Showing posts sorted by date for query "camera trap spring". Sort by relevance Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by date for query "camera trap spring". Sort by relevance Show all posts

March 21, 2021

Bonsai Mullein, Drip-Irrigated Moss

I was walking in the woods today with M., our last chance before the next snowstorm hits, and she noticed the "bonsai" mullein growing out of a crack in this boulder.

We use" bonsai" as a term for all plants growing in rock cracks,  often Douglas fir or ponderosa pine. To me the term combines a certain cuteness with admiration for Life's Unwavering Force — or something like that. 

In Japanese, it means "tray planting," a term for "plants that are grown in shallow containers following the precise tenets of bonsai pruning and training, resulting in an artful miniature replica of a full-grown tree in nature."

But I like it better when it just happens. 

There is a big boulder on the way to Camera Trap Spring that I named Bonsai Rock for the little conifers growing from it. Then a forest fire came through, but I still use the name.

Her eye was caught by mullein, since it is a medicinal herb, and she keeps a mental catalog of what grows where. These plants do seem a little fragile to harvest, but there might be more growing inearby.

And in this year of "moderate drought," we crouched to admire the moss growing below. It is on the boulder's north-facing side, and it must be sustained by rain and snow melt that descends through fractures in the rock.

September 28, 2020

A Mountain Lion in the Morning


I hung this scout camera on May 9th at a little seep that I call "Camera Trap Spring." (You won't find that name on Google Earth, not if I can help it.)

It's in little bowl in the foothills about 45 minutes' walk from my house, but a walk that involves scaling a step ridge, negotiating a small talus slope, and winding through a lot of oak brush. 

The camera also recorded turkeys, bears, deer, elk, and gray foxes, all drawn by a tiny water source that kept running through this drought summer. When I finally got motivated to retrieve the camera today (the batteries had died in mid-July), I was truly surprised to find water there. That probably explains the bear with a muddy rump that was captured on another camera on my side of the ridge—if they can't do more, bears like to just plop their butts down in the water.

When I stand up at the spring, I can see houses, maybe hear a far-off dog bark, and watch traffic moving on the state highway. Yet because there is no vehicular access—and it's a serious hike in—the animals act undisturbed, like this cat having a drink at 8:49 a.m., no fear at all.

The camera recorded some deer there two hours earlier. I wonder if he was thirsty after a meal.

July 07, 2018

Day Bear, Night Bear, Muddy Bear

A series of photos from May at Camera Trap Spring, where even a little seep of water the size of two hands cupped is enough for a bear to sit in.

June 24, 2018

Futility at Camera Trap Spring

Some time when I hike to Camera Trap Spring — particularly during dry summers like this one — I take a trowel and try to dig out the spring a bit, making a little pool for the water to collect in.

And then this happens. Or a bear does the same thing. Fine, boys, enjoy your mud wallow.

June 14, 2016

Scrub Oak, the Sequel

Running ahead of us, Fisher the Chesapeake Bay retriever had his picture taken.
My favorite spot for scout cameras, "Camera Trap Spring," is changing every year.

A powerful forest fire went through several years ago, killing the pines and douglas fir and burning all the Gambel oak down to the ground.

Gambel oak distribution, from
"Atlas of United States Trees"
by Elbert L. Little, Jr. Wikimedia Commons.
After the fire, the Bureau of Land Management paid for aerial reseeding the following spring to prevent flooding and soil erosion — and the weather cooperated. Now there was abundant grass among the blackened tree trunks.

Here is how the area looked right after the fire.

But while entire pine tree root systems were burned underground, Gambel oak survives. Now it is coming back in force.

As you can see from the map, southern Colorado and adjacent regions have lots of Gambel oak.

The days of easy walking around on the burn are ending. If you look at the slope beyond the dog, you can see that the scrub oak is now about waist-high.

Among upright bipeds, turkeys seem to cope better than I do with that stuff.

I will post some critter pix soon.

November 30, 2014

Who Came to the Gut Pile?

On the afternoon of November 5th, I walked out the back door and hiked to some burned-over BLM land about 45 minutes from the house.

