Saturday, August 30, 2014

Flying Squirrel?

Some people are surprised to learn that Fairfax and Loudoun Counties are home to flying squirrels.  We have TONS of them around, but to see one, you have to be in the right place at the right time in the night. They are strictly nocturnal and should not show themselves often in the daytime.

I recently came upon this image while checking on of my camera-traps.  It's in Fairfax County, VA and the time and date stamp are correct.  The image below the one containing the mystery critter is a "blank" image that does not contain any animal.  This is included so you can better tell the parts of the animal awhile comparing it to the "blank" image.



What do you think?  Is that a flying squirrel that got a bit blurry?  Is it a moth, bat, insect on the lens, a leaf falling, or a bird?  I think I know what it is, but need some other opinions to convince me.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Woof Woof!

Clearly I underestimated the amount of human/dog activity at this place.





I was hoping that this camera would be safe from man and man's best friend, but boy was I surprised when an intern emailed me some pictures today.  The camera was in a protected nature preserve that I won't name (for now) well away from any trail.

It's time to move that camera!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

CarpCam

I've been fiddling with some GoPro action cameras lately and had the idea of mixing a little GoPro camera technology with camera-trapping underwater for some fish.  Results have turned out fantastic so far, but I still need to hone my skills with lighting and other options on GoPro cameras.

For those of you that are wondering what a GoPro camera is, here's a little explanation.  GoPro cameras are waterproof, action cameras that a lot of adventure sportsmen use.  You can attach them to kayaks, bike helmets, and cars.  

Me though, I'm using them for my wildlife camera projects.  I'll be putting them near animal dens, submerging them underwater, and hopefully turning some of them into remote sensored camera-traps.

Here's one of my favorite underwater videos so far that I took.  The fish are carp in the Potomac River in Maryland.

video

Why Do White-Tailed Deer Fawns Have White Spots?

Someone asked me this at one of my parks/wildlife jobs a few days ago, and I thought it would also be nice to put the answer on this blog.

Fawns (baby deer) have white spots on their backs. Take a look at the picture below from this past month.


The answer to this question is that fawns have spots because it helps them camouflage better in the woods.  

Fawns spend a lot of time laying down in grass and leaves that are under canopies of trees.  Sunlight comes through these trees in beams that make bright splotches on the forest floor.  The brown color of the deer's fur and the white splotches look similar to brown leaves and dirt mixing in with the sunlight that hits the forest bottom.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bird Banding and Weighing

Ever wonder how small birds are weighed?

If you have, then here is the answer.


They are placed upside down in small containers and put on a scale.  Looks kind of silly doesn't it?

It's just one of the things I learned in the past two weekends while meeting up with and helping out other naturalists who were banding birds.  I really learned a lot and appreciated everything.  Many birds were banded and data entry was recorded.

Here's a layout of the table and some gear we used.

Here's me releasing a field sparrow.
Tomorrow, it's back to the river and more camera-trapping.

More Fairfax Coyotes

This one is a full-grown adult coyote that looks beefy, muscular, and pretty furry.


It may have some genetics of wolf in it, making it a hybrid or coy-wolf, but there's no telling from just a camera-trap image.

Either way,  it's a big one.

What's odd is that this coyote came by the camera very quickly (on both the second and the third nights), when usually coyotes appear on trail cam around the 5th night or later.

I put up a few more cameras in the area, so I'll check back in a few days to see what else is around.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

That "Old Lady Getting Murdered" Kind of Noise

Cicadas, other insects, and frogs make up a good percentage of the natural noise that a person might hear outside at night around Northern Virginia.  Owls, domestic cats, bats, and other birds are also common.

BUT, There are two very specific animals that might make a person cringe or wonder at night though.  These animals are foxes and coyotes.  We have both here in Northern Va, and they are all over the place.  I highly doubt there is a single town or city in Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William, or Arlington where both of these animals do not exist.

They have come up on trail cameras, people have put videos of them on YouTube, 911 calls are made when some people see them, and early morning commuters sometimes catch a quick glimpse of both of these critters.

So at night, how do you tell the difference between a coyote noise and a fox noise?  

Well, it can be tricky, but for the most part a coyote will yip and howl with an extremely high pitched noise for a mammal.  They sound like they are singing to each other.  Coyotes will "let loose" a noise that is incredibly loud and may sound similar to domestic dogs howling with high notes.  They can also bark, howl, and whine. 

Foxes usually do a noise around here that I've heard described to me as an "Old lady getting murdered".  I agree, although I have never heard an old lady getting murdered.  While foxes do bark, howl, and whine, the noise that I usually hear is a raspy whine that is close to a scream. 

Speaking of foxes, here's a recent one that came up on a trail camera that I set up in Leesburg, VA. 

 I wonder if this one whines like an old lady getting murdered.