Sunday, July 28, 2013

Thanks For The Extra Help

This one goes out to the people who have helped me out the most with my outdoor and wildlife endeavors. This blog has so much more in store for you and for the rest of the world

Thanks to my parents for giving me advice on where to put cameres.  Through many walks in the same lands that I camera-trap in, they see things that I don't see.  They have also given me materials, helped with the building of things, given great advice, and even gave me my own camera-trap as a Christmas gift last Christmas.

Thanks to all the volunteers who regularly check cameras, record data, and give me company on hikes and walks to the cameras.  It's really nice getting out with everyone on the trails but also seeing the excitement through emails when we share photos and data.

Thanks to my fellow employees for telling me about every animal they see on a daily basis and for being interested in what I am doing.  Thanks to them for the great advice on where to put cameras, for helping me drag canoes and row-boats to good camera-trap areas, and for giving me even more connections to local public land managers where I am able to do this research in.

Thanks to some of my professors in college who have wildlife, biology, or anatomy backgrounds.  The experience that they bring to my research and hobby of camera-trapping is infectious and helps drastically.

Thanks to homeowners that border the areas where cameras are located.  These people live right there with the animals that I see.  Without their tips and stories, camera-trapping would be a little less interesting and more difficult.  The best stories come from  the people who have had their garbage cans raided by bears, trash thrown by raccoons, and driveways bombarded with scat of all types.

Thanks to the homeowners who let me put up cameras on their property.  Most of the work I do with the cameras is in local parks and public lands, but for my own cameras, I like to search around the area and ask people I know if I can put on up on their land just to see what's lurking where they live.

Thanks to the park managers who give me permission to use cameras on the properties they manage.  Going to all these parks is a thrilling experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.  Thanks to them for being so interested in what I'm doing, for the advice, the park stories that range from bear sightings to risque teenager encounters in the woods, and for the permissions to use vehicles to access the cameras easier.  It's a great experience to hike around to all the cameras so that I can see more things along the way, but in a time crunch or a day that takes me to 3 or more parks, a vehicle for trails is necessary.  I have checked cameras by means of kayaks, canoes, a powerboat, an atv, numerous golf carts, John Deere gators, trail vehicles, cars, vans, pickup trucks, and even a mountain bike that one of the parks owns.

Thanks to other camera-trappers and wildlife researchers who have brought a whole wealth of information regarding trail cameras, animals, lands, weather, terrain, and general research techniques.

Thanks to other bloggers in the wildlife and outdoors fields.  It's tough to keep up with so many different blogs but I have a select few that I read on an almost daily basis.  Also thanks to local bloggers, whether you write about wildlife or not, I have such an interest in what you have to say about the community that I live in.

Thanks to my grandparents and family who support the blog and are regular visitors.  Thanks to my friends as well, I hope you all have begun to catch some type of wildlife fever with me.

And thanks to you, the blog reader.  Without you, why would I even be writing all this?  Thanks for supporting the blog, for the comments, the advice, the arguments you bring to the table, the interest, and the views to this website.  Writing this blog for the past few months has been an incredible experience and I'm glad that I get to share it with you and the world.

I can't wait to see what the camera-traps and outdoors have in store next for the me.  Keep checking back and you will see what most people in the area don't get to see at all.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Most Likely a Fox, Right?

17 out of 19 people so far say that this young mammal is a fox.  The other 2 people say a young coyote in its summer coat.  These people are all wildlife biologists, wildlife conservation specialists, or outdoor park managers who have lots of experience with both animals, so I enjoy their input and find it very interesting.

Personally, I've got my money on it being a young fox.  The tail does seem to have darker edges and a dark tip, which is common of a coyote though.  An attempt to persuade me to calling it a coyote was made based on the size and shape of the ears, and how a coyote would be this skinny in summer due to it losing a lot of its winter coat, but I hold my ground and still call it a fox.

Whatever it is, its a skinny one and was captured on camera in Fairfax County, Virginia.  The camera was reset and is still at the exact same spot.

Do you agree with me and say that this animal is a fox? Or do lean towards it being a coyote?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Kayak Camera: Trip 4

For the past few days, it's been ridiculously hot and humid with the heat index pushing well above the 100 degree mark.  Today's line of storms brought cooler air though this afternoon.  It was good kayaking weather after the rain.

