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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, May 27, 2011

Endangered Neighbors

Our friend Seabass has an art exhibit opening at the Santa Cruz National History Museum.  It will feature endangered animals right here in our backyard of Northern California.  The opening is on June 10th according to my calendar from 6-8PM.  Reservations for the opening may be necessary but I am not sure on that.

There are other events going on in conjunction with the exhibit including some photography lessons/ field trips. The exhibit will be open from June 11-September 10th so plan a beach day and hit up the exhibit at the same time.

And if you haven't already added Sebastian's blog to your RSS feed you should.  This recent entry on California Condors was amazing.  I am quite jealous.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Natural History Museum

I visited NYC for the first time this April.  I have to say it was a wonderful city and I had the greatest time.  Granted, about the only thing you are going to camera trap are rats, hipsters and cougars, but there was still some wildlife to see.  I saw my first Blue Jay in Central Park for example and a rat that would have given Zara a run for her money.

We were lucky enough to be able to stay with a friend of mine from college who graciously gave us keys to his apartment so we could come and go as we pleased.  My favorite coming and going outside of some excellent food was to the American Museum of Natural History.  Museum photography never turns out well so I will only present you with a few photos.

Dinosaurs of course are awesome, but fossil salamanders are even cooler.

Someday when I am a rich man I will have a slab like this in my personal library.

I also really enjoyed the old diorama style exhibits.

But imagine my surprise when I saw the diorama of this little rodent.  The background is not quite right for the habitat we have found them in nor do the burrows look right, but it certainly brought a smile to my face.  There were maybe 30-40 North American mammals on display but our friend Aplodontia was one of them.  Maybe the Sterlings were fans of this curious critter or maybe they just threw their name on any old display.  Either way, these made me think of our mentor.  Thanks again Codger.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In the Land of Chollas

I set this camera trap on a woodrat nest about 150 feet from our campsite in the Granite Mountains. This is a wonderful campsite in the Mojave National Preserve that we have used three years in a row now. However, this is the first time I have had a homebrew camera trap with me and thus my first Neotoma lepida camera trap photos.

After setting the trap I went back to my cot only to realize that there was an active nest 4 feet from where I would sleep and it was occupied by daring little rat that had no problem letting me watch it from a few feet away.  He must have known there was no way I was going through the cholla to grab him.
Photo by SPP

Desert woodrats often build a defense fence of dried cholla around their nests or build them at the bases of a living cholla plant.  This is stuff that will go right through your shoe sole and into your foot.  Flip flops fare no better, I promise.

The nest had another visitor that I will tell you about a little later

Bringing some creosote to the nest

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Great Highway

We return to Younger Lagoon for the last set before our current short break to dry cams and plan the next step.

For this last set, we leave behind the High Plateau and the marsh for a new location. Near one of the first set locations is a fence that encloses the reserve on the south and stretches to farmland that surrounds Younger to the east and north. This is also where we came upon a coyote late last year.

I call this location The Great Highway for during the 54 days in operation it featured 7 indentifiable species in transit and 1.7 positive camera trap triggers per day. Not amazing stats, but one must take into consideration the deluge of rain that pounded the Northern and Central California Coasts throughout the months of February and March.

The most common visitor was the Brush Rabbit, with 14 unique visits.

California Quail were also frequent travelers, often in a flock of at least 16 individuals.

Black-tailed Deer and Striped Skunk made several appearances, but the stars of this set were the Younger Lagoon resident family of bobcats.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mojave Desert 2011

View from Mitchell Caverns, Mojave National Preserve

Although they are often immature, herpatologists tend to be more committed and creative than other biologists. Those who specialize in venomous snakes are attracted to the field to some extent because of the kick they get from handling dangerous animals. Slightly embarrassed by this, they usually deny it and go to great lengths to conceal their passion from outsiders.


"The syndrome becomes all-absorbing and the young herpetophile often develops a nerdishness which precludes membership in the school in-group. Some of the individuals fail to pass beyond this developmental phase: they become fixated on an interest that many of us were able to outgrow ... [However] they understand evolutionary theory better, are more current in their taxonomic knowledge, and they cooperate with one another."

I am heading to the Mojave Desert for a four days of herping.  We only take pictures not animals, but you will be seeing some of these pictures in a week or so after the trip. We are way behind in posting and have camera trap pictures from March-April and even earlier to still post, so hopefully we can get caught up.

We will be doing some camera trapping on the trip, targeting rodents such as Kangaroo rats and woodrats and maybe some predators if we get lucky, but cams will only be out for 24 hour periods, so we probably won't be getting many if any of them.

Bonus points to anyone who can identify the author of the above paraphrased and direct quotes above without the help of google.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Revisiting Las Gallinas

The past two weeks at work have been a joy and for several reasons.

Reasons relevant to Camera Trapping Campus readers would be the explosion of life alongside Las Gallinas Creek.

First came the discovery of a hummingbird nest on the lower branches of the Great Horned Owls nesting tree.

Hummingbird nest
just above eye level next to the trail

Hummingbird feeding time

Two chicks were barely staying inside the nest when I first observed them. The next day, when I came with my camera, they had fledged and I was lucky enough to still see one of them begging for food on a nearby branch.

The previous stars of the show are growing up fast, too.

c'mon look at these two


Conversations with visiting birders revealed that another nest is in the next tree over - inhabited by a woodpecker family.

Woodpecker nest
waiting for an appearance

Though I have seen them fly in and out, I have yet to get a good shot of either parent or young.

Oh, and there is a Western Bluebird nest in the Owl's tree, too!

It is incredible that so much life can happen alongside a parking lot.
To quote one of our classroom maxims: "Be aware of the world around you."
Slowing down one's pace and gaze for the owls revealed a rich world all within 15 feet.

****5/2 Update****
Over the weekend, crows knocked one of the owlets out of the nest and into the creek. Kind folk took the owlet to Wildcare and it is going to be ok. Mom and the remaining owlet are still in the area, so the injured owlet will be returned to its family soon.