Sunday, October 07, 2012

Backyard visitor

Backyard visitor

A doe and her fawn have become almost daily visitors to my back yard.  There is another doe with twin fawns in the area, but I haven't seen them lately.  A neighbor tells me they are up at his place.  Here the little guy (or gal) is eating what is left of some zucchini plants left from this summer's garden.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fun with a fox

I went out to play with a predator call yesterday.  Actually it was the 4th time this week.  Deer/bear season opens this weekend, and I wanted a little woods time ahead of the hunters.  The first 3 times I couldn't call in so much as a blue jay, but the 4th time was a charm.

Sorry about the jiggles, but I hardly had time to get set up before Bear saw it and spooked it off.  The funny part of the whole deal was the fox wouldn't leave.  Gray fox can be that way.  Once they are convinced there is a rabbit there somewhere they hate to give up on it.  This fox stayed back in the trees where I couldn't get the camera on it again and barked at me.  As long as I continued to call the fox continued to bark at me.  I tried being quiet for awhile, and the fox was quiet.  As soon as I tried to call it back again it would bark at me.  This went on for quite awhile until I conceded it was a stand off.  At least I know he's still out there, and I'll probably call him again sometime.   

Friday, August 31, 2012



Yesterday I was over on Quartz Hill, across the little valley where I live.  This photo was taken looking back across Quartz Valley toward home.  Yes, there is a mountain over there - somewhere.  The fire isn't anyhere near home.  The smoke is coming from the Seiad/Happy Camp area, on the other side of the Marble Mountains from here, but we are getting our share of the smoke.  The last I heard, some homes in the Seiad area were under orders of manditory evacuation. 

While I was over on "the hill" I set up a couple of calling stands, but didn't have any critter responce.  I saw a small bear track in the dusty road, and a pile of scat where it had been eating manzanita berries, but that was all of interest that I saw.  I haven't been getting out much lately, just trying to get caught up on chores around home, but small game season opens in another week.  I'll start prowling around more then.  It sure feels like an early fall.

Saturday, August 04, 2012



A new batch of chicks just out of the nest.  I'm sorely in need of some replacements.  With all the varmint trouble I've had this year, I'm down to a bare minimum of chickens.  Hopefully most of these will turn out to be hens, but with my kind of luck the whole darned bunch will be roosters!  The hen was setting on a mixed batch of eggs, some of which didn't hatch, but it looks like most of these are Araucana with a couple of Cornish thrown in.

I only have 2 other hens laying right now.  If one of them will get broody I'll see if I can beg, borrow, or steal some eggs from someone to slip under her.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Another chicken thief down.


I would have bet it was a coyote, but this is what came to the call.

This has been a bad year for my birds.  First it was a skunk that was stealing eggs right out from under a setting hen, then broke into the pigeon coop and killed 8 squabs and an adult bird.  Now a fox that was set on killing every chicken on the place.  Came pretty close to doing it too!  I have a hen setting on eggs, so hopefully she can raise some replacements. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Damn I hate a thief!

What I was afraid might happen did.  I saddled Sis today and went up on the hill to collect my trail camera.  It's gone!  Both trail bike and ATV tracks up there.  Guess who ever found it didn't think I wanted it anymore.  Can't leave anything out in the woods these days, no matter how secluded you think the place might be. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The bee hives


A little over a month ago a neighbor at a ranch down the road set out some bee hives.  He recently told me that he is having bear trouble already.  The hives are surrounded by a wire fence with a strand of hot wire (electric) along the top.  Really not much of a deterrent to a determined bear, but I doubt there can be much honey stored away in those hives this soon.  But then I really don’t know an awfully lot about bees and their hives myself.  At any rate, I thought this might be a dandy spot for the trail cam.  I left it for a week as I have been doing, and picked it up this afternoon.  In that time the camera had only been tripped 3 times.  The only useable photo is this one of a deer on the outside of the wire fence.  There was another photo in which I couldn’t see anything, but the accompanying video shows a deer back in the deep shade.  It is so dark that I wouldn’t have seen it even then if it hadn’t moved.  No bears.  I may try there again at another time if I hear from the rancher that a bear has been back, but in the meantime I have other places in mind where I want to leave the camera.  

