Friday, November 21, 2014

Hoping for Springs Eternal

While the amazing, adorable pygmy rabbits don't need water to drink or bathe, as we all know, most animals do.

And, as we've been learning the hard way in California, drought years can make even the smallest of perennial sources precious to locals.

Such as this mere puddle of a forest seep along a dry creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

3 shades of gray
Foxy family - aka "3 shades of gray"

The first time I set the cam, the batteries lasted 2 weeks, took 900 photos, and caught 14 species.

Busy place.

When I refreshed the cam, it added 3 species, but only lasted a week and took 530 photos.

Band-tailed pigeon taking a bath

Why did the second round last 1/2 the time? And near 1/2 the shots?

Turns out the lower sun angle during the second round caused the forest to be just dark enough to trigger the flash for both night and day shots.

Scrub jay

Steller's jay

Causing the shorter battery life through more flash usage.

Lesson learned.


flicker and tanager
Northern flicker and western tanager

The camera shifted a little between rounds 1 and 2, but the distance and crops are the same.

Allowing size comparisons of the local squirrels, for example, which can be useful for species ID.

western gray squirrel
Western gray squirrel with that distinctive bushy & silvery tail

fox squirrel
Eastern fox squirrel - an introduced non-native

Merriam's chipmunk blending into the bay leaves

Or to compare a western screech owl to those squirrels, and a passing mouse.

Western screech owl having a bath at 4am

Brush or California mouse passing through (upper right)

And do a head and nub count of the local ladies and their summer kids.

doe and fawn
Doe and daughter

doe and fawn
Different doe and nubby son

And appreciate the local skunks - remotely.

Striped skunk sans scent

But jokes about Pepe aside, it's mid-size mammals, with short legs and smaller home ranges (and no wings), such as skunks and foxes, that are most reliant on these local sources.

They can't easily "leg it" miles to the next nearest source, as might deer, lions and coyotes.

So, let's hope for enough rain to recharge our water tables, reservoirs, wells & springs eternal.

For the skunks. The ones in the wild - and the folks that had to give up their regular baths and smell like them.



  1. Just north of you on 11/20/14, Thursday, we had good I hope that puddle has been renewed by some rain of late.

    1. Yes, the recent rains have come in time for this season. But much more is needed to recharge for next summer.

  2. So that's what screech-owls do at 4am... I've always wondered. The foxes are the best.

    1. And at 2am, 3am and 5am. The prissy lil WESO came to bathe every few nights.

  3. Did you know your doe and fawn photo is missing?

    I love all the watering hole pics you've done. It's like the equivalent of a UV light for moths, or an isolated nectar patch for butterflies. It draws in the critters like crazy.

    That low sun was a surprise for me, too, when my favorite regular canyon trail was in shade before noon ('course the time change didn't help, either).

    1. I think the missing photo was a flickr glitch. All seems fine now.

      Yes, I too love focal points. More on that and from this location in the next post. :)

  4. Aw, what GREAT photographs. SO exciting to see that owl, and the adorable mouse.

    When my hen free ranges I have a pie dish on the back porch with water for her (2 if it's hot, so 1=wading pool). I USED to empty the dish out at night to NOT attract raccoons 'cause they are GREAT at getting into coops & killing chickens. However, this year, this droughty, insanely dry year, I stopped emptying the water out. And that's led to much entertainment for the (indoor) cats, including a fox that's apparently adopted us. Delightful. =)

    1. Nice of you to be a friend to the foxes. Hopefully they'll spend more time chasing rodents than bothering your chickens.

  5. Now that I see your image, I think that might have been a screech owl I caught in my Mt. Tam puddle a couple of times. Got one fox drinking from it. With all the birds bathing in it, and not being too careful about whether they pooped in it, I figure wildlife has a stronger stomach than I do. When I dug out the puddle at one point to make it deeper, the smell was pretty foul. Anyway, I have got to get your class list to find out how to make a camera trap more like yours. Why they don't make off-the-shelf versions that produce clean images is beyond me.


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