Saturday, September 16, 2023


The deer seem to show up every night or two. Before dawn on the 13th it was a doe and two fawns.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023


I have often expressed dissatisfaction with my Primos #4 trail camera. Still images are usually improperly exposed. The workaround is to take videos and extract frames. The start of the video is usually overexposed, but then it settles down and the rest of it is usable. I've actually known this for years as my best image of a badger was a screen grab in 2017. My Browning #5 is on a secret assignment, so I set up the Primos to monitor the back yard for the next week and decided to set it to shoot video.

So what we have here is the lopsided deer losing its velvet. The first image is from a Primos video, and the deer is starting to lose the velvet on the short antler. The source video is 720p, which means the extracted image is 1280x720 pixels. Definitely not high resolution. The other two images are DSLR shots about an hour later of the deer rubbing off its velvet on a tree in our yard and breaking a few branches in the process.

Friday, August 25, 2023

One from each

Nothing exotic in the last trailcam check, just a bunch of deer. But they showed up on all five of my cameras in the two locations, my yard and my brother's cabin in the forest. There were at least two fawns running around the woods and are in two of these images. The five cameras includes the three Brownings and the two Reconyx and does not include the unreliable Primos. And just to get something besides deer, I included a previously-unpublished image of a moose from last year.

Old Browning #5
Melted Browning #6
New Browning #11
Old Reconyx #2
New Reconyx #7 mother and fawn
Moose from last year on #7

Friday, July 21, 2023

Lion and bears

I've seen a bobcat on the trailcams in Custer Gallatin National Forest south of Red Lodge, MT a few times and repositioned Browning #6 closer to its apparent trail to try to get a better shot. I checked yesterday and did not get a bobcat in the past month. But my cameras did pick up a mountain lion and two bears. The mountain lion showed up on the two Reconyx cameras, #2 and #7, on June 23 a few yards down the trail from #6. The bears were on #6 just a few hours before I checked the cameras. The adult obviously is a black bear, and the bear cub in the second image has to be a black bear even though its fur is very brown. The bear images posted here are almost five hours apart, but there are blurry images (not posted) of an adult black bear climbing over the log at 1:43 PM just ahead of the cub. I presume it is the same adult as in the earlier image at 9:00 AM since it has been two years since the last image of a bear at this location.

Mountain lion on #2
Mountain lion on #7

The mountain lion is a first at this location and the first I've gotten since May 2020 when #2 was positioned near Luther, MT. In the past month, the cameras also captured a moose cow/calf pair, the usual deer, and hundreds of ground squirrel images.

The bears were very close to #6, so I moved it back near where it used to be to get a wider view. However, there seems to be a problem with #6. It lost the time/date twice in the past month, once around July 1 and again around July 5. That's why the date/time are blacked out on the bear and squirrel images. I was able to calculate the date/time by comparing the camera settings to my computer. The camera says the batteries are at 97% so I don't know what the problem is. An unpostable image from #7 of the back of a black bear confirms it passed through the area July 20. The same camera picked up a black bear at 10:05 PM on July 9, but it's also an unpostable image.

Black bear on #6, 9:00 AM July 20
Black bear cub on #6, 1:43 PM July 20
Moose pair on #2
Moose calf on #2

The three cameras are spread along a trail covering a couple hundred yards, with #6 positioned near a creek, and #2 and #7 further to the north. Along that trail I found a couple of large rocks dislodged, and in the uncovered areas there were ants and other bugs. Extensive internet research I conducted in the past five minutes indicates black bears do flip over rocks and eat the insects they find. My brother's camera which got the last moose image shown here is perhaps about a hundred yards downstream from #6, to the east.

