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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Trying out the Cuddeback Attack IR video

I purchased some Cuddeback Attack IR cameras through a grant. Now we are in the process of testing them out to make sure they work properly. I have to be honest and say although I have been (and continue to be) a big fan of the Cuddeback cameras, we are experiencing problems with two of the six Attacks. I am confident that the people at Cuddeback will make good on them, but it is disheartening. Anyway, I had two set on my property this past week and was anxious to see what was moving during the deer season. The answer, in short, is not much...

(Seneca Falls, NY 11/11)
There seems to be no shortage of raccoons on the property. Here is an image from a Cuddeback Capture (I had three of those out as well this week). I used some scent lure in a branch in front of this camera and the raccoon seems to be looking right at it. That nose must be in good working order! One of the Attack camera traps captured a nice video of a (the?) coon as well. That can be viewed here. I edited down to about 20 seconds from the original 30. It is worth watching to see the technique it uses to search for food under a submerged branch.

White-tailed deer running
(Seneca Falls, NY 11/11)
I also captured some video and stills of white-tailed deer. There are two deer here and it appears to be an adult doe and her fawn. This Attack was set very close to one of the Captures. Let's look at an image from the Capture first. This deer appears to be really on the move! There was a bit of a fog, but otherwise a great photo. But what got the deer so spooked? Well, I think I got the answer when I checked the Attack. In this first video, watch as a single deer seems to be alerted to the presence of the camera. Click here. Now I have always gotten photos of animals looking right at the camera and when it is a still photo, it is hard to convince me that the critter wasn't just guilty of looking in that direction. But with the video, I am seeing more of the story. Whereas the raccoon in the earlier video gave no evidence that it detected the camera, this deer sure gets spooked. But if that doesn't convince you, maybe this next video will. Before you watch, let me set it up for you. It occurs only two minutes after the previous video.   If you watch until the end, note the second deer that becomes visible (mostly a glowing eye..). She is coming from the location of the Cuddeback Capture. The time stamps on the two cameras lead me to believe that I captured a video of one deer being startled on the Attack and the deer it was traveling with reacting to that on the Capture. Kind of neat.... Oh, the link! Watch it here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dry Spell Continues.....

Ok, I probably shouldn't complain... I obtained GREAT results from the camera sets at my Father's property recently (see previous post), but things remain SLIM here at home. Saturday was the first day of the firearm season for deer. I was unable to participate as I was in Boston for a workshop. I returned on Sunday and managed to get out with enough light to slowly walk the perimeter trail. All five of the current camera sets I have out are along that trail. I was anxious to see a few things. First, I wanted to see if the opening day of the season got any deer moving and second, I wanted to see if I captured any photos of trespassers. I can report that I got photos of neither. In fact, I have captured very few images recently. I am at a loss for an explanation. Perhaps I don't "need" one. Perhaps it is just the law of averages... there are bound to be low activity cycles or times when I have the cameras in the wrong locations. I did manage two photos worth posting though:
Racoon in the snow
(Seneca Falls, NY 11/11)
We received a dusting of snow the other day that didn't last through the whole day. Heck, the snow was so sticky-wet that I really cannot call it a dusting. I like this photo. It seems to have some artistic value to it. I cannot take credit of course, but I am still pleased.

Gray squirrel
(Seneca Falls, NY 11/11)
Here is an extreme crop of a camera trap photo. Nothing special. Just a common old gray squirrel. I mean, you have seen thousands of them, right? But let me challenge you to take a moment and really look at one... this one or another, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you make the effort to become familiar with the familiar. I read an article once that said the vast majority of NYC residents have never been to the Empire State Building. When they were asked "Why not?", I expected the answer to be "I am not interested." or "That is a tourist attraction". Instead, the article said the most common reason given was "I can see it anytime." But in the end, they never go. Just like most people don't take the time to really look at the common animals around them...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Camera Trap Results Wayland, NY November 2011

Berna and Sasha
(Wayland, NY 10/11)
WARNING! Let me warn you that this is a very comprehensive post (aka LLLLOOONNNGG) however I think it is worth the effort as we got some great pics and video to share. :)

