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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Herps of the Mojave: Redondo Dos

Granite Mountains

First one more snake. A speckled rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchelli. I didn't get a single half decent image of it but Christian did. A couple of pictures when it was on the hook. This was a lifer for both of us and was actually one of the species on my 2012 Wish List.

Speckled Rattlesnake

Speckled Rattlesnake

A commenter on Flickr, who has a lot of great herp and desert shots himself, suggested that we should be careful with gravid females, which I totally agree with. This might have been a gravid female, but I am not sure. It certainly looks plump in the mid-section in this image, but we did not handle it enough to determine sex, let alone whether it was gravid. When we were looking at the snake in live time, I don't remember thinking it was gravid, but it is certainly possible we over-looked this in our excitement, and now I am starting to convince myself that this is sounding a little familiar. However, we simply moved it to a safer spot where it quickly disappeared into the rocks. What do you guys think in regards to it being gravid?

Another King of the Rocks, who will also disappear into the cracks when you try and sneak up on him. Otherwise he is macho and likes to do push-ups for all of the other chucks to see. Look at those biceps.



And a few pictures of a juvenile chuckwalla, the guy above was not the dad though, their ranges are not that large. The baby was found several miles down the road. My first baby Chuck.




Finally, the only desert tortoise of the trip, but this was the third year in a row we have seen one of these majestic critters. There really is no better way to start your day than stumbling upon a desert tortoise in the early morning light. This one was crossing an old dirt road.






She didn't need any help across the road. Made it across just fine herself, thank you very much.

Desert Tortoise

Desert Tortoise

We did pull the cholla needle out of her eye for her though.

Photo Credits: First 5 photos and last 2 by Christian. Remaining by JK.
As always, but it bears repeating, no animals were collected on our trip.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Herps of the Mojave

All of these Mojave Desert posts and I have been holding back the herp pictures from you. Here I present to you the herps without legs.

Wait a Mojave post that actually has Herps in it! I know shocking.

The herping on this year's desert trip was very different than 2011. I got two life species, and one hombre that has been going to the Mojave for 25 years got a lifer for this part of California. That being said we saw much fewer reptiles in both numbers and species than we did in 2011. There were probably two main factors (1) Less rain = less plant seeds = less rodent food = less snake food and (2) It got cold quick. The road was under 80°F a mere hour after sunset.

The first night of driving we split into two cars and one car saw four sidewinders, all babies and the other car spotted one sidewinder, again a baby, at the meet-up point so car 1 got their fifth snake of the night.



When we got back to camp we found another group of campers had parked right next to us and set-up their tents within 100 feet of ours.  WTF. 1.6 million acres to chose and you set-up right next to another group. It would have been a total bummer of a night if not for late night fajitas, tequila and a good campfire. We got two visiters right before bed, one wasn't really welcome, no we don't want to share our campfire with you, but the other was most welcome. Ben happened to find our second visiter on his way back from peeing on some rocks.

Believe it or not this is a lifer for me. I have seen plenty in captivity but my first wild Rosy Boa. In a locale that I wasn't really convinced they even existid in to boot.

She, yes she, no spurs, was not very cooperative when it came to photography though. She really wouldn't sit still so these are not the best or photographs.





The following night we saw but a single snake on the road. Again a species we had already seen, but this time an adult.




And one shot of some herpers on the ridge in the middle of the day falsely thinking they can turn up something other than a whiptail


Some herps with legs next week.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Howl Hill

Howl Hill.
Where one lets the landscape echo the primal yelp that resides within us all...

And a decent place to set a camera trap

We ascended through a patch of Doug Fir to a relatively barren, stony hilltop. The homebrew cam was locked around one particularly large boulder alongside a deer trail.
Pointing east.
I figured that this was the kids' set, so it was important to see why aiming in that direction was potentially (likely) a bad idea and I let it be.

The first results:

Fence Lizard heats up


Retrieving our first round of shots, we then reviewed the photos as a class. Were there any problems? Several students quickly pointed out the rock was in the shot and the object of focus by the camera. One student mentioned that the image was a bit bright, but others thought that it was not a big problem. We agreed to adjust the camera so that the rock was out of the shot. 


1st turkey on camera trap. Worth something, I guess

Again, we reviewed the shots in the classroom and the question was presented: were there any problems with our set? A few more spoke up about the sun, which pleased me.

School was winding down at this point and for the next round, I was going to go out by myself. I switched out the homebrew for a new Bushie w/audio and flipped it 180 degrees.

My goodness.

Ten days later on the trap, we finally got a feline.

Not the Puma variety, but still very cool.
I'll be continuing to manage some cameras with Felidae over the summer and then when September comes around, the students of my new 8th grade classroom will be reintroduced to the wild...

*not a llama, obviously. durr

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Felidae Adventures: Training Days

This spring, my 6th / 7th grade class met up with the Felidae Fund for the start of what is hopefully a long-running relationship with my classes.

First, the Felidae team came into the classroom to present a Mountain Lion power point lecture. It was pretty much the presentation that they give out on the road to adult audiences and a credit must go to them for putting together a presentation that could hold the attention of an audience spectrum ranging from highly educated adults to early teens with learning difficulties.

The class was completely transfixed by the photos and information and could not wait for their second visit into the classroom: a lab activity demonstrating the effect of development on Mountain Lion populations, and then in turn, deer populations.

After the lab came the waiting game -- when would we be able to go out into the field and hopefully find one of these majestic creatures with camera traps?

Several rounds of practice sets around campus and Lucas Valley familiarized the students for many aspects of the camera trapping experience: looking for signs of animal presence, angles to use to best capture the animal's path and what to use in the environment for camera placement.

The time came in mid-May for the big league call-up, with us meeting the Felidae crew at the Mt. Tam watershed. The goal was to set up at least three cameras in two separate pre-planned locations. On the hike to location one, a dry gully, we observed fresh bobcat scat. With the fortuitous poop discovery, we merrily continued to the gully and set up two cameras, one video, one still.

preparing camera uno
The gully sets produced many deer shots over a seven week period, along with the occasional raccoon. Nothing spectacular, or exhibiting interesting behavior, so I am not going to post them.

Upon completing camera setup, we marched up what was to be known as Howl Hill...


What dangers would we encounter?
Would an animal other than a deer wander past our camera?
These questions and more answered in the next post !