Monday, December 29, 2014

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Like two fat kids fighting over the last piece of pie, these two hawks were all about getting the last bite of a good meal.  This meal was that of a dead deer though, in Leesburg, VA.

The real point of putting the camera-trap over a deer body was to see if any coyotes were around.  They were not.

Black vultures, crows, ravens, and hawks filled up multiple SD cards here though with over 25,000 images taken over a period of three weeks.

Check out the hawk acrobatics below!

In usual "Brian Fashion" the time/date stamp was set incorrectly.

Monday, December 1, 2014

One Antlered Deer

Here's an interesting white-tailed deer missing one of his antlers.

It's early for bucks to be losing their deciduous antlers.  Really early.  In most cases around here, they drop their antlers during the last week of January to the last week of March.  It's interesting, for sure, but stranger things have happened in the outdoors.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Late Night Coyote Post

I've been hiking, driving, and tracking animals into weird hours of the night in the past few days with various parks/wildlife agencies and doing calls on both public and private properties.  Deer being hit by cars, bear sightings, coyote rumors, and a lot of raccoons getting into trash cans have taken up my time lately.

Coffee has been my best friend during this time.

One more half-day and then I get a food-filled, family-oriented break, but definitely not before I post this one.

It's a link regarding a confirmed coyote in Arlington County, Virginia.  My colleague and fellow blogger, Alonso Abugattas confirmed the sighting and I'm glad there was a bit of media coverage on it.

Check it out below!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

'Tis the Season

The fall rut has started in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties in Virginia.  What this means is that the deer are biologically ready to start mating and bucks are chasing does all day long.

What this also means is that deer are moving around a hell of a lot, and are getting creamed on the roads.  This deer was (at least I presume) hit by a car and dropped dead.  Of course I did the only thing I could think of, and put a camera-trap up to it.

Foxes, raccoons, and possums picked at it at night, and birds had their way with the meat during the day.

I really enjoy looking at images of hawks that scavenge on the dead deer, and was lucky enough to get images of them during this camera-trap stakeout.

Ignore those time/date stamps.  I forgot to set them correctly.


Hawks can scavenge on carcasses during anytime of the year, but on my cameras, the show up a lot more on deer carcasses during the winter than on deer carcasses of the hot months.

'Tis the season for deer carcass cameras, birding, hunting, the deer rut, and winter sports.  We're in for it until April, folks.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Unique Squirrel

First off, I'd like to thank friend Nelson for sharing the picture below with me and for agreeing to have it posted on my blog.  I always enjoy when friends ask me about local wildlife.

This squirrel is unlike any squirrel I have ever seen before.  The above image was taken in McLean, Virginia.  From what I can tell, it is a gray squirrel that is in a black phase or morph.

Gray squirrels are very common here in Virginia.  Gray squirrels that are black only make up a small percentage of the gray squirrel population.  This one however, is very different because of the white-tipped tail.  Have you ever seen anything like this?

Hopefully it sticks around for more pictures.

Thanks for sharing Nelson!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Alyssa's Alligator Video

Fellow wildlife blogger and camera-trap inspiration, Alyssa Johnson captured one amazing video a few days ago.

Whether it was being in the right place at the right time, her wildlife expertise, or just dumb luck, she captured a video of a domestic cat looking very curious towards a body of water.  An alligator jumps out of the water to attack the cat.

It's videos like this that inspired me to even getting into camera-trapping on a large-scale.

She calls it the "Best camera trap video of all time", and I can personally confirm that it is nothing less than that.

It's crazy.  Give her blog a view, give the video a view, and leave a comment.

See it here:   Alyssa's Alligator Video

All work, images, and video are of Alyssa Johnson.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"10 Point"

I commonly give nicknames to wildlife.  I've been told not to do this for the point of becoming attached to a specific individual and also because I'll most likely see their dead bodies splattered on the paved roads of Northern Virginia, but hey, nicknames make wildlife viewing a bit more exciting.

"White Legs", "Scarface",  and "1 Stripe" are just a few of the nicknames given to individual animals that either come up on trail cameras or are commonly seen by coworkers in my parks and wildlife jobs.

Here's another one for everyone that's been called  "10 Point".  10 Point is an impressive male, white-tailed deer.  It's easy to identify him because of his impressive rack that contains 10 tines.

Who knows whether or not he'll make it to the end of Northern Virginia's extensive hunting seasons.

Bear Broken Camera

It's always a fight against the black bears when you've got cameras in the woods.

They get a lot more curious then some other animals, and their natural curiosity can be a problem.

This camera was torn down and ripped apart by a black bear.  Its casing was broken, the screen cracked, and batteries torn out.

