Thursday, July 14, 2016

Where the Bear Stood

I stood where the bear stood and fully experienced a very short moment in a bear's very interesting life.
We'll talk more about what the bear was doing and why, in a later post or discussion.

For now, enjoy the photo!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Building My Own

With the help of other photographers, hunters, and trail camera users, I am beginning to build my own trail cameras with DLSR cameras.  

It's tricky. It's challenging. It's exciting!

Here is one of the first decent pictures of mine to come from a "home-brewed" DSLR camera trap. The animal isn't centered and the focus is a bit off, but still, I'm new at these homemade ones.

It's going to be challenging to get all the best shots with this new device, but tomorrow, I am planning to put it where bears are known to show up almost daily.

We'll check it next week.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Paige and the Bears

If there is anyone who knows how to get Northern Virginia's bears on camera, it is Paige.

Mother bear and cub. Photo: Paige Critchley
Paige Critchley contacted me over a year ago about trail camera advice.  At that time,  she was taking on the task of using a trail camera to help a person locate a missing dog in her area.  I forwarded her some tips and told her to keep in contact with me.  What she probably didn't realize then, was that she was at the beginning of a new hobby and an addicting habit called camera trapping (using remote-sensored trail cameras).  It's a very healthy habit, and one that she has become an expert in.

Critchley is a local entrepreneur, a horse enthusiast, and a wildlife lover.  To me, she has also become a great friend and someone who shares the passion of photographing wildlife with trail cameras.  She spends a lot of her free time with her dog outdoors and with friends, but always seems to have trail cameras in the back of her mind.  "Using trail cameras always builds excitement," Critchley says "It's an activity that takes my mind off work."

She volunteered some of her time to run cameras for me in Loudoun County, Virginia and I got to see her interest rise.  Growing with her passion for this, is the number of cameras she personally owns and uses.  It started as one but has grown to 12 cameras now.
Black Bear.  Photo: Paige Critchley

While she describes coyotes as being her favorite animal to capture on camera, Critchley has gotten an incredible amount of bear photographs lately.

Bears aren't rare here in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, but they exist mostly in western Loudoun, parts of Fauquier, and parts of Prince William Counties. During certain times of the year, bear activity may greatly increase in more suburban areas, leading to problems in traffic.  This is due to an interest in new territory and mating habits of young males. With these trail cameras, we are able to keep records on bears and do small population surveys based on the photos.

"I have about 7 or 8 bears coming through 2 different trail camera locations, at the moment." Critchley says.  She adds "I even captured two bears in combat, possibly a mating ritual or territorial fight."

These black bears are not something to be fearful of in our area, but rather something to be aware of. They are omnivorous, meaning that both plants and animals make up their meals. Right now, black bears are feeding on ripened raspberries, wineberries, roots, and insects.  Throughout the year, their diet changes, but usually keeps with a mostly plant based diet, mixed in with a few animals.

Capturing an image of a bear tells a lot.  It can tell researchers where bears are, how many are in a certain area, and daytime patterns of an individual.  Capturing behavior is another thing, and tells a whole story.  The trail cameras have captured the combatting bears, young bears ripping down Critchley's cameras, different bear postures, and even bears stealing her cameras and using them to take their own selfies.
Every time another black bear touches this log, it adds a tiny bit of scent.  The scent draws in more bears and the cycle continues, sometimes for months.  Photo: Paige Critchley.
Critchley's fondness of wildlife doesn't just stop at bears.  In just over a year, she has captured a plethora of images, recording everything from deer to coyotes, and even bobcats.  All of her images are from the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and people are sometimes astounded by the fact that these animals are so close to our Nation's Capital.
A bobcat of Northern Virginia.  Photo: Paige Critchley