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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.

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?


Jacques Prescott said...

Incredible pictures. Castoreum is a really powerful attractant. No wonder beaver ponds are populated with so many critters! As for the mystery bird, I’d go for a winter wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) because of the white line over the eye and reddish feet. (Sora and Rail chicks are black and grouse chicks have much paler feet and body).

Trailblazer said...

Nice job on the frenata! Cam trapping weasels is such a treat. I recently have gotten some video clips of them....which was a first for me.

brdpics said...

I agree with Winter Wren (now split by the AOU to Pacific Wren (Troglodytes pacificus) out west, by the way.) Beyond Jacques' points, they like to skulk under rocks & tangles (thus the genus name for "cave-dweller") and have that chick-like compact structure. I think what is confusing is the short-looking bill, but I think this is a photographic artifact, perhaps from a combo of the bird moving its head along with facing away a bit.

Alyssa Johnson said...

I love your pictures, as usual. I'm running low on scent lures, and have found myself in excess of castor, because I'm no longer near enough water to use it. But, I wonder if I should try? Did you mix it with anything to help it "stick"? I live in a mixed forest in the Catskills of NY. REALLY aiming for fisher and bobcats.

randomtruth said...

Codge, you are a hard man to chase. A great series of beaver, then grouse, and now weasel and flying squirrel just casually thrown together. That's a tough gauntlet toss, my friend.

That blue eye glow is how you differentiate them when spotlight surveying, too. That and the fact that they bounce around at 12" off the ground like possessed slinkies.

Bonnie K said...

I love all of the action! What in the world is that little chick? It is kind of late isn't it? Or is it an early Easter? That weasle is quite the catch. Thanks for sharing.

john said...

For a minute I thought the mystery bird might be a Fox Sparrow, but the white eyebrow tells me it is a Pacific Wren.
A dumb question, or two, was the weasel photographed during the day, or night? Are ther ever nocturnal?

Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks, troops. Appreciate the id of the Pacific Wren. And Alyssa, your castoreum will work just fine for fishers and bobcats. For cats, you might try crushing catnip mint into it, or just buy a bottle of synthetic catnip to mix. But castoreum doesn't need help as an attractant.

Camera Trap Codger said...

John, the photo was taken at 2:00PM PST (I don't used DST on my cameras). Yes, you do get photos of weasels at night also. They seem to work around the clock.

Ginnymo said...

What great shots of all these little critters!!

Henry said...

Great shots Codger. Great weasel shot. Would love to see more of them :) and that vole is quite charming as well!

JK said...

Looking at that brush mouse tail makes it much clearer that the mouse I got had a bi-colored tail. Great comparison.

That flying squirrel picture is great. You should post a few more of of the pictures you got.

owlman said...

I wouldn't expect anything less when the codger sets a trap! This gets better all the time. Enjoyed your visit and appreciate the opportunity to help and to see Reno again.