Thursday, December 29, 2011

Squirrel Love

I love Reconyx cams.  Because of their lightning-fast triggers, and the ability to take up to 10 pics in rapid succession per trigger event....they can catch interesting wildlife behavior.  My Reconyx have snapped a series of fighting and breeding raccoons (see here), big rafters of turkeys passing by (see here) and shots of a coyote caching a recent meal (see here).

To add to the list of neat behavior captured by a Reconyx, see the below pictures of squirrels mating.  Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) typically breed twice per year: once in the late fall/winter and again in the late spring/summer.  The attempts below are alittle on the early side from what I've read......but who knows if they were really an earnest attempt or not.

First attempt:

Apparent failure!

Second Attempt:

So close!

Third Attempt:

Apparent success...

I guess male squirrels have to develop a quick pick-up move, if they want to succeed!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Some photos from Christmas last year, while visiting in-laws in Minnesota.

They live in a rural setting, so (of course) I couldn't help but bring a camera with!

The snow had been deep along their back lot-line, which butts-up against some light agriculture and wooded buffers.  Shin-deep snow, almost can sort of see this in the picture of me and the faithful pooch below.

Also....not only was the snow pretty deep (which, as you know, isn't conducive to wildlife traffic), I could only find a lightly-used game trail that appeared to be a little old.  I scoped around for a better spot, but didn't find much.  So I put the camera up there and hoped for the best.

The dog and I checked the camera every day.  Unfortunately, for about 4 days straight, we got skunked (aside from a squirrel or two).

Finally, however, early Christmas morning, a pair of white-tailed deer trudged their way past.

That day, the kid and I went outside to play.  She was only 2 at the time, and with the deep snow, she couldn't even take two steps without doing a face-plant.  So...we adopted a different strategy.  We played in the driveway and the road.  I realize allowing your child to play in the road sounds like a 'terrible father' moment...but it was a little traversed road in a rural suburb.  Plus, I was right next to her and we stayed along the shoulder.

Anyways...while we're playing, I happen to look down at the snow that had gotten packed down along the roadside and saw tracks.  White-tailed deer and a Canid.  Could have been a domestic dog, but also very reminiscent of Coyote.  Then another set of tracks...then another.  I followed them for a while and realized what an idiot I had been.  Critters don't like pushing through deep snow any better than the rest of us, which I knew.  But I also thought they'd be alittle more reluctant to choose a road as their corridor...especially with all of the wooded buffers around to hide in.

That night I moved the camera and strapped it to their mailbox.  And, of course, my hypothesis on me being an idiot was supported.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all that!

I wish you and yours the best in the coming year!

See you at the other end of the trail.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Rafter of Walking Birds

A fun exercise can be learning the technical terms for animal groups. 

Everyone knows the term "a murder" of crows. many of you knew about an "unkindness" of ravens?  Or that a group of warthogs is called a "sounder"?  A group of rhinos is a "crash"? personal favorite.....a group of jellyfish is called a "smack"!

No lie.  Look 'em up, if you don't believe me.

Now, believe it or not....I actually knew all of the examples that I gave you already.  When you teach Zoology, these are the types of questions that students come up with.  BUT, I had no idea what a group of turkeys was called and had to look it up when I started this post.

So, a group of turkeys is, technically, called a "rafter". 

Apparently, calling them a "gang" is also acceptable.  But who are we kidding?  Calling them a "rafter" is much more weird and fun!


So, let me take you back in time a few months and also back to North Carolina again.  I don't get to post much from my Reconyx cameras, because....well...they aren't mine.  -sniff-  The university that I used to work for bought them, technically, so they belong to them.  But, it's alright.  Dave is finishing up a project that we started back in March (see here).  The project has been through some road-bumps, the worst of which being some serious camera thievery (see here).  But, not to let some lowlife camera thieves cramp our style, in the midst of us moving cross-country from NC to the midwest, Dave and I worked out a deal with the university and Reconyx to replace the stolen cams (thanks to both of them!!).  We figured out a new site, and Dave went and put the cameras out on his own.  We'll finish the project at the new site...and it will end some time in February.

