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Title Image


This blog is predominately about camera trapping in California. We camera trap to save our souls and to teach primary school students about biology and conservation. We will also touch on other camera trapping news and musings, sets from afar, mediocre herpetology, sucky birding, and other natural history discussions.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Autumn Adventures: F Raccoons, New Birds & The Cinco

Autumn 2017 will be a time etched in the memories of Bay Area residents. The raging inferno across the North Bay and its voluminous smoke trail were a sobering moment of reflection, with a fresh appreciation for time and all that one has, materially and in the community. On a personal level, a little mammal was also welcomed into the world the first week of October and has blown the collective mind at home.

That appreciation of time is truly been a focus personally and when it comes to adventures outdoors, they are primaily in the realm of work with my students. They continue to put in the effort with the river otter study, which has reaped unique results.

New (expected, but never captured) mammals have been present in our sets with glimpses of a coyote and the invasive muskrat.

Several new species of birds have shown up -- some of them the more secretive sort that we don't often see during field visits -- offering opportunities to discuss a variety of organisms and their behaviors.

I think this is the year I finally got the Hutton's Vireo/RC-Kinglet distinction down (sof course, omebody will say this is actually a Hutton's)

After a down year in 2016, the otters have been reliably present and pretty consistently in a pack of 5. The Cinco, as they have been dubbed by my students -- possibly due to slight adjustments in camera placement -- have been on our cameras with a much greater frequency this past autumn and now into winter. During a two week stretch around Thanksgiving we had 29 unique visits - a new benchmark by a hefty margin.

For every success, we must recognize our failures...which will be entirely blamed on raccoons.

Rascals or Assholes?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Soooooooooooooong Sparrow

So its 2018 and I am going to try and post again this year. I have had trouble making the time to post the last couple of years, and although I don't have more time, I am going to try and up the blogging. Not sure how many people, if any, still read this thing, but it is a better format than Instagram and Twitter (I don't Facebook) for sharing photos and a few thoughts. So we'll see if anyone if still out there in the wildlife biology blogosphere.

Yesterday, I headed out to the bayside trail along the public part of the Facebook campus to see if I could find the Harris's sparrow that was first reported by Don Pendleton on December 12, 2017.

Spoiler alert: I dipped.

But I did see/hear 4 Song Sparrows, including this one. I am not good enough to know for sure that this is a juvenile, but it looked a bit awkward and skinny and kinda sucked at singing so it felt very much like teenager to me. Other calls in the area were much sweeter than this dude's.



In the middle of a Sunny Day Real Estate cover


Hey, I didn't claim that blog posts were going to be good or epic or anything, just that they should exist in larger numbers.

Quantity over quality in 2018.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Adventures in Monterey Pt 1

On my way down to Carmel to meet Christian, among the hellish labor day weekend traffic, I made a quick stop at Jetty Road/Elkhorn Slough to take a look at the Sea Otters that frequent the area. I thought I only had about 20 minutes before I needed to get back on the road so that Christian and I would have a similar Carmel ETA. Turns out traffic was even worse for him and I could have taken longer and worked a bit harder to learn the camera and get better photos, but these will serve as try #1.

The otters were mostly sleeping in a big raft when I got there, so the opportunity for adorable action shots weren't there.

Rubbing eyes was about the most action these guys would do. A cropped shot where nothing seemed to be quite in focus. 

This one floated a bit away from the main raft and was the closest otter, but the bastard did nothing but backfloat


Foot tags abound

Wait, wait, an exciting eye scratch




Cute little critters that would eat your face off if you give them a chance.

Note: Edited for egregious typos

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dusky Warbler

Went hunting for the Dusky Warbler at Coyote Point Marsh in San Mateo first found by Logan Kahle and Bob Toleno on 10/8.

Admittedly this is a bird I never would have IDed correctly if I had run into it by myself without knowing it was there, but once you know what to look for and a shit ton of patience we were able to find it. That supercilium almost makes it look like a wren.

Arrived a touch after 10am and a few people were already staked out. After maybe 30 minutes Adam Dudley and Dorian Anderson got a quick 3 second look, while I was busy looking at the wrong bird, a dull common yellowthroat. Then a lot of time went by without hearing or seeing it. At about 1pm I decided to give up and head back to the car. On the path back I ran into another birder, Patrick, that separated from the group and had just got on the bird. This time the bird gave us much better looks. Still skulking in the shadows and not sitting still for very long, but longer than 3 seconds. We saw it off and on for about 45 minutes, when I decided it was finally time to go into lab.







This is what a dusky warbler's butt looks like

I got a new camera recently and I have gotten it out only a few times so far. Damn grant writing and bench science screwing up my photography game. This yellow-rumped warbler is far from crushed, the focus is a bit off, but I am posting them anyways to be able to compare to 6 months from now when I get a little better with the camera. Hopefully my easy bird picture taking abilities improve quickly



Speaking of easy birds, this black phoebe was sitting on the same culvert that the dusky warbler was skulking around. Use that as a reference if you go out on the search.




And finally a couple of Mallards and a coot, because why not, new camera.




The end

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Toad SuperBloom

Let's stay down south, but go back to a campus.

In late May, CTC met up on JK's turf down on the Farm. The plan was for a birding excursion at Lake Lagunita: in the weeks previous stunningly full from a year of plenty, but at this time returning to more of a vernal pool state.

The day was blustery and there really wasn't much action as we walked the first half of the loop. A pair of Hooded Orioles -- the day's winged highlight -- had just scattered off into the foliage when JK somehow scoped:

Anaxyrus boreas halophilus

A Western, or California Toad! While one of the more common amphibian species in our state, either of us had not come across one in a while -- and pretty neat to find as a toadlet.

So after trying to photograph the hell out this poor jittery youngster, we continued down the trail, coming upon where the diversion from San Francisquito Creek feeds into the lake. 

It was there where the thousands of our previous friend's brothers and sisters revealed themselves in a an almost hallucinatory manner. Each step we placed down on the earth, toads took to the air. Inside every burrow, hole and divot, their horizontal pupils were watching. In undulating waves, floating down the stream like Huck & Jim.

By now the sharp wind had calmed to a light whisper and we moved on, leaving the toads to continue their journey...

toad motherload location

this was one many being carried down the stream

the light stripe down the back is a key ID mark

flooded burrows were another common hangout

getting in close

what is your count? (higher-res)