Maybe it was my scouting and camera work at "Camera Trap Spring," maybe it was the red gods' favor, but about an hour after leaving home I shot a mule deer buck, three points or four points (Western count), depending which side you looked at  — not a huge buck, but since I would be backpacking the meat out, that was OK.

I boned the meat and filled my Osprey Talon 22 day pack past its design specifications, I am sure, but it's a tribute to that design that it still felt comfortable, even though heavier than I had ever loaded it.

The next morning I returned — with a larger pack —carefully glassing the area as I moved through the burnt pines, lest a bear have found the gut pile, bones, etc. No, just a few crows were flying around and talking.
Magpies came first, the morning that I set the camera.

So would a bear or other scavengers come? One way to find out — I brought a scout camera with fresh batteries, piled bones, hide, rib cage, and skull with the guts — and set it to cover the scene.

Today, twenty-four days later, M. and I went back for it. The deer's remains had been rearranged considerably.

The well-nibbled rib cage and spine were a few yards away, downhill. The hide was in several pieces, and the head was not immediately visible.

The slideshows are 19 MB and 16 MB, so if you don't want to load them, see highlights below.

The bear came later. An ear-tagged bear, meaning it has been relocated once — not like there is any vacant habitat.

The golden eagle made multiple visits.

Golden eagle

The ear-tagged bear has a feast.
Of course there were lots of crows visiting, and a couple of ravens and a red fox. And other deer walked past the scene unconcerned.

November 02, 2014

Two Ringtails and a Weasel Went to a Waterhole

Last spring I wrote about my first scout camera photo of a ringtail, which was something of a trophy, in that they are secretive and nocturnal.

On Wednesday last I picked up the camera at Camera Trap Spring, closing the site for the winter, and found that two ringtails had visited that spot as well in early October.

Unfortunately, they were right at the edge of definition for the infrared flash — the batteries may have been weakening too — but I was still delighted to see them.

It is a weasel, and apparent size suggests a short-tailed weasel (ermine). But I did not think to place a vertical ruler by the water source. Any mavens of Mustelidae out there want to make a definite identification?

UPDATE: The Camera Trap Codger, who is an actual wildlife biologist, opts for long-tailed weasel in his comment — which is what I sort of thought too until I argued myself out of it.

June 15, 2014

Hanging Out at the Spring

I recently checked the scout camera at Camera Trap Spring (in a forest that burned in 2012). On May 10 these bull elk had pretty well stomped the spring into more of a "wallow." You can see their antler buds as this year's antlers start to grow. By now the antlers would be much larger and "in velvet,"  being covered with a nourishing layer of skin and blood vessels.

January 24, 2014

Bears on the Fire Scar

Bears at Camera Trap Spring

Since the October 2012 forest fire behind our house, I have been tracking changes in the land, particularly the public land (the highest ridge) that was re-seeded by the federal Bureau of Land Management in April 2013.

In late September, I decided to put a scout camera there at Camera Trap Spring, my favorite spot, and leave it for a few months.

The spring is on BLM land, although not easily accessible without trespassing, if you're not local. Nevertheless, I have seen boot tracks up there — rarely.

Also, Camera Trap Spring has attracted camera-hating bears in the past.

Thinking I was clever, I took my worst camera, spray-painted it flat black for camouflage, and hung it on a burnt ponderosa pine with a black strap.

And it was there when M. and I hiked to the spring in early December. Based on weather recorded (this camera is too cheap to record date and time), I think its batteries had died in mid-November, but not before recording more than two hundred images.

I wished that I had left a better camera up there!

There were groups of deer, flocks of turkeys — and to my surprise, flocks of crows landing at the spring.

Something did knock or bump the camera at one point about 45° from horizontal.

And bears — this cinnamon-phase black bear and her cub made several visits, and the low-light photo almost makes up for the low-quality image.

Given the really poor crop of acorns, apples, and other favorite bear foods in 2013, I was surprised to see them, and I hope they went into hibernation in good shape.

So many questions. We live among them — or they live among us — and yet it feels like they are in separate worlds. Maybe if I was the kind of person who could just leave everything and watch the bears day after day, I might feel as though I had entered their world, to some degree.

