|Mountain beaver (a.k.a. aplodontia) is one of the unusual mammals you get to practice camera trapping on at this workshop in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. It took me several months to realize why this particular camera, Wingscapes Birdcam 2, would occasionally get great close-up nighttime photos with flash but never more than one. Something about the electronics in this model shut the camera down after one or two flash photos. This model is now discontinued. For more info about this unusual burrowing mammal go here and a fellow alumnus has better photos of the zombie rodent here.|
workshop last summer. Get low - that is the major technique I've practiced in the seven months since then. I've deleted many a photo of me crawling around in front of the camera or staring into the sensor to test the aim. But as you can see in the photos I've included in this post, fine-tuning the aim is resulting in better wildlife photos.
|The young bucks started losing their antlers in mid-December. Photos of the older bucks show them holding onto their big antlers until early January. I'm sure that fact is in a book somewhere but it's rewarding to witness and learn it myself. Of course, I should probably verify it with a few more years of data.|
It took me months of trying different setups to decide that the best position for a camera at this spring is on the slope above. Over the dry summer, fall and winter, the trail cameras showed that this spring was visited by black-tailed deer (in all their family relationships, seasonal changes to antlers and coat, even signs of disease), cattle, mountain lion, coyote, raccoon, striped skunk, grey squirrel, dusky-footed woodrat, mice, mourning dove, dark-eyed junco, great horned owl, saw-whet owl, a large covey of California quail, Stellar and scrub jay, varied thrush, and somehow the camera also triggered on lizard, banana slug and California newt. This spring is an excellent location to track seasonal and long-term changes of wildlife on the Dipper Ranch. Somehow, I've managed to winnow this collection down to 476 photos for a ten-month period and I still go back and analyze them for patterns.
Small Cats Conservation Foundation which systematically relabels photos from your camera traps to help organize and analyze them. Has anyone tried it yet? I may convince a student to test it on our bobcat project.
If you take a class at San Francisco State University's Sierra Nevada field station, you can arrange to arrive a few days early or stay afterwards to explore the nearby alpine trails of the Sierra Buttes and Lakes Basin Recreational Area. Now I just have to decide whether it will be Sierran flora, wildlife photography, or writing that I will study at Yuba Pass this year.
|Who says camera trapping can't be art?|
|The Bushnell catches me looking for tracks as I hustle to get home before sunset. All the 'hip' camtrappers wear pink.|
Black-tailed deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
Dusky-footed woodrat, Neotoma fuscipes
Mountain beaver, Aplodontia rufa
Mountain larkspur, Delphinium glaucoma
Mountain lion, Felis concolor
Rufous hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus
Tracy Storer, Robert Usinger and David Lukas, Sierra Nevada Natural History, University of California Press, 2004.