Sunday, August 31, 2014

First year in Review!

Endangered Squirrel Monkeys on the Camera Trap

Project History and Results

In May of 2013, we began this campaign on crowd-funding site Indiegogo.
The goal was to raise enough funds to purchase camera traps and support materials to do a thorough survey of the biodiversity of the Ocho Verde wildlife reserve in southern Costa Rica.

Well, a year has passed...the results were EXCELLENT!   

When you start out on projects like this, you really never know what you will find.  Nor will you know what obstacles may impede your progress.  While we suspected that the biodiversity would be numerous and varied, we had no idea how intense that it would be.  It seems that the forest is harboring a lot of animals.  Yes, we have been through nearly 20,000 images, and to be honest, 15,000 were probably Agoutis.  That being said here is a list of the 20+ mammals:
  • Ocelots--at least 3 of them, possibly as many as 5 of both sexes. 
  • Neotropical River Otter
  • White Nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Paca
  • Squirrel Monkey
  • Jaguarundi-at least 3 of them
  • Common Possum
  • 9 Banded Armadillo*
  • Tayra--at least one male and possibly a female
  • Kinkajou
  • Water Opossum
  • Anteater-Northern Tamandua
  • Capuchin Monkeys
  • Wooly Opossum
  • Dogs
  • Striped Skunk*
  • Human Poachers
  • Spiny Rats
  • Water Rats
  • Bats different species
  • Squirrels
We have seen well over 10 bird species:
A Blue Crowned Motmot...chillin'.
  • Tinamou-2 species
  • Curassow
  • White Hawk
  • Trogans
  • Orange billed Sparrow
  • 2 types of doves
  • Vulture
  • Little Blue heron
  • Cattle Egret
  • MotMot

More and more animals...

Most encouraging, is that the ocelots, agoutis, pacas, coatis, spiny rats, anteaters, tinamous, and squirrel monkeys that we have seen, have offspring.  Reproducing animals certainly make for a healthy forest ecosystem.
Anteater carrying young

Paca mom and young paca.

Ocelot Recognition

So far, we can identify 3.  
"Roi/Crooked Tail"

 her cub, "Pizza-Slice"

... and "Big Male"(note that Big Male seems to care less about the bright camera lights).

We are continuing to look at the ocelot rosette patterns to help identify more individuals.

About the trails...

All of the cameras were placed on established trails,with one one exception.  The coatis, jaguarundis, tayra, common opossums, and ocelots were seen at the most distant camera, nearest camera, highest camera, and lowest camera. For example, Ocelot Pizza Slice, was seen on all of the cameras.  We believe this to mean that animals like and use the trails.   We also have seen animals following 'animal' trails into other parts of the forest.  

The only unestablished trail is the tree that is crossing the creek, which animals, of a all sorts, used as a bridge.


About the cameras...

The Bushnells and the Moultries recorded thousands of images of varying degrees of quality. While sharp images don't make good fodder for blogs, you can glean a lot of information from them.  The Bushnells were far better on battery consumption and durability, and not so great on consistent image quality.  The Moultries made ok videos and ok pictures and were ok on battery power. The color HCO Scoutguards do make nice images for videos with good color night and day shots, but seem to run out of battery power faster than the other cameras.  The old Cuddeback worked great until it failed(nearly 4 years of use). The new Cuddeback was pitiful from day 1 in both image quality and battery use.  We now have a Browning to add to the mix.  

The good news about the cameras is that all have been serviced/repaired or replaced under their great warranties (we are still talking to Cuddeback about a solution).  We thank the manufacturers for sticking with us through our adverse situations. 

HCO Scoutguard had offered us a wireless camera to use.  It did not arrive in time to deploy on the July trip, but we have it in house now and it is ready to go.  A second wireless camera has been contributed by an individual.  The route will be animal->camera->cell tower->email address, in early real time information.  We hope to work with an international organization to get the info out to the WWW(more about that when it happens).  Needless to say, we are very excited by this and sincerely thank them for the contributions.

