Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bobcats in Northern VA

People hardly believe they are in our area, but there are many tales (bobbed tales!) of these extremely well hidden creatures roaming the suburbs.  So let's finally break this one down for all the Northern VA suburbanites out there.

Yes, we do have native bobcats roaming Loudoun, Fairfax, and Prince William Counties.  They are not something to fear, but more of something to be aware of.  I've seen them on multiple outings while wildlifin' around the area.  Sterling, Leesburg, Bluemont, McLean, Great Falls, Haymarket, Manassas, and Falls Church are all places where I've either seen them in person or on trail cameras.

Bobcats are predators, but will most likely leave your pets alone.  They feast on rabbits, birds, snakes, moles, mice, shrews, and other small meals.  I've seen a family of bobcats raiding a trash dumpster outside of a business right next to a major highway in Fairfax County.  There have been some roadkilled ones as well.  Great Falls had two roadkilled (that I know of) just in the past 3 months.  There have been roadkills on Kirby Road near McLean, Virginia a few times in the past two years, and I've even heard about one killed on the road on Fairfax County Parkway.

So where's the pictures?

Well, here they are!!!

These are brought to you from the Centreville/Haymarket area with permissions from other camera owners and my own cameras.

Have you ever seen a bobcat in Northern Virginia?  Comment here and let me know!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Green With a Hint of Black Bear

We were both patient with each other (and ourselves).

Black bear climbing a tree in Virginia
He snorted a few times, probably saying "Human, let me do my thing!".  So I listened, and respected him, just as he did to me.

We didn't provoke each other.  Yelling, running, and bluffing was not necessary.

The only thing that was necessary was both of us seeing each other there and leaving each other alone.

The animal really only wanted some acorns in the tops of the trees, just as most bears in the area are doing right now in the year.  They're getting some extra calories, as it is still fairly hot during the day, and they know that winter will be here before long.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Venomous Snakes of Late Summer

It's been one good summer, and to make it even better, I've had TONS of great animal sightings in its last few weeks.

Among these are a few coyotes, some bobcats, lots of bears, and even venomous snakes.

I saw this Eastern Timber Rattlesnake in the Shenandoah mountains last weekend.  These ones will put a hurtin' on you if they bite you, but from the stories I've heard from this area, they will usually give you the rattle sound as a warning before they strike.  Who knows though?  I sure haven't bothered any enough to find out.

It was good to keep a safe distance and not touch it, even though it looked pretty dead to me.

This other one is a venomous copperhead from Fairfax County.  Copperheads are some of my favorite snakes, and though their bite can easily hospitalize a human adult, I still try to get a few pictures of both live and dead ones.

I tried to highlight and focus on both the interesting pattern on the copperhead, as well as the bright yellow-green tail.   That yellow tail is a good indicator that this one is a juvenile.

Juvenile copperheads almost always have this feature, and is used as a caudal lure, luring prey to them when they wiggle it back and forth.

They are fascinating.  Even if I try to get a few pictures of a live one, I always look directly at the animal and try not to disturb it.

I don't kill these snakes, as they are just part of the nature around here, plus they are almost always seen by me in protected natural areas.

Venomous snakes are not something that should be "fooled" with.  They can kill you.  Though it is rare in the area that this happens, it still is possible, and knowing what venomous snakes look like can be very helpful in places where they are commonly found (parks, river banks, rocky outcroppings, woodpiles).  These snakes should not be feared, but people should be aware of where they most likely are going to be, what to do if you get bit, and more importantly, to not pick them up.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Trail cameras are still running heavy in Purcellville and other parts of Western Loudoun by two of my favorite volunteers, Paige and Peter.  We've been getting all sorts of results, though bobcat and coyote activity have seemed to slow down recently out there.

The biggest excitement with the Purcellville cameras has been images of "Tank". He's a white-tailed deer buck that has been growing an impressive set of antlers. Peter named him, of course, and the name is not only fitting, but has stuck well for the past month or so.

Here is "Tank", one of the biggest bucks around this year.   It's hard to tell from this image, but there are (what we think and have seen in other images) 12 points on his antlers.  It'll be interesting to see if Peter is able to hunt this beast this year.

