e_moon60 (e_moon60) wrote,

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80 acres: Data, data, data

The bugaboo of any scientific project is data  management.  You'd think computers would make that easier--and maybe they do--but computers and digital cameras also make the collection of vast amounts of data easier.   Because we can use automatic cameras to see what critters are doing when we're not there, we feel we ought to, and then we have files and files of stuff to organize and make sense of.

I should be doing that right this minute, but it's tedious, picky work and I'd rather just complain about it. 

Here's what I have from yesterday's intake.  I put fresh memory cards in two cameras yesterday; they were activated on September 6, and restarted yesterday, so I  have data from late September 6 through late September 27.   These cameras react to movement, and take a 5 second (night) or 15 second (daylight ) video clip, wait one minute, and then take a still shot.  The still shots are under 2 KB; the day video clips are about 5880 KB, and the night videos just under 2000 KB.  The total number of images is twice that of either video clips or stills.  It is possible to walk past the camera and not have a picture of yourself on the card--the initial delay (common to most low-end digital cameras) gives that much time.   Thus a picture which has no wildlife in it may still have been triggered by wildlife...or by one of us coming to check the waterhole or do some other chore.  Can't tell.   It's not a wide-angle lens: if there's one deer in the shot, and it's looking off to the side, there may be something else there, but there's no way to know whether it's another deer, a raccoon, or someone with a rifle.

At Fox, the camera captured 64 images (half video, half still)...32 image-events  in 3 weeks and a day.  At Owl, that camera captured 116 images, 58 image-events.   At Fox, 7 events were human-triggered, one of which included an animal (I was stalking the armadillo.)   At Owl, only one event was identifiably triggered by a human, but there were 22 "empty" image fields (no wildlife) in the same hour and a half that the human (R-) was caught, and he said he was driving the small lawn tractor around that day at about that time.  But he was out of frame when the camera actually fired.

Occurring at both sites: raccoon, gray fox.  Many more raccoon events at Owl.  Only a singleton gray fox at Owl, but a pair of gray foxes (sometimes) at Fox.   Fox appearances at both included day and night visits.  Raccoon appearances at Fox were all at night.  Raccoon appearances at Owl included both night and day (usually the first half of the morning, but definitely in full daylight.) 

Occurring only at Owl: blue jay, roadrunner. 

Occurring only at Fox: white-tail deer (at different times, spike buck, doe with twin fawns, doe, undetermined), mourning dove, crow, armadillo, squirrel.

In previous samplings, an armadillo and a squirrel were seen at Owl and a roadrunner was seen at Fox.  I have never seen a blue jay at Fox in many hours of birdwatching there, and do not hear them in the dry woods.  

When I first put the game-cams out, I was just figuring out how I wanted to use them--what data I wanted to collect, and how to organize that mass of material.  I'm sure other people have devised good ways to do this, but I didn't have their methods available...had to make one up.  What I would like to have is a log of who visited what when (place, time, species, number) and then a way to display that graphically to help answer some of these questions:  How do species segregate within the resource--by space, by time of use?  Where a species uses both resources, do the same individuals use both resources, or are there separate (semi-separate) populations?   How do they move across the resource (I need more game-cams, to put on some of the game trails...)

I spent several hours yesterday evening viewing all the game-cam files and recording the relevant data (there's even more recorded on the files, such a phase of the moon and temperature, but I'm not sure their thermometer is accurate, so I'm not including that for now.   I can tell you that at 5:42 pm on 9/17, two gray foxes were at Fox Water, and at 10:46 AM on 9/21 a roadrunner was at Owl Water.  I don't know if that's the same roadrunner I spooked at about 5:30 yesterday on the way back from picking up the memory card--we were almost home by then, more than a quarter mile from Owl, and much closer to the backyard water garden, the horse trough (from which I've seen a roadrunner drink) , or even Fox.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, since that would be more data to organize) the game-cams are not designed to give a sharp enough view of little things to get species on, for instance, small birds.

When I've gone back over all the previous files (wail of lazy woe) and recorded them in the new format (but that's actual work!) I will at least have everything in condition to someday, at some point, make a chart.   Several charts.  

Tags: wildlife management

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