Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wetland Paparazzi

There are multiple cameras placed in a small wetlands area in northern Virginia now.  I've had this place in mind for camera-traps for months, but just recently braved the wet conditions explore within it.

Under the 4-6 inches of standing water is another 6-inches of rotting swamp-like vegetation mixed with a thick mud.

Cattails are the dominating plants around here, and do not make for easy travelling.  They choke your view of what's ahead and spear their way up the back of your coat if you're not careful.  They're not all that sharp, but can be a real pain.

What's worse though, is the multi-flora rose at the edge of the wetlands. It pricks every inch of your jeans like a sharp Velcro and sometimes won't let go.

I doubt any other person has walked around in this spot recently.

There were a few spots with blown down cattails and mud where I was able to identify a few animal tracks.

Raccoons, deer, fox, and some kind of mustelid were present.

Cameras will be checked next week to hopefully see what kind of mustelid is travelling in this wetland.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fur Bearer Mystery

What animal does this brownish, gray fur belong to?

It's from a camera in Virginia a few weeks ago.

Raccoon, deer, squirrel, coyote, domestic dog, and domestic cat are my top suspects.   What do you think?

A Camera-Trapping Grinch

I'd love to have been able to share the most recent camera-trap photos but there are none to show  because of another missing camera.
It was placed in central New Jersey on Thanksgiving Day by myself and other family members.  The plan was to pick it up on Christmas Day.
Of course it wasn't there yesterday when we went to check it. 

It now probably lies in the hands of a criminal.
We walked around in both the daytime and once it got dark, to look for it in case somebody put it up somewhere different,  but we had no luck.

Thanks Camera-Trapping Grinches.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Geese-a-Laying and Swans-a-Swimming

A break from all the data-entry and work of the wildlife cameras was needed today.  Another kind of wildlife adventure was in store.

It was birding galore at Mason Neck State Park, Mason Neck N.W.R., and Pohick Bay Regional Park.

Here's a list of what was seen today in all three of these areas:

10 Bald Eagles
200+ Tundra Swans
500+ Canada Geese
Pied-Billed Grebes
Canvasback Ducks
Ruddy Ducks
Mallard Ducks
Northern Pintail Ducks
Bufflehead Ducks
Red-tailed Hawks
American Robins
American Crows
Great Blue Herons
Pileated Woodpeckers
Northern Cardinals
Black-backed Gulls
Green-winged Teal

The biggest hits for me were the amount of bald eagles, seeing a bald eagle dive into the cold water to catch a fish, and seeing hundreds of tundra swans.

I tried to take a few pictures of the swans with my cell-phone's camera, through my binoculars.

Not the best picture quality, but it'll do.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Camera-trapping a Camera-trapper

Even camera-trappers get "camera-trapped".

It's hard not to have your photo taken by these machines.

Sometimes I'll purposely move my hand or body in front of the lens to make sure that the camera is working.

Other times, I'll mistakenly walk in front of the whole set-up.

One thing to take note of though, is that there has yet to be a decent picture of me from these cameras.  Either I'm panting with my tongue out or a body part is chopped off completely. 

The purpose of these cameras is not for glamour shots, though I do find some kind of weird satisfaction in writing "Homo sapiens sapiens" in my log books.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

White Snow for White Legs

The bright orange of a red fox aganst the white blanket of snow makes for some really great pictures.  I was really hoping some of my cameras would pick up this kind of scene recently since there has been some snow on the ground.

White Legs, the famous fox of Great Falls, Virginia made more appearances in the daytime than ever.  He didn't seem to mind the snow too much.

It's still unclear where the den of White Legs is located, but I have a good idea of where, now that I've seen tracks going back and forth to one specific area.

Those tracks might be of another red fox though, such as this one that also came by Camera Set 58.

One thing that I have noticed in the past few weeks though is that all of the foxes that have been on camera recently have been sporting their winter coats. 

The winter coat of White Legs is typical of a red fox with the orange and grays, but with the exception of the hind legs.

The winter coat of this other fox in the above picture is a little different.  Most of its body is a burnt orange while its rump and hind legs are more of a golden color.  The tail remains a bit orange but with a grayish underside.

