26 de agosto de 2022

Hidden Springs Preserve Bioblitz October 7th,8th, and 9th -2022

Hello Friends of Nature,

I would like to announce the upcoming bioblitz at Hidden Springs Preserve near Florence, Tx. The property is a 932 acre site purchased by Williamson County Conservation Foundation in in 2020. The land has a great potential as a GCWA habitat which has about 300-400 acres in Burnet, County while the southern portion is largely in north west Williamson, County. The northern half is a juniper oak woodland hill country and the southern half is an open prairie grassland and juniper with alkaline soil. The underlying geologic formation is the Keys valley Marl unit with Glen Rose exposures in the McDaniel Branch stream bed.
We have had the good fortune of being allowed to use game cameras and acoustic recording devices on the property since around April 2021. We participated in the SWCA Environmental GCWA assessment with acoustic devices to bolster their pedestrian survey for spring 2022.
We are planning on arrivals to the property beginning at noon on Friday the 7th. There will be sign in sheets and liability waivers for all to sign at check in. The base camp and check in will be at the house that is located in the middle of the property. The gravel road from CR 224 to the house is in good condition. There is a gate code lock on the property at CR 224. More than likely this code will be changed to something for this special weekend.
I would like to hold an orientation meeting on Friday around 5pm at the house for general safety and describing the property roads. The roads in the northern half will be limited to certain vehicles with greater clearance and or all wheel drive vehicles. It is possible there will be an all terrain vehicle there that weekend.
We are allowed to car camp and tent camp in the vicinity of the house where we will also set up blacklighting and MV lights. There are two electrical outlets outside. One on the south side of the house and another on a light pole on the north side. We will be allowed to use the restroom facilities in the house. There will be no bunking in the house. There is a refrigerator that can be used.
We were planning on grilling food outdoors for Saturday afternoon and evening. There is not a grill area there so we might perhaps bring in BBQ food from nearby establishments. Alternatives for vegan and vegetarians will be arranged. Jack Cochran will be assisting me with organizing this event.
There are a number of ponds located on the property. Only one of which maintained water during the summer drought. The springs, which are in fact hidden, were also not flowing during the summer. We are hopeful that plenty of rain will fall before October.
The weekend will finish up by noon on Sunday the 9th.
I will add more information to this post as we go.
Mike Farley
Good Water Master Naturalist

Publicado el agosto 26, 2022 05:17 TARDE por mikef451 mikef451 | 101 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de abril de 2020

Good Water MN Bucket Cam

This weekend I put out a new device which is essentially a bucket camera. It is intended to "try" to document the many Rats and Mice that we often see on our trail cameras, which have a greater focal plane distance, and is really insufficient for such a small creature.
When I returned the previously loaned TPWD cameras back to Dr. Tania Homayoun, I mentioned that we were leaving a lot of those out there as non-ID-able observations. She then sent me a document in which some biologists from Florida had built a device for such a purpose. It involved a custom made professional camera and a modified 7 gallon bucket.
Our Good Water chapter procured such a camera with a focal length set at 40 cm. The bucket has two, 1 and 3/4 diameter holes cut in near the lid. The lid has fixed cup containers for seeds which are set back far enough from the openings to eliminate raccoons from successfully disturbing. There are black scales with white numbering also fixed to the lid. The bucket is placed lid down with the camera mounted on the bottom (up). Another partial bucket bottom covers the camera for protection and security. The whole assembly is staked down and clamped in place.

The cups were filled with sunflower seeds and there is also a suet/peanut butter Popsicle wrapped in open mesh gauze. The seeds were pretty much consumed in the first 24 hours leaving the suet for the last. It was intended to possibly force teeth exposure, which could aide in identification.
After two full days there were over 3000 files to wade through which were dark and needed lightening. There were 800 videos included in that. I did re-bait and reset the camera, but I will probably move to another location in the area soon. Prairie, Near creeks, Seeps etc.
I do not know anything about the different species, just making an effort. Would appreciate any suggestions and thoughts. @neotomastolemykeys @pfau_tarleton
Even if this is not successful, the camera has already proven it's value away from the bucket.
Mike Farley
Good Water Master Naturalist

Publicado el abril 5, 2020 08:18 TARDE por mikef451 mikef451 | 6 observaciones | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

21 de noviembre de 2019

First live observation of Swamp Rabbit Confirmed!

Hello Friends!
So this past week was a really good week! After finding the popular latrine log on the North San Gabriel River two weeks back, and placing my camera on it last week, we got two videos of it being used and one of those observations is backed up by one of the other cameras. Both observations have been confirmed and they represent the first live images of Swamp Rabbit that we have documented since we started our Nature Tracking project with Texas parks and Wildlife.
I collected some more fresh scat and my family continues to grumble about the growing quantity of vials in the freezer! Dr. Russell Pfau of Tarleton State University has a plan in place for some early December DNA analysis. We are hopeful of his success!

We managed to get a an American Woodcock on trail camera this week too!

We have been seeing a lot of cottontail rabbits in our nighttime images and those are just too impossible to determine species I think. Looking back at the three documented Swamp Rabbits I observed in 2018 and early 2019, the benefiting factors for identification were color images, or the fact that the animal was in the water at night and happy about it apparently.
I have been becoming more inclined to use another type of camera to achieve a night time color image. The flash necessary for this is one that would be visible to animals and because of this I would not leave set up for very much time. Hopefully it will be not much different than lightning experienced by animals and certainly the flash duration, at fractions of a second, are not capable of causing harm to eyes. Perhaps next month we may have something in the works regarding this.
Short of trapping animals and releasing, something I know nothing about, I can think of no other method worth trying for short term use and quick answers.
Until next time,
Cheers everybody! And Happy Thanksgiving.