Moose on my brother's camera

To repeat what I've said before, I'm disappointed in the image quality of trail cameras. They tell you what wildlife populates an area, but the images are crap. Even midday images are motion blurred because the forest is a dark place. But that's where the animals live. I don't know if the shooting information is accurate, but #6 recorded the information for the bear cub image as ISO 100, f2.4, 1/40th of a second. I suppose they set the ISO at 100 because the tiny sensors in these Chinese cameras would get completely noisy at 400 or 800. My American-made Reconyx are somewhat better, with a recorded ISO of 800. Newer models claim an ISO up to 3200, but I wonder how grainy that is.

The possible solution, other than getting another Reconyx to replace the Browning, would be to deploy a real camera trap. I already have the 1D Mark II camera #9, the motion sensor, and a spare lens. But I would need to build a box to protect it from weather and vandalism/theft, buy a flash designed for unattended operation, and figure out a way to power it. Or camp out in the woods with my DSLR and wait for the bears and lions to come by once every 1-24 months. For now I think I will swap my cameras around, put #7 close to the creek, and move #11 from backyard duty to the woods to replace the glitchy #6.

We've had bears in town recently knocking over garbage cans and being a nuisance. I could get a picture of a bear walking down an alley if I wanted to, I suppose. But there's something about capturing an image of a bear in the wild, relatively free of human influence, and that's why I do this.

Ground squirrel on #6, 9:33 AM July 8
Deer on #2
Deer on #7

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Black birds

It has been a wet late spring/early summer here, and there have been very few colorful birds to liven up the back yard. The bluebirds were chased off by the swallows in mid-May, the meadowlarks have kept their distance, the goldfinches come by infrequently, and the hummingbirds usually make a cameo late in the day when the light isn't great. I put out suet for the first time this year, and it draws the big crows and magpies rather than the woodpeckers I was hoping for. But I shoot them, and here are some of the better ones from recent days.

I have been using all of my DSLR cameras and lenses recently. The 6D Mark II (#12) I usually shoot manually. The 5D Mark III (#8) gets the remote trigger, and was used for these three images. And the 1D Mark II (#9) gets the motion trigger. In the past few weeks, I have used every DSLR lens I have. These were shot with the 15-35mm wide angle zoom lens I've had forever, and it gives a different type of image than the 70-200 zoom for example.



LBB (little brown bird)

Sunday, June 18, 2023


I've gotten a few hummingbird images since the previous post. The first image was taken yesterday with the 300mm lens on the 5D Mark III, remote trigger (#8). The second image was taken today with the 500mm lens on the 5D, remote trigger. The final image also was today on the 500mm, but is not remote triggered. I think to get more flight shots, I'm going to have to forego the remote trigger and try to follow with the lens.

You can tell the different in the bokeh between the 300mm and 500mm. The 300mm is showing the faint bands of an out-of-focus fence. The 500mm is completely smooth.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Magpie and hummingbird

In regard to yesterday's post about getting a magpie and a hummingbird, the first attempt at getting that magpie was semi-successful using motion trigger. The framing is a just little off so we'll see what else develops today. The second image is what I'm calling a grackle, and this is the type of shot I'm trying to get. The third image is a crow, and in the fourth image I aimed the 5D to get a shot of that same crow getting harassed by a swallow, whose nest is just off to the left. A few hours later, I got the first hummingbird image of the season with the 6D controlled by the phone app. The little perches are good for the birds, I suppose, but takes a bit out of the imagery. Yes, I did use all three of my DSLRs today. 1D, 5D and 6D. See below for technical details.

Camera for first three images: 1D Mark II (#9) with 70-200mm zoom, ISO 400. Camtraptions motion trigger on a separate tripod with wireless receiver on the camera. Magpie: f/9, 1/800, 113mm. Grackle: f/9, 1/1000, 113mm. Crow: f/8, 1/640, 87mm. Crow & Swallow: Camera 5D Mark III, handheld, 300mm lens, f/8, 1/400, ISO 200. Hummingbird: Camera 6D Mark II, remote trigger (phone app), 300mm lens, f/5, 1/400, ISO 200.