom toasty warm. 4 strategically placed exits guarantee safe emergency evacuations.Stunning views of the scenic Mad River. Frolic or fish in crystal clear pools just outside your back door.    
80% financing available to qualified buyers."