Saturday, March 31, 2012

Drinking from the Firehose

I'd have to say that the first thing I truly learned about camera trapping is that there's A LOT to learn about camera trapping.

The ole "just strap the byatch on a tree and see what shows up" strategy only gets you so far.

And then you run out of trees.

It was about that phase of my journey that I had the opportunity to join the Camera Trap Codger on a trip to the Chimineas Ranch. And thus started drinking directly from the firehose of cam trapping knowledge.

You see, aside from being a brilliant naturalist and storyteller, the Codger also happens to be Chris Wemmer, PhD Mammalogist, Fellow with the California Academy of Sciences, Scientist Emeritus with the Smithsonian National Museum, and one of the country's leading authorities on the method, having cam trapped and taught it all over the world for both institutions.

So why am I gushing on the Codge?

Because he won't, and because you too can drink from the firehose. For the Codger is once again giving his summer week-long workshop on camera trapping, at the lovely and oh-so-laid-back San Francisco State University Sierra Nevada Field Campus.

And if you're interested in camera trapping, I highly recommend it.

Not only do you get a week of the Codge's hands-on cam trapping curriculum, you also get to hang out and explore a stunning part of Northern California - for the campus sits on the Yuba River, near the pass, in the Tahoe National Forest.

As for that coursework, it includes the tech, set and scene design, general mammal and bird trapping, species targeting, large-scale surveying, and mucho storytelling and knowledge swapping - you name it, he covers it, and/or is more than happy to dive into any aspect further if you have specific needs/interests. A major benefit of small classes and lots of 1:1 time.

You'll also spend a bunch of time getting field experience (i.e, you're gonna get stinky), both around the campus and the beautiful beyonds. But Codger and curriculum are good for all activity levels - non-hikers can hang at campus and explore and cam trap that fine area.

I.e., lots of depth, but also relaxed, low-key and informal. And with a class of about a dozen that'll include a full and fun array of amateurs, naturalists, wildlife photographers, biology students and professional biologists.

Lodging is also easy - you can tent camp around campus and use the facilities, rent one of their large platform tents (with beds inside), or stay at any of the local campgrounds, cabins, etc.

For food, you can bring your own, or enjoy the campus dining hall, where the collegial staff serves 3 good, simple squares with an SF flair.

There will also be 2 other great workshops going on at same time, with a couple dozen other nature geeks to cross-pollinate with - this year's will be Medicinal and Edible Wild Plants, and Field Sketching in the Range of Light (by the amazing John Muir Laws).

And if you wanna explore, there's many local hotspots - Marble Hot Springs Road for birding and flora, Gold Lake and the Lakes Basin for hiking and flora, Deadman Lake, Haskell Peak...

I'll shut up now and just show the pics.

a lesson in the woods big firs

bog by campus chaparral hill

deadman peak in the distance deadman lake & peak

looking back down the elusive haskell peak

the view

Some of the characters I cam trapped around campus...

pine marten


bear cub



          black-headed grosbeak

And some of the amazing native flora and fauna we found while in the field...

perfect pardalinumsmonks!big and fragrant

little rubber boamacrodactylum = long toes

camas lilyelephants!snow plant

bog orchidgiant mountain larkspurthe scarlet frit

bach's calicoflowergolden-mantled eating fungi

pine dropsscarlet giliapinesap

July 22-27. A week in the Sierra Nevada, with fun, like-minded folk, and a world-class Professor.

For natural science geeks, that's practically Utopia.

And even if you can't go this year, keep it in your head, and shout about it to folks you think would be interested.


randomtruth, aka RT, aka Ken
Journeyman instigator, California Camera Trapper's Society (some day...)




  1. Wow. I knew he offered a course, but of course, like you said, he's modest. Thanks for sharing the amazing experience to be had. I wish I had the time this summer to fly out for the week. But, I will be camera-trapping myself all summer whereever I end up!

  2. This is a great write up, and I just wanted to add my full agreement. The course was a really wonderful experience. Much more than a simple class on a tool, it was an eye opener to the whole experience - a real reinforcement/reminder of what is so fun about basic field biology. And of course the location, the instructor, assistant instructor (RandomTruth, the Codger isn't the only one who isn't great at giving himself due props!), and taking a class with like minded folks is definitely a worthwhile adventure.


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