Red foxes can vary a bit in color, and it is fairly common for them to have reds, oranges, blacks, grays, golds, and silvers, in their coat.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A 4 Month Long Wait

I've been doing a little bit of a test to see what happens when I leave a camera up for a long time.  This was to test the camera, the batteries, water-resistance, and my own human scent near the camera. 

Usually I'll leave a camera up for a week to three weeks before checking it.

The test camera was left alone for 4 months and 2 days.  It sat through the hot days at the end of summer, through heavy rains, and recently, flurries of snow.

I gave volunteers the GPS coordinates, trail description, and a description of the camera.  They were then sent them off to find it in the wilder parts of Fairfax County, Virginia.

It was a fun game for them to try to see who would be the one to locate it first.

The best part though, was getting the emails of the pictures after they checked the camera's SD card.

We were hoping for foxes and coyotes, because in theory, our human scent should have been at an extreme minimum since it was there for 4 months.

No coyotes or foxes were photographed, but the favorite animals photographed seemed to be the wild turkeys. 

The pictures were taken near the end of September.

There's no word yet on whether or not these turkeys made it to Thanksgiving.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Walmart Birding

"Walmart" and "birding" aren't two words usually put together in the same sentence, but that was different today.

In between periods of pushing my way through half-dressed shoppers and tripping over trash in the aisles, I noticed a bird in the rafters.

I identified it as a Cooper's Hawk.
It just proves that sometimes you don't have to go far to go birding.  I've also seen chickadees, sparrows, and grackles in this store.

Maybe next time I want to go birding, I'll go here instead of my favorite parks and nature preserves.

What birds have you seen in your local Walmart lately?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Beavers on the Goose

"The Goose".  It's how a few of us who camera-trap refer to Goose Creek.

Goose Creek is a state scenic  river that runs through Leesburg, Va and flows into the Potomac River.

I put a few cameras up last week right near the banks of Goose Creek near beaver chewed trees.

The results are great.

As you can see, the beavers are hard at work. 

For now, the cameras have been taken down.  They were just to0 visible to have there for too long.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

There's no way this blog is having a Thanksgiving themed post without a picture of a camera-trapped, wild turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.

A Puddle with A Purpose

A small puddle at the edge of a pond does a lot for the local wildlife.

Great blue herons use it to find their food...

Fox squirrels walk near it... Look at the size of those arms and muscles!  I cropped the image so you could be see the little guy.

White-tailed deer drink from the puddle...

And raccoons also use it to find their food.
The puddle offers a lot to the animals.  For now though, the camera is being moved to a new location.  I'll revisit the puddle with cameras in another month or so.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Woodpecker Identification

Here's a post that comes from the Chantilly/Centreville area of Fairfax County, Virginia.  There's a lot of land in these places, both public and private, where I am camera-trapping.

The camera was originally placed to see the medium-sized to large mammals roaming around, but another species flew by and landed right in the camera's view.

It's a new species for me (at least for my camera trapping), but the problem is, I don't know what species this is.

It's either a downy woodpecker or a hairy woodpecker, but which?

Whenever I have questions about species I first try to identify it myself.  This is tough on this one, so I emailed and texted the pictures to my colleagues that have jobs and experiences such as birders, wildlife biologists, natural resource managers, and naturalists.

Some of them say hairy woodpecker, others say downy woodpecker.  So far, all of us think it is one of the two, but conversations of sapsuckers have also arisen.

I'd really like to solve this mystery.

Other important information that may be necessary to note is that the camera's date stamp is incorrect, and that this was in Fairfax, Virginia.  The correct date stamp should read, "11-19-2013".  The pictures in this post are the only pictures I captured of it.

What bird is this?

Comments below are greatly appreciated.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Beaver Signs

It was hard to miss these signs of beavers along the Potomac River.  I counted 65 trees in total that were chewed on or damaged by beavers.

The power of their jaws and durability of their teeth amaze me.

You better believe that I put up a camera near these trees.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Piebald Deer Again

Everyone seems to enjoy looking at the video that I posted recently of the piebald buck.  People have emailed and told me that they want to see more.

