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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.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Video vision in the tunnel - Part 2

Our first attempt at subterranean video this year was disappointing.

Had the camera been placed differently the footage could have been better, but there was also the problem of the curious bear cub that dismantled the set.

The subterranean action however was more than enough to call us back.

Our second attempt in August was in a different segment of the same mountain beaver (=showtl) tunnel.

This time I came prepared with a customized mount that could be spiked into the hardpan on the floor of the tunnel and nailed into the log embedded in the silt bench above the tunnel.

Set 519.3 after being disguised
with a large flake of red fir.
The camera post was spiked and wired
to the embedded log. 

We covered the vertical hole with a large flitch of wood.

As you have seen in Part 2, the bear didn't show, and if any subterranean critters bumped into the camera they didn't move it.

But I still didn't get the angle of the camera quite right. It should have been aimed up into the tunnel. The focus was also off, and the microphone made hideous sounds (which I'll try to remove -- sorry about that).

The camera in situ as we uncovered it
33 days later.

I just replaced the lens of the DXG 567v with a 4mm wide-angle CCTV lens, which will take in a much wider view.

We'll try again next spring.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Animal tracking whodunnit

Two codgers walking a dog encounter the scene above at 2:15 in the afternoon.  

Obviously, something killed Chicken Little, but there is no predator to be seen.

The codger's dog sniffs the carcass briefly but otherwise ignores the scene. 

The carcass is cold, the tail has been plucked, and the head has been pulled off.

The neck has been eaten, as well as the wings where they attach to the pectoral muscles.

The head is uneaten. 


1) What species is Chicken Little?

2) What species killed Chicken Little?

3) Why didn't the predator take Chicken Little when it left the scene?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Black-footed ferrets found again!

Photo by Dean Biggins, USFWS 

You don't get good news like this very often.

Find more on black-footed ferrets here, and read about robo-badger here.

Thanks to Dave Parsons and Brian Miller for the heads up.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Long-tailed weasel and rodent cornucopia

A long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) checks out the castoreum stain left as a scent lure.

Yuba River (North Fork) drainage, Sierra County, California

I wasn't expecting miracles at set 574, but it always seems like a miracle when I camera trap a weasel. Especially a blue-eyed weasel. (Just kidding, folks; those pretty blue peepers are the reflection of the camera's flash from the eye's tapetum lucidum).

This weasel sniffed the castoreum just long enough for a single photo.

The set was under a boulder on a steep slope in red fir forest.  A few de-scaled pine cones identified it as an undercover messhall.

The camera snapped 431 photos in 33 days, but 60% were blank images most probably triggered by fleet-footed rodents.

Long-eared chipmunk (Neotamias quadrimaculatus)

Possibly a brush mouse (Peromyscus boyleii)

Deer mice and long-eared chipmunks accounted for most (=80%) of the wildlife photos.

Long-tailed vole (Microtus longicaudus)
shows its bicolored tail

A bright-eyed long-tailed vole posed nicely for one photo,

Northern flying squirrel, a meat eater

and northern flying squirrels left 13 images during three visits.

Chickaree (Tamiasciurus douglasii

Chickaree's visited 10 times and left 14 photos.

Even the deer mice sniffed the castoreum.

Every species of mammal left at least a few self portraits while sniffing the irresistible castoreum.

The stuff is a truly broad-spectrum attractant for mammals and indispensable to this camera trapper.

I can't identify the only critter that ignored the scent lure.

The best of three photos of the "mystery chick".

At first I thought it was a scruffy molting wren.

But now I wonder if it's a chick of a blue (sooty) grouse, mountain quail, or even a sora rail?

Early September would seem a bit late for a chick, no?

Any opinions out there?