Setbacks and Problems 

No project is without it's share of setbacks and problems.  Camera traps aren't really made for jungle environments.  Many of the infrared cameras had problems finding enough light to make make color pictures during the daylight and 'flipped' to night-time mode.  This is why you see black and white images during the day.  The color cameras had similar problems as well: not enough light for a slow shutter-speed.  We had our share of leaky batteries. Sensors failed, causing the cameras to continuously take pictures until the batteries died.  Leafy plants sprang up in front of lenses. Spiders seemed to enjoy making webs on the lenses. One camera was partially infiltrated by ants.  Good cameras sometimes failed for unknown reasons. Perhaps it was the humidity.  While we did see poachers, they did not see us(we think).  In an entire year there were only 3 days when they were caught on camera, none had any game.

The Best Of Year One

Battery Waster Award--- Agoutis

Least Expected Animal-Tie-Neotropical River Otter and Striped Skunk

This is a screen shot from a video of the skunk.

Coolest Video- 3 Jaguarundi Walking, runner up the White Hawk

Most Adoring Critter-The Tayra

Scariest Monkey-Armless Ghost Monkey(Capuchin) 

Best Bird-Curassow- runner up MotMot

Best Predation- Tayra with Iguana

Most Unexplained--The Mystery Smoke at 4:15am 

Least Favorite Images--Poachers

  Best Overall Image-Jaguarundi

That is all for now.
Remember, that you can subscribe to this blog or follow on YouTube.
We were also named as one of the best camera trappers to follow on Twitter

See you soon!

Leave you comments below.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Ojos de Lalla and Mid-Summer Update 2014

A Curassow hen enters the frame.
The Ojos de Lalla camera was one of the older Scoutguard cameras.  It has an incandescent flash for color night time images.  For daylight, it was set to record 10 second color videos.  The batteries lasted from July until early October.  We recorded over 776 activations over that period of time.  

We have sorted through and condensed them into a three minute video with ocelots, tayra, coati, a capuchin monkey, and a feeding white hawk.   
Here is the video.  I suggest that you maximize the screen size.

We replaced the batteries and in January.  The camera continued to function, but began to video and flash capabilities.  Since we were still able to get some daytime images, we left the camera in hopes of having at least a few photos.

One of the last  great images that we got from this camera is this one of an erect cappuchin monkey staring at the camera.
"I'm cool"

We have been patiently tucking small contributions away in hopes that we could get a wireless cellular camera set up.  Those cameras are expensive and the technology is improving.  I reached out to Scoutguard last week after reading on their website that they are involved in conservation projects.   Word came back late Saturday afternoon that they would sponsor camera and help with the wireless set-up.  We are extremely excited to be able to get email images in real time.  Scoutguard has been one our favorite preforming cameras and has delivered us many great videos and beautiful images. 
HCO Scoutguard's newest wireless camera.
UPDATE 7/8/14--The new camera, shown above, did not arrive at Scoutguard in time for them to ship one to us before we left.  We won't be able to deploy it until early 2015. 

We leave for Costa Rica in the middle of the week with new and replaced cameras, batteries and memory cards.  I'll be reporting back with what we hope will be some great images that were captured over the last 4 months.
NartureSpy from the UK  has named us one of the top camera trappers to follow on Twitter:
To see all of our camera trap videos, follow this link.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Mono Precioso Cam

The Tayra was a star on the Mono Precioso Camera last fall.
The Mono Precioso camera is a Bushnell Trophy cam.  It was set to take 3 images per trigger.  It was placed near what I though was a good animal trail.   It was at the bottom of the mountain where the terrain began to flatten.  There are permanent water sources nearby as well as a pasture and plenty of tall trees.

There is a chance that this camera recorded the biggest variety of animals of all of the cameras that we used.  We also were able to record some rare predation activity and an extremely rare aquatic mammal.

Capuchin monkeys are mostly up in the trees, but they do come to the ground(but still on a tree).  The Mono Precioso camera trap caught the monkeys very near the ground on three separate occasions.  However, the 9/15 visit shows what is perhaps a pair that is taking a look around.

