This blog is predominately about camera trapping the University of California, Santa Cruz campus and a site in Marin that is being used to teach elementary school students about biology and conservation through camera trapping. We will also touch on other camera trapping news and musings, sets from other locations, natural history discussions and regular photography.

Friday, March 14, 2014


In December, people were starting to freak out in California about water. I had heard from some local farmers that they were worried about their entire crop coming close to failure.

Several rainstorms came in 2014 and they changed the drought situation from completely dire to pretty screwed.

Back in December, camera trapping was experiencing the effects of the drought as well, however a cure was on the way. Teacher chum Ryan brought up the idea of a Winter Solstice hike up Mt. Tam from one of the reservoirs.

We would bring a couple traps and surely along the way we would find a nice stream to place a set? 

Environs were mighty dry as we began bushwacking, with most stream beds solely dusty rocks and an occasional puddle of stagnant water.

Eventually, we did find a section of the stream that was running and choose to settle, given what we had observed previously. The stream itself was slow moving as it wound between boulders and underneath two fallen Doug Fir. I focused my camera on the widest pool that had formed at one bend. The camera would remain up for six weeks.

Today's post focuses on our feathered friends. They can claim first visit, and frankly it always seems like a nice treat when they show up during sets.

3 sharp-shinned hawk drink visits

A couple of Band-tailed Pigeons then arrived for a drink and a bath. 
You can see the "scum" that begins to accumulate in the water. The Codger had a recent post where a flock of band-tails invaded a pool leaving their mark behind. 
The great discussion that followed in the comments section included the fact nugget that the scum is a powder produced by the pigeons and is a sign of good health.

Finally, one of the last visitors to the set, a Varied Thrush. Unfortunately not in color, so we miss out on the splashes of vivid orange, but we do get to see some nice behavior as it forages among the leaf litter.

Next up: Bob

Friday, February 7, 2014


I got back from a quick trip to Belize a couple of weeks ago. I should start to trickle out some posts from our adventures and misadventures there in the coming weeks.

However it was a little weird landing back in the States and filling out my custom form.


I had literally nothing to declare. Not even a bottle of hot sauce. No souvenirs bought for myself or anyone else.

Or so I thought.

Turns out I did bring back a souvenir.

Four of them for that matter.

Dermatobia hominis

One in my shoulder, one on my side-boob, on in my shin, and lastly one on my ankle.

I didn't realize what was going on until last night. I just thought they were bites that had gotten infected and were taking forever to heal. They kept oozing liquid and blood and there was a hard nodule under the surface of the skin that I thought was just an inflammatory reaction. Every once in a while a shooting pain would spread quickly from the bite. Sharp enough to wake me from my sleep, but nothing earth-shattering. Overall the bite site was sore, but I could tolerate it. But instead of getting better these symptoms got a bit worse.

My mom suggested it was botfly because her friends kid once went to Belize and got a botfly ... you know how those mom stories go.

But I was concerned enough that I did some google image search of botfly wounds.

"Shit. My bites look a lot like those", I thought.

Then I thought I could feel the larva moving when I pressed on the wound, but I wasn't sure if it was all in my dome.

Then I put some Vicks Vapor Rub on the open hole. After a bit one of the little bastards stuck their head out to breath. Only then was I 100% sure I had the botfly.

Vern at approximately two weeks of age. He lived in my shoulder. He was growing quickly, feeding off of my flesh. He might have lived to be 2cm if I hadn't ended it all so early

Botfly breathing tunnel in my ankle

Human Botfly, or Dermatobia hominis, can use mosquitos to be the vector for their eggs, which explained why I never saw a large fly bite me and still got the youngin' living inside of me. From wikipedia:

Dermatobia fly eggs have been shown to be vectored by over 40 species of mosquitoes and muscoid flies, as well as one species oftick;[2] the female captures the mosquito and attaches its eggs to its body, then releases it. Either the eggs hatch while the mosquito is feeding and the larvae use the mosquito bite area as the entry point, or the eggs simply drop off the muscoid fly when it lands on the skin. The larvae develop inside the subcutaneous layers, and after approximately eight weeks, they drop out to pupate for at least a week, typically in the soil. The adults are large flies resembling bumblebees. They are easily recognized because they lack mouthparts (as is true of other Oestrid flies).

Now what? Again remedies from wikipedia:

Recently, physicians have discovered that venom extractor syringes can remove larvae with ease at any stage of growth. As these devices are a common component of first-aid kits, this is an effective and easily accessible solution.[3] 
A larva has been successfully removed by first applying several coats of nail polish to the area of the larva's entrance, weakening it by partial asphyxiation.[4] 
Covering the location with adhesive tape would also result in partial asphyxiation and weakening of the larva, but is not recommended because the larva's breathing tube is fragile and would be broken during the removal of the tape, leaving most of the larva behind.[4] 
The easiest and most effective way to remove botfly larvae is to apply petroleum jelly over the location, which prevents air from reaching the larva, suffocating it. It can then be removed with tweezers safely after a day. 
Oral use of ivermectin, an antiparasitic avermectin medicine, has proved to be an effective and non invasive treatment that leads to the spontaneous emigration of the larva.[5] This is especially important for cases where the larva is located at inaccessible places like inside the inner canthus of the eye.

I tried the venom extractor kit first. That worked for the one on my shin, but just gave me a hickie at the other three locations.

So asphyxiation with camphor flavored petroleum jelly, AKA Vick's Vapor Rub. That worked anywhere from 12-18 hours later.

I was tempted to let the one I called Carlito, live in my ankle, and hatch him out, but it was living on close to the joint, so if I did too much walking, he'd get angry and start throwing those spines into the wall of his tunnel (my flesh) and things would get sore.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Magnificent Triple Take

"So there is a Mountain Lion going through my sister's backyard…"
I share a incredulous glance with teacher chum Ryan.
she continued, "It must be going after her chickens!"

The call was put out to place a camera trap in this particular San Anselmo backyard and our suspicions were confirmed with the appearance of a bobcat.

Of course the real treasure of this capture is the action in the diamond window of the chicken coop.

A great double take is a relatively common occurrence and with practice can be performed with excellence.

a master of the craft at work

However a triple take requires such an alarming event to take place for it to even truly be warranted, that it is a rare event to behold, especially so when its performer delivers it so beautifully, as this distressed chicken does.

A tip of the hat to this bird.

*This will hopefully be the end of the archive clean, with JK and I maintaining a couple of projects in the field currently and some recent adventures to detail.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Should Be Guest Blog: Take It Slow

CTC chum and teaching colleague Ryan continues his shyness, or a desire for a camera trap curse, so here I am again to muse of his adventures...

Every summer, usually a couple days before the final day of school, Ryan splits the Bay Area for the East Coast to visit family.

The main destination is Indian Lake, a part of a chain of lakes called ... the Indian Lakes in Ontario, Canada.
The goals here: achieve an advanced state of chillness to recuperate from the stressful life of a special ed teacher, do some fishing and hang with the kiddos.

Along the way, his naturalist skills continue to develop.

Last summer on a wander, he noticed distinct chew marks on a tree he believed to be from a porcupine. A camera was set up in the area and the result was a new species for the CTC family!

like its summertime neighbour, taking it slow

JK and I look forward to future Canadian dispatches from the horse's mouth this coming summer.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Weasel Wednesday / Mustelid Miércoles

It would be nice if this was a regular feature.
We'll see if the camera trap gods allow it !

taken last spring at the las gallinas dock -- our usual happy hour spot