Our CraneCam, originally obtained through a grant from Duke Energy, has served us well although in the past it earned the name “the Beast” for good reason. Designed as a remote security camera, it had to be modified and reconfigured to serve as a wildlife webcam. That redesign was accomplished by Heather Ray and Mike Deline of Adoni Networks. I listened to the track history of those changes, but to be honest, most of it went over my head. We are very grateful for all the work,especially to Mike who volunteered a lot of his personal time on weekends to keeping the Beast running.
Electronic technology changes almost by the minute and it seems that this project has run a year or two ahead of that market. We borrowed a prototype GPS unit from Sony for the first migration in the early 1990’s and a year or so later they were available to buy. We played with recordable chips to broadcast the brood call well before MP3 players made life so much simpler. We used HD cameras when they were heavy and expensive before mini cameras like the GoPro were available. The same is true for the CraneCam.
Mike spent the winter researching new electronics. This spring he recommended a few additional changes and they have made a huge difference. What was once a spaghetti plate of wires and boxes is now a few components, and the antennas that once lost the signal every day are now reliable. We have a consistent signal and more bandwidth with very sensitive audio, and all of that makes for a better presentation to our growing audience. The better the image that we can present, the more interest we can generate and the more we can educate people about the plight of migratory birds. So please tell your friends to tune in.
The other advantage of our camera is it gives us a means of remotely monitoring the birds and the pensite. Last year a viewer spotted a mink, and that prompted Geoff and me to install an additional layer of wire fencing. This year we have video evidence of a black bear crossing the runway.
Jim Holzwart, White River Marsh State Wildlife Area Manager, says there have been a few bear reports lately. He added that the dry weather there has reduced the blueberry crop to almost zero, and that may have sent the bears wandering farther afield for food.
Hopefully it’s a transient bear, one just passing by and the pensite is not part of its territory. The pen is made of chain-link and steel siding which will not stop an aggressive bear, but they are opportunists, and will scavenge before attacking live prey. We kept the crane food in a metal container inside one of those plastic sheds outside of the pen. Geoff has now moved that back to camp and will take each day’s ration with him in the morning.
Many years ago I worked as an assistant driller in a mine shaft that was 200 miles into the wilderness of the Yukon Territories in northern Canada. There were only two of us there, and I learned the hard way that bears are creatures of habit. Once they find a food source they will keep coming back to check it. We had one that broke into our food cache and thereafter could not be deterred, coming back every day, getting bolder with each visit. At that point you have two choices. Move the camp or remove the bear.
We don’t want that kind of encounter to happen at White River Marsh so we will keep a close watch and remove everything that might attract him. We have also asked the camera drivers to keep watch for return visits.