September 28, 2013

Burned Area Revegetation, Six Months Later

May 2013
Last May I used this photo of Fisher playing in a little seasonal spring to illustrate a post about the Bureau of Land Management's aerial seeding of a burned area near home.

The black ground is burned by the fire. The wood chips are mulch dropped by helicopter along with a mixture of grass seed.
September 2013
Here is Fisher again at the same spring (Camera Trap Spring). The mullein (upper left) would have arrived on its own, as did some of the other plants, but it looks like the grass mixture took hold, thanks to the late-summer rains.

We were spared the massive rains that hit northern Colorado, so there has not been an erosion problem, and now with any luck, there won't be.

Not shown: the Gambel oak is ankle to knee-high up there already. It needs no encouragement.

May 19, 2013

Spring Comes to the Burn

On May 16, M. and I re-visited the burned ridge behind our house for the first time since November. It burned last October 23, part of an extremely fast-moving fire that destroyed 15 homes and various outbuildings in the space of about thirty minutes, reaching a total extent of 2,500 acres
Here is the area that we re-visited as it looked at 6:40 p.m., October 23, 2013.
Fisher, our Chesapeake Bay retriever, came too. On the ground behind him you can see scattered clumps of shredded bark, mixed with grass seed and dropped from a helicopter on April 13-14, 2013.

Fisher, not bothered by dirt and ash.
This particular area is public land (Bureau of Land Management), although most of what burned was private.
Attaching a sling-load of mulch and grass seed to a helicopter—April 2013 (Pueblo Chieftain).
Concerned about the possibility of ash and dirt washing down into streams, the BLM paid for re-seeding of its portion, which is mostly along a higher ridge.

Mulch had fallen into the little spring. Fisher decided to clear it out.
The first thing that we always do is visit a little seasonal spring that we call Camera Trap Spring. It is the place where a sow black bear attacked a camera, where Fisher narrowly avoided a rattlesnake last year, and where I have gotten pictures of a variety of wildlife.

Then we went to see if the seeding had had good results.
Grass coming up through the mulch.
This was one of the better-looking patches. And I should add that mulch was used only on the steeper slopes. Other areas received a grass-seed mix with no mulch. Since the seeding a month ago, snow and rain equivalent to 2–3 inches of precipitation has fallen, luckily without serious erosion.Whether this counts as acceptable results in re-seeding, I do not know, although I am attempting to check on that. Some other areas do not look as good.
Dandelion and deer droppings (to left of central rock, top of clear spot).
Here, for instance, is a dandelion and some other plants growing, plus evidence of deer passing through the burn. Some of the new grass had been nibbled too. There were no tracks at the spring, however—if there had been, Fisher probably obliterated them!
Golden banner with 500 ml bottle.
This looks like golden banner (Thermopsis divaricarpa), a member of the pea family. Self-seeded, I assume.

And of course the burnt Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii), which could probably survive atom bombs, is sprouting from its roots. As the CSU Extension office says, "Fire readily kills the above-ground portions of oak brush. However, intense sprouting follows almost immediately and usually causes the stands to become even denser."

Birds seen: some crows, two woodpeckers (probably hairies—did not have a good look), and to our surprise, two Western tanagers (migrants).

January 30, 2013

Fayhee on Destroying Other People's Cairns

Mountain Gazette editor M. John Fayhee on the benefits of going off-route, getting lost, and not marking your path.
Then, one day, I saw some orange peels, eggshells and a candy bar wrapper next to one of the glacial tarns. And I lashed out: I destroyed every single one of those goddamned cairns. I mean to say, I obliterated the motherfuckers. This was no subtle carnage. I made no effort to aesthetically replace the rocks used to construct those cairns to their natural environment. As I kicked those cairns, I cursed the people who had built them.

With regards to Pilgrim Gulch, I was likely too late. I ought to have disassembled the very first cairns I saw. I vowed then and there to never again make such a mistake.

And thus began what to this day remains a love/hate relationship with cairns and all they represent, both literally and figuratively.
Is this where I admit to building an occasional cairn—never more than two or three rocks stacked—the way I learned in Boy Scouts? There is one in the photo, two rocks stacked on a boulder, that used to guide me to Camera Trap Spring before the forest fire made everything visible.