As I mentioned in a previous post, we set nine additional cameras out on my father's property in Wayland, NY. Dad's and my camera were also out for a total of 11 cameras. All cameras were Cuddeback brand. We had three of the new Attacks (purchased through an NSF grant) and four each of the Capture IR and normal flash. I set out the cameras with two Technicians from the Conservation Department at FLCC. Neither Berna or Sasha had ever seen my father's property before, so in addition to creating the sets, we conducted a whirlwind tour of the 75 acres. Dad has a mixture of hardwoods, pine plantation, old field shrub and younger forb fields. It makes for a nice variety of species, but the ultimate purpose of this endeavor was to try and capture photos of bears for my Black Bear Management class.
On November 11th, we retrieved the cameras during an optional field trip with my students. The cameras had been out for a minimum of eight days (two were out for a few days longer...) and we were very happy with the results. We totaled 10 species of mammals and one species of bird. Not bad for our neck of the woods!
From left to right: Jack (my Dad), Sasha, Eric, Shellie,
Alyssa, Don and Andy
(Wayland, NY 11/11)
We arrived at my father's property just as the cold precipitation was letting up (not quite rain, not quite snow) and the sun was making a brief appearance. After some quick introductions, we headed down the trail to retrieve all 11 cameras. Anticipation ran high among the group as my Dad had seen two bears only two days earlier. Did they walk in front of one of our cameras?
Ten-point buck
Our first set was an IR camera on a well worn wildlife trail. We expected mostly deer. In fact, we captured ONLY deer on this set. The only photo of note was this large ten-point buck. Compare this new photo with this previous buck pic and tell me if you think it is the same deer or not. Camera set #2 was my own personal Cuddeback Capture and it was set directly on my one of my Dad's mown trails. We use the trails as footpaths and for his ATV. When setting this camera, I aimed it at a new deer scrape and further seeded it with red oak acorns that my Dad had collected. As expected, we got deer visiting the scrape and gray squirrel collecting the acorns. But we also got a wide range of other species (in fact, it turned out that this set produced the greatest diversity of species) including red fox, opossum, and....
Striped Skunk
Wounded black bear
(Wayland, NY 11/11)
Our excitement at getting a black bear photo (the first on my own personal camera btw) was dampened by the realization that the bear in the photo was injured. We could clearly see blood and I surmised that perhaps the bear had been shot by a hunter. We are in the midst of archery season for deer and bear and it is entirely possible that a hunter on a neighboring property wounded this bear. Given how far bears can travel, we may never solve the puzzle. We never got a photo of a hunter trailing behind, following a blood trail. But I am told it is difficult to follow blood trails on black bears given that their thick fur collects the blood rather than letting it fall to the ground. And it is entirely possible that this bear was injured some other way. Who knows? Camera set #3 was in a stand of small maples growing up under 30 year old pines. We managed only a few photos but added Eastern cottontail to our tally of species (for those that are counting, we are up to eight species....). Set #4 was another IR camera but we tried something different here. I had read that you can attract bobcat and fox to a set (camera or more traditional trap) by dangling a feather from a string to entice the predator to investigate. We had no luck with my turkey feather set per se but did get some deer photos as they wandered by....
Set #5 was also set on the aforementioned ATV trail, about 300 yards away from set#2 and directly on the edge of my father's border. We added one new species here (feral cat) and got some great photos of
 Red Fox
Injured black bear
(Wayland, NY 11/11)
This photo was taken only a few minutes before the previous one. We now know exactly where the bear entered my Dad's property and we can now see the injury more clearly. I have enlarged it below, but before you scroll down, take a look at exactly where the injury is located. A bow hunter will typically aim for the chest cavity in hopes of piercing the lungs and going for a quick kill. This is consistent with the injury shown here; the source of the blood is a bit higher and distal (forward) than optimal.
Close-up of injury to black bear
(Wayland, NY 11/11)
Again, I am not certain that an arrow made this injury but that is my opinion. We spent some time looking for blood at both camera sets and found none (the bear had passed by on Nov. 5th, and we were checking cameras on Nov. 11th. One final note: I wish this bear well. I never like to see an animal suffer. Bears are tough critters and perhaps this is a superficial injury that can be recovered from.

White-tailed Deer
(Wayland, NY 11/11)

Camera set #6 was not too far away and was set under an apple tree. This was one of our new Attack cameras and we had it set to obtain both still and video images. We only captured Eastern cottontail and white-tail deer, but I posted videos of both on YouTube. The deer video is of a little spike and the Eastern cottontail is only 16 seconds and shows a turn and a hop. :) There is nothing particularly exciting about either video, but I am thrilled at my new toy -- the Cuddeback Attack cameras. I have always avoided the video cameras in the past but am happy with this model because of several features, including the ability to capture a still photo before the video starts rolling. It was starting to get dim so the group hustled over to set #7. This was the set I had anticipated checking all week long. It was near the location where Dad had seen the two bears only two days earlier. And in addition, we had used a commercial bear scent here to try and lure bears in. The scent had the smell of black licorice (anise) and I was hoping for the best. We got to the Attack camera and found our scent rag was still in place. We took out the SD card to preview the photos and saw that there were only two photos. One was a massive flock of common grackles and the other was..... BLACK BEAR! This time, it was two bears, the same bears that Dad had seen on Wednesday and most certainly the same bears photographed here. In that previous post, I opened the discussion as to whether this was a mom and cub or two lone cubs. I am now more convinced that these are two lone cubs. Watch the video here (watch all the way to the end!) and let me know what you think. 
Two black bears
(Wayland, NY 11/11)

Camera set #8 was my father's camera. We were a bit disappointed with only a few deer photos. However, we took the opportunity to search for bear claw marks. Back in June, my Dad's camera captured two photos of a mother bear and her cub. I have those photos posted here. In the first picture, the cub is in a tree. We inspected that tree and found the marks from the bear's claws. We all took photos and by now, it was getting so dark that we were using our flashes.