Tank is the closest deer, followed by two other impressive bucks behind him.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Shenandoah's Skyline Sunrise

I hit it hard the past 24 hours with "wildlifin" and hiking.  It was my time to go to the mountains of Shenandoah National Park to help with some biologists with their projects.  This was one of those things that I will probably only do in my early 20's, as I was driving at 3 A.M. to go see animals 2 hours away on a whim chance that I might to get to see some really cool stuff with others.

We saw all kinds of stuff (more on that in a later post!).

After a bit of bear excitement and mammal projects, I had about 45 minutes of "me time" on Skyline Drive that happened to coincide with the sunrise.   This was my break time, and I had to do something cool, right?

I sat on one of the rocky overlook walls and awaited the first rays of sun. Not long after, some other young twenty-somethings came up and joined me on the perch.

I was wearing a blaze orange hat with camo trim and they were wearing their Bob Marley t-shirts with their finest dreadlocks.  The Grateful Dead was playing on their radio and I was playing Little Big Town, both probably a little bit too loud.

We didn't care. 

All that mattered was that we were there, under that first ray of sun. 

A few words about where we came from were exchanged and then silence. Not at all an awkward silence, but rather one that was not only necessary for our enjoyment, but also peaceful.

The sun's light made its morning debut with all kinds of dark reds and purples.  It rose higher until yellows appeared.

Eventually, the sun rose above the horizon.  All of us "young twenty-somethings" squinted as it got too high to enjoy.

We looked at each other, smiled and talked about how great that was.

Some handshakes were given and both parties went opposite ways down Skyline Drive.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wood Turtles

I was going to write up a detailed post about wood turtles a little bit ago from one of my little side adventures, but figured this even shorter post would be a lot better.

I'll post this link to Ed Felker's website called Dispatches from the Potomac.  It's a great blog, has phenomenal photos, and even better writing.  I could be biased though, as it's operated by my buddy and fellow conservationist, Ed Felker.  Either way,  I think his works and writings always are top of the line for what him and I do.   It really is great stuff!

Ed and I did some wood turtle finding this summer, read all about it and about wood turtles here: Virginia's Threatened Wood Turtle .

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Watch Them Grow

Antlers are one of the most fascinating things to watch grow on camera traps.  Each week, the deciduous growths on white-tailed deer bucks get bigger and bigger, sometimes growing more points as the summer goes on.

My buddy Peter and I have been using camera traps recently to do a bit of a deer survey on his property in Loudoun County.  We'll be counting deer for at least the next few weeks, and hopefully we will capture a coyote or two on camera as well.

The antlers almost never look the same in spring as they do the following winter.  They just grow so fast, in all sorts of shapes and directions.  I'm fascinated by that.

Peter was really excited to get this buck on camera, as he is both an avid conservationist and a hunter.  If we keep recapturing the same individual, I hope to put a video compilation together of all the images, showing the growth of the antlers throughout the summer.

That's a bit far in advance though, and completely depends on this buck coming up at least once a week, but you never know what could happen.
We also captured a fawn (baby white-tailed deer) on camera a few times, though it has only been photogenic once or twice during the day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Mama Bear and Her Cub

Paige is one of the volunteers who spends some of her free time running some of my trail cameras and is even starting to build up her own trail camera arsenal.  We're always comparing results and trying to find new things and big ideas.  It's great, and I can't thank her enough for her time and effort in the outdoors.

We've been putting in a lot of work to capture footage of baby black bears on trail cameras in Loudoun and Fairfax lately, so these results were a big success in my book.

This will help with some sort of population density estimate or survey, but for now, I am just really enjoying these pictures.

This bear was not baited at all, so I feel good about getting these pictures as a naturalist and wildlife conservationist.  Sometimes, you just get a trail camera in the right spot, and that's exactly what this was.  In fact, it was only until Paige moved these cameras around to better spots, that we really got decent bear pictures.   I used my best judgement a few weeks ago with her on a "perfect" location, but she had better ideas, and it's because of that, that we got these amazing animals on cameras like this.

We are trying to figure out if the black bear above is the same as the black bear below on a different camera in the same area.

We are unsure as of now, but we'll figure it out by better comparing times, dates, and locations.

Black bears in Virginia will be gorging on berries pretty soon, specifically raspberries, wineberries, and blackberries in only a matter of a month or so.

We'll find a good wineberry patch to hang a few trail cams in early July for more bear results.