Recently, Dave sent me a DVD chalk-full of the pictures that these cameras took over the last few months and there were some real gems!

First of all...the turkeys are THICK at this site.  There were pictures of them on all the cameras with alot of consistency.

But at first, it's only a few shy individuals.

But a few days later....the biggest rafter of walking birds that I've ever gotten a photograph of swaggered through the field of view.

I'm not sure how many are in there.  They start here....

...and keep coming.....

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cause and Effect

'Tis the season for alot of things....including Canids!

I always have the best luck camera trapping Canids in December and January.  This is a phenomenon other "trappers" have made anecdotal observations about in regards to Bobcats and Mountain Lions...although I haven't had much (or any) experience with either species.

Allow me to show you an example from my time in North Carolina.

The pictures below are almost a year old.

The location is a stream corridor with steep banks, one side buffered by deciduous hardwood forest....the other side has a power line right-of-way running parallel.  Great spot for 'yotes to run.

And they do....

For those interested, I'm applying a dab of Lennon's Brand, Super Coyote All-Call to the stick poking out of the bank.

It's also worth noting that I don't make any attempt to cover my own scent when I'm out.

Not long before a big old 'yote comes along to check out the smell.....

To be fair, this isn't the only time I put some sort of scent lure out at this location to attract critters.  It doesn't always work this perfectly....but when it does it always makes me feel smarter than I am :)

Enjoy the Canid Season! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Survivors

Well, with hunting season is done.

The survivors abound.....still running mostly at night.

A few examples:

...and one of the survivors was The Brute.

I guess you don't get this big and then be dumb enough to walk around in a field during the day while hunting season is ongoing....

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"What But The Wolf's Tooth Whittled So Fine...."

"......the fleet limbs of the antelope?"
-Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

One of my favorite environmental poets/authors is Robinson Jeffers.  Most folks, when they think of environmental authors, automatically jump on the Thoreau bandwagon.  Thoreau's nice, and all...but for my money....compared to the likes of Jeffers (whose words were, and are, razor sharp), and Aldo Leopold (who was an actual academic research-ecologist)....Thoreau was a chump.  Doesn't mean I don't like his work.  But in my mind, he just doesn't compare to some of the others, despite his popularity.  Jeffers is not always lumped into the "environmental" poets, because his work is not only about the environment...and often includes social commentary and etc..

The Poem that I started above by Jeffers is called "The Bloody Sire".  What immediately follows is:

"What but fear winged the birds, and hunger
jewelled with such eyes the great goshawk's head?
Violence has been the sire of all the world's values."

The rest of the poem also pulls no punches.

If you've never read Jeffers before, check him out!  And, if you've never read Leopold....what the heck are you waiting for?  :)

Anyways, this post is not meant to be commentary on Environmental Poets, Philosophers, or Authors.  But the one of the subject's of the poem by Jeffers (the wolf), is really what I'm getting at.

Specifically surrounding a workshop that we are hosting at the university, allowing opportunities for students to learn anything and everything about wolves in the state:  ecology, natural history, management, regulation, field survey techniques, and field ecology techniques.  Basically, anything and everything I wanted to get to do as an undergrad!  The workshop is part 1 of a course the students are enrolled in, where they learn about wolf ecology and management from professional wildlife biologists, learn to conduct track surveys with professional trackers, THEN get to spend a week doing wolf track surveys with DNR wolf biologists!

Who could ask for anything more?

So, meet Randy.  Randy has been a professional state wolf biologist for over 30 years.  He is largely responsible for instigating the wolf recovery program in the state....a program that has been amazingly successful.

Randy shared his knowledge of all things "wolfy" with the students.

This obviously involved skulls and pelts.

Informative lectures....

A demonstration of setting a proper "dirt-hole set" with a leg-hold trap....which is the most effective way to capture wolves for management or research-related purposes....

First you open the trap....

Then, conceal it carefully by burying it lightly in some dirt......