The river didn't come up too high from the rains, so I was able to head far upstream with ease.  I paddled through some faster water and risked tipping the kayak a few times.  The water was a bit too swift for me to pull out my phone to take pictures, so I headed for some channels in between rocks and islands, rather than the rapids.

Eventually I got to some slower water and was now comfortable with taking my phone out for a photo opportunity.

The stretch of plants in front of me is water-willow.  Water-willow is a plant native to Virginia that is beneficial to the growth of islands in the river.

The plant forms rhizomes which makes a complex carpet of roots that cling to small rocks and sand.  The small rocks and sand are then better anchored and eventually, more plants will grow on them.  It takes years for a forest to grow on an island, but with a helping-hand from water-willow, it is more of a possibility.

Water flows in between the plants, but it's a project to paddle through the resistance of thousands of leaves. I drifted back a few feet, took a few strokes with the paddle, and continued upriver.

I played in more rapids and had a decent sized small-mouth bass jump over the bow of the kayak.  Like a dolphin it continued to swim right next to the boat, though this only lasted for a few seconds.  The bass darted into faster water and was never seen again. It was time for me to stop on an island for a break.

Some islands here are private, some are public, and some are public but with limited access, so it takes a little bit of research to know which ones are legal to land on.  I had one in mind and paddled right up to its sandy banks.

Kayaked to an island to relax and make a campfire.
There was a lighter and a knife in my pocket so a campfire seemed necessary (even if it was to only last about 20 minutes). Sycamore driftwood isn't the perfect campfire starting fuel, but it was all that seemed to be on this island.  It was when the fire was first lit that I realized I hadn't seen a single person on the river the whole time I was out.  This was a weird feeling, considering that I was only located a few miles outside of the D.C. area's infamous beltway traffic.

I could have camped out on that island all night, but nobody would have known where I was.  If I learned one thing from watching 127 Hours, it's to always leave or note or tell people your exact plans when ever you are in an outdoor scenario.  I didn't want to end up in a situation where nobody knew where I was, so I put the fire out and loaded the kayak again. The boat ramp where I launched from was my final destination.

I'll camp out on one of these islands one of these days, but for today, this kayak trip was phenomenal.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Another Den and A View of the Falls

Camera-trapping didn't take long at all today because within the first 5 minutes of trekking through the woods, I found this:
Possible fox den?

This picture doesn't do much justice for the size of the hole but in reality, the hole is about 8 inches wide by 10 inches tall.  My money is on it being a fox hole but it could also be a small coyote den, a groundhog den, or something completely different.  Whatever lives in it will hopefully show up on the camera that I placed near it.

Since finding this hole and placing the camera only took a few minutes, there was time to explore a little bit before I had to go home.

I went to an area in the woods that I haven't had too much time to explore yet to look for more dens and tracks.

There weren't any dens in the ground except for the first one, but there were many holes in trees in this area of the forest.  Basically about one-fourth of all the trees in this area were standing but dead or rotting.  Beech trees, oaks, hickories, and a few walnuts make up the forest here.  It's the perfect flying squirrel habitat.  I took a few pictures of the holes in the trees and made note of exactly where I was.  I'll have to rig up a flying squirrel cam for these holes.
Who lives in these holes? Flyers? Squirrels? Owls?

When I got to the car, I still had some energy left in me so I figured I would drive a mile or two to Great Falls National Park.

Great Falls National Park is very close to where I work, so I am a frequent visitor.  A few of the rangers have gotten to know my name and an obligatory conversation about park wildlife is always sparked when I say hello.  It's one of my favorite places to unwind, and even though the waterfall observation decks can get packed with tourists, the park has many trails on which I walk at least once a week.

Today though, I just wanted to view the falls to see what they looked like with the current water conditions. The large waterfall of the Potomac River is the park's main attraction and the views of it never disappoint.  I take a picture every time I see the falls.  This afternoon was no exception.

Vultures are always flying overhead, herons are watching fish swim by, and squirrels are picking at the food scraps left by tourists.  The park is so close to my house and I'm glad I am able to get to it so easily.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Switchback Turkeys

Raccoons will touch the camera, open the camera, and even try to take the camera home.

Foxes will bark at it and shy away from it.

Bears get curious around it and may even tear it down (going to do a post on the "Broken Camera" shortly).

Turkeys. . well . . turkeys are a whole lot different around the camera.  27 out of 31 turkeys that have shown up on my camera do the exact same thing.