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Still learning

This morning I went back up the mountain to collect the trail camera that I had left a week ago.  I’m obviously still learning how to best position the camera for the best results.  The cam was strapped to a root of an old down tree, aimed right up an old logging spur that is no longer used.  I assumed that any animals in the area would be walking up or down the old road.  There was still the possibility of animals crossing the road, but this didn’t take into account animals crossing very close to the camera.  Unlike sitting on a calling stand with a camera at the ready, there is no way to reposition the trail cam to cover the action.  Live and learn!

The first thing I learned was that some of my supposedly secluded spots aren’t as secluded as I thought they were.  The experience with the guy using a metal detector should have taught me that.  This time I had another visitor. Bike rider

The camera was tripped a couple of times where no animals were visible in the still photos.  Watching the videos, I believe it was caused by wind blowing vegetation; weeds, leaves, etc.  Then I got a night time blurred shot of a deer crossing in front of the camera.  Call it a near miss.  The video didn’t pick it up at all. IR deer

Another near miss, but as least I came close to capturing the kind of wildlife I was hoping for.  You may have to kick the video up to full screen to make it out, but very near the tail end of the clip the back of a bear can be seen as it crossed the road very close to the camera.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My day today

The day sure got off to a crummy start.  Bright and early this morning, actually before daylight, I was jarred awake by a ruckus the chickens were making.  My first thought was COYOTE.  I lost a rooster to a coyote a week or so ago.  No doubt about who the culprit was.  A neighbor saw it run across the field with the bird in its mouth.  Pretty conclusive evidence.  By the time I got out there this morning, the damage had been done.  I had 2 setting hens brooding eggs, and something had pulled a raid.  I had already lost 1 nest this spring, but this was different.  On that first nest, something would steal 1 egg at a time, a few days apart.  This time both nests had been cleaned out.  A couple of broken eggs left in the nest, but the rest were gone.  It looks like if I want to raise some replacement chicks I’m going to have to buy them and raise them myself.

Fast forward a little while, daylight now, and I looked out the window to see a deer in the yard eating the leaves off a young peach tree.  Having run her off, I scattered some grain for the chickens.  A little earlier than the usual feeding time, but 2 hens were missing.  I didn’t see any obvious bunches of feathers scattered around as if a kill had been made, so I still had hopes that the missing birds would show up.  Nothing more I could do for now, so I loaded Bear in the truck and went up on the mountain to play for awhile.

I let Bear run up the road for a little exercise, then parked the truck and walked to one of my calling spots.  I made my usual setup; me on a folding stool, video camera on a tripod, and Bear tied to a tree next to me.  There were a few trees behind me to break up my outline, and I was looking up an old abandoned logging road and a clear cut.  I selected a mouth blown call from the few in my pack. 

Predator calls, Several different types of mouth blown predator calls.

I had been calling for just a few minutes when Bear jumped up at full attention.  He was looking behind me.  I swiveled around in time to see a bear there in the timber.  Bear let out a roar, and that was the end of that.  There was the sound of breaking limbs, and the bear was gone.  Just a typical example of why I like to have the big guy watching my back!  There are larger critters than coyotes and foxes in these mountains that sometimes come to a screaming predator call.  At any rate, it made my day.  I gathered up my gear and left the trail cam there, strapped to a root of an old fallen tree.  I’ll go back for it in a week or so and see if it caught any action.

We went on to another spot and tried calling again, but without results.  There were signs of quite a bit of deer activity there, and this should be a good place to set up the trail cam at another time.  It was getting pretty hot by this time, so I found a shady spot to eat lunch then poked along home.

