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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.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Herp Holiday 2016

For the first time since starting my postdoc I was actually able to make it down to the Mojave Desert with the gang (blogmate Xian and Randomtruth included) for a few days of herping, botanizing, and general tomfoolery.

It was a bit of a weird trip. Despite being the latest trip in the year we have ever done it may have been the coldest. The wind blew and hoodies and jackets were necessary as soon as the sun went down. These factors lead to very poor night driving conditions and we put in only minimal effort during the witching hours on the road.

Most of the herps we saw were during the day including this nice Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii. We saw this nice girl in sunning herself on some rocks in a wash near the Trilobite Wilderness in the Marble Mountains.




This was a new area of exploration for us and a place I'd really like to check out further. We saw plenty of sign of Desert Bighorn Sheep, but no actual animals. Still sweet though. While fossils looked pretty picked over there seemed to be a few one could see still in big rocks (to my untrained eye). I would love to go out there with someone who really new their geology. There was a lot of this really cool seafoam green rock. The camera didn't capture the color as it was IRL.


I like to think there was some dinosaur out there with heart shaped feet making these marks, but alas just Mother Nature being random and my human eyes picking out a familiar shape.


We found a very cooperative Desert Iguana not far from the car on the way back from the end of the hike in Trilobite.



Our single night of driving the roads gave us only two living species with a few individuals of each. First a very young Sidewinder, Crotalus cerastes.


Then a black and white morph shovel-nose


And a few Desert Banded Geckos, Coleonyx variegatus variegatus. This one and a few others appear to be hypomelanisitic. We have noticed apparent hypomels before in the Eastern Mojave, but it would be nice to know if they bred true and this was a simple genetic trait. Maybe someone out there has done this research.



Next a Desert Patchnose, Salvadora hexalepis mojavensis, that we found in the Granite Mountains.




And finally the best herp of the trip, a baby Desert Tortoise. It is always so great to see the majestic tortoise, but even better to see a young one, knowing that recent breeding efforts have been successful. This baby was found less than a mile in the same wash that we found an adult female a few years ago. Maybe it is her offspring?



A flower post to follow, maybe in something like 18 months from now with the rate of posting I have accomplished the past couple of years.

UPDATE: Meant to include the statement that we do NOT collect on these trips, just in case anyone was worried.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Semester with the Otters

A quick review of the first six months of this past year's Biology class adventures with Las Gallinas Valley River Otters:

River Otters chasing down waterfowl (image courtesy Frankie Frost/Marin IJ)

Students identified latrine sites

Cameras were placed based on field surveys. The otters emerged and began to appear on camera from April on with a regularity.

Some grooming and general otter spazziness has been observed.

Students were able get a nice glimpse of their swimming patterns.

In addition to the otters, students have been able to get to know other local fauna. One of their favorites, CA kingsnakes, were out frequently this late spring/early summer.

The school year ended July 1st, but I have continued to collect data and craft curriculum this summer for next year's class, which transitions into Environmental Science.

not sure if there is a young one among this bunch

This has been a pretty awesome experience to share with my students and I hope that their appreciation for the natural world and the possibilities for citizen science have grown as a result.  
Next "year" is coming up soon and hopefully the adventure continues deeper into the story of the otter!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Introducing the Otters

Greetings loyal readers!

As mentioned a couple of months ago, my high school Biology classes are taking part of a pilot program with the River Otter Ecology Project, completing data surveys through camera trapping and scat collection.

Several initial disappointing camera checks frequently resulted in many captures of newish local resident, the devil bird:

...Or tremendous growth in shore plants that did offer a meditative atmosphere:

Throughout these trap fails, students were still able to build skills in identifying signs of otters, collect scat that is currently being analyzed at SF State, develop a greater understanding of the local ecosystem and from time to time, see them swimming at a a distance.

In April, with some minor camera adjustments after Spring Break, the students finally captured the local otters:

With a month left in the school year, students will close out this first otter school season with two more weeks of data, then compile a best of video. Exciting times!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


11.2015 San Francisco Peninsula

this image sums up the feelings toward March 23rd, 2016

also RIP Phife Dawg

Sunday, March 20, 2016


As mentioned in a previous post, Deadman did not prove to be a highly successful camera trap trip in winter 2014-15.

This mysterious footage was all that was recovered from a video set.