Sunday, March 23, 2014

Almost Out Weaseled

Over the last year I've been experimenting with a couple of homebrew cam traps that do HD video.

And as I've gotten to know them, I noticed that even when set to take 30 second videos, they'd occasionally take really short ones instead. 1 second, or 2, and even fractions of seconds.

Then I had that dumb "aha!" moment - I noticed it only happened when the cams ran out of batteries in the field. I.e., they were from the last gasps of nearly dead batteries on the threshold of being able to power the camera.

Here's how:
  • animal walks in front of camera and gets detected by the motion-sensor
  • controller turns on the video cam, which powers up and starts shooting footage
  • the power up and video mode quickly draw the weak batteries down, and the camera automatically goes into its "batteries low, shutting down..." mode.

But once off, after a bit of rest, or perhaps after getting cold, the batteries can come back up a little in voltage. And thus the short video triggering can happen multiple times over multiple days, as the batteries bounce above and below the threshold.

And while that sounds frustrating, I just learned that you can sometimes get a glimpse of goodness on one of those final days - that a truly dead camera might otherwise have missed.

Such as this masked mustelid that popped out of an old badger burrow in the Santa Cruz Mountains during one of these HD video cam trap's last 1.4 second gasps:



Here are 3 stills from the vid:

weasel

weasel

weasel

The other possibility: this particular cam trap is allergic to cute.

But in either case, I think I'm going to use a bigger battery.

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10 comments:

  1. Weasels are so sneaky-clever, they only use long-abandoned badger digs and only pose in front of battery-drained cam traps. "Weasel Smart" sounds like a good name for new battery technology. I have lots of questions about how long a cam needs to be in front of a seemingly abandoned burrow and if location of such burrow (such as near shrub or forest edge) makes a difference for subsequent wildlife visits and use. Also how far back from burrow to set the cam to avoid glare-out at night yet false triggers against sky during day . . . looking forward to more of your burrow posts.

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    1. I have lots of questions too. Glad we're now starting to get answers. And yes, I do think some scrub here-and-there increases their likelihood and the general regional biodiversity.

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  2. Good-lookin'! Striking color, too.

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  3. He looks surprisingly big sitting up like that.

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  4. Awesome capture. I just had a major camera malfunction. You commented on my entry where I wrote about my fisher sighting. I wrote that I set up a Bushnell there for about 3 weeks. Just went and checked it and the camera took pictures every 2 seconds and ate up the battery in the first 6 hours. 396 pictures of NOTHING!!! Thankfully, my friend had his cam nearby and got great shots of the fisher that I knew would be back. I had such a great setup, and I got skunked. Not figuratively!

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    1. Cam trappers blues, Alyssa. Glad your friend got the capture, though. However, now they'll forever rub it in...

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  5. Wow, nice. I really like the facial markings with the weird white patch on the forehead. I'd love to see more of these guys.

    We only have the one weasel species down here and its not very common. It looks like a small skunk or very small honey badger (black and white).

    Are weasels rare in your neck of the woods as well? Are they more common in other parts of the country?

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    1. The "weasel" family is well represented here in North America, with a broad range of animals, from weasels to martens to badgers to fishers and wolverines. In California we just have a couple of species named "weasel" and while they are widespread, they are not commonly seen. So I'd consider them rare, but by special status standards are not considered so. But they also never stay still, so I've only caught them on cam trap a few times.

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  6. It looks like it's wearing a white bindi. It's its third eye. A badger burrow seems awfully spacious for such a small animal.

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    Replies
    1. I'd guess it's hunting the burrow for other potential residents, rather than taking up. Although they may transiently sleep in such burrows as they range.

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