November 30, 2012

Under the Volcano (5): Looking for Camera Trap Spring

Now home from our travels, M. and I hiked up yesterday to where a forest fire burned near our house a month ago.

The little bowl on BLM land that I call "Camera Trap Valley"
I call it "Camera Trap Valley" because it contains the little seasonal spring that attracts quite a variety of wildlife. But on the evening of October 23rd it was effectively "nuked."

On the way over the ridge, Fisher, our Chesapeake Bay retriever, came trotting down the trail with something in his mouth. It looked like a bear cub's paw, stripped of flesh. "Was the bear a casualty of the fire?" we wondered. So we bribed him with a dog biscuit to surrender it.

Fisher on the fire line
My trail to the spring is based on a series of game trails, augmented by rock cairns to guide me through the brush and a little discreet pruning to make the going easier for upright bipeds. At one spot, the containment line dug by federal firefighters exactly followed "my" trail. That was useful, for a short distance.

At this point, the fire had been moving against the wind, which is why, I think, that it dropped down to the ground instead of crowning from tree to tree. Then it stopped (mostly) at the rim rock.

Unburned strip of forest floor
In the photo above, a strip of the forest floor was mysteriously spared as the fire passed over it. Fisher, barely visible at the top, has found another bone.

A small cairn.
I made little rock cairns to guide myself through the talus and  oak brush. They are no longer necessary.

Dropping down into the valley, I found that another of my markers, a deer pelvis bone hung on a tree branch — near where we found the mysterious teddy bear — was missing. Completely consumed, no doubt.

A completely burned-out pine stump.
We started seeing signs of the fire's power.

That thing that looks like a dinosaur track is actually a completely burned-out ponderosa pine stump. If you poured plaster of Paris into it, you would have a positive image of the root system. It is eerily like the plaster casts of victims at Pompeii.

Meanwhile, a single crow flew overhead, making the "soft bell-toned woh-woh, woh-woh" sound.

We answered, but what was it telling us?

Camera Trap Spring
All my landmarks gone, I found the spring (dry, of course) by the lay of the land. I will come back in April or early May to see if it is flowing.

In the burned forest nearby, Fisher found a more substantial bone to chew. A post-apocalyptic landscape is nothing to a dog.

Turkey track.

There were turkey tracks in the ash and soil. Can't you imagine the third turkey in the group saying, "Guys! There is nothing to eat here! Why are we here? Let's go back, guys."

We walked up through the bowl and returned home by a different route. I cannot think when I have been in an environment so sterilized. Maybe one bird, perhaps a chickadee, flew past us as we walked. Otherwise, M. , Fisher, and I seemed to be the only living beings above ground.

Such silence.

October 24, 2012

Under the Volcano (1)

Camera Trap Spring is going to look a lot different the next time that I visit.

I have "war gamed" this fire in my head a lot of times. Usually the scenario has me doing structure protection on a nearby county road, which is indeed what happened.

So I did not have time for more than a quick grab shot from the driveway of the house where I was stationed.

Always knew that that heavily timbered little valley, full of blown-down trees, would burn like a volcano when it finally did.

I doubt that the guardian of the spring would have survived a fire this hot.

July 30, 2012

More Photographic Oddness at Camera Trap Spring

As previously mentioned, I switched scout cameras on June 15th at Camera Trap Spring, replacing the previous bear-damaged (but productive) camera with one that was (a) heavier-built and (b) of less value.

Bottom opening lacks cover.
Today, after five and a half weeks, M. and I went to check it. It is an 80 or 90-minute round-trip hike from the house, pretty aerobic, and when the temperatures were in the mid-90s F., we just did not feel like going up there.

Tapping like a blind man with my walking stick to alert the "guardian of the spring" — the rattlesnake that was there in May and June — I approached the site.

The spring was dry — no surprise. We saw no snake.

The camera was all right  . . . no, something was missing.  The grey plastic cover of the infra-red detector was gone. I found it lying in the pine duff with an indentation that looked like a claw mark. There were faint scratches on the camera body.

