Karen’s Wetland Videos

One of my favorite places within our Platte River Prairies is a restored wetland we usually call “the sandpit wetland” because it is a former sand and gravel mining pit.  We restored the site over about 10 years, a little at a time, and it now features a meandering stream and various side channel, backwater, and off-channel pockets.  You might remember the site from previous posts, including this one about sludge and this one (or this one) about timelapse imagery.

The Derr Sandpit wetland (2013 photo).  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

The Derr Sandpit wetland (2013 photo). The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

I always enjoy walking around the wetland – even if I’m fighting off invasive species – because there’s so much to see.  I have a pretty good feel for the plant community at the site because it’s easy to find the plants and watch their slow movements around the wetland over time.  There are more invertebrate species than I’ll ever be able to count, of course, let alone see, but I can usually find quite a few of them if I look.  However, it’s harder to see and keep track of the larger animals – the birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.  For some reason, they don’t usually show themselves when I’m there…  (Especially the otters…. don’t get me started.)

Our timelapse imagery over the last couple years has helped us keep track of some of the wildlife use at the site, but since those cameras only take photos at regular hourly intervals, catching animals in front of the camera is just a happy accident.  Now, however, one of our longest tenured volunteers, Karen Hamburger, has taken it upon herself to find out what’s really out there.  During the last year or so, she’s been setting a trail camera (actually more than one, since at least one was inundated in a flood) in various places around the wetland and capturing views of many wildlife species.

I finally had a chance to go through some of her favorite video clips the other day, and I made a short 3 minute video montage with some of them.  It includes several bird species, beavers, deer, raccoons, and even (sigh) otters.  We knew from tracks and other sign that most of these animals were around, but it’s one thing to see footprints and another to watch the critters themselves!  This video gives us a wonderful and unique perspective on what happens at our wetland when we noisy blundering people aren’t around.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

THANK YOU to Karen for all the work to capture these moments for us, along with all the other work she’s done over the years!

If the video doesn’t display correctly above, you can try clicking HERE instead.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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14 Responses to Karen’s Wetland Videos

  1. jlayer says:

    I absolutely LOVED this. What was the raccoon doing? Trying to catch something?

  2. Cody W. says:

    That’s really great! You could almost hear the otters saying ‘Hey Chris, here we are.’

    • James McGee says:

      If it makes Chris feel any better … I’ve never seen a river otter either. I’m in bed when they are out. People have told me I’ve also missed some great Northern Lights while sleeping. What can I say … I like to get my sleep.

  3. Sara McClure says:

    This is amazing. I love trail cams and these videos are just the best. Thanks for putting this compilation together. And yes, the otters are definitely playing hide and seek with you!

  4. The fastest three minutes ever! Really enjoyed and thank you Karen for taking the time to obtain the footage.

  5. mark nupen says:

    very interesting. I belong to the Friends of the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area in northwestern Wisconsin. Ours is not a wetland but a Barrens sandy habitat. Am curious about what equipment you used for this recording and any tricks of the trade for creating such a video eg. how many days to record, costs, equipment etc.

    • Karen Hamburger says:

      Hello Mark

      The cameras I used were inexpensive trail cameras ranging from $140 to $170 and can be found at most sporting goods outlets. You should research each one to find the features you want as each camera is different. Be sure to check the customer reviews.
      The one lost in the flood (my favorite) was a 10 mgpix and the other two are 8 mgpix.
      One of them has a sound feature I really like. If you listen to the video of the deer you will hear birds in the back round.
      For each camera I had two memory cards of 36mgb and two sets of rechargeable batteries (good quality batteries are essential). I found this easier to maintain in the field.
      My husband built two light weight, versatile stands that could be easily stuck in the ground at the waters edge for optimal placement and vantage points. It also gave the raccoons something to play with!
      I think I spent around $400-$500 in equipment. I didn’t really keep track as this was a labor of love.
      There is a learning curve to using these cameras, such as only point them to the North to avoid the sun from setting them off and the wind is all ways a factor. I spent many hours watching videos of the wind on the water and in the grass. This endeavor takes a lot of patience and perseverance. It took seven months of checking cameras once and some times twice a week. And untold hours of watching videos.
      Chris gets the credit for making the movie and the creation of the wetland he so graciously lets me skulk around in.

      Karen

  6. Jim in IA says:

    That was fun to watch. Thanks.

  7. Wonderful video! You should UStream the camera like they do for the Decorah Eagles.

  8. Mark Welsch - NFP Omaha Coordinator says:

    Dear Chris,

    Can you tell me how widespread beaver were in the prairie environment before humans almost killed them all off?

    Recently I watched a Nature TV show that was all about beaver.

    If they were in most of Nebraska in the past, I think they would do wonders for the environment if they could be reintroduced.

    Your note below and linked videos show that beaver are in some parts of Nebraska.

    Thanks Chris!

    In Peace and Justice, Mark Welsch, Omaha Coordinator Nebraskans for Peace

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Mark,

      Beavers were definitely widespread before European settlement, and have become pretty widespread again across much of the state. They certainly are an important part of ecosystems, and we’re usually glad to have them on our properties. However, because of their activities, they can also cause conflicts when they dam up streams and back water across public roads or into someone’s basement. As with much wildlife management, it’s complicated. That doesn’t change how interesting and valuable they are as a species.

  9. Pingback: Beaver Crossings | The Prairie Ecologist

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