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.

I Otter Be Happy But I’m Not

Last month, I got a call from a neighbor who lives next to one of our Platte River Prairies.  I was a little nervous when I picked up the phone because I never know how a neighbor call will go.  Sometimes they’re just calling to shoot the breeze or see how much rain we got.  But other times, they’re calling to let us know that one of “our” hunters shot a deer on the wrong side of a fence or that the cows from our pasture are eating their corn.  This time, it was even worse.  He was calling to tell me he’d just seen a river otter.

I should have been excited to hear about a sighting of one of those cute, playful animals right next to our property, especially because they are considered an at-risk species in Nebraska.  I should have been gratified that our neighbor was excited enough to call me and celebrate it.  Well, I wasn’t.

I don’t have anything against river otters.  In fact, I think they’re great.  But I’ve never seen one in the wild in Nebraska, let alone on one of our properties.  Not one.  Not that I care, of course.

This restored wetland hosts numerous otters, as testified to by scat, tracks, and occasional dead fish.  See any otters in this picture?  Me neither.

This restored wetland hosts numerous otters, as testified to by scat, tracks, and occasional dead fish. See any otters in this picture? Me neither.  The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

My failure to see an otter comes despite the fact that we own and manage a wetland that has some of the highest otter use in Nebraska.  Several years ago, we even housed a research technician on our property who was trapping and implanting radio transmitters in otters.  The researchers chose our site because of all the otter scat and tracks they found there.  I’ve seen the scat.  I’ve seen the tracks.  I’ve even seen piles of dead fish scattered around holes in the ice where otters have been fishing during the winter.  What I haven’t seen?  One single stupid otter.

This fuzzy little jumping spider is very cute, and I photographed it at the wetland where the otters often hang out.  But it's not an otter.

This fuzzy little jumping spider was very cute, and I photographed it at the wetland where the otters often hang out. But it’s not an otter.

I spend a lot of time on our properties.  I mean a lot.  And the stream/wetland habitat where the otters hang out is also one of my favorite places to hang out.  We should be buddies!  The otters and I should be waving at each other every day on the way to work, exchanging pleasantries like good neighbors and friends do.  Instead, they’re avoiding me like the plague.

This tiny soft-shelled turtle is very cute, and also lives at the otter wetland.  However, it is not an otter either.

This tiny soft-shelled turtle is very cute, and lives at the wetland with the otters. It is, however, not an otter.

Quite a few of the technicians that have worked for me over the years have seen otters.  Even some of our volunteers have seen otters.  Now the neighbor right next door has seen one too.  The researcher tracked the otters up and down the river, and located their signal on our wetland countless times.  He even showed me video clips of entire otter families tripping along the bank of the river and playing cute otter games in the water.  I went out with him to check his traps, figuring it’d be a good way to see an otter.  When I went out, he caught beavers, raccoons, and a skunk.  Not that it’s a big deal either way.

Kent Fricke caught lots of otters and implanted radio transmitters in them.  When I went out with him to check traps, he just caught other animals like this big beaver.

Kent Fricke caught lots of otters and implanted radio transmitters in them. When I went out with him to check traps, all he caught was other animals like this big beaver.

I get to see other animals on our properties, and they don’t seem to mind me watching them.  Notwithstanding my rocky relationship with prairie dogs (see my earlier post and a follow up to it), I’ve had pretty good luck with most kinds of creatures, including fairly reclusive ones such as Franklin’s ground squirrels, smooth green snakes, woodcock, and whooping cranes.  Often, animals even pose pretty nicely for me while I photograph them.  SO WHY DON’T OTTERS LIKE ME?

Maybe I’m trying too hard.  Maybe if I stay away from their favorite wetland for a while, they’ll stop hiding from me every time I show up (the little dirtbags).  Maybe I’ll spend more time with other animals for a while – animals that are just as cute as otters, but that have more generous dispositions.  Maybe if I do all those things, I’ll eventually get to see a real life otter on one of our properties.  Someday.

Not that I care.