Friday, October 15, 2010

The creatures of the Croft preserve

Earlier this week I visited our Croft preserve in Goshen to evaluate some of our habitat management areas. The crisp 34 degree temperature at the start of my hike and the gorgeous fall colors made it very clear that summer is over.
Those of you who regularly read this blog may remember that sometime in mid-summer a group of summer campers from the Coastal Center at Milford Point, and their leader Frank Gallo, came out to help me with my surveys (you can read more about that here). One of the things we did that day was install an automatic wildlife tracking camera in a remote section of the 700-acre sanctuary. While I was out there this week, I decided to check on that camera to see if it had taken any pictures. It's LCD display told me that it had fired 98 times in the past 2.5 months, so it seemed worthwhile to swap out its memory card and take a look.

The first picture on the card showed Frank and his helpers as they walked through the camera's infrared beam so I could check that everything worked.

As I was reviewing the shots I was very happily surprised that out of the 63 images that actually had anything on it, no fewer than 47 clearly showed moose! I always see moose tracks and other signs of their presence all over the preserve, and occassionally it appeared that more than one individual were present, but only with these camera traps is it possible to get a better feel for the population size. Individual moose were photographed on 17 days and two photographs actually show two moose in the same frame!

When an animals breaks the infrared beam, the camera 'wakes up' and takes a picture. Because of the slight delay between the moment that the camera is tripped and the time the picture is taken, many shots show only the back end of an animal moving past the camera. This makes it a little more difficult to ascertain whether the animals in Croft are males or females. However, in all pictures where the animal's head is visible no antlers are seen, indicating that all those are females.

Every once in a while one of them poses nicely! Only few images on the card showed animals other than moose. Nearly all were White-tailed Deer (which are far less common in the large forest blocks of the northwest corner than they are in, say, Fairfield Co.).
The card held one more surprise....

If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see a Barred Owl sitting on a fallen tree! These owls are quite common in the area where the camera is set up, but it is still neat to see one like this.
No owls were seen or heard during my survey this week and the local bird population was definitely shifting with the season. Most noteworthy was the presence of 2 Northern Pintails, 4 American Black Ducks, about 60 Wood Ducks and a few Hooded Mergansers on the wetland shown in the first picture. The latter two species breed there in significant numbers. Seven Rusty Blackbirds and a Gray-cheeked Thrush stood out otherwise from the 'regulars'.

All photos copyright Twan Leenders

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