The weasel-like Tayra seemed fond of this trail.  We assume that it was a male as best we could tell from the photos.  He seemed most active in the mornings.  The Tayra is an omnivore, eating fruits, insects, nuts, birds eggs, reptiles, and small mammals.

While reptiles are common at Ocho Verde, we rarely see them on the trail cameras.  The Mono Precioso camera was able to spot this male iguana(orange head).  It was probably heading out to the pasture edges to sun itself.

Unfortunately, Iguanas and Tayras don't get along so well together.  On October first, the Tayra crosses the camera at 8:26 am.  Six short minutes later, it returns again with the iguana in it's maw.
Mouthful of Lizard!
 In addition to the tayra and a few ocelots, the Mono Precioso camera also caught the Neotropical River Otter.  This site is 150-200 meters from the permanent water source. 

We only saw the otter on one day, and we felt fortunate that our water source is pristine enough for these neat animals.


We have also rendered a few videos from the Mono Prcioso camera.  As always, maximize the screen size for better viewing.
The first video involves the Tayra.

The Second video is a compilation of nearly all images from July thru January set at a fast pace.  Definitely need a max screen size for this one.

You can keep up with nearly all the camera trap updates by subscribing to this blog and see all the videos plus some others on the Ocho Verde Youtube Channel.

If you like Twitter, we often announce updates to the blog and videos through tweets.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

'Let's Go' See What's on the Vamos Camera

The VAMOS CAMERA 7/22/13-1/7/13

Vamos has a popular Facebook & Webpage with up to date info on road closures, etc.
We have been going to Costa Rica for years.  I thought that the hassles of renting a car were just part of the less-than-pleasant aspect of travel in Costa Rica.  We were tricked, lied to, reservations 'lost', overcharged, etc by most of the larger franchised rental car companies.  That alone kept us searching for a better rental car service.  We finally found Vamos Rent-a-Car, and it has been an absolute pleasure to deal with them on every trip. 

When I was putting this project together, I wondered if we could get any support from inside Costa Rica.  I immediately thought of Vamos and sent an email off to them describing our project.  Within minutes...literally...I received word back that they "would be honored", to sponsor a camera.  Thus the "Vamos Camera" was born. 

This camera is a Bushnell Trophy Camera.  It was set to take two images when triggered.  The camera was located a a place we call "Three Sisters".  The trail forks near three huge trees(the 3 sisters), the left trail goes up to the ridge up near the Walkabout camera and the right trail meanders through the forest and eventually winds up near the lower pasture where the Pippin Cam and the Mono Precioso Camera(upcoming) cameras are located.

I suspected that this would be a good location for a camera as 3 trails came together.  This spot was where the Vamos Camera was aimed.  We were not disappointed.  The Vamos camera snapped over 3,200 images on one set of batteries.  Here is some of what we got:
The Tayra, always in motion.

The Tayra, always in motion.

The Tayra, always in motion.

The Tayra, always in motion.
The Tayra, always in motion.

The Tayra, always in motion.

The Tayra, always in motion. 

Male Curassow

Male Curassow



Agouti with young

I originally thought Tayra, but this is the Jaguarundi.
I originally thought Tayra, but this is the Jaguarundi.





Mystery animal #1.  What do you think it is?

Mystery animal #2.  What do you think it is?

Mystery animal #2, a second later. What do you think it is?

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below.

Keep an eye out for reports from the remaining cameras as I'll be posting them over the next few weeks.  You can subscribe to the blog and get notified when I post, or you can check back when it is convenient.


The technology exists to receive live(+ 3 minutes) text or email images from the new 2014 model cameras.  Contact me at, if you are interested in participating in this type of project.   A few of us could 'split' a camera.  The images can be sent to up to 5 numbers/email addresses.  We could start it in July, 2014.

For you camera trap junkies(like myself), here are all 3207 images in a quick video, 0.2frames/second.  If you see something interesting, let me know and we can investigate it further/zoom in. In addition to what is listed above, there will be: squirrels, lizards, tinamou, dove, common opossum, spiny rat, crab eating raccoon, white nosed coati, etc.