Feeding time this evening, and no further doubt about it.  I’m missing 2 hens.  I talked with a couple of neighbors who have seen the coyote, or coyotes.  One said he was watering his garden a few days ago, and a coyote walked past within 10 or 15 feet of him.  Bold as you please!  Another has a couple of little Dachshund dogs, and he has seen a coyote running back and forth along the fence where the dogs are.  They told me of another neighbor who saw a coyote trying to get into his goat pen.  Of course no one had a gun handy at the time.  Since I lost 2 chickens at the same time this morning, I’d say there is more than 1 coyote involved.  Needless to say, everyone has an itchy trigger finger right now!  


Monday, May 14, 2012

A surprise and a puzzle

A little over a week ago I headed out with the intention of setting up the trail camera again.  The spot I had in mind is one of my good calling locations.  It is a short walk from an old road, but well off the beaten path.  I have called gray fox and deer from this spot many times, and possibly a bobcat or two.  I have found lion (cougar) scratch marks and scat there a few times, so I thought this would be a good place to leave the camera for a few days.  When I parked the truck and got out, the first thing I saw was a fresh pile of bear scat.

I walked the ridge top to my calling spot, and as usual I first tried calling with a predator call for a few minutes.  Nothing showed up, so I next walked around the area looking for any fresh sign that might be there.  Nothing fresh, so I strapped the camera to a tree and Bear and I went back to the truck to share a sandwich.  Yesterday I went back for the trail cam with high hopes that it had captured something.  What I found was totally unexpected.

I walked to the calling stand, and as before tried calling for awhile.  Again nothing showed up, so I took my little walk around the area.  I found some strange markings on the ground that had me puzzled.  In several places the ground had been roughed up, almost like a ground squirrel or some other critter had been digging and taken a dust bath, but much larger.  The marks were almost a circle, about 3 feet in diameter, and in half a dozen places.  The ground was littered with pine needles except for the dust in those places, and no tracks were visible.  I knew for certain that those marks had not been there the week before when I left the camera.  Very strange, but the camera was still strapped to the tree where I had left it, and I hoped it held the answer to the puzzle.  A quick check told me that it had been triggered multiple times, so I took it home where I could plug it into the computer and see just what I had.

As I said, this spot is well off the beaten path.  My biggest concern about leaving the camera out for a week or more is that someone might find it and walk off with it.  I don’t think I will leave it out when deer season is open and there are lots of people prowling around in the woods, but I didn’t give it a second thought when I left the camera at this location.  Not at this time of the year anyway.  After all, who but a crazy predator caller with a camera would be out there?  Maybe an occasional deer hunter during season, but that is months away.  As I found out, someone else had a reason to be there; and the trail cam had the answer to those strange marks on the ground.

A man, unknown to me, had walked to that spot and been all over the immediate area just as I had.  The camera took several still photos of him, but he is no one I recognize.  He had a walking stick, and carried something over his shoulder.  It looked sort of like a shovel, but not a shovel.  The video from the camera is pretty dark (in the shade), but he was using that object to go over the ground and was actually sort of digging with it.  Now I knew what had left those marks on the ground.  I looked hard at the several video clips that the camera had taken, and finally found one that showed what the object was.  A METAL DECTECTOR!

I still have no idea who that fellow was or what he was looking for.  He was obviously searching for something, and right there in that area.  Maybe he had been there at some time in the past and lost something.  Beats the heck out of me, but at least the riddle of the roughed out circles on the ground had been answered.

The camera had been triggered a few more times, twice in the daytime, and once at night; but try as I might I can’t find anything in the still photos or video.  I think it must be passing birds that trigger the motion sensor. 


