Wildlife camera trap research reveals quickly which animals are the most curious about their surroundings. I’ve had several white-tailed deer often love lick the cameras just to taste them. Greater roadrunners no matter where I’ve placed the cameras have found them and taken several selfies. Feral hogs have bumped some cameras more than once moving the camera into an awkward position, which results in getting blank or vegetation captures. A few raccoons have been curious about the cameras. There are the rare shots of bobcats checking out the cameras up close. Then there is the one time on Christmas Eve in 2015 that a Mountain Lion took three selfies.
What magic recently occurred to due a masked bandit as they are often referred to? On September 25, 2017 at 8:41 pm a wet raccoon approached one of the cameras at the Beaver Pond. After a couple of selfies were taken – one paw reached out and moved the camera at an angled position towards the opposite side of the Beaver Pond. By doing this minor movement this raccoon caused something phenomenal to be taken that would’ve never been captured if he or she had not been curious enough to move the camera trap.
Here are a couple of background explanations. A baby Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was born at 3RF earlier this year. It’s hard to tell on the following photos if this is the female or male of its parents without seeing them standing side by side. Males have a longer beak. After the Beaver Pond restoration process began in late 2016, several American bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus or Rana catesbeiana) came back to the riparian area. I’ve heard their choruses of croaking over the last several months. These frogs are an important food source for many birds, especially large herons.
Back to that magical raccoon whom with its innate curiosity allowed the following images to be captured – a Great Blue Heron eating one of those bullfrogs. The series of captures shows before the bird swallowed it whole, it dropped and dunked it into the water several times, poked it a couple of times, and then proceeded to swallow the entire bullfrog in one big gulp with its head slightly turned sideways. The coloration of the bullfrog indicates it was a female bullfrog because male bullfrogs have yellow throats.
After the heron ate its dinner, it continued standing in front of the camera preening itself for several minutes. In one capture it extended its neck once more as if making sure the bullfrog was swallowed completely.
These images would’ve been missed entirely if the camera had not been moved at an odd angle by that lone raccoon. With future research, I plan to use two cameras at each location at the Beaver Pond, one straight up and down and the other placed at an angle. There is simply no telling what other wildlife interaction research photos that have been missed like these of the Great Blue Heron eating a bullfrog. So I discovered this thanks to a lone raccoon. From an ecological standpoint its priceless to see that the initial phase of the Beaver Pond restoration is benefiting these herons and other wildlife.
Additional, images captured were of a standing raccoon, one white-tailed deer doe stopping by the camera. In the last serious of photos, the baby Great Blue Heron was seen flying into the pond, capturing a crawdad, and swallowing it.