All that was left at the scene was a single, decent bear print, and leaves thrown all over where the bear sat around or dug up something to eat.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Due to an incredible amount of camera-trap theft, I've lost an even more amount of data and images this year.  The thing is, is that hunting season has started in most of the counties where I camera-trap, and the woods have a whole different kind of visitor.  I've also taken a lot of cameras down to prevent them from getting stolen.

Don't worry though, I'm back to blogging right now and am carefully planning on where I am going to put out more cameras.

In the meantime, here are a few images of hummingbirds that were caught on a GoPro camera trap that I put up a few weeks ago.

I like the versatility of the GoPro cameras for my wildlife surveys and of course, just for fun.  I haven't perfected the quality control and everything of them yet, but I'm getting there.

Hopefully the next blog post will be of more camera-trap images.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Flying Squirrel?

Some people are surprised to learn that Fairfax and Loudoun Counties are home to flying squirrels.  We have TONS of them around, but to see one, you have to be in the right place at the right time in the night. They are strictly nocturnal and should not show themselves often in the daytime.

I recently came upon this image while checking on of my camera-traps.  It's in Fairfax County, VA and the time and date stamp are correct.  The image below the one containing the mystery critter is a "blank" image that does not contain any animal.  This is included so you can better tell the parts of the animal awhile comparing it to the "blank" image.

What do you think?  Is that a flying squirrel that got a bit blurry?  Is it a moth, bat, insect on the lens, a leaf falling, or a bird?  I think I know what it is, but need some other opinions to convince me.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Woof Woof!

Clearly I underestimated the amount of human/dog activity at this place.

I was hoping that this camera would be safe from man and man's best friend, but boy was I surprised when an intern emailed me some pictures today.  The camera was in a protected nature preserve that I won't name (for now) well away from any trail.

It's time to move that camera!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I've been fiddling with some GoPro action cameras lately and had the idea of mixing a little GoPro camera technology with camera-trapping underwater for some fish.  Results have turned out fantastic so far, but I still need to hone my skills with lighting and other options on GoPro cameras.

For those of you that are wondering what a GoPro camera is, here's a little explanation.  GoPro cameras are waterproof, action cameras that a lot of adventure sportsmen use.  You can attach them to kayaks, bike helmets, and cars.  

Me though, I'm using them for my wildlife camera projects.  I'll be putting them near animal dens, submerging them underwater, and hopefully turning some of them into remote sensored camera-traps.

Here's one of my favorite underwater videos so far that I took.  The fish are carp in the Potomac River in Maryland.

Why Do White-Tailed Deer Fawns Have White Spots?

Someone asked me this at one of my parks/wildlife jobs a few days ago, and I thought it would also be nice to put the answer on this blog.

Fawns (baby deer) have white spots on their backs. Take a look at the picture below from this past month.

The answer to this question is that fawns have spots because it helps them camouflage better in the woods.  

Fawns spend a lot of time laying down in grass and leaves that are under canopies of trees.  Sunlight comes through these trees in beams that make bright splotches on the forest floor.  The brown color of the deer's fur and the white splotches look similar to brown leaves and dirt mixing in with the sunlight that hits the forest bottom.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bird Banding and Weighing

Ever wonder how small birds are weighed?

If you have, then here is the answer.

They are placed upside down in small containers and put on a scale.  Looks kind of silly doesn't it?

It's just one of the things I learned in the past two weekends while meeting up with and helping out other naturalists who were banding birds.  I really learned a lot and appreciated everything.  Many birds were banded and data entry was recorded.

Here's a layout of the table and some gear we used.

Tomorrow, it's back to the river and more camera-trapping.

More Fairfax Coyotes

This one is a full-grown adult coyote that looks beefy, muscular, and pretty furry.

It may have some genetics of wolf in it, making it a hybrid or coy-wolf, but there's no telling from just a camera-trap image.

Either way,  it's a big one.

What's odd is that this coyote came by the camera very quickly (on both the second and the third nights), when usually coyotes appear on trail cam around the 5th night or later.

I put up a few more cameras in the area, so I'll check back in a few days to see what else is around.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

That "Old Lady Getting Murdered" Kind of Noise

Cicadas, other insects, and frogs make up a good percentage of the natural noise that a person might hear outside at night around Northern Virginia.  Owls, domestic cats, bats, and other birds are also common.

BUT, There are two very specific animals that might make a person cringe or wonder at night though.  These animals are foxes and coyotes.  We have both here in Northern Va, and they are all over the place.  I highly doubt there is a single town or city in Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William, or Arlington where both of these animals do not exist.

They have come up on trail cameras, people have put videos of them on YouTube, 911 calls are made when some people see them, and early morning commuters sometimes catch a quick glimpse of both of these critters.

So at night, how do you tell the difference between a coyote noise and a fox noise?  

