Title Image

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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

More Mojave

I somehow managed to stretch out Mojave Desert pictures for almost a year. It was not really my plan, I just kept forgetting to post pictures. But it is time to start thinking of this year's trip and it reminded me that it was time to finish up these posts.




Here are two different Mohave Shovel-nosed snakes, Chionactis occipitalis occipitalis, with two very different color patterns. This is the first white shovel-nosed snake I have seen. Okay so it was the first yellow one I have seen too. This was a lifer species for me in 2011. That being said this was the first time others on the trip had seen a white banded shovel-nose too despite seeing dozens of yellows. They are much less common than the yellow guys.



A plant eating dinosaur in hand. Common Chuckwalla, Sauromalus ater. Not a very pretty individual. When let go, he dove back into his rock crack but was back a few minutes later standing tall looking out for invading males.



Lastly a Long-nosed Snake, Rhinocheilus lecontei. This was the most common snake we found outside of Sidewinders.  Turned up half a dozen or so Rhinocheilus. The lighting wasn't great for these images but I kind of like the long shadows.

One last desert post coming up that lacks animals but has some of that good ol' desert weirdness.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fox Frenzy

60% of the time, it works every time

This set continues the exploration of the Mt. Tam Watershed, along a small tributary stream of Lagunitas Creek. I joined up with teaching cohort and fellow camera trapper, Ryan, on a glorious Sunday morning.

Three cams were placed -- one by myself and two by Ryan (guest post in the near future?) and were in operation for about 20 days.

While JK is scoring Bobcat tail on his cam all over Younger Lagoon, the Gray Fox continues to be my carnivore du jour.

Day 5 visit


Day 15 visit

                         Breeding Pair ?

A Grey Squirrel was the only other species to visit

Now, scents such as the top-pictured Fox Frenzy, are something of late that I have tried to use sparingly in my sets. 
This was not one of those sets. 
In this small clearing I found fox scat (near moss, left center picture) and dabbed some scent on a large rock (bottom right) and then again near the scat.

A curiosity runs through me. Is that a breeding pair? If so, will they be denning nearby?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Finally Comes Up Heads

Okay, so if you called heads instead of tails you had 1:12 odds of winning the toss. Not great odds at all, but better than I may have left you believing.  Yes one bobcat turned up heads. It came down the trail, stopped for a sniff, right about where I knelled down, but did nothing else, I swear.


After a sniff it turned around and found something good to check out. Maybe it was another bobcat's poop, maybe the skunk left something, or maybe it was just feeling a bit frisky.



And then it turned and hammed it up for the camera


I swear I did not use a ball of yarn above the camera as a lure.

This Bob' did not seem to be scared of the flash, but rather thought she was Angie on the Red Carpet.

The camera caught this silly kitty in good focus. Is that a tick on her ankle? Maybe she wanted us to remove it for her.

Overall, I am very happy I finally got a rufus to look into the eye of the homebrew.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Both Sides of the Coin

Of the 29 medium mammal photos in this set 24 were of bobcats. That leaves us five pictures of the others.

Here are two.



And Tails


This skunk, I assume it is a single individual, passed the camera on its way down the ravine and then again on its way back up the ravine six and a half hours later.

The other 3 images were of foggy raccoons. Portraits that are not good enough for publishing.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Calling Tails

If my last camera trap sets were a coin flip.

Heads or Tails.

Call it Quick.

I hope to FSM that you chose tails. I have a streak going about as good as the NFC had in Super Bowl coin flips.

Oh bobcats.


I got enough bobcats to make Trailblazer jealous for weeks on end, but they were a bunch of tails. 24 of 65 images with critters in them were bobcats. That's 37% for you non-math majors. Quite a haul of bobs. But almost all tails.

Distinct tail pattern. Yin and yang of black and white. Slight U shape of the white tip. Analogous to a fingerprint or does every bob tail have this pattern?