Also, in some workplace environments, streaming video online is not allowed or blocked completely.  I figured I would take some snapshots of the video and put them in this post so that more people could enjoy them.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Woolly Bear Predictions

They say that you can predict the harshness of the upcoming winter by looking at the brown and black bands on a woolly bear.

Which of these woolly bears am I supposed to believe though?

I took these a few days ago in Leesburg, Va. 
To me, this critters aren't any sort of reliable weather predicting source.
The talk around Loudoun and Fairfax Counties has been snow for the past few days.  We haven't had any yet this season, but it is supposedly in the forecast for next week.

Nobody knows for certain of course.

If it does snow, camera-trapping will still continue.  There's no doubt about that.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Piebald Buck

Undisclosed Location, Loudoun County, Virginia.

A piebald buck is a male deer that has a different colored coat than most other white-tailed deer.  It contains white splotches, patches, or markings and sticks out like a sore thumb in the woods.  It is a rarity among most white-tailed deer populations.

I've dedicated a few cameras to get photographs of piebald deer in locations where they have been seen in Great Falls, Virginia, but did not expect to see one at all when I checked a camera in Loudoun County. 

Such a beautiful deer!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Sometimes in life, you just have to get away for an hour or two and not think about anything.   That's what I did yesterday on a short hike in Great Falls, Virginia.

I saw some good color in the trees and took a few pictures, just on my cell phone's camera though.  Enjoy!

Pretty soon the leaves will be off the trees and my eyes looking for hawks, as hawks are very easy to see when perched on bare trees.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Coyotes In Fauquier County, Virginia

At the beginning of the hunting season, I wasn't exactly sure if I should keep all cameras up or not, due to the fact that there would be an increase in human activity off-trail in the places where my cameras are.

I took a few down, a few did get stolen, and I moved some around.  Two of the cameras that I was using in Great Falls, Virginia were taken down and lent to a friend to take to two pieces of property in Fauquier County.

The locations she chose did not disappoint.  I posted images from one of the cameras in a previous post.  You can see that here:  No Shortage of Virginia Bucks .

Now it is time to reveal more photos of the wildlife of Fauquier County, Virginia. 

More specifically, coyotes that roam in the night!

The first one is a bit blurry, as the coyote is moving quickly.

Someone recently asked me what the trick to seeing coyotes around here was, I told them to get a trail camera or to be up really early in the morning near coyote habitats (the edges of deep woods where the woods hits meadows, stream valleys, and large open meadows).

It seems like there is a lot more of those kinds of areas in Northern Virginia than people think.

We have the Capital Beltway which encircles the greater D.C. area, many housing developments, and a complete chaos of a rush-hour.

In all of that though, there really are many places where coyotes, bears, foxes, and birds dominate the area.  The local parks are some of the best places along with many private properties that are large open fields.

Most people that have contacted me about seeing coyotes get lucky and see them crossing a road early in the morning.

Coyotes have been seen all over, and I can confirm that there are many around.  If you want to see one in Northern Virginia, get out in these places, keep quiet, and be patient.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

1 Year Of Camera-Trapping

It's been a great year of camera-trapping.   That's right, on this date last year, I started putting up cameras in the woods.

The first real pictures I got were just of deer, but hey, those pictures were the start of something great.

Camera-trapping has taught me many things about everything.  With the ridiculous amounts of cameras that I now use, I have been able to write grants, receive grants, attain federal, state, and local permits regarding wildlife, and have been in magazines and newspapers.   I've also done a bit of community outreach by speaking in public schools about the importance of natural resource protection and the methods used to survey wildlife.

Another big part of this is the volunteers and helpers that come along with me, pulling SD cards out of cameras, jotting down notes, and helping with general camera-trap work.  There have been a whopping 38 volunteers who do this with me and I couldn't have done it all without them.

The best is yet to come.  Thanks for being a part of the excitement!

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Friend of White Legs

"We got white legs!!!!" was the text I received from another fellow camera-trapper in Great Falls, Virginia.  Excitement was evident.

