American Birding Podcast



Avian Interlopers

I hope that you enjoyed Noah Strycker's latest ABA Blog entry about camera trapping as much as I did.  Like Noah, I'm really enjoying the addition of motion-activated trail cameras to my bag of tricks. One of Forrest Gump's trademark quotes may well apply to camera trapping: "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."  Just substitute "checking a trail camera memory card" for "Life" and I think the comparison is apt.

Anyway, in my last ABA Blog installment I mentioned that I was experimenting with a couple of Bushnell TrophyCam HD units, with a primary appeal being their ability to shoot motion-activated infrared movies at night.  One is still pointed at my Barn Owl box, and I repositioned the other to face down a log downed by beavers along Boulder Creek in Weld County, Colorado.  One issue I've noticed with the TrophyCam is that close subjects get overexposed by the IR illumination, even when it is set to low power.  Commentator Mike Patterson responded my post by suggesting I use copy paper as a diffuser, a technique he successfully used to build a virtual pitfall trap.  I liked the idea and it worked well in a short test but I was worried about the effect of wet weather on the paper over long unsupervised deployments.  Following the similar advice of the Camera Trap Codger I tried a homemade IR diffuser made of a thin sheet of closed-cell packing foam, which I taped to the inside of the metal security housing in front of the IR array.  I like the results- the bright levels I experienced center frame in earlier trials seem toned down and didn't require post-production adjustments to moderate the exposure.

I was expecting mainly mammals at this set, particularly the beavers that chewed the tree down, but in a week of camera trapping I had many birds join the mix.  I edited some highlights of the week into the video below to show the surprising diversity of mammals and birds that triggered the camera.  

This time I have a challenge for my faithful readers. In the comments section, list the bird & mammal species as they appear in the video (heard-only detections count, too!)  I know the audio isn't the greatest, but it does add an interesting aspect to each clip and I know you'll recognize several species making noise.  The first person to list them correctly will win a copy of Brian Kimberling's new novel, Snapper.  There is a birding theme in the story- here's the publisher's synopsis: 

A disastrous love affair between a man and a place, Snapper relates the brief career of a professional bird researcher in Southern Indiana. While conducting surveys and censuses of the same songbirds John James Aubudon painted in Indiana two hundred years ago – now in catastrophic decline – Nathan Lochmueller traverses a deeply dysfunctional society. He encounters an enormous concrete Santa Claus statue at a remote highway diner, white supremacists, the nation’s oldest Dial-A-Prayer service, Vietnam vets, and a discarded human thigh bone. And, of course, a woman who won’t stay true and a pick-up truck that won’t run.

Both a short story cycle, and a fully-formed novel, Snapper is a lyrical portrait of a rural wilderness and its very dark, very human, heart.

So good luck to any challengers for the prize!  Remember to list all of the mammals and birds in the movie including heard-only detections- first correct list in the comments gets the book.  Even if you don't want to play along, I hope you enjoy the little vignettes of streamside life captured by the trail cam (you might want to embiggen it by clicking the full screen icon in the lower left of the video frame.)