About Me

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

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Back on the mountain

Rich disappeared as soon as he unpacked, but I knew where to find him. He was sprawled in the weeds next to the snake pit eyeing a western diamondback through the zoom lens of his Nikon. (Yes, that's his picture.) He crawled a little closer for another shot and the reptile lurched over the edge and bellyflopped on the bottom of the septic tank. It sounded like a deflated tire hitting a cement floor.


"A flying snake!"

We were back at the Cleary Reserve, supplied for an overnight with carne asada, beans, tortillas and tequila. And oatmeal. It was 3 weeks since our last visit.

The "camera trapline" was waiting. So we put on our boots, grabbed our gear, and headed for the nearest cam at the bottom of a gulch.

Such a promising set -- a giant fir across a stream bed. The old veteran had lain there for several decades. I knew when I saw it that it was an occasional game crossing. It was made for camera trapping. A bay tree was growing at a suitable distance to anchor the camera. If a bear or puma crossed the log, I'd still get a full body shot.

There was a promising sign, too. Something had dug out the area where I had prepared the scent cocktail-- crab juice stinkum (aged for 7 months) and castoreum.

I disarmed the camera of its bear guard, and noted the number of exposures -- 20. One a day. Not bad.

Oh no. The first picture was a self portrait of two sorry looking codgers. It was taken as we were "walk testing" the camera 3 weeks ago. We looked a little like trophy hunters posing beside a fallen giant.

We clicked through the rest of the pictures.

Bear and puma hadn't found the tempting cocktail, but a juvenile gray fox had. Notice the blocky puppy look. It still has some growing to do.

This fox decided to give the scent cocktail a thorough butt-scrubbing, known in the technical literature as an anal drag. Dogs are good at this sort of thing, and it probably explains the dug out section of the log.

Oh yes. A couple of squirrels visited, and one dashed across the log.

Hmmm. Gray foxes and western gray squirrels. No surprises here.

We shouldered our packs and moved on to the next camera beyond the mouth of the gulch.

(Continued in "Back on the mountain-part 2")


Owlman said...

You codgers have all the fun! Rich sent your results and they were outstanding to say the least.
You definitely have camera trapping down to a scientific art form. The Diamond back is a prize winner. You guys won the lottery this time. Wish I was there with you.

Jochen said...

Owlman's right.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Just stay tuned, boys. The plot will thicken.