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Trail cam - first run

A week ago I took the new trail cam out for its first official test drive.  I walked to a spot behind a local ranch that we call the bone pile.  If anything dies on the ranch the owners haul it back there and leave it for the varmints to clean up.  I thought I might find a fresh bait to set the camera over.  Apparently nothing died on the ranch over the winter.  Good for the rancher, but no fresh bait for me.  I sat down on a log and took a mouth blown predator call from my pocket.  After just a couple of minutes of calling I saw a coyote sneaking through the timber.  I looked around a little and found some old bear scat.  Bears are out of hibernation now, and they regularly check these places where they have found food in the past.  I left the camera there, strapped to a tree.

Yesterday I went back for the camera which had been out for a week.  I could tell that it had been triggered several times, so I brought it home so I could view the images on the computer.  This black tail doe looks like she must have had a hard winter.  She isn’t in very good shape.

The camera was set to take 1 still photo followed by 15 seconds of video.

I got a night time still shot of a blurred coyote.  He must have been moving right along as the video missed him entirely.


There was another badly blurred image that I think is another coyote, but it’s really hard to tell.  There was also another photo of a deer, but it was barely within the frame and cut its head off.  The camera made several more exposures, but I can’t see anything there.  Maybe it was triggered by a passing bird, or just movement of tree branches due to wind.  There were several windy days last week.  So that’s it for the first time out for the trail cam.  Nothing spectacular, but at least I didn’t get a blank.  I’m heavy into spring chores now, so it will be awhile before I get a chance to set the cam out again.  I have several different places in mind.    

Monday, March 26, 2012

My new toy


I've been bitten by a bug!  I've been reading an interesting blog lately by a fellow in Australia.  I'm intrigued by that country in general, and by the wildlife and Aboriginal people in particular.  Lately this fellow (Dave) has been posting some photos and video clips taken with a trail cam set up out in the bush.  Photos and video of kangaroos and wallabies.  Fantastic!  Well, the bug bit me.  Of course trail cams have been around for awhile, but I've never owned one.  The results from older models I have seen were unimpressive, but they have come a long way since then.  I just had to try one.  I've had it in my hands for a few days now, and for a first trial run I set it up in my back yard.

I had no expectation of digitally capturing any wildlife, but I have a flock of free ranging chickens and a flock of pigeons that would do for test subjects.  Yesterday I strapped the camera to a clothes line pole in the yard and set it to take still photos.  It is set to take 2 still photos about 5 seconds apart, then pause and reset itself after a minute.  The photo at the top of this post is the result.  The original was a little dark, and not as sharp as a photo taken with one of my still cameras, but I was able to correct both problems with an editing program.

Today I put the camera out in the yard again, but this time set to record video.  I set it to record 15 seconds of video, but I can increase that to 30 seconds if I want to.  As before, the camera will reset after a minute and repeat any time it senses movement within range.  The result is below.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the camera also takes a still photo before it begins recording video.  As with the still photo, the image was a little dark and not as sharp as it would have been if taken with a good digital video camera, especially a HD camera.  I lightened the exposure with an editing program, but there is not much I can do to sharpen it.  Not bad though if you take it for what it is, and don't try to view it full screen.  The next step will be to set it out in the woods for a week or more and see what I come up with.  It has often been said that wildlife photography is like hunting with a camera.  Using the same train of thought, setting up a trail cam might be compared to setting a trap; whether setting over bait or a blind set on a well used game trail.  I expect to have a lot of fun with this.


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Just prowling around

Yesterday afternoon was nice, but today outdid itself.  25 degrees this morning, but 60 this afternoon according to the thermometer on my porch.  I went out to prowl around and see if anything had been moving around.

Melting snow and water running everywhere, and lots of mud.  A couple of deer ran across the road in front of me before I left the pavement, but they didn’t even slow down.  No chance for photos or video there.  I even saw some ground squirrels out and about; a sure sign of spring.  Lots of deer tracks in the snow and I found a couple of fox tracks and a coyote track, but they were old melted out tracks and I didn’t bother trying to call them in.  I finally found a couple of deer didn’t spook at the sight of me.

