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Friday, July 31, 2015

A Tale of Three Cameras

"Button Buck" captured on camera trap
(Muller Field Station, 5/15)
I set three Reconyx cameras at our Muller Field Station in May of this year. They were retrieved about a month later. Each of the sets were located along the channel but each had very different results.  I guess this is one of the reasons I enjoy camera trapping so much. First, you never know what you are going to get and second, there is really a level of knowledge you need to tease out what is happening in the photos. Here are some of the best stories from each:





SET 1: Let's see... 145 captures X 10 photos per capture = 1,450 photos to sort through. I captured
Raccoon inspects snapping turtle
(Muller Field Station, 6/15)
six species of mammal at this location (including that handsome deer in the photo above) but my favorite story involved a reptile. In the photo to the left, you can see the top of a shell of a snapping turtle. It appears the raccoon doesn't know what to make of it. I wish the camera was set a bit lower to capture the whole image, but we will have to make due.






















The next day, the turtle was in the exact same place (making me pretty sure it was a female laying eggs) and two river otters found her. In this photo, the one of the river otters actually puts it front paws on the carapace.
River otter and snapping turtle
(Muller Field Station, 6/15)



SET 2: The otters visited this site as well. With no turtles to play with, they had to occupy their time in other ways. They visited a total of five times in the month but never stayed for more than a few minutes.
Daytime capture of river otter
(Muller Field Station, 5/15)


River otters mating?
(Muller Field Station, 6/15)
Alright, let's talk about that last photo. Although the otters are in the mating position, I am not certain that they are actually copulating here. This could just be play. What I am certain of is that the encounter was brief.
Otters weren't the only story here. Canada Geese came on many nights to loaf in front of the camera.
Banded Canada Goose and goslings
(Muller Field Station, 5/15)
That means lots of photos. I assumed that it was the same group of birds each night but when I looked closer, I noticed that on a few occasions, a banded adult showed up while on other nights, the adults were all unbanded. I don't recall ever camera trapping a banded bird before.







SET 3: This was the most interesting set. Years ago a tree toppled over the channel and what was the trunk is now a horizontal trunk that is suspended over the water. I have always wanted to create a set here and finally did. One of the tree limbs, now pointing towards the sky, worked as a perfect point of attachment. I assumed I would get river otters here. I mean, it just looked like a real inviting place for otters to climb up and explore. It turns out this was the only set that did not capture otters. Instead, I captured my other favorite mammal... black bear! And it only took four hours from the time the cameras were set until the bear showed up (I understand how lucky that is! The last time I set a camera at the Muller Field Station, it took 10 weeks to capture a bear image).
Black bear
(Muller Field Station, 5/15)

Black bear showing hind paw
(Muller Field Station, 5/15)
Birds were the second story of this set.
Wood Duck drake
(Muller Field Station, 5/15)
Great Blue Heron
(Muller Field Station, 6/15)
Wood Duck hen
(Muller Field Station, 6/15)
Take a look at the photo above. The photo below was taken less than 48 hours later. The camera hasn't moved but the water level changed dramatically. Instead of ducks loafing on a dry perch in front of the camera, they are SWIMMING past it. This was not the only hard rain we had this year and I am grateful that the camera stayed above the waterline :)
Mallards
(Muller Field Station, 6/15)