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, September 28, 2012

Joining the Aplodontia Club

This post is a long time coming ...

Struck out on the elusive Mt. Beaver two years in a row and on my third season in the Sierras I finally got the little guy. Fairly decent pictures of him too, but I wish more images were in full-frame. Now that I got him I can concentrate on getting the perfect picture next year.

Smile for the camera!

I was so busy right after picking up this cam at the Codger's annual camera trapping workshop that I didn't get around to processing them several months later. The nice part about that though was going back through the images was almost like going through them the first time.

Early afternoon Mt. Beaver. Also looks like he is going through a molt. Not sure what is the new coat and what is the old coat though.
Check out that human-like ear

Early evening Mt. Beaver

NOM NOM NOM.  Look at those claws!
No wonder they are able to build such elaborate tunnel systems.
Cropped image



A few more pictures, because, well why the hell not. Keep going to the bottom of the post for a short discussion on the set.

Great look at the ear

Sniff ... Sniff ... Sniff


Go! Go! Go!
A bit blurry but this guy was hauling down the tunnel right at lunch time
This set took pictures for only 6 days. A following post will discuss the flash-activating battery destroyer.

However, every photo of an Aplodontia was taken during daylight hours which is very surprising to me.  The flash still fired during many of the day photos because the camera was situated in a dense alder thicket that did not have a lot of light.

It took roughly 24 hours to get the first Mt. Beaver shot. A Mt. Beaver then visited the camera every day (+5) until the batteries died.

  • Day 2: 1:45PM and 2:31PM (considered 1 visit)
  • Day 3: 11:03AM
  • Day 4: 4:54PM, 5:16PM and 5:24PM (considered 1 visit)
  • Day 5: 6:32AM and 7:13AM (considered 1 visit)
  • Day 6: 7:11AM and 1:48PM (considered 2 visits)

I think these are likely all the same individual even though the amount of red/brown looks a bit less in some images than in others. I think that might be just an artifact of the camera, but maybe this is more than one critter.

UPDATE:  Per RT's suggestion in the comments another cropped, image.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pelagic Trip Part II

You heard about our first pelagic trip in a post by Christian.

So now some crappier pictures and duller thoughts from me (JK).

I too was really worried about getting seasick. I laid off the beer and bourbon blend the night before, took a dramamine before bed, another when I woke up and one more on the boat at about the 5 hour mark. Went to the store and bought ginger snaps, ginger beer and sunscreen. I failed to use all three and only the lack of sunscreen came back to bite me. Never got sick, never really got close, so that was a huge positive.

Seas not too rough but a little windy

I meant to rent a nice sharp zoom lens, but put it off until it was too late, so I shot all of these pictures with an unsharp 18-270mm Tamron lens. I like the lens a lot for its versatility when hiking and you only want to carry one lens, but it is a major compromise. My 100mm Canon is quite sharp but I didn't think it would have the reach I needed and outside of the gulls right off the stern wouldn't have done me much good. So non-sharp images it is. Also the higher ISO to get quicker shutter times is probably a contributing factor.

Western Gull

I suck at birding. Not sure if these are Western or California gulls

Pomerine Jaeger (lifer)

Black-footed Albatross (lifer)

Another Pomerine Jaeger

Heerman's Gull (lifer according to ebird profile. I am sure I have seen before, but not paid close enough attention too. I tend to ignore gulls, which is a huge detriment to trying to learn more about birds. Would be kind of like a herper just ignoring all Ambystomas, poor form)

This Pomerine Jaeger is much more badass than the one's above

Pink-footed Shearwater (lifer, no pics of the Buller's Shearwater, also a lifer)

More Black-footed Albatross. Totally fell for these gals.
Call Me, Maybe?

Western gull(?) not being nice to my Albatross friend

Additional photos on Flickr in the Pelagic Set.

Want to also thank Seagull Steve and his pals, Christian (a different one than CTC Christian) and Amy, for their good company and most importantly putting up with our novice questions. Nice, wittier than all hell, sarcastic and a little vulgar. Couldn't ask for anything more in company on a long day. They all even decided a day of pelagic birding was not enough and that they needed to go find a first county record the next morning. Steve will have to return to the birder rankings as that might be enough to move up to #6 in the U.S. of A. Seagull Steve is promising photos from the trip soon and they will blow mine out of the water so check his blog often.

Good Birding!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

This Birding Life: Pelagic Trip

It might have been mentioned here before, but we suck at birding.

Yet, we keep coming back to it and diving in deeper than before.

The latest excursion: a pelagic trip out of Monterey with Alvaro of Alvaro's Adventures.

guys, these guys look serious

 The expectations were mixed. Obviously with the first time out on the ocean, some sweet life birds were going to be seen.


The stereotype of birders loomed over: socially-awkward weirdos lacking the fun gene carrying around a zoom lens akin to a shoulder cannon. Now, a couple of those terms have been lobbed in my direction at times, so maybe a weirdo should respect a different weirdo?


Additionally,  the intimidation factor of being in the presence of the number seven birder in the nation !


Really, I was worried about losing it over the side. I haven't truly been out on the ocean since a disastrous deep sea fishing trip as a young brat on vacation in Hawai'i, where the vomit was flying.

But all was good this time and I maintained focus like a ninja, for there was a great prize to observe.
No, not the Great Skua, immortalized in song by the mighty British Sea Power,


on the Pacific we are treated to the SOUTH POLAR SKUA

 Yeah, I didn't get great photos, but still amazing to see at this distance -- we actually had about 7 total observations! Another pelagic trip on the bay spotted not a one Skua.

 The trip ended with some clowns lounging about.


small wound on this sea lion

Overall a pretty great trip -- everyone aboard was helpful, friendly and there were no mentions of jizz (though the hilarity of a jizz drop might have been pretty incredible?).

And despite some slow moments, a great selection of birds were on display and now one of my students thinks I am a god because I have seen an albatross.

Jake's thoughts next!
Good Birding !

Saturday, September 1, 2012


The scene when I went to check the camera

Rewind two weeks. The previous days of summer had seen camera trap sets that produced stirring images of blades of grass and posing hikers, but no critters.

I had been walking back from another epic failure when I noticed  an IMMENSE  pile of scat in the middle of the fire road/trail. Now this was a truly epic shitpile. Upon closer examination it appeared that each layer was from a different animal, and they delicately left their mark in a version of the classic game, Jenga.

I tucked the location away in the old memory (as well as GPS) and returned a week later with full supplies.

The Jenga game was still on as I searched the area around the trail. To one side was a gap among the bay trees, with a game trail shrouded in poison oak. I leapt down and discovered that the brush quickly cleared and a wide avenue lay before.

I ran from possible set location to set location like an uncaged border collie, finally settling on side view of the avenue, where it forked into a seasonal creek.

Two weeks later, we had a loser in the Jenga game and a few sweet images to get off the summer snide.

More to come from the exciting location...