Sunday, May 5, 2019

Moment(s) in the Marsh -- Snippets from a Neglected Trailcam

Check out a new video that we just posted to our YouTube channel -- we just made updates to make it more publically available

When I first contemplated how to begin this blog project over two years ago, one of my first challenges was to come up with a fitting name. Moment in the Marsh came to me pretty quickly actually because I wanted something that would communicate my most fundamental goal -- giving any and all readers the chance to be transported from wherever they viewed their screen to give them a sense, even for a moment, for what it would be like to be in the field that day.

A somewhat rare glimpse of a coyote during full daylight, blurred by hasty
movement across the camera's view (click to enlarge)
My writing offers some additional opportunity to inform readers with context. The written word provides a venue to communicate challenges and lessons learned and/or simply allows me to journal (something I hope I can look back on years from now to appreciate even more). But it became pretty clear pretty fast that what readers really want to see -- understandably -- are the photographs. Short of being there in person, they really are indispensable as a means to communicate current conditions. Plus, they just convey life in their own unique way, especially when plants and animals are involved.

That's what makes this post so fun. Late last week, I came across a trail camera in our West Marsh that had a memory card that hadn't been fully downloaded in a while -- as it turns out, a long while. The files that I accessed this past fall where in one folder, but there was another folder with a mysterious name. When I clicked it open a couple days ago, I discovered that it had several THOUSAND images from the same vantage point, dating from just before Christmas 2017 through late May 2018. That's several thousand moments; and they all help tell a story.

One of my favorites of a doe in early spring light;
note that she's not alone
(click to enlarge)
A snapshot of nearly every day was photo-documented over this ~five month season. Not surprisingly, many of the stills are simply shots of passing deer, solitary birds flitting past, or grasses blowing in the wind. In all, the list of mammals included not just whitetails, but coyotes, red fox, raccoons, opossums, mink, squirrels, mice, and even a feral cat. Bird species included cardinals, blue jays, red-bellied woodpeckers, song sparrows, marsh sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, grackles, catbirds, and yellow-rumped warblers. The cattails, reed canary grass, dogwoods, and lesser-dominant plant species transitioned from snow-covered and dormant to lush and green.

None on this list is particularly noteworthy. Most sightings are actually fairly common. The collage above was assembled for a different reason: I was drawn by the tremendous diversity of visible life that was attracted to one solitary downed limb (toppled by wind and then cut by chainsaw). Starting with a common fox squirrel, I counted twelve species of birds and mammals perched on this woody lookout over just five months. In fact, I counted a fox squirrel -- maybe the same fox squirrel -- on 46 days out of roughly 150. Seems this little critter likes the view at Standing Rush as much as I do.

Even by early July, the familiar vantage point looks pretty markedly different than it did back in December (or any time in
the winter or spring, for that matter); the max temp (in the direct sunlight) is also a pretty sharp contrast from the lowest
recorded temp on this camera series (-12 degrees F) on a snappy overnight in late January