They realize the camera is there from a distance of about 3 to 15 meters away and will creep up towards it. It's not a straight walk to the camera though, it's a time consuming trot that takes the turkey on a winding path to the front of camera until I get a picture like this, where the animal is comfortably close:

Winding back and forth from 2 to 6 times, the turkey makes a lot of switchbacks until it gets right up to the camera. It will go from left to right, onward past the camera, then back in front of the camera from right to left, over and over again.

The beast then stares the camera-trap right in the eye (lens), and then goes off to something else.

It's weird.   Is the turkey scared of the shiny object in the woods?  Is this what turkeys always do with predators, other turkeys, or metal boxes?  Is this what they always do when curious?  So many questions.

This camera has been set to its video mode so it can better record this behavior.  More results should pour in, in about 2 weeks.

Another camera about 30 miles from this one may be checked tomorrow.  The heat and humidity of Virginia this week has not stopped checking camera-traps yet.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fields of Gold

This blog is not about to turn into a daily outdoors journal for the D.C. area, even though I do record some photos and happenings of my experiences outside in this blog.  With this post (and the kayak ones), it would be a shame not to share some of these pictures.

Many of the trail cameras are still working hard getting me those pictures that I always post on here, but I have taken a few days off of checking the images.

During this lull of camera-trap images, I've gone kayaking, hiking, and touring the area with friends and family.  My most recent excursion led me north into Maryland to see large sunflower fields planted in McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area.

It was a long drive (about 50 minutes) for the amount of time spent there, but seeing fields bursting with color to this extent is something I had to do at least once.  It also gave me an excuse to do something interesting on my day off of work and camera checking.

Tomorrow, I'm back at work, back at camera-trapping, and back to the daily grind.  I can hardly wait to see what results the camera-traps will bring next.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Kayak Camera: Trip 3

I scouted out some new camera-trap locations along the river today and found myself getting lost in this sunset while out on a kayak.
Few words are really necessary for this post.  Enjoy the pictures, folks.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bluemont Camera Gets Taken Down

The camera that was in Bluemont is now sitting on my counter at home.  It needs new batteries, a few tests, and a new location.

It did well in the mountains, enduring all of the spring's heavy winds and rains. 

There's nothing wrong with it though.  It's just time for a move.

This is the camera that provided me with a few bear pictures (see More Bears), and many pictures of raccoons.

The woods around are now full of fruits, especially raspberries and wineberries.  The main mission was to take down this camera, but a pit stop into the berry bushes seemed also necessary.

I gorged and had more than my fair share.  A bag was also needed to take more home.

It was a game of duck and dodge as I was working carefully to avoid thorns, flies, and poison ivy while picking.  The big scare though came when the bushes started rumbling about 15 yards away from me.

Just being in these bushes full of food puts me a little on edge in bear territory.

A deer huffed and darted towards an even lower thicket.  I'm glad it wasn't a bear that close to me.  Berry picking resumed, and after a fair amount were in my stomach and bag, I scrambled out of the thorny bushes and headed up a rocky slope to get to where the car was parked.

Friday, July 5, 2013

"How do you keep track of all the cameras?"

It's one of the most commonly asked questions I get regarding the cameras besides the usual, "Where are the bears?" and "Ever get anyone doing anything their not supposed to be doing on camera?".  

I'd figure maybe a few blog readers would be wondering the same thing.

The answer is a mix of a lot of methods. It does get tricky trying to remember where all the cameras are at all times since they get moved a lot.

The first thing I always do is write it down with a pen or pencil.  Trail names, trail features, and landmarks are important here.  I also look at my GPS and write down the coordinates.

I also have an app. on my Android called "GPS Share" that allows me to access the phone's GPS, extract a coordinate, and text message it to anyone.  For a few places I camera-trap at, I send these via email to managers and people who need to know where my cameras are.  A backup email is also sent to my email address.

The GPS Share app. is a free one that works well.  It's quick, easy, and is basically all I need for what I'm doing.

Another method used to keep track of the cameras is logging and flagging a waypoint on my phone's GPS.  Basically, what this means is that I am able to save each camera's location on my GPS map.  I get a phone ringtone when I walk within 20 yards of the camera-trap and a different ringtone noise when I walk within 10 yards of the camera-trap.  This way, if I really forget where a camera is, I can always pull out my phone and have a good idea of the range that it is in.

Do you use any of these methods in the woods with camera-traps?  Are there any better Android apps that I should use instead?