All Talk, No Action

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks weather-wise and wildlife-wise.

  • A few nights ago, a great horned owl was hooting behind our garage. I told my wife that they eat skunks, which would mean fewer skunks in the area to spray our dog. Also, our trail camera has picked up two cottontail rabbits regularly. I was hopeful that the owl would make an attempt for one of those rabbits within sight of the camera.
  • A few days ago, a small hawk (cooper’s? sharp-shinned?) swooped overhead twice while I was walking the dog.
  • Last week, I treed six turkeys while walking the dog. In the past, they’ve gone in the direction of our trail camera.
  • Two nights ago, a pack of coyotes woke us up howling at 2:30 AM. The sound was coming from the direction of our trail camera. We were hopeful that they would happen by it. I was at least hopeful that their howling would trigger the camera to record the sound.
  • Every day, we hear a red tailed hawk screech multiple times.

As I approached the camera this morning, the trail was loaded with fresh track and droppings. So imagine my surprise when I checked the camera and found only 17 videos even though it had been 12 days since I last checked it and we had seen and heard so much wildlife.

What were the videos?

  • A skunk! So much for that hopes for the owl. I didn’t both posting the video because it’s not a good one. He’s only on screen for about three seconds.
  • The sound of blue jays squawking set off the camera twice. This happens about once per week.
  • One video from when the sounds of a few song birds triggered the camera.
  • The wind.
  • A couple of videos where the animal that set off the camera had just walked by. This is a valuable lesson for me. I need take a page out of my dad’s playbook and position the camera to point down the main trail rather than being perpendicular to it. That way I’ll catch animals walking toward or away from the camera for a much longer time.
  • A few deer videos, but mostly just of a doe and a skipper, and they were all from Thursday.

That’s it. No coyote videos. No rabbit videos! No squirrel videos (I usually have several, but with the deep snow we had, it’s not too surprising that they weren’t near the camera.) No turkey videos (a little surprising) or owl videos (not surprising). I’m stunned that there were no rabbit videos. There are usually about four of those per week.

Here’s the only decent video. It’s of a doe and skipper walking away from our house just before sunset on Thursday; minutes before Michelle walked the dog.

I decided to pull the camera to take it to my dad’s house so he could look at that broken latch lock (which I surprisingly found on the ground) that I wrote about in my last post. When I come back from his house, I’ll put the camera back up pointing down the trail.

~ Tony

Storm’s a Comin’

After my last post, Matt had suggested that I only check the camera once per month to keep my scent down. This one time at least, I decided not to follow his advice for a few reasons:

  • I was scheduled to go away on a 10-day trip, and I was concerned about the batteries dying.
  • The camera is only 75 yards from my driveway (a fact that I failed to mention to Matt), which means that any deer that smells me on that camera can smell me while I’m standing in my driveway too. It’s not as though I’m messing up my stand site, which is 475 yards from my driveway.
  • Last Thursday, we got hit with a foot of snow. I knew that the deer would have been out in full force before the storm to fill their bellies before hunkering down for snow-ma-geddon.

So I checked the camera this weekend. It was a comedy of errors and a bit tragic. First, I put the key in the lock that protects someone from opening the latch to steal the SD card. The lock had snow and ice on it, of course. When I turned the key, the locking mechanism didn’t turn. Instead, the whole lock twisted and easily snapped the plastic loop that allows the latch to be locked before I even realized what happened.

Broken Latch Lock Holder

Broken Latch Lock Holder

It turns out that I was right about the batteries. They were so low that the camera didn’t even take a video of my dog Bear bounding in front of the camera.

As I started to put the new batteries in, they all fell into the foot of snow at the base of the tree. This happened multiple times. I struggled with them for so long that Bear started to lose her patience with me.

Bear Getting Bored

Bear Getting Bored

Between the cold and the snow, I decided that unlocking the camera from the tree and bringing it home to replace the batteries would be a better course of action, but I couldn’t even open that lock; it was frozen solid.

Eventually I got the batteries in, and brought the SD card home. Luckily, the videos were worth the effort. They were full of surprises.

First, a doe with half of her right ear missing.

Then a fork horn that still has its antlers in February!

Then, there were two videos of a buck that had shed his antlers.

To the surprise of no one, a whole heard of deer walked by the camera the morning of the storm, just before the snow started to fly. This is just one of several videos of them passing the camera in both directions.

There were the usual videos of cottontail rabbits, gray squirrels, and blue jays.

And finally, my favorite video of the bunch is this one of a deer’s breath in the cold air.

~ Tony

The Fisher King

We got just over an inch of snow this morning, and I was home for the day due to a doctor’s appointment. When I went into the backyard with the dog, I immediately noticed some fox tracks coming from behind my shed towards the road, and then returning from the road back around the other side of the shed.

Fox Tracks

Fox Tracks

Fox tracks are easy to identify because they are almost always in a nearly straight line.

I then took the opportunity to check the trail camera. I was excited that there were fresh deer tracks right in front of the camera, but I was surprised that there were only two sets of tracks, what appeared to be a doe and a skipper.

Doe and Skipper Tracks

Doe and Skipper Tracks

Why had they separated from the heard that came by last week?

When I checked the camera, there were 37 videos:

  • 4 of animals walking behind the camera in the dark (the sound set off the camera)
  • 1 of the doe and skipper
  • 1 of me checking the camera
  • 1 of blue jays, including one that landed on the camera and shook it
  • all the rest were of gray squirrels, except…
  • 1 of a fisher

Welcome to the neighborhood, Fisher King.

~ Tony