Monday, March 31, 2014

Vulture Posture

Vultures will often do this stance that appeared on one of the trail-cams the other day.

Why do they do this?

It's one of the easiest ways to dry off feathers.  Their skin is oily anyway and if mixed with animal gut juices, it can become a very dangerous mixture of liquid with too much bacteria.

So in short, vultures dry off their feathers in this way to ward off bacteria and disease.  They can also do this to regulate their body heat.

All this camera really got was this one turkey vulture and a solo raccoon.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Red Fox Rendezvous

I am putting the final touches on some graphs, charts, and tables that show the results (and how-to's) of my red fox survey between the months of this March, 2013 and March, 2014 in park lands and private lands of Northern Virginia.

Results include current living foxes, foxes that have been hit by cars (or died by other means), foxes that have moved out of the area, and fox kits

Here is a very watered-down and simplistic version of my data:

In a 24 acre plot, there were 3 individual red foxes

In a 60 acre plot, there were 4 individual red foxes.

In a 350 acre plot, I've found that there were at least 7 individual red foxes.

In a 430 acre plot, there were 9 individual red foxes.

In a 600 acre plot, there were 9 individual red foxes.

I get this data by comparing camera-trap images of different cameras set up in each park.  A red fox that appears at one camera (under normal circumstances) cannot be the same red fox that appears at another camera 1 mile away, 30 seconds later.  BAM!  That's two individual foxes.  Some red foxes look completely different from eachother, others are a little more difficult to recognize.  Figure in more parks and a heck of a lot more cameras, and results like this pour in to my computer on a daily basis.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cold-Weather Blues

It's been one rough winter with snow still on all of our minds here in Virginia.  Spring is here though, and fishing season has already started for me.

The Potomac River has blue catfish.  These things are monster bottom feeder that bite well in March and April.  I've never caught a big one before, so going last week was something that I was really looking forward to.

Blue catfish are a non-native species here and were stocked in Virginia in the 1970's  (source: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries).  They can get big.  Really big.  They feast on herring, shad, bass, crawfish, and other marine species.

The section of the Potomac River where we were fishing is also prime bald eagle and osprey territory, and even they seemed excited about the fish that we were catching.  Other notable birds that were seen from the boat were wood ducks, grebes, coots, and canvasbacks.

This fishing trip kicked off my "official" start of spring.  Camera-traps, canoeing, and sunshine are now on my mind, and summer better come quick.

As for the camera-traps,  I've got them still out and taking photos.  Recent results from them have been more coyotes, red foxes mating, and the usuals (raccoons, deer, squirrels).

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Shenandoah Hike and a Fairfax County Camera Check

Today was a great day for hiking and camera checking.  The trails of Shenandoah National Park were calling my name and I had to get out there on this day off of work and school.  There was still some snow on the ground from previous storms but today was about 58 degrees and decently sunny.

It was a great hike that led us down the trail to a great basalt rock formation. . .

. . .and a large ice formation left over from this winter's coldest days.

It was a good day to just get out and enjoy the outdoors.

Another highlight of the day came from when checking a camera-trap in Chantilly after the hike.

Cats, dogs, coyotes, cardinals, humans, red foxes, and raccoons all came by the camera.

Here's the best picture of a Chantilly Coyote.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Denning Season

It's denning season for the canids of Virginia.  That means that I'll be spending some time tracking fox, coyote, and other footprints through the mud and snow to help me find these dens.  When I find one, a camera will be going up.

Here's a good one that I found yesterday.  You can tell by the amount of footprints and kicked dirt around it that it is very active.

I used extreme care and caution not to get too close or disturb the animals that may be living in there.

Here's to hoping for pups or kits of fox or coyote this spring!