Obviously a bear had given it a light tap.

I brought it home. There were something like 689 images, all recorded between June 19th and July 3rd.

Bull elk in velvet checking the spring, June 29, 2012.

There was one clear animal picture — this elk — but none of the bear.

The camera had been making a picture every one to four minutes from early afternoon until early evening, every day. Made for an interesting time-lapse slide show.

I suspect that the bear knocked the IR sensor cover off early. The cover, made of flexible plastic, has mini-fresnel lenses molded into its inner side, which would, I assume, focus infra-red radiation onto the sensor.

The camera started responding simply to heat reflecting off the forest floor on the hot afternoons and shot photo after photo until its 512 MB memory card was full. That's my hypothesis.

June 15, 2012

First, Let's Get the Spooky Stuff Out of the Way

Camera Trap Spring (my name for it) is a tiny seasonal spring on some BLM land up and over a ridge behind our house — about a 40-minute scramble.

Teddy, why are you here?
It produces good scout-camera photos, but there is something spooky about the little bowl where it sits. Whether hunting, hiking, or whatever, I always feel a little on edge when walking up there.

Over the years, meanwhile, it has built up a wealth of associations. M. and I were walking back from there in 2011 when a forest fire blew up across the valley, forcing us to evacuate our home.

Today, the air smelled faintly smoky, probably from the Little Sand Fire.

In 2010, it was the scene of the "CSI: Camera Trap Spring" episode.

I put a camera up there earlier this spring, got a few images, then got busy in May and never switched out the data card or replaced the rechargeable C-cells, which are only good for two weeks at the most.

So we went back today. After the rattlesnake incident in May, we left Fisher the Chessie at home.

On the way up the ridge, M. spotted a foot. It looked like a house cat's front leg, actually. Whoever eats kitties — a fox? — often leaves the feet.

Then coming down into the bowl, I saw what looked like a brown furry pelt on the ground. I poked it with my walking stick, flipped it over — and it was a teddy bear.

Half a mile from the nearest house, thick brush and woods — how did it get there? Matted plush showed that it had been carried in slobbering jaws by the head and the back.

We started joking about Nearsighted Fox, who brought a plush toy home to her kits.

Approaching the spring, I tapped forcefully on the ground with my stick. Snake, watch out!

DIdn't see it.

The camera, meanwhile, was face-down on the ground. Someone ursine had smacked it hard enough to break the plastic brackets on the back, causing it to fall from its strap, which was still attached to a pine tree.

But I had brought another camera, which (a) I am not sentimentally attached to and (b) which uses eight alkaline D-cells, meaning that it will run for months and months.

There lay the camera on the ground.
Also I had brought a trowel to clear out the spring — but it had shrunk down to just a damp patch of soil under its overhanging rock. I decided to reach in and enlarge the tiny basin anyway.

About that time I heard a rustling in the dried oak leaves. I'm sure I said something eloquent like, "Shit, the snake!"

M. says I made a good jump backwards.

It was only four feet away — but it was on the move, not preparing to strike.

I must have looked right at it. Rattlesnake — the original digital camouflage. Why doesn't someone market that?

We finished the camera set up and came back. Teddy went into M's pack and has now been washed.

And there were lots of photos on the knocked-down camera, one of which made my day.

More to come.

May 17, 2012

Don't Tread on Me

Western rattlesnake (Crotalis viridis) peers from the oak brush at the spring.

Two snake posts in a row. I did not plan on that. M. and I decided to hike up to Camera Trap Spring, about 35 minutes from the house, to replace the batteries in the camera there. (Rechargeable C cells seem good for ten days maximum.)

We brought Fisher the Chesapeake Bay retriever with us, thus introducing the element of random anxiety and chaos that he always adds to any experience.

Once he disappeared into the brush and came back carrying some dog's squeaky toy. How did that get up on the ridge? Did a fox bring it up there?

At the spring, I was packing up the old batteries, etc., sitting on the ground, when M. started screaming at the dog.

I jumped up, saw that he was prancing around something by the spring, saw that it was a snake — I was moving toward him — thought it was a bull snake like the one yesterday — saw the rattles — somehow leapt around the snake and grabbed his collar.