Well, it can be tricky, but for the most part a coyote will yip and howl with an extremely high pitched noise for a mammal.  They sound like they are singing to each other.  Coyotes will "let loose" a noise that is incredibly loud and may sound similar to domestic dogs howling with high notes.  They can also bark, howl, and whine. 

Foxes usually do a noise around here that I've heard described to me as an "Old lady getting murdered".  I agree, although I have never heard an old lady getting murdered.  While foxes do bark, howl, and whine, the noise that I usually hear is a raspy whine that is close to a scream. 

Speaking of foxes, here's a recent one that came up on a trail camera that I set up in Leesburg, VA. 

 I wonder if this one whines like an old lady getting murdered.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fox and Go Pro

Just like the title says, see what happens when I put one of the Go Pro cameras down for a few minutes near a red fox.

It definitely gets a bit too curious for my comfort, and am glad it didn't run off with the camera.

No bait, scent, or lure was used at all.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Ants Go Marching

A coworker helped me with some cameras today and found one completely covered in ants.

Upon closer inspection, ants had completely invaded the entire interior of the camera-trap.  We spent a good hour opening up the camera, unscrewing screws, cleaning it out, and putting it back together.

We completed our "Camera-Trap Surgery" in the field as we swatted away maybe 25 mosquitoes and picked off ticks of our legs.  The ants had made an entire food storage type of room in the camera along with an egg holding cell.  It was rough, but we managed to save the camera and found that no electrical components had been badly damaged.

We checked the SD card on a laptop in the field as well, but only found a few pictures of a red fox and raccoons.

But hey, you can't win with bears, coyotes, and other "crowd pleasers" every day.  It was still a good day out on the trails, and I thank him greatly for helping me today.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer Fawn

Spring is done and summer is upon the people and wildlife of Virginia.  We've had a couple of really hot and humid days here already, and today wasn't much of an exception.

The heat has begun, and the white-tailed does are out in full force eating grasses in meadows and tomato plants in your suburban garden.  

That's alright though because the does are working hard to produce enough nourishment for the fawns that have recently been born.

Even though northern Virginia has a ridiculous amount of white-tailed deer, it still is always satisfying to see fawns growing up throughout the rest of the year.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

No Surprise

Usually I have absolutely no idea what will be recorded on a camera-trap's SD card each time I check it, but sometimes I can tell exactly what will probably come up on some of the images.

This happens in the case of skunks.  Naturally, I have a very strong nose, which I consider to be a very good thing for working in parks and wildlife.  Skunks leave a trail of stink wherever they go and have gotten pretty darn good at tracking and trailing them.

I knew exactly what I was going to find on the camera's SD card this time, because as soon as I got close to the camera, I could smell the skunk spray from the previous night.

Here's a photo of the mini stinker.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I went to check one of my Fairfax County camera-traps today, but was stopped suddenly when I realized a snakes tail flicking in some leaves.  Natural curiosity made me inch closer to the sight, and I could tell already that it was a copperhead about 4 feet from one of my cameras.

With most snakes, I usually try to get a closer look and possibly ID it to see if it is a male or a female, but there's one snake that calls Fairfax County its home, that I will not do this with.

Copperhead near the Potomac River, Fairfax County, Virginia.
Copperheads are somewhat common in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, and usually live around the Potomac River, floodplains, and stream valleys.  They are venomous, so let's get that fact out of the way, but from what I've heard and read, a bite on an healthy adult human will usually not lead to death.  Paralysis and other symptoms may occur though, and that's definitely enough to keep me at bay.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kittens, Not Kits

A few weeks ago, colleagues and I found a very active gray fox den.  We scoped out the area a bit and saw kits coming in and out, along with a healthy looking mother. 

Of course a camera-trap was put up at this den (which is a completely different den than the red fox den that I’ve been posting about in the past few weeks). But, like a lot of camera-trapping and wildlife research, results were not at all as expected.

The camera was checked once last week, and to my surprise, not one single image came up of a gray fox.  Results were only of white-tailed deer, a tufted titmouse, and a raccoon.
It was odd, because by this point, on several occasions, I had seen the mother gray foxwith kits around her, about 15 feet from this den entrance.

The camera angle was moved to another entrance hole in the den network, and we waited another week.  Hopes were still high, as I had realized before that maybe the foxes didn’t use the previous entrance hole anymore.

The next time the camera was checked, there were a few white-tailed deer does walking around, and feral cats.  A lot of feral cats.

I saw the mother cat with her kittens, and eventually another adult cat walked by. 

They’re cute, as are a lot of mammalian babies, but these images could be the proof of an ecological problem that could turn into a nightmare.