Publicado el noviembre 21, 2019 12:58 MAÑANA por mikef451 mikef451 | 9 observaciones | 8 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de septiembre de 2019

Good Water Nature Trackers

Well thankfully August is finally over and somehow we had a lot of fun during those hot days! I'm very much looking forward to September and the beginning of somewhat cooler weather. This month we saw some more River Otter and we found trace evidence of our target species. The scat from the latrine log looked like it was from last season or at least pretty old. Dr. Russell Pfau of Tarleton State University has agreed to test for DNA if we can find some fresher samples. We also have seen a lot of Bobcat observations in the south area this past month.

We had a camera that was not performing as it should for some reason and after tinkering with the manual it seemed fine. I was going to test it in my backyard but, decided to find a familiar place for a short test. A two night stay yielded several dozen images including Ringtail, and a Gray Fox with prey in it's mouth. The camera is now back in service.

Five of the cameras are going to be moving to a new location that is partly Williamson, Co. and part Bell, Co. This has been the plan all along and I've been somewhat spoiled with ten cameras for the last month. It allowed us to really spread out and try to get a better understanding of the area.

With all the predator activity we have seen we are going to move some cameras to an area that we feel the rabbits feel safer in right now. That place, is a place the predators do not really want to be, unless they are starving in my opinion. Now that I haven't really said anything, here's a look at some observations. Thanks to Kathy, Keri, Lori, April, and Bob for the uploading shared duty! Thanks to Jim, Diane, Trish, Randy, and the previous mentioned folks for helping out with the card swaps and for putting up with Kathy and I constantly moving cameras to new locations.

Have a great week!


Publicado el septiembre 5, 2019 01:17 MAÑANA por mikef451 mikef451 | 11 observaciones | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

19 de agosto de 2019

Good Water Nature Trackers

Good Morning Nature Lovers,

Well it has been a very busy couple of weeks! I would like to thank all the folks who have volunteered their help, either in the field, or with sorting and uploading. Kathy McCormack, Keri Dunn, Jim Nelson, Diane Powell, Lori Franz, and April Rohlich.

One of the challenges here is to keep track of proper locations of cameras once they've been moved for various reasons. Either continued observations of common mammals, excess false trigger issues, combined with a new found spot that looks promising. Kathy has taken upon herself to track these locations via maps and a fluid list of coordinates, camera numbers, and their key number. This small list has proven invaluable to me. Thank you Kathy!

April, Lori, and Kathy are now uploading to iNaturalist which is a big help since we collect data on both Friday and Saturday currently. It is possible that a weekday evening will be added soon. The heat is a concern as always though. Our early 7:30 am starts have been very nice.

Our biggest news items are, we got our first SGCN observation of North American River Otter and the 3 adorable Bobcat kittens that were really enjoying hanging out for 3 hours (90+ images) by a camera which was baited with Pure Vanilla extract. Keri brought her camera along which will accept the SD cards and we were viewing observations as we went. You should have heard all the oohs and aahs over those kittens!

It was terrific fun! We still went to a local coffee shop to see on a laptop, as well as divide up the uploading.

Thanks for wading through this long post. Next week will have at least one new camera location were excited about!

To see observations simply click on the "Leave a Comment" button.

Publicado el agosto 19, 2019 02:01 TARDE por mikef451 mikef451 | 7 observaciones | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de agosto de 2019

Good Water Nature Trackers

Hello Fine Naturalist Folk,

Welcome to my first journal post! Two weeks ago we installed a group of game cameras in hopes of observing Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Specifically we are looking for Sylvilagus aquaticus, or Swamp Rabbit. I have observed these on a few occasions previously, so I thought we should try to boost their numbers within the county. The cameras are loaned from TPWD , (Thank you very much!), and we are charged with and enjoy reporting all mammals observed as we hunt our target species.

Williamson, Co is on the western most edge of this species which is common in east Texas, and southeastern US. I believe it is a recent addition to the list of SGCN for this area.

It is very similar to Eastern Cottontail though somewhat larger in size, but smaller rounder ears and their ear length to head length ratio is different than S. floridanus. Their eyes have cinnamon rings around them versus the white rings for S. floridanus. The tail is flatter and less white I believe with an overall more rust or brown color. Oh and they love water. It seems to be a security for escape from predators. They prefer stream and river banks with grassy vegetation or floodplains. They are mostly nocturnal and huddle in grassy nest hollows during the day.

With short notice I had three volunteers with the initial roll out of six cameras. Randy Spurlock, Jim Nelson, Kathy McCormack, and myself finally got them placed two Saturdays back.

The following week, Kathy, Jim, Karen Schnell, Keri Dunn, Chris Tschirhart, and myself swapped out the cards from the digital traps. The most exciting thing was the fresh beaver chew found near a camera, but nothing observed otherwise than the usual suspects of the night.
Thanks to the above mentioned folks!

Thanks to all who helped with bringing this project to the chapter, and here's to many future observations!
See you next week!

Mike Farley

Publicado el agosto 5, 2019 11:28 TARDE por mikef451 mikef451 | 21 observaciones | 7 comentarios | Deja un comentario