Overall not a bad set. 55% of 119 total images had an animal in them. The wind got a huge chunk of images in one day that dragged that average down. The set was up for 13 days and we got 13 individual visits for a perfect 1 visit/day. The camera took 5 positive images a day, so quite a few of the critters hung around the camera for a bit

Over the 13 days we had 9 separate visits by Lynx rufus. As you will see by these pictures I think they were all the same individual, but I am not sure if tail pattern (see above) is a reliable way to discern individuals. Each and every time the bobcat was going up the ravine showing its tail to the camera.




Possible other individual. Look at the black unconnected bands above the tail tip. Inconclusive in my mind.


I will have to go back through the archives and see if we can pin this (these?) as bobcat mom, pop, or kitten from early 2011 or if the tail pattern is just a red herring.

Either way, I sure enjoy our coastal bobcats and still get excited every time they show up on the little LCD screen. I still need to see one in person in 2012.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On The Road

"Why think about that when all the golden land's ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you're alive to see?"

In the middle of February, most Bay Area schools include a week to catch one's breath known as "ski week".  The lady and I took the week as a chance to get out of the city and explore the southwestern deserts in Zion and Death Valley National Parks. Both parks were new to me and both provided incredible sights and experiences even while we merely scratched the surface of each.

Of course, a camera trap was brought along -- the Sony s600 homebrew, which has been eternally existing in various states of malfunction.

Kind folk put us up in Rockville, a sleepy town just outside of Zion. The first night was a swell welcome to the wild: while gazing through the skylight at the brilliant display of stars, a pack of coyotes howled maniacally in the near distance.

Of course, my trap was not yet set up -- though I don't think it would have mattered:

Every capture pretty much looked like this

The nights in Utah were cold and frosty. When packing, I failed to go through my trapping checklist and forgot desiccants.  For those of you in the colder climes, would desiccants have solved this problem? Rain-X on the glass plate?

view atop Angels Landing, ZNP (Holga Style)

desert wood rat midden 

Next up, Death Valley. 
The high from Zion was intense and with our overworked minds and bodies now revitalized, we soared like the condor along Utah State Route 9. 
Our thermal back to CA went through the mighty town of Ka-NAB, Utah. There, a deer roadkill was on the side of the road with an eagle tearing at its rib meat. A slam on the breaks and I leapt out the vehicle. I discovered the eagle had some buddies -- two California Condors!

Immature Bald Eagle

California Condor

On to Death Valley...

sloppy panorama

Zabriskie Point

Camera trap success was finally achieved with the s600 the first windy night!

Desert or Merriam's Kangaroo Rat?

I lean towards Merriam's.

The final notable adventure was a ramble to Darwin Falls, on the western edge of the park. Viewing the lower falls was a great experience, but with a little scrambling over rock edges, being alone at the upper falls was truly magical.

Lower Darwin Falls

Upper Darwin Falls

The trip was a fantastic introduction to both parks, with plans for future adventures and their needed resources already floating around my head.

J. Kerouac
H. Chavez
S. Wong

Monday, March 5, 2012

Salamander season ... What Salamander season?

God, Salamander season has been rough.

As I posted earlier, the weather here in Northern California has been warm and sunny all "Winter" long.

But we finally got a good rain on leap day morning, so that afternoon I headed out to the center of campus for a little 'phib hunt while my model organism did its thang for a few hours.

I flipped a dozen or so Ensatinas in about an hour. All looked about the same and I neglected to put in the effort it takes to snap a photo of a single one.

See my goal was not Ensatina, or Batrachosep, which shockingly I got shut out on, but the elusive Santa Cruz Black Salamander, Aneides niger. I had found juveniles last year and was on the hunt for an adult.

I had given up about 20 rocks ago, but half heartedly flipped a couple dozen more rocks and under the third to last rock I flipped was this little guy.  And when I say little, I mean TINY!




This youngster was under a rock that was on very wet dirt.  Adults are usually found under rock on rock. However, every (3, small sample size warning) juvenile I have found has been rock on dirt rather than rock on rock.



No adults, so back to the drawing board, but they have to be close by for a baby like this to exist.  Might already be too late this year, but the good news is that it was wet enough this season to produce this little guy, so the breeding season was not lost.

I still have not gotten my flash fixed so apologies for the less than perfect long-exposure images, but thought they were still worth sharing.