Unfortunately they were in considerable shade and didn’t show up as well as I would have liked, but when photographing wildlife sometimes you take what you can get.  I’m still learning the ropes with the new camera, and this was a good opportunity to try out the optical qualities of the zoom lens.

There are 3 settings for the lens.  The first setting is for 10X optical zoom.  The second setting is for 40X digital zoom, and the third is for 200X digital zoom.  Digital telephoto is seldom as good as optical.  I first shot a short sequence at 10X optical zoom, but it was a long reach for the lens, and no chance to approach closer.  I quickly switched to 40X digital, but didn’t use full power.  Looking at the finished results, it isn’t quite as sharp as the footage shot with the optical feature, but acceptable.  Good enough.

I went on and let Bear run ahead of the truck to stretch his legs for awhile until I reached an especially snowy corner.  Someone else had turned around there, so not wanting to push my luck I did the same.  We went back down the road to a wide spot and stopped for lunch, then poked along home without sighting anything more of interest.    

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Neighborhood pets

Some of the neighborhood pets.  I shot this while standing in my yard.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Trout flies

A good neighbor just dropped off some hand tied flies.  Thank you Chuck!

 Hand tied flies

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Stomping grounds

In my last post I showed the place where I roost.  Here are a couple of short videos that show some of the surrounding country that I have to play in.  Of course I’m still playing with the new camera, but I think I have it figured out.  What a difference high definition makes!  I’ve had one person tell me that she had trouble with the sound on both of these clips, but I played them back here and they are fine.  If anyone else has a problem please let me know. 



Thursday, January 26, 2012

First snow - 2012

We’ve had a couple of dustings of snow, maybe an inch on the ground, but this was the first significant snow of the season.  This video is a couple of days old, and most of the snow is gone already.  At least here around the house.  It’s unseasonably warm now and we’ve had some sprinkles of rain.  I’m afraid it hasn’t helped our snow pack much.  The melting snow is going right down the river.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about high definition video it’s that the files that are produced are huge!  To large to upload a clip of any great length to a hosting site; at least not at my connection speed.  For instance, this video is just over 5 minutes long, and at high definition the file is over 600 mbs.  I have DSL, but not the high speed version.  Upload time would have been over 2 hours!  I had to keep playing with it, reducing the resolution little by little, until I came up with a file of a manageable size.  The original is fantastic here on my monitor, but unfortunately you can’t see what I see. 

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Time for an upgrade

Well I took the leap.  I’ve been thinking for awhile about a high definition video camera; just needed the proper nudge.  It’s almost impossible to keep up with the technology.  By the time you get a new camera out of the box it is already outdated, or so it seems.  My first video camera was analog.  The year after I bought it everything went digital.  I was almost happy when a horse fell on it and smashed it beyond repair.  That camera was replaced by my first digital camera which has served me for the last few years; but it has now become a dinosaur with the advent of high definition video cameras.  There were some really great sales, almost half price, over this holiday season; and I thought if I was ever going to do it this was the time.  The new camera arrived a couple of days ago, and yesterday I took it out for a test drive.  I was really hoping for some shots of wildlife, but settled for a static scene just to get some footage recorded.  I also have a new editing program to get the hang of.  

 I set the camera to record at the highest resolution possible.  Today I waded through the instructions for the editing program and downloaded the attached video to my computer.  I have a 24 inch HD monitor for the PC, and what I am seeing there is fantastic compared to what I am used to.  I uploaded this clip to YouTube, and oh boy.  I have DSL, but not the high speed version.  It took an hour to upload this sort clip.  Maybe I need to reduce the resolution some before an upload?  The longer videos that I see on YouTube all the time must be uploaded by someone with a very fast connection speed, or they are lower resolution to start with.  I’ll do a little more reading on the subject tomorrow, and any advice from people with more experience is welcome.  This is a whole new ball game to me.