Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Weasel or Squirrel?

I'm going through a few received pictures from my trail cams and I get to these two images of a small mammal in the small beech tree on the right. My first thought is that it is just another squirrel, but then I realized the bright patch of white, the tail, and the posture of a weasel.

These images aren't at all fantastic, I know, but  this camera is set again at the same spot and another is now placed near it.  Hopefully more (and clearer) results will come in next week when the cameras are checked again.  The date-stamp on these pictures is not correct, but the time is.

Here's a cropped version:  It still seems kind of squirrel like, but that white patch all the way up to its chin tells me it is not a squirrel.  Squirrels do have a whitish color on their bellies and necks, but the color on this animal is bright white and goes the whole way along the underside of the animal. The tail hanging down is a bit bushy for a weasel, but long and thin for an eastern gray squirrel.
What do you think?  Is it a squirrel? Am I completely missing something?  Email me or comment below.

Monday, May 27, 2013

In Search of the Piebalds

Two piebald deer live within a very short range of where some of my cameras are placed and where I work.  

They are masters at avoiding the cameras though.

When I first saw them last year, I thought the two white-colored mammals were goats, but you better believe they were piebald deer.  Today, they were both together on the side of the road near an entrance to my place of work, working their tongues and teeth on a tasty patch of grass.  I halted the car and did a weird little jig to get my cell phone out of my pocket for a picture.  In that time, the deer had put their heads up and trotted off into the green curtain of the forest.

I assume they are not big fans of the local paparazzi, especially that of the camera-trapper kind.

They are actually white-tailed deer but with a coat of white, brown, and tan patches.  A genetic variation causes this coloring and is quite rare in deer.  In fact, these are the only piebald deer that I have ever seen.  

I have learned the term "piebald" for this color variation, but have also heard to them referred to as pinto and calico patterned.

It's time to rethink the location of a trail-cam, place it closer to where I have seen these deer multiple times, and actually get them on camera now.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Great Falls Camera Check

There's multiple cameras working for me right now in Great Falls, Virginia.  I switch these ones around a lot to try to get different animals in different settings.  I recently moved some of them off an otter den to put in other parts of the woods.

One of these cameras, I decided, would be placed along a small stream in a forested area of hickories, oaks, and beech trees.

I had some help placing this camera with friend, and local blogger, Nick.  He's got a great blog that covers his views and opinions on sports.  It was good catching up with him and I thank him for coming along and helping me out. See the sports action that he covers here:

We talked blogging, sports, and wildlife while wading through some ferns off-trail.  Eventually, we got to a decent spot for a camera.  Batteries were checked, an SD card was slipped in, and the camera was propped up on a tree.

It sat there for a week and got a few videos of deer walking by, and that's it.  I was really surprised to see only deer videos, since the small stream a few yards away was pocked with tracks of raccoons, muskrats, and squirrels.

I'm better off putting this camera back at the otter den again.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Kayak Camera: Trip 1

I was not alone on my solo kayaking excursion today.  You're never alone in the outdoors around here.  Mosquitoes and flies are constantly battling your swatting arms, birds are whizzing by, and snakes are hiding among the thousands of species of flora and fauna that may be within a few hundred yards of you.

To get away from the fast water, I hit this calm stretch of a creek for a few minutes.
Today's kayaking was to relax and to get some pictures of, well, basically anything I could find, including animals and the scene.

A kayak is not the best place to have electronics, so I left my camera at home. If kayaking has taught me one thing, it is limit the amount of items on board, because I will spill from time to time.  If being in the outdoors has taught me one thing, it is that a camera is almost a necessity.  I have had so many missed opportunities while being outside without a camera, so I bought a waterproof plastic case last year that houses my cell phone (and of course, its built in camera) while on a boat.  The goals here are to protect my camera from the water, to capture as many great shots as possible with it, and to not miss anything.

I missed a lot today though with it.  It's tough to whip out a phone in a case, that is in your pocket, while you are sitting in the tiny cockpit of a kayak, while your body struggles to keep balance in the dips the ripples that make up the Potomac River.  It's a hard task

I heard a great blue heron's mad call from about 30 yards ahead.  It flew away quickly without giving me a chance to fish my pockets for the phone's case for a photo opportunity.  I paddled upstream farther, seeing a large cormorant on a rock.  I got close to it, really close.  There was time to get the phone out of the case that was now sitting in between my knees in the cockpit.

The kayak moved downstream about 5 feet in the time it took me to balance my body, balance the paddle, get in my pocket, grab the case, open the case, and turn the phone's camera setting to the "on" position.  I put the camera down, now exposing it to the air (and possibly water, if I capsized), grabbed the paddles again, and worked fast to gain the 5 feet that I lost when the kayak became a subject of the swift current a few seconds earlier.

I couldn't believe how close to this bird I was, and just as soon as I thought that, it flew away.  I was maybe 2 seconds away from taking its picture, and it was gone.  On to the next subjects!

By this time, a friend of mine was on the water as well.  He came up to me and we shared stories of the river, work, and animals.   We came up to a large slab of stone.  It was composed mostly of metagraywacke (if you even care to know about that sort of thing).  A large northern water snake was basking the stone's silvery surface.  We saw one more on it, then another, then another!  There were 4 snakes on it in total, 1 moved off and glided into the water.  Another snake got spooked as well, and moved towards our kayaks that were now touching the rock.  The beast went right on my friend's kayak, but didn't go near the cockpit or his body, and eventually went into the water when the kayak made menacingly wicked turns and clunked along another rock.