Claw marks from black bear
cub climbing
(Wayland, NY 11/11)
Black bear scat
(Wayland. NY 11/11)
On the way to our final three sets, I took the students to a hop hornbeam tree that I found in October 2010 (no photo). There are two bear bites and several scratches on the tree. The amount of healing on this tree in just the last year is impressive, and gives me a good feel for how difficult it is in some cases to find older bear sign. It will be interesting to see what the cub claw marks look like next fall. Set #9 produced only some deer photos, leaving us hustling to the last tow sets. But Dad had a surprise for us. Just the day before, Dad had found some bear scat. It was older scat, but exciting none the less. We picked the scat apart a bit and found hairs that appeared to be squirrel and scales from pine cones. Sasha made the correct dentification though -- the "pine scales" were really beech nut husks.
Bear claw marks
(Wayland, NY 11/11)
Set #10 was a complete bust with not one single photo (need to check that the camera is functioning properly), however the location of the camera gave us a chance to inspect some more bear scratches on a pine tree. These scratches go rather high up the tree and appear to be from a climb rather than as a marking. Thanks to Sasha for finding this tree on the day we set cameras out! By the time we got to set #11, we had nearly completed a large circle. We added one new species at this set in the hemlocks: red squirrel. Not a bad haul! We COULD have gotten a few other rodents (such as Eastern chipmunk), gray fox, wild turkey and perhaps even a bobcat (although they are still uncommon in this area). But I want to focus in the positives. The students that were able to come saw bear habitat, a wide variety of sign and retrieved some amazing pics and video. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dry Spell ...

Just a quick post to express my frustration with my sets. I have four cameras out at home and none of them are producing much. We are right in the midst of the rut here and I had high hopes for a few of the cameras. Yesterday afternoon, I went to check them again and startled a mature buck with a massive rack. I literally ran tot he next camera in anticipation but did not have any photos of him (or even a younger brother!). But I am NOT giving up!!! This afternoon I am retrieving 11 cameras from my Father's property with my black bear class so perhaps my luck will change! Stay tuned.....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Checking Squirrel Boxes @ East Hill Campus

Red squirrel nest from box
(Naples, NY 10/11)
This spring, we erected nine flying squirrel boxes at FLCC's East Hill Campus. We used these plans. On Halloween Day, we went out and checked their status. Our intention was to check for evidence of occupancy, not to evict anyone. By now, the breeding season is long over and any young squirrels would not be tied to the nest boxes. Our first box was empty, but our second box had a nest in it. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure it was a red squirrel. The opening was chewed to enlarge it to allow the larger red squirrel access.
 As you can see, there is a hollowed out portion of the nest in the center. Red squirrels favor conifers rather than deciduous trees and this box was attached to a pine tree. The nest itself was made mostly of strips of bark (I am no expert but the bark sure looked like grape vine to me). I say mostly because there were a few odd pieces in the nest. A few leaves and needles and deer hair. But the most interesting find was a piece of rope that had been teased apart and frayed.....
Rope from red squirrel nest
(Naples, NY 10/11)

Thanks for being a good sport, Alyssa!

Bobbie Jo checks squirrel box
(Naples, NY 10/11)
Flying squirrel nest
(Naples, NY 10/11)

We continued up the hill checking boxes and finding  many empty and others with chewed hickory nuts inside and still others with nesting material. Students took turns checking the boxes and all seemed to be having fun. We warned them that actually seeing a flying squirrel was not a certainty. When we got to box #7, Bobbie Jo volunteered to take a turn. Well, she opened the box and saw the nest material start to wiggle and tried to catch the occupant. But the flying squirrel escaped before she could grab it. We all got great looks as it sat in the crotch of a branch. I only had my small camera, but one of my students, Adam Rogers had a nice camera and took two nice pics I will post below. I climbed the ladder and took a quick pic of the nest myself. I got a short video of the squirrel exiting the box and posted it to YouTube here.

Thanks again to Adam Rogers for sharing his photos with me! Check out how flat that tail is.... :)
Flying squirrel
Photo by: Adam Rogers
(Naples, NY 10/11)

Flying squirrel
Photo by: Adam Rogers
(Naples, NY 10/31)