The little western screech owls fledged last night. After documenting them in their nestbox every night and some days for over three months I feel a bit sad and will miss them. They are now out in the wild world and will, hopefully, have successful careers as owls. They’ll still be fed by their parents for a little while longer as they learn to hunt and fend for themselves.
One of my new camera trap locations recently caught an adult female mountain lion and one of her yearling offspring:
The western screech owl pair have been busy feeding three hungry owlets. The nestlings appear to be nearing the time to leave their nest. Last night both parents made over 16 feeding trips which included grubs, geckos, and a small packrat.
On previous nights, prey items also included a small bird, western blind snakes, spiny lizards, moths, and even a hummingbird. Seeing the dead hummingbird getting eaten by an owlet made me sad as hummingbirds are dear to my heart.
The young screech owls have also been spending time checking out their daytime word:
We’re entering the time of year where rain is sparse. Likely no rain until July. So, at this time, when many species are having young or just trying to survive, any water source is a means of survival. This video captures many of the common critters here in Tucson, Arizona, all from my backyard:
A few months ago I put up two screech owl nest boxes in my yard. Each box has a 3″ diameter hole which is within the size recommended to accommodate screech owls. Within a week an owl found both nest boxes and would randomly appear sitting in the entrance to one for a couple months. It wasn’t long before breeding season began and a second owl appeared. They paired up and chose the red nest box which was in a shady protected area in a false willow tree.
Both adults began hunting foray’s to feed hungry nestlings. It appeared that the male would catch prey and give it to the female who was, early on, incubating eggs, then later, feeding the nestlings.
A few days ago I decided to take a short video inside the nest box using a tiny borescope inspection camera. I wanted to see how old and how many owlets there were. I waited until after the female left the nest box in the early evening and was able to capture this video, confirming 3 downy nestlings:
Seeing the nestlings and their size made sense given how many prey items the adults were bringing into the nest box. The prey has varied from small moths and non-native geckos to a small passerine bird, a large Western blind snake (pencil-size diameter, maybe a foot long) which escaped, and a couple kangaroo rats. Here’s the video from last night’s action:
When I first started camera trapping, mountain lions were my ultimate goal. It took me a few years to learn to track them and identify the best spots to place a camera in order to catch them in action. When that happened I was ecstatic. By chance, I had no idea I’d also be capturing lot’s of black bear activity.
That said, here are a few clips of black bears in action as captured by my cameras so far this year:
Camera traps are one of the best ways to observe wildlife behavior that you’d likely not see because it’s either dark out or your presence would alter the animals behavior. I bought my first camera trap around 2005 and was instantly addicted. I had no idea there were such shenanigans happening when I wasn’t around.
Now, in 2019, I have about 10 personal cameras set up in the desert around my home town, Tucson, including my backyard. I also have another 10 cameras set up at Audubon’s Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch near Elgin, Arizona. We use these cameras for long-term wildlife monitoring, recording which animals and how often pass through the research ranch.
In this post I’d like to share some backyard wildlife action my cameras recently captured.
A coopers hawk:
A bat catching a sphinx moth at a cactus flower:
And a cute little western screech owl:
While I am still in Costa Rica, I wanted to share a short video of many, but not all, of the mountain lions my trail cameras captured in 2018. Not sure how many individuals are represented here, though I’m thinking around 8 or 9, based off location and physical characteristics. Feel free to comment if you have a guess or know an easy way to visually distinguish individuals. Enjoy!
2018 was an an interesting year in terms of wildlife adventures. Early on there was time on Operation Milagro, working with Sea Shepherd in their efforts to save the vaquita from extinction. Later in the year I was again onboard a Sea Shepherd ship on Operation Treasured Islands, a campaign in support of Mexican biologists studying everything from plankton and plastics to pacific mantas and Hammerhead sharks. As with previous stints with the organization, one of my main tasks was drone operator, as well as deck crew.
Most of the year I was home in Tucson keeping my eyes open for interesting wildlife and maintaining my own set of 10 camera traps. I also continued my informal, long-term (4+ years now) wildlife monitoring project at the The Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch of the National Audubon Society. This project also uses approximately 10 camera traps set up in strategic locations, such as water sources and wildlife trails in order to document what species may be present or just passing through the area.
In both cases, my cameras have captured fun videos and images of desert tortoises to Mountain lions.
Here’s to hoping 2019 brings more wildlife beauty and conservation moments and opportunities. Happy New Year!
This trail cam capture was a fun surprise, a band of white-nosed coati foraging in a creek-bed. I set up the cameras about two weeks earlier, hoping to catch bears or mountain lions. I was happily surprised to see the cameras had captured the action of this band of coati as they worked their way down the creek. Pay close attention to the youngsters as they climb up and down trees and explore: