Oh the Road & Around the Pond
This is an exciting time of year as we await the appearance of babies. We have does with rounded bellies. We have yet to see a fawn. The fall burning of tree stumps around the yard resulted in holes and burrows that were not always filled before winter set in. An opportunistic skunk moved into a burrow created by the removal of a tree root. Looking out the kitchen window we spotted 4 baby skunks. The babies are really cute but not particularly welcome.
He goslings are starting to color. The ducks paused to finally get their portraits. We have spotted only a handful of tadpoles. Those tadpoles are steadily growing. The turtles are on the move and on the road. We noticed a neighbor stopping to carefully remove a turtle on the road to the safety of a grassed area.
A pair of whopping cranes are occasionally stopping to hunt in the field. The coyote is hunting in the field and along the road. The feral cats are making regular treks along the road. -Patches
Perhaps you’ve heard the distinctive call of the sandhill cranes recently? -Patches
We’re actually in at the very south edge of the breeding range for Sandhill Cranes. They’re not particularly picky eaters- they’ll eat snakes, frogs, insects, seeds… Often, we’ll see them in the spring, hunting frogs in shallow water.
The Not So Perfect Game Camera: They’re Back!
Returning to the game camera line up for your viewing pleasure are striped kitties, otherwise know as skunks. Skunks have been absent for several months but have returned. Along with skunks featured this with week are feral cats and deer. -Patches
The sound of ravens noisily calling and the presence of eagles in the field, led us to walk the wooded trails. We did indeed find a fawn, the victim of a predator. A game camera was moved to observe the predator’s return. No sightings of lions or coyotes on the game camera instead there were birds. A camp robber, magpie, and golden eagle posed for the camera. With her wings spread the golden eagle seemed to be almost as large as the fawn.
It is an unfortunate happening. Many game cameras will be vandalized or pilfered over their lifetime. Python locks are used to keep the game cameras from being lifted. My vandals usually have 4 legs but occasionally there are those that have two.
The two-legged variety of vandals perch and defecate on the camera. The four-legged variety usually hit the camera with speed, resulting in the tripod mount being broken and the camera somewhere on the ground.
My usual 4-legged suspects are deer. Curious elk and cranky bears will also displace cameras. This week, I found two tripod mounted cameras upside down and facing the opposite direction of their intended targets. After reviewing the video, I have determined the vandal was a curious cow.
The cow investigated the camera in the early morning hours. -Patches
An opportunity to capture pictures of scavengers on a carcass presented itself. I placed two cameras overlooking the carcass. I had hoped the bears would find this substantial food source. If not, maybe I would have pictures of coyotes or foxes. I had 65 videos, some as long as 4 minutes of ravens, a lot of ravens. It is gruesome and repetitive to watch ravens feast on a carcass. Finally, the eagles show up.
It is still gruesome to watch eagles on a carcass. But on the video, there was a surprise. A brave and reckless raven would tug on the tail feathers of the bald eagle. The raven was more persistent in harassing the juvenile bald eagle than an adult eagle. The only reaction from the eagles appeared to be flapping their wings resulting in a temporary scattering of the ravens.
I also had 7500 photos of ravens and eagles to review. Not one picture clearly shows a raven tugging on the tail feathers of an eagle. Game cam videos do provide glimpses of animal behavior hard to capture on a still camera. The down side, video uses your batteries and SD cards quickly. Both accessories need to be replaced often.
The trick to capturing pictures, and video, is to know where things are going to be and to put the camera up before they arrive. In the short term, this is a matter of luck, in the long term it becomes a matter of experience.
In winter, this is easier. Tracks in the snow provide some clues about what has been by, and where might be a good place to position a camera. As the snow piles deeper, the local wildlife is no more inclined to wade through it than we are, and cameras can be placed along cleared areas (such as plowed driveways) with greater success.
On the whole, getting good pictures and video requires luck, good camera placement, and wading through a great many bad photos and deer selfies.
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After missing what should have been great photos of bears, I decided to see if the video mode would be any better. I don’t use video very much because I haven’t invested in the companies that make batteries; Video uses batteries quickly.
Video also takes lots of space on your SD cards. And I only need so many videos of deer walking up to sniff the camera.
According to my cameras this week, no bears walked on the driveway. A follow up confirmed no new bear droppings. If my cameras are to be believed, only a few deer, a feral cat, and a couple of turkeys were on the driveway. I will leave the camera in video mode probably until Thanksgiving in hopes of getting a video of a stray bear wandering by or maybe a coyote or two. In the meantime, here are the turkeys.
At 6 am, Mike was out collecting firewood from the stack to start the days fire. Kiki, the older, chubby white Pomeranian was out with him. Kiki positioned herself off the back steps and started trying to raise the dead with her bark. With enough firewood in hand, Mike called Kiki to the house. Remarkably, she came when called. Mike noted that some critter was out there but thought a follow up investigation was better left until daylight.
Later that day, we received a call. “Looks like a grizzly walked down your driveway” the caller reported. We had received 1 ½ inches of snow during the night. “How’d they know it was a grizzly?” I wondered. Mike replied the prints probably had claws.
Wandering down the driveway with the dogs, we found the tracks in the fresh snow. Holy **** ! That’s a big bear. We followed the tracks up and down the driveway. The bear had lumbered by all 3 game cams. I pulled the SD cards from the cameras to look for pictures of a big bear. The Stealth camera did not have pictures of a bear despite the bear slowly walking by the camera. The Stealth camera’s record remained unbroken. (Game Cam 2 link) The Herter’s camera missed the bear. It had daylight photos of cars and deer but no nighttime photos. Time to change the batteries. Only the Cabela’s camera had a not very good picture of the big, fat, healthy grizzly.
This grizzly approached the driveway through the woods, lumbered onto the driveway and exited onto Fortine Creek Road before making its way back to the creek bottom. From the time stamp, by the time Kiki was reporting on it at volume the bear was probably on the road. Our neighbor reported that the bear had been leaving signs in the lower pastures that bordered the creek for several weeks. Seems we might have a couple more weeks of bears around the place.
Great pictures of game cameras are frequently a matter of luck. We have a “good enough” picture to confirm the type and relative size of the bear. Two of of the cameras completely missed the bear. Even the “best” camera had 1 poor picture but that time stamp sure caught our attention.
Update: A day later with the fresh snow and more reports of tracks, we again went hunting. This time we found 2 sets of tracks. One large set and a smaller set of tracks that sometimes were adjacent to the larger tracks and sometimes they overlapped the larger tracks. We followed the tracks into the woods to find a deposit from the smaller bear. Lots of hair in that deposit; the bears appear to be eating well. Again the bears had walked by 2 game cameras. Not 1 picture of either bear on any camera. There are multiple reports of bear tracks in the neighborhood. The bears appear to be making a large loose loop around the Trego school.