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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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2013 Camera Trapping Workshop

Top (l to r): Mick Bondello, Lisa Close, Arvid Ekenberg, Thea Cooper, John Adragna, Antony Shadbolt;
Sitting: Kolby Olson, Cindy Roessler, the Codger, Bill Wilson (photo by Mick Bondello)

The Codger delivered the 5th camera trapping workshop in mid-July to an assemblage of eight curious naturalists.

Most were Californians, but two came from New York, and one Kiwi attended from far-away New Zealand.

This was the 5th workshop I have given at the Sierra Nevada Field Campus, and the days rolled by quickly.

The resident colony of mountain beaver continues to be a red-letter attraction, and most everyone was game to climb Deadman Scree for bushy-tailed wood rats.

To our ever-growing species list we added two new species.

The elusive yellow-bellied marmot.
Bill's trail camera snapped a yellow-bellied marmot, which is a little embarrassing because marmots are anything but rare in the Sierra Nevada.

Participant John Adragna gave us an image of a montane vole on the second morning.

The class probably thought my enthusiasm overdone, but new species records energize the codger like a triple espresso.

Until now, we've only gotten long-tailed voles; so now we know the two species coexist right on campus.

Pouring through hundred of images. 
Other highlights were a sighting of the local family of otters, and an experiment on mirror image recognition in chipmunks.

Indeed, the chipmunks paused briefly to gape at their images, but it didn't stop them from stuffing sunflower seeds.

But now I want to send you to Cindy Roessler's Dipper Ranch Blog for another view of the workshop.

It features a metaphysical trilogy on previsualizing camera trap sets.

"Set theory" is of course a topic I touch upon, but her treatment will give you a first hand perspective.

Start with "Thinking backwards, the camera", and then read "Thinking backwards, the animal". She informs me that the third and final piece is on its way.

Last but not least was the hands-on workshop for local Sierra County school kids.

It happened on the last day (after the camtrapping class dispersed) and started with Bill's slide show, which thoroughly engaged the kids  -- who piped out the names of the critters.

Then it was snack time (graham crackers and milk are now passe).

While the kids stoked calories we instructed the parents on how to set the cameras on stumps around camp.

When kids and parents had set their cameras we sent them all off to play in the Yuba River.

By now (5 days into the bargain) Bill and I were dragging butt, but the kids were even more fired up to view the video clips.

Its nice to see such rousing enthusiasm over chipmunks.

Finally a postscript: The class always gives me new ideas, and this time I learned the secret of finding the furtive but charismatic mountain king snake.

My teacher prefers to remain anonymous, but while walking Fred this week I put her counsel to practice.

Obviously you've got to be in the right place at the right time, but the mantra seemed to help.

Thanks guys . . .

I am grateful to "alumni" Ken, Jake, Sean, and Bill who set cameras in our old camtrapping haunts in June in preparation for the workshop. 

RandomTruth's camera magic, from that log set he made in June will inspire you. Be sure to check it out.

And many thanks to Bill who stayed on to assist the full week, which was a great help.


Cindy said...

Codger's class was fabulous. The 'lady administrator' learned a lot and is still rolling with the Yuba Pass mojo. Hoping to see some of my classmates again. The last 'thinking backwards' post, the best in my administrative opinion, is up complete with admission of dream-walking. http://dipperanch.blogspot.com/2013/09/thinking-backwards-landscape.html

dr_fiehlgood said...

Chris, we need to have a Camera Trapping Workshop reunion in which the alumni can showcase their camera trapping exploits and expertise. Kind of like a reality show reunion except no one would get voted off.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks guys. I always go home from these classes burnt out, full of new ideas, and thinking of next year's course. I like the idea of a reunion. Maybe with castoreum spice cookies at coffee break. Now Im gonna read Cindy's final installment of the "thinking backwards trilogy".

randomtruth said...

Stunning coral kingsnake Codge. Bet your grin was as big as the time when you found your first in the SC Mtns.

And another great workshop. It was our pleasure, as always, to help out.

Trailblazer said...

That Mountain King is amazing! I love snakes in that Genus. We only congener we get around here is the Eastern Milksnake...but its one of my favs....

The workshop looked fun, as always!

Camera Trap Codger said...

I think finding one may be good luck for camera trapping. Not sure. I'm waiting to see if things improve. Maybe I'll get something exciting like an eagle attacking a deer.

randomtruth said...

Or even better - a deer attacking an eagle. Because I'm sure you've gotten that eagle-deer story quite a number of times already - as I have! :)

Unknown said...

Very late reply, but FANTASTIC course. Thanks everyone.

Thought I'd pass this not-so-good news on, with the hope of being able to catch some Christchurch (New Zealand) scum/thieves

Just got back from checking ten camera traps in a remote part of Styx Mill Conservation Reserve here in Christchurch, only to find that 9 out of ten have been stolen. These cameras and accessories (worth more than NZD$900 each with a total value of almost $10k) were purchased thanks to a generous grant from the Brian Mason Scientific & Technical Trust in order to carry out a long-term study of wildlife on peri-urban waterways. This was a well organised and planned theft, as the cameras were very securely attached to trees, cable locked and padlocked inside heavy duty steel security casings and very well hidden (obviously not well-hidden enough). The in-bred, 6-fingered scum that took these units used an angle-grinder (or something similar) to cut through all the security measures, and would have been quite conspicuous as the 9 camera traps and casings would be very heavy and bulky - so possible a two-idiot job. I doubt they will have the IQ to know how to use these units, and if they do figure it out (picture a monkey poking at the control board with a stick hoping something interesting might happen), all the pictures that the cameras take will have my name embedded on the images, so hopefully they're dumb enough not to notice.

So instead of preparing for my teaching trip to East Malaysia next week I've spent the day making a police report, checking ebay, trademe, amazon and buy-sell-exchange, the Pawn Shop and talking to the guys down at Gun City, not to mention generally wasting my time trying to find the cameras out at the reserve.

On one positive note, the Styx Living Laboratory Trust recently purchased three more of these model cameras for use by The Trusts' community bird monitoring volunteers. Luckily I retrieved these cameras from the same area three weeks ago, so the volunteers still have all their cameras safe-and-sound. But can we put these cameras back into the reserve again? Not until the scum that took the other 9 cameras have been caught.

Please put the word out to people about this by re-posting and/or passing on to people that may work in this sort of field - or if you area hunter/deer-stalker etc, as these cameras are used for a wide range of purposes. They may even be for sale internationally hence posting this here(you can't buy these in NZ unless you import them).

Sorry it's not better news...... but hopefully they'll be caught!!