Category Archives: Backyard

Critter Cam | February

The trail camera was out for a couple of days between rain and snow events. There always seems to be plenty of traffic. The camera was set to take 3 images when it detected motion. One or two of the three were sometimes good for sharing here. Some critters move fast and are just a blur. Click on galleries for larger versions.

Raccoons are always making the rounds.

Deer are plentiful all over town and on this path.

Grey squirrels are everywhere.

Possums are plentiful. One image is enough.

Cardinals are a favorite with their red coats and black trim.


Critter Cam in Winter

Our trail camera was out for the past week behind our house. Because of rain and snow, I covered it with a clear plastic bag to keep it dry. The images are a bit out of focus. Lots of squirrel activity. A few possums and raccoons. Several deer passed by. One of them got in very close. A fox trotted by the camera. In 20 years, it is only the 2nd time I’ve ever seen one back there. I’ve never seen that black dog before. Dogs are supposed to be on leash. Lastly, one of the local black squirrels posed for a shot. Still no bobcats or cougars. Click for bigger images.

Critter Cam 2.0

Previous pictures by critter cam were all stills. For the recent 3 days, I set the camera to record video. Movement of any kind triggers it to record 10 sec, then wait 30 sec in case something is still there moving around. In all, 53 videos were recorded. Many were of falling leaves or wiggling branches due to the very windy weather conditions lately. Those that remained with animals in the scene were combined with software. Dead time was removed. The video is about 2 minutes long. Cats and possums are again the stars of the show. At the end, I had to chase off some guy who was going to mess with the critter cam. I’m ready for him if he comes back.

Critter Cam

There is a wooded acreage directly behind our house. Deer have made a path over time that conveniently connects our house to a city trail system about 50 yards away. There is daily traffic of various animals along it.

A month ago our next door neighbor said he was certain he saw a bobcat in his back yard not far from the deer path. It is a real possibility. I know some locals who have seen them in other parts of the county. I bought an inexpensive trail camera in hopes of seeing it. After hundreds of images in both day and night time, I have yet to see a bobcat. Lots of house cats, though.

There are plenty of grey squirrels.

There is a very chubby ground hog who waddles by once in a while. That short tree stump is 1 foot tall.

Deer will become more numerous during the winter months as they forage around bird feeders in the neighborhood.

There are many possum, raccoons, birds, and a few chipmunks and mice.

The hunt continues.

Hummingbirds vs Shutter Speeds

Our feeder hangs not far from the front window. The tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbirds come and go quickly. Sometimes there are aerial duels. Wasps and hornets are carefully avoided by the little birds. I hear the birds swoop by me as I put fresh sweet water into the feeder. They have a wingbeat rate of around 50/sec (50 hertz). It is a little lower frequency than the 60 Hz hum of electric current signals I sometimes hear on audio equipment. Here is a link to an audio recording by David Eberly of two Hummingbirds near a feeder. Turn up the volume.

I was curious how different camera shutter speeds would capture the wingbeats. The camera was set on a tripod, focused through the window, and zoomed in all the way. A remote shutter let me get shots without camera shake. This first image used ISO 100 and shutter speed of 1/125 sec. Lots of blur. Even the tail feathers are blurred.

ISO 100 | 1/125 sec
Continue reading

Crows vs Bald Eagle

Lots of commotion from the Crows this morning. Several of the them were scolding an immature Bald Eagle in the tree right behind our house. It is a BIG bird. It didn’t seem bothered. We have a lot of Bald Eagles around here. They congregate on the Iowa River below the dams to grab fish. It flew away and all was quiet again.

Leaf Abscissions

Many of the trees here in eastern Iowa have continued to hold their leaves this year. It is a little later in the year than normal. Last night, the temperature got to 26˚F which prompted a phenomenon called abscission. This morning in the warm sunshine, the leaves started dropping quickly. We’ve watched this occur each fall for many years as cold weather approaches.

I have an app on my iPad called NightCap Camera. It is normally used for low-light and night sky photography. One setting is for lines left by moving objects. The iPad is set to be stationary while the exposure takes place. It captures sequential images recording locations of objects that moved during the exposure. It works in the dark or daylight. This first image was about 20 sec. Exposures of 1/288 sec were recorded as the leaves dropped.

NightCap Light Trails mode, 19.46 second exposure, 1/288s shutter speed.

Here is a second image lasting about 2 minutes. This a visual definition of fall.

NightCap Light Trails mode, 113.78 second exposure, 1/273s shutter speed.

Derecho Cleanup Finished

The severe derecho windstorm that charged across Iowa on 10 August 2020 caused a huge amount of damage to trees, crops, homes, and businesses estimated at $11 billion dollars. We lost the tops and limbs of several tall trees near our house. This link shows some of the tree damages. Our roof had 6 holes punched in it by falling limbs. Rafters were broken. Half of the gutters were destroyed. And, 3 holes were torn in the deck screens.

The limbs were all cleared away. The roof was replaced in December and the gutters in May. The screens were replaced on the entire deck in late July. The place looks good.

Our handy man, Joey, brought his lift so he could easily and safely reach everything.

Before his visit, I stained and sealed the interior wood of the deck. While he had the boards off of the outside, I treated them. Everything now has a fresh coat inside and out.

Chickadee Nest

One of our favorite birds all year long is the Black-Capped Chickadee. They busily flit to and from the feeders. They grab a sunflower seed and hold it down on a branch with their feet while they peck it open. Then, it is back for more. We have never seen where they nest and raise their young, until this year.

Scott Martin | Macaulay Library | All About Birds

A few feet from our bedroom window is a sad broken cherry tree. It has suffered broken limbs from branches that have fallen from taller nearby trees. A derecho storm last August nearly put an end to it. Yet is persists. This spring, two Chickadees were going in and out of a hole in the trunk. We wondered if they might nest and raise some young.

It seems they are doing that. Video recorded for about 15 minutes was edited to include these brief highlights for about a minute and a half. The final 30 sec was slowed to make it easier to follow the action. Watch when the bird exits at the end with something in its beak. Can you guess what that was?

Nearly Finished

Our backyard cleanup of the downed trees and limbs from the August 10th derecho is almost finished. Three pickup truckloads of cut tree trunks and branches were hauled away a week ago. We had some days with little wind which allowed small branches and debris to be burned. We will see what grows in the spring and then decide what to plant in the empty space. Nature was quick to destroy some trees but will take her time to show her future plans. We will be patient.

Here are photos for comparison of before and after cleanup. Taken from the same spot.

August 11, 2020

November 13, 2020