We looked him over. He did not seem to have been bitten, nor had he yelped. So M. held him while I took pictures of the snake, well-camouflaged in the dappled light of the forest floor. We had walked within six feet of it ourselves.

It was between two and three feet long. Maybe it found the spring to be a good hunting place for small mammals, and since it had not struck Fisher, perhaps it had a belly full of deer mouse or wood rat and had felt somewhat lethargic.

It is more than three hours later now, and since he does not look like this, he was one lucky dog.

As for photos, none were good enough for the blog, but a bear had been there. I think that I need to re-position the camera, so I will need to go back, doglessly.

May 10, 2011

Where the Elk Go to Nap

On the morning of April 22, I went to place a camera at Camera Trap Spring, which I had been leaving alone since last summer's bear-versus-camera incident.

With the dry year that we have have experienced, the little spring was dry. But nearby I saw a place that looked like an elk bedding spot. It certainly was. Later that same afternoon a sleepy bull elk arrived.
A bull elk with antlers in velvet (tip barely visible) decides to lie down for a nap.
Ah, now he is comfortable.
Then his buddy decides to step in front of the camera.
Unfortunately, the second elk decided to rub against the tree to which the camera was strapped. I got several photos of his butt. His rubbing pushed the camera around so that it faced a useless direction and captured no more photos.

I retrieved the camera on April 29, even as smoke from the Sand Gulch Fire—on the edge of exploding beyond its "containment"—was blowing overhead.

Although the terrain is rough, these elk are fairly close to some homes as the crow flies. They are spending the day in a thick stand of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir.

June 06, 2010

CSI: Camera Trap Spring

"This is kind of creepy," said M., looking at the forest floor around her.

The ponderosa pine-needle duff was scraped and gouged as though a wrestling match had taken place.

More seriously, my game camera was no longer strapped to the big pine where I had left it. The battery compartment door was over there, the main control-panel cover somewhere else, and the silver C-size batteries gleamed in the underbrush.

Best of all, the camera body itself was in the spring. So was its nylon mounting strap.

Something there is that does not love a camera--other than grumpy movie stars. We reviewed three possible culprits:

1. Bear. The torn-up ground, the muddiness of the camera, a paw print near the spring, and the general destructiveness suggested Ma or Pa Bruin. Plus I had gotten bear pictures at the same spring on May 26.

2. Human. Someone had unbuckled the strap. On the other hand, a hostile human would have likely just taken the camera--or picked up a stone and smashed it to ruin the electronics. Or shot it with a gun.

3. Bigfoot. Just in case we ruled out numbers 1 and 2.

 But hurray for secure digital (SD) cards. At home I pulled the card from the camera, wiped the mud off with alcohol, and downloaded 51 images.

Here are the highlights:

The three foxes were back on the morning of June 2.

(One is drinking from the spring in the shadows at the left edge.)

Just after noon the same day, a bull elk in velvet came to the spring.

Around 10 a.m. on June 3, something knocks the camera askew. Here is the probable culprit.

Two minutes later, someone is back--or had never left.

Then four hours later, around 2:30, the camera captures a shot of a brown ear, a total white-out as though something blocked the lens, and then this bear cub walking away.

A minute later, Mama Bruin comes back. Maybe she is getting annoyed now?

At 3:15 p.m., mama and cub depart. It looks as though the adult bear waded into the spring up to its elbows and then sat in it, since its hindquarters are muddy and there is no other open water nearby.

But wait! Let's smack the camera around some more! This photo was followed by others of the camera pointing 180° from its original position, and up towards the tree tops.

A bear--presumably the same one--came back around 7:35 p.m. In this photo you can see brown fur to the left.

At 7:38 the camera was being knocked around again. (Was this when the bear unbuckled the mounting strap?) For ten more minutes, the passive infrared detector was still being triggered, although the photos were only of tree tops.

And at some point it was "disemboweled," its batteries came out, and it was deposited in the spring. There it lay for three days until we returned for it.

No, it does not seem to work. The case is water-resistant, but there is a limit to that. And the clear plastic disk covering the lens appears to have been bitten.