We had in fact, camera-trapped White Legs, the red fox.  The saga continues!

Read the other posts about White Legs here:  White Legs . White Legs Returns

This time, White Legs met up with a friend.  You can see another fox there in the background.  Could this be just a friendly meet up?  Or is one of the foxes a female, pushing our chances of fox kits up this upcoming spring?

White Legs made a good amount of appearances at the camera this time.  Everyone seems to know and love this fox.

My co-workers enjoy the images, my volunteers and interns love checking the camera where it always seems to be, and the human neighbors just can't seem to get enough of White Legs. 

Everyone is under strict orders not to feed this fox to see it.  It's illegal to feed foxes in Virginia anyway, but everyone around the home of White Legs still has gone through a 2 minute long speech on why they shouldn't feed it.

This one is one of my favorites so far.

Enjoy your Friday, folks!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Rainy Day Picture Viewing

It's a typical rainy, fall day here in northern Virginia.  I've been up all morning homeworking and getting things done.  Now, it's time to blog!

I've had a bit of time to catch up on viewing the camera-trap images from the past few months. 

Here's one that's a bit tough.  This image comes from the town of Great Falls, Virginia.

I think it's a coyote because of the size, the lighter-colored legs, the presence of thick fur, and because of the short, black-tipped tail.

Here's an image of a raccoon in the same, general area.  Use this for the size comparison.

What do you think?

I'm pretty confident with my coyote answer, but I could be wrong.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Owling Again

The young camera-trapper in action in a bacteria infested silo.  Photo credit:  Chelsea Millis
I've taken a few trips to see the barn owls in Leesburg in the past few weeks.

They don't get close enough for me to get a good picture, and will fly away as soon as I make eye contact with them.

I have taken a few friends to see the owls and to try to get good pictures of them, but even they have trouble with their DSLR cameras. 

My camera-traps in the bottoms of these barns and silos have not gotten any pictures of the owls.  A new method will have to be found and thought of.

It's tough.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Log Travelers

Let's get the gross facts out of the way first.  This log was a place for marking for many species of animals.   Fox, raccoon, and other unidentifiable mammalian scat was all over this log.  Animals do this to mark their own territory, and it really can just pile up after time.

I found it just by walking around the woods in Sterling, Virginia while doing a few wildlife surveys months ago.

So what was a nature-oriented person with multiple camera-traps going to do?

You guessed it, I put a camera up to it and left it out for months.  I checked it today and was happy with the results.  These are all videos and can be started by just clicking.

Red Fox
Gray Squirrel
Another Red Fox

Monday, September 30, 2013

No Shortage of Virginia Bucks

I'm not tired of big antler pictures yet, and hope you aren't either.  It's hunting season where I live and a lot of folks around here are excited to see my buck pictures.

I can't tell you, the hunters, or most other people where exactly the bucks are or where they'll be, but one thing for sure is that I've seen so many of them this year.

These were taken in Fauquier County, Virginia with the help of a friend and colleague.  We're going for the bears, bobcats, and coyotes specifically, but white-tailed deer pictures are always welcomed. 

This blog will be seeing more of this camera's pictures pretty soon.  It's a new county of camera-trapping for me, and I'm excited to be able to use this camera out there.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Gray Fox Territory

There's no mistaking this animal on a camera.  It is no doubt a gray fox.  The black stripe on the tail, the gray coat, and the size are all indicators of what carnivore this is.

Just like all other foxes around the area, grays eat small mammals that they find running around meadows and forests.  Grays have the ability to climb trees unlike most of foxes.  I wouldn't say they are as good at climbing as cats, but they do it from time to time.

This is one of my favorite camera locations.  It is decently far away from where I live and have other cameras, so I only get to check it once every 6 weeks, or even longer. 

The drive to get to it is nice, and the property owners love seeing the pictures, so it is well worth it for me to keep the camera there.  If you're curious to know where it is, all I can tell you is that the camera is located in Lucketts, Virginia.

Here's another picture (of the infrared variety) of a gray fox in the same location.

Deer also showed up a lot and have been the most common animal on this camera.