Volume 26 Issue 3, Summer 2021
by Allison Gallo, JK Black Oak Wildlife Sanctuary Committee Co-Chair, and Bryan Henson, Assistant Birding Coordinator
Since March 2019 the JK Black Oak Wildlife Sanctuary Committee has been busy identifying species, native and non-native, present on the property. One method we are using to document wildlife behavior and species that are present is wildlife trail cameras. We have used both still photography and video on the property to record some of the more elusive species that reside at JK Black Oak. We check the cameras on a regular basis and are always excited to see who has made an appearance. We have cameras placed in different habitats throughout the property, but some of the most active locations with the best diversity of species are — not surprisingly — near water.
Wildlife cams are helpful in documenting animal activity that we might not otherwise see. They allow us to monitor animals without disturbing them, and help us learn about the biodiversity of species on the property, the time of year that animals are more or less active, and the number and distribution of different species of animals on the property. They also can provide some security surveillance. We have seen an unauthorized drone and uninvited visitors.
Some of the things that we have learned since setting up the wildlife cams at JK Black Oak:
- If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to see, it will still destroy your trail cam.
- Your trail cam might be waterproof but that doesn’t mean it is ant-proof. We have a trail camera that became home to thousands of ants.
- Birds love to perch on trail cams.
- Deer love to rub up against them and change the direction of the camera, even if you think you have it locked down tightly.
- Be sure to trim the grass around the trail cams or you could have 500 videos of grass blowing in the wind.
Some of our favorite videos are of rabbits chasing each other and leaping in the air, deer sparring, red foxes repeatedly pouncing in an attempt to catch a frog, Hermit Thrushes singing in the rain, Barred Owls walking (waddling) on a log while hunting frogs, and the occasional animal photobomb.
Species documented on the property so far: raccoon, skunk, opossum, coyote, red fox, gray fox, squirrel, chipmunk, rabbit, White-tailed Deer, groundhog, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Wild Turkey, a variety of other birds seen and heard, and numerous frog/toad species heard calling. Our two biggest surprises to date are mink and Black Bear. Wildlife cams can be educational and fun. If you want to try a trail cam at home, we can tell you that you might be surprised by what you find. In our suburban backyard, we recorded squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, raccoons (five at one time!), foxes, deer, opossums, and a neighbor’s teenage son rendezvousing with his girlfriend at 2 a.m.
JK Black Oak is not open to the public. Access is restricted to surveys and Loudoun Wildlife events. For more information, please visit the JK Black Oak section on the Loudoun Wildlife website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.