Thanks to a grant from Arrowhead County RC&D, Earthworks was able to install high-quality wildlife cameras at The Center at Donaldson, whose campus includes a 37 acre kettle lake, prairie restorations, pastures, forests, and landscaped areas. Wildlife is abundant, and includes bald eagles, osprey, sandhill cranes, bobolinks, deer, red foxes, monarch butterflies, several turtle species, and red-headed woodpeckers, to name only a few. We have at least 3 of the Chicago Wilderness’ 12 Priority Species, and possibly more.
This year, each week-long Earthwork’s day camp (kids ages 6-10) follows a theme of either Soil, Water, or Air. Integral to each of these systems is wildlife. As rural areas depopulate and children spend more time indoors, they are increasingly unfamiliar with the cast of characters that we share space with. Often, they know more about elephants, lions, and giraffes than about their own native foxes, turtles, and birds.
We first take the kids into the woods and show them the cameras, let them wave and leave funny faces. Then we teach them about animals signs, habitat, and viewing the landscape through their eyes. At the end of the week, we retrieve the storage cards and let them see who is out there!
I knew from walking the woods that a den was located not far outside our camp building. I wasn’t sure which animal it belonged to, but given that we had reports of a new fox family nearby, I figured that was it.
We set up the camera in front of the den and let it run for a week. One of the cameras even has an integrated solar panel and internal battery, with AA batteries providing back-ups (so far, the solar panel appears to be providing all the power necessary). It would take audio and video both day and night, triggered by motion sensors.
Foxes there indeed were! What a treat to see.
We left the cameras rolling…
Did I mention that these cameras take videos too? (Note: You might not see videos if you’re reading this inside your e-mail… you’ll have to click the blog post and open in a web browser)
And at night!
We expected foxes. And, of course, deer. But we were pleasantly surprised to find other critters as well.
This groundhog seemed a bit wary. Maybe he originally dug the burrow, or was scoping out a possible conquest, or perhaps just admiring the architecture and front lawn.
We upload these photos and videos to our social media accounts to build excitement about making the wildlife around us more visible to the campers.
Our cameras do capture audio, but aside from some birdsong, we haven’t heard much of anything yet. We still don’t know what the fox says! We’ll keep listening.