We set up four cameras along the fencelines we plan to monitor for the raptor perch project to make sure that the fences themselves aren't being used by raptors as perches already (so we can compare before and after use of the fencelines once the perches have been installed). When we returned to the fenceline in our irrigated pasture habitat, we discovered that it had been completely knocked off of it's fence and was on the ground. The camera was still working though, so I went back to look at the photos it had taken before it's literal downfall.
The camera was in place for about 10 days and working fine, then suddenly appears to swing around to face south seconds after a cow is visible having a scratch on the fenceline. A few days later, a person was visible on the camera- it looks like someone was down there with a yellow digger or some other kind of tractor and perhaps they tried to turn the camera back or straighten it if it was leaning (thanks kind cowboy!). Only minutes later I can see the shadow of a cow reaching up towards the camera, I imagine to give it a nice lick.
The cows seem to be quite stealthy- they attack the camera from behind! There are a few shots where there are lots of cows in the frame, but then suddenly a serious close up of something (probably an ear or nose) and then no pictures of the culprit walking past the camera. In a lot of those cases, the camera moves around. There are a couple of shots of blackbirds or starlings coming in to land on the camera (and some cool ones of flocks flying by), and then almost a month after the camera was installed, a picture of a vulture tail as it’s landing on the camera (see the shadow) and you can see a ‘committee’ of other vultures perched further down the fenceline. These are the only raptors I think I see on this camera’s pictures- aside from a very blurry picture of what looks like a barn owl flying past the camera one night at about 11pm.
After the vulture picture, the camera swings around for a few hours, then eventually breaks off and falls to the ground. It only takes one last picture before dying. RIP camera. Source of the ultimate downfall: vulture perching event.
Scientist, birder, teacher, mom.