Here’s why:  The domestic cat is a non-native, invasive species.  They are not supposed to be naturally found in this area (if you ask just about any naturalist, ecologist, or biologist).  If they are pushing native species out of dens, as in this case of the gray foxes, gray foxes may have a harder time raising their next generation.  This could cause less numbers of gray foxes.  Furthermore, this means that the ecosystem could drastically change in many ways. From food web changes to more diseases, I do see the growing feral cat population as a problem.

I won’t get into too many specific changes that these feral cats could cause to the environment, and I’m definitely not going to “Bob Barker” you into getting cats neutered, but this could be bad for both that

specific park itself, and many surrounding areas.  In fact, it may already be a problem, as I have seen over 63 different individual domestic cats on all my cameras just in the past 8 months alone.

Maybe you’ll enjoy these photos as cute and fuzzy kitten images, but maybe you’ll also see why domestic cats should not be roaming the woodlands of northern Virginia.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Piebald Fox Returns

The fox that is called, "White Legs" has not shown up on any Great Falls, VA cameras in a long time.

White Legs has been one of my favorite individual red foxes around for a long time now, and it has been a pleasure watching he/she romping around the forest.

It's been some time since White Legs last showed, many  months actually, but today I checked a camera and realized I finally got an image of the white-legged predator in May.

It's not the perfect image, by any means, but it's enough to prove that it's the fox that I know.

It has grown to be extremely elusive.  This could be a good thing though, as red foxes are naturally afraid of humans and should not be fed or petted by people who live nearby.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Antler Growing Season

It's antler growing season (and will be for the next couple of months) for white-tailed deer.  They'll grow them out, shed their velvety coat, and use them for battle in the winter.  Like spears, the antlers on the tops of white-tailed bucks heads are used for display and fighting.

Proper nutrition and genetic makeup is necessary for growing the biggest pair.

Here's one little buck starting that has been already growing his antlers since a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Best Fox Kit Pictures So Far

The red fox kits in Fairfax County are still as active as ever and are growing fast. These are the same ones that I've been blogging about in the past few weeks.

Like human children, their daily activities consist of eating, pooping, and playing, without a care in the world. Must be nice!

They've been eating on their own and don't seem to be with their mother as much already.

Here's some stills of the red fox kits of Great Falls, Virginia. . .

. . . and of course videos!

One thing to take note of though is that one of the kits has a fairly large rash on its throat and neck.  It's a patch of red without fur (picture below).  Look closely at its neck to see what I mean. 

What do you think caused this?  Possible explanations that I (and other biologists, naturalists, and friends) have thought of is heat rash, scratching, mange, mites, fungus, disease, foul play between foxes, the mother red fox carrying the kit, or another predator.

I'll be watching these kits closely, and hope you will too.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Chris Chester's Site on Camera-Trapping

Chris Chester of WAMU 88.5 (NPR) inquired about doing a story or project on the cameras that I use a few months ago.

I said yes, of course, and was excited to show him what camera-trapping was all about.  We met up at a local park where I camera-trap and waltzed through many areas of ankle deep mud.  Cameras were set up and the curiosity of what might come up on the cameras was brewing in our minds.

It's definitely a good thing to get other people to know and see your passion, and I am glad he made it more public by making a website.  I'd just like to say a big thanks to Chris for the hard work and interest in what I do.  Here's a link to the site he made:

I think he did a phenomenal job with it all and hope you think the same.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Deer Carcassing

Dedicated blog readers should know that I love a good deer carcass- for camera-trapping purposes of course.

The deer carcass in Leesburg, VA has been out for months and is STILL getting amazing results from scavenging critters.   Here's a few photos from the last batch that you should see.

Crows, ravens, vultures, and american kestrels are gorging on not only the remains, but also on the beetles that are feasting on the deer.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fox Kits, Fox Kits, Fox Kits

There are now two cameras at the active fox den in Great Falls, Va.  One camera is for pictures and one is for video.  That's right VIDEO of the bundles of joy!

Immerse yourself in a maximum level of furry cuteness.

Don't worry, there will be more to come.  I'm keeping a close eye on these kits.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Red Fox Irony

Ironic how a day after I write a post titled "Where are the fox kits?", I check a camera and get some decent pictures of fox kits.

These were taken in Great Falls, Virginia and seem to be the first time the kits have ever ventured outside their den.  There has been a camera here for about 2 weeks, but yesterday, the babies came out to enjoy some good weather.

The date/time stamp was set wrong (my fault, sorry fellow blog readers), but I can assure you that these were taken yesterday, April 27th, 2014.

These kits are red foxes but they don't look resemble their parents completely.  Through the next weeks and months, their fur will become more orange, their bodies will fill out, and the entire animal will become an efficient machine that excels at catching mice and voles.

These ones are no bigger around the size of my shoe (size 10 in case you were wondering).

Another camera was put up in the opposing direction of the den to get more photos.