And finally, providing students with the opportunity to see a wolf up-close (a road-killed individual, that Randy is responsible for collecting and freezing for the federal government, given their endangered species status).

All in all, an outstanding (and incredibly information-packed) day.

Now, the students must wait until January for the next stage of the course (field work).  Perhaps I'll have some pictures to share....although no promises.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pretty Little Ditties....

Nothing super exciting for now.  Have some cameras out behind the house that I haven't been able to check in over a week due to the holidays.  Also have some cams out as part of another student exercise....the labors (and fruits) of which I'll share soon, I hope.  I was disappointed to see illegal hunting activity on the site we were working with students (brand new deer stand smack-dab in the middle of the property).  Luckily everyone had their orange vests on (and luckily no one was in the stand).  Now I just hope they don't mess with the cameras, as I can't imagine they didn't come back to the property to hunt over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I informed the property owner, but they were gone for the weekend and not much can be done but for me to sweat it out.  All the cams are in full security lock-down mode, but I've already shared with you all how unreliable even THAT can be (see herehere and here)!

But...for now.....let me take you back east to the fine state of North Carolina.

Dave has been checking some of our remaining cams (those that weren't on sites where thievery occurred).  He sent some pics last week and several of them were rather pretty or interesting.  Nothing fancy (just deer....hundreds and hundreds of photos of deer)....but some sort of neat shots among them.

The pic below turns out so nice due to the heavy frost that hit the area.  This is heavier than any frost we've gotten in the upper Midwest!

I quite like the one below.  Not only do the woods in autumn look nice, but the buck is posed well, and the steam rising off of the stream to the right really looks cool....

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Brute and The Broke-Horn

Well...been alittle while.  Busy, busy with the new job.

However, you may remember I had moved a few cameras over buck scrapes.  I was alittle late in the season for a lot of activity at a scrape, but I had hoped for the best.  I did get a few individuals that came by and checked the scrapes out in the week that I had the cameras over them...but the angle was bad.  Thus, I didn't get the perfect picture of a buck scraping and rubbing an overhead branch.

This doesn't mean that there hasn't been stuff going on.  The rut must be underway and I've finally seen the Brute hanging around after no sign of him for a coupla months.  He's been all over and I've gotten him in two locations on-site.

First, a little Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) stops by.  The pic is washed out becuase he was so close the camera.  Introduced or not....I can't help but smile when I get pics of these little canines....

...and here he is (or at least here's a Red Fox) near the other scrape I was hoping for some activity at....

Below...the brute shows up sniffing around the buck scrapes I was monitoring....

Below is a completely new location I started monitoring two weeks ago.  A woodland path.  Lots of deer activity.  Also a Coyote (Canis latrans).  His coat appears to be thickening nicely in preparation for winter....

This picture of a doe is the one that got me to thinking the rut must be in full swing here.  Her hide looks to be alittle roughed up at the back end.  Perhaps it's from brush she's pushed through, but I wonder if this isn't due to the advances of resident males.......

The "broke-horn" (more correctly, the "broke-antler") male also passes by here.  Not sure if he lost his right antler in a bout of some kind (perhaps with the Brute?)...or if perhaps this is a developmental abnormality.

But the Brute is clearly the "Big Deer on Campus".  Here is a picture of his backside.  Head high, tail up...  In this picture, I imagine him chasing a female or investigating a rival male that must be ousted....

...and again this morning, not long before the dog, the kid and I came up to the camera.....

Lots of deer activity out behind the house.  Very interesting because we have a relatively small woodland fragment....surrounded by a sea of agriculture and occasional wooded strips along riparian corridors or between rural houses within a five mile radius.  I guess this little fragment is about the best thing around and the critters congregate here.  It would be interesting to compare species diversity within fragments of different sizes on the landscape to see if they support MacArther and Wilson's theory of Island Biogeography.


If only there was unlimited time and money.......

Further Reading:
MacArthur and Wilson, 1967. The Theory of Island Biogeography. Princeton University Press.  Princeton, NJ.