Backyard citizen science – take 2

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, as part of an eMammal citizen science project, a motion trap camera was placed in my yard for three weeks. I am used to a variety of wildlife passing through and living here, including: white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Eastern chipmunks, Eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus), opossums, raccoons, Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), field and house mice and the occasional vole. My hope was that the camera would capture the gray fox that has been wandering our neighborhood lately or maybe even a coyote visiting at night.

The project started with the placement of a camera at knee level on a crepe myrtle tree facing a path through which animals enter and leave my back yard. The objective was to record all the mammal species that visit (or at least those passing in front of the camera) for three weeks.

Jonahay eMammal camera IMG_2971© Maria de Bruyn resAs neighborhood cats come to the yard, I was sure to get some photos of them, if nothing else. My senior deaf cat, who is now suffering from some dementia, only goes out when I accompany him (the other two family cats must stay inside). He checked out the camera right away and I wondered if he was going to pee on it to mark it as a new part of his territory. Instead, he went off to mark another part of the yard.

It was with great anticipation that I looked at the photos on the card after it was taken down, only to discover that the camera may have been aimed too high.

Eastern gray squirrel EK000016© Maria de Bruyn It seems that a squirrel may have been captured one evening, and in another case, it seems an opossum was entering the yard. However, the main captures (and there were not that many) were glimpses of deer.

A rabbit had decided to have a lie-down in front of the camera one day, perhaps 1½ feet away. It was not photographed and the project coordinator told me that the camera has a large blind spot right in front of it extending out roughly 3 feet.

Eastern cottontail DK7A2749© Maria de Bruyn res

unknown EK000547© NCSU

 

Staring at the night shots made me think in a few instances that some creature had been photographed but I wasn’t really sure if that was it or just my imagination running amok.

 

white-tailed deer EK000425© Maria de Bruyn res

 

A few times a deer stopped and the camera got a portrait shot, occasionally with a gesture that in humans might equate to thumbing their noses at something.

 

 

white-tailed deer DK7A1403© Maria de Bruyn reswhite-tailed deer EK000212© Maria de Bruyn res

white-tailed deer EK000514© Maria de Bruyn res

 

A few shots were close-ups.

Other times, we see an ear or the deer’s behind as she moves out of range.

 

white-tailed deer EK000548© Maria de Bruyn res white-tailed deer EK000073© Maria de Bruyn res

One day, I caught a doe giving the camera a good look; this led to a few blank photos as her face or tongue covered the lens area.

white-tailed deer DK7A3136© Maria de Bruyn res white-tailed deer DK7A3120© Maria de Bruyn resdoe EK000010© NCSUwhite-tailed deer EK000472© Maria de Bruyn res

Despite the paucity of cool camera captures, I enjoyed participating in the project and will consider taking their 30-minute course so I can have a camera placed here for a longer period. And if it is aimed lower, who knows what we may see then!

Plenty of persimmon pleasure!

Northern cardinal  IMG_7335© Maria de BruynMy side- and backyards are both blessed with a persimmon tree (Diospyros virginiana) but the one out back only produces small hard fruit for some reason. The large persimmon at the side of my house, however, is the exact opposite. Each year it is laden with fruit; much of it begins falling while the persimmons are still unripe or only half-ripe but plenty remains on the tree through the first frost. You need to have both male and female plants for the fruit to grow, but I don’t know where the male trees are – likely in a neighbor’s yard.

Persimmon tree IMG_6996© Maria de Bruyn resPersimmon tree IMG_6993© Maria de Bruyn res

I’d been warned that an unripe or only partly ripe persimmon would not be tasty and, when I tried one, that advice turned out to be very true. I later tried a really ripe persimmon as so many North Carolinians find it a wonderful fruit, especially in pudding, but I can’t say that it is much to my liking. You won’t find me using persimmons to make tea, wine, beer or bread.

white-tailed deer IMG_9971© Maria de Bruyn resIt is, however, VERY popular with the wildlife that is around my house. The first fallen persimmons are gobbled up by the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), who don’t seem to mind a bit of astringent fruit. Our neighborhood has opossums, raccoons, coyotes and gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) , but I haven’t seen their persimmon seed-filled scat – I think the deer get the fruit before they have a chance. (Too bad the stem was in front of the fox’s face; I don’t use Photoshop, but you can still see its beauty.)

Gray fox IMG_1124 MdB res

When the large orange berries begin falling on the ground in an ever riper state, the first diners include the bald-faced hornets (Dolichovespula maculata), whose beautiful large nest must be in a neighbor’s tree.

bald-faced hornet IMG_3348©Maria de Bruynbald-faced hornet IMG_3486©Maria de Bruyn

Eastern yellowjacket IMG_2502©Maria de BruynEastern yellowjacket wasps (Vespula maculifrons), which can deliver a very nasty sting, show no interest in a human hovering over the persimmons to get a shot – they are totally engrossed in getting a piece of juicy fruit.

Southern yellowjackets (Vespula squamosa), also painful stingers, act likewise – their focus is entirely on the orange pulp.

 

 

Southern yellowjacket IMG_2473©Maria de BruynSouthern yellowjacket IMG_2507©Maria de Bruyn res

Paper wasp polistes metricus IMG_4359©Maria de BruynThe paper wasps (Polistes metricus) dig deep into the persimmon to extract some sweetness.

The red wasps (either Polistes carolina or rubiginosus; entomologists can only tell by examining the insect) also enjoy flitting from one fallen fruit to another in search of the sweetest bits. Sometimes they and the paper wasps challenge one another for territory.

Red wasp P carolina IMG_3495©Maria de Bruyn

Paper wasp polistes metricus IMG_3513©Maria de Bruyn res

Downy woodpecker IMG_7248© Maria de BruynThe next group of persimmon pickers are the birds. Some birds only visit the tree to rest or look for insects, like the downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) and the white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis).

White-breasted nuthatch IMG_5997© Maria de Bruyn

 

 

A few birds just rest in the tree and others rest and occasionally peck at a berry, like the house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus).

 

House finch IMG_5956© Maria de Bruyn

Yellow-bellied sapsucker IMG_8379© Maria de Bruyn The yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) though is a woodpecker that is highly attracted by the fruit. A few of these attractive birds – both adults and juveniles – have been visiting the tree every day for weeks now to enjoy a sweet treat.

 

 

 

Yellow-bellied sapsucker IMG_8263© Maria de BruynYellow-bellied sapsucker IMG_8233© Maria de Bruyn

The American robin (Turdus migratorius) will not turn up its beak at a piece of persimmon either. Perhaps next year I should take a leaf from their books and collect a few fruits to try a pudding??

American robin IMG_9826©Maria de Bruyn resAmerican robin IMG_9813©Maria de Bruyn res