Unseen and ill considered

I’ve been going over the photos from the camera traps and gee there’s a lot of what you might call ‘noise.’ First and foremost is the inevitable consequence of setting up camera traps on a farm: photos of livestock. About 99.9 percent of the tens of thousands of photos are of cows and horses. There are cows and horses passing by the cameras, cows and horses grazing near the cameras, cows and horses investigating the cameras.


And then there are sequences of photos of cows and horses parked in front of the cameras. Here’s one of a cow who decided to have a lie down near to camera trap number four. Look at the time the photo was taken:


And here is a photo of the same cow at the time she decided to get up (again look at the time):


So over the space of 48 minutes during which this cow had a nice lie down, the camera trap shot over a thousand photos of her preparing to lie down, lying down, still lying down, and then getting back up. All of which I had to scroll through later, pulling a hamstring on my index finger. In fact there would have been more such photos had it not been for the unwitting arrival of a certain researcher who disturbed her:


My index finger thanks me.

But among the countless images of livestock animals and farm vehicles are little tidbits of other animals’ lives being lived in parallel to those of the domesticated ones. There are lots of birds: ducks and plovers magically appearing after the rain:



And this kookaburra divebombing  an unsuspecting grub:


And there is the occasional mammal. This wallaby gets around the farm a bit, making an appearance at several of the camera traps:


And this cat with interesting markings did a drive-by during the day. No coincidence that most of the wildlife was photographed at the top of the ridge where the cows and farmers seldom go:


And a fox making nightly visits. This fox was later trapped and collared by the DPI guys:


As far as dogs, most of the dog photos are of the farm hounds racing around. This one looks like an act of predation but it is in fact Rover giving one of the bulls a bit of exercise. Not welcome in 33 degree heat.


As far as wild dogs, there’s is only one individual visiting the farm:


He’s a shy fellow and as soon as the camera flashed in his face he shot off to the side. In fact I think the flashes from the camera traps disturb him quite a bit as the flashes startle him and he is rarely photographed by the same trap twice. So either he’s an infrequent visitor or else he’s avoiding places with camera traps. The only way to determine this would be with camera traps with infrared flashes, but it’s not one of the questions I need to answer. What does interest me is what the farmer here knows about what’s going on. He mentioned that he’d seen one dog but that he thought there were very few wild dogs visiting compared to in the past. He was right.

Why only one dog? Well up to the north, some farmers were recently laying baits for dogs and it seems that the dogs from our farm must have gone and taken those baits and died. So this boy is either the last of the pack or the first of the next wave. This is cattle farming in Australia: inevitably more dogs will come, calves will be killed, poison distributed and the cycle of life and death will continue. Unless that is, they sell off the cows and plant more blueberries. Apparently there’s more money to be made from the latter and dogs actually control the rats who are attracted to the millet used to stabilise the ground around the blueberries. I wonder if making dogs useful to farmers that way would make them less ‘invasive’.

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