Northern water snake on the top, left of this rock.
Another snake on the rock heard the commotion and slid into the water as well.  I took a few pictures of the remaining water snake, and it too, slid off the rock and into the quick waters of the Potomac.

We passed by turtles, more cormorants, and about a half-dozen or so squawking, great blue herons. The biggest disappointment of the day came from missing a picture of a bald eagle that flew right above us.

If that is the biggest disappointment of the day, then I still call the day a success.  It was a nice day kayaking with the thousands of species of animals that call this area home.

A small, serene tributary of the Potomac River.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

An Unusual Fox Tail

Fox tails are usually bushy masses of white, black, gray, and orange fur.  Not this fox's tail though.  This one looks like it could belong to a rat.

I'm unsure as to what the cause of this odd looking tail is, but I have a few ideas in mind.

It could be malnutrition, mange, disease, hormone imbalances, or maybe it has pulled fur out of its tail to add warmth to a den (yes, some foxes do this in the same way that some birds pull out down and feathers for the same reason).

Here's a picture of a different fox in the same location with a bushier tail.  What a beauty!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thanks to Tim Regan and Northern Virginia Magazine!

A Case of Wildlife Fever is now featured in a local magazine!

The comments and emails that I receive are one of my favorite parts of having this blog.  People often ask me what is in their neighborhood or what I am trying to find out next on the blog.

One of these emails I received was from Tim Regan, a writer for Northern Virginia Magazine.  It was great giving him information via emails and phone calls as to what kind of animals are here and telling him some secrets regarding my pictures and research.

The magazine article that came out this month did not contain the bear pictures, so it's good to see them on the web version.

I thank him and the staff at Northern Virginia Magazine for taking the time to contact me and for having an interest in what I do,

Check out the web version of the magazine article by clicking the link below:
NoVA's Hidden Residents

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Northern Flicker

Another new cam-trapped species for me!

And a cropped version of the photo for a closer look.

I've identified this one as a Northern Flicker.  Please correct me if I am wrong by commenting below or by emailing me.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Two Cameras at One Set

Two cameras placed at a set are better than one!  Today's results proved this.

A few weeks ago, my father and I headed west to put up two of my cameras out into the woods.

We had two cameras to use and decided to place them both up at the same set.  We wondered if this would be a good or a bad idea, because if somebody was to find one of the cameras, they would most likely find both of the cameras.

It turned out to be a good idea when we checked them today.

Both of us had the day off, so we headed back out to the same place to review the SD cards that store the pictures in the cameras, change a few things, and replace any dead batteries.

It's a difficult camera-trap set to get to.

Driving west, it takes about 45 minutes to arrive at a trail head that leads to the site.  Hiking out, wading through skunk cabbage, and watching your footing on scree and boulders are all part of the process of getting to the cameras here.  It's a good little hike.

The one camera hasn't been working too well, so we took it down to take home with us.  The other camera (one made by Wildgame Innovations) takes better quality pictures and has a trigger system that works well, so we kept it there, protected in a bear-resistant case, to continue taking pictures.

Results of this camera weren't fantastic, but a few animals did come by.

An opossum appeared in 9 pictures and a fox appeared in 1 picture.

There were 24 total pictures, most of which were of squirrels or nothing (false triggers).

I've got the camera that we took down, sitting right next to me.  I'll decide where to put it next in a day or two.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Checking the Cams Before the Storm

Today was a successful day for me, even with a good thunderstorm that seemed to come out of nowhere.

I had to take a college exam in the morning, so I got that out of the way first.  I did a few errands as well, but eventually the time came for me to head out into one of Northern Virginia’s wilder areas to see what results a few of my cameras had gotten.

A good sized snapping turtle.
A good amount of turtles were out wandering the paths with me, so I decided to snap a few pictures of them.

Eastern box turtle taking a soak.
Another box turtle.

Nothing good came out the first camera-trap I checked.  It took 6 pictures of the woods (false triggers) and 4 pictures of white-tailed deer before the batteries ran out.  It only ran for a few hours.  I loaded it with new batteries and made sure it was working. 

On to the next!

The second camera is in a fantastic, picturesque setting that features a background of silver-green autumn olive trees.

It only took 19 pictures of white-tailed deer, a few of raccoons, and a few of groundhogs though.
By the time I left this camera, storm clouds were billowing up to a great height in the sky.  Time was running short.

I sped up to go to the next camera but as soon as I got there, the clouds opened up with an amazing array of lightning and thunder.  I quickly downloaded the pictures from the SD card in the camera, to my laptop.

I got back to a building before the hail came down and sat down to view the pictures that I had just downloaded, but not seen yet. 

Here is what I saw:

Pileated Woodpecker!  A new cam-trapped species for me.

White-tailed deer.  Notice the buttons growing from its head that are soon to be full antlers.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dogs on Cam

No matter how far off a trail I put a camera, there is a good chance that a domestic dog will find it.

Here are a few pictures of some curious canines that have shown up.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Leesburg Bear Gets Into Garage

The power and strength of a black bear is incredible.

One local homeowner had a black bear rip through a garage door just to get some food that it smelled inside.  I wonder if it could have been one of the same bears that I have gotten on camera in the past few weeks.

Check out the story at .

This story comes courtesy of and NBC Universal.