Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stealthy Garden Ninjas

Recently in my garden, I've noticed occasional evidence left by large furry rats with white tails.  These incursions into sacred territory seem to have increased during the recent dry spells.  Although I have seen no more footprints, I have noticed an increasing frequency of tender rose buds nipped off just before they bloom, and always from the same bushes.   I am also aware, as an enlightened modern man, that special cameras, called "game cameras," exist for the sole purpose of identifying the nighttime marauders and improving, for hunters, the rate of harvesting them.  I put all these facts together a couple of weeks ago and decided that it would be nice to know exactly the who, what and when of the perpetrators visiting my garden at night.  Sort of like having a night watchman without all the overtime pay.

Alongside installing such a camera comes a little trepidation.  What if I find that some hitherto unknown creature is drawn by the beauty of my roses?  Perhaps female Sasquatch are harvesting the roses to brighten up the cave or brush pile they live in?  Such pictures could make me rich at the same time as scaring the bejeesus out of me.  What if I find evidence of a mountain lion, rumored and occasionally spotted within Kansas and Nebraska, prowling in my backyard?  Such knowledge would completely spoil my plans for a nighttime-highlighted "white" garden bed. 

All such fantasies aside, it seems that I've been punked by whatever devious creatures exist on the prairie.  If I am to believe the evidence, the only creature visiting my garden in the past two weeks is me.  Well, me and maybe the neighbor's dog.  I've got 169 motion-activated pictures taken over a span of 2 weeks and from two different locations in my garden, and I appear in almost all of them.  There are also a number that are absent of mammalian life, likely initiated by wind moving the plants, or cloud movement or, in one case, a nighttime lightning flash.  It is either that or I'd have to conclude that the deer can sneak around my garden in ninja suits, performing snatch and grab operations before the camera can activate. 

I'm going to keep moving the camera until I locate the secret path of invasion.  Until then, for those who also think this sounds like a good idea, I can wholeheartedly recommend it.  These game cameras are relatively inexpensive now and take good quality pictures, both daytime and nighttime, without flash.  They have the added benefit of adding automatic information to the picture;  date, time, temperature, and phase of the moon. There's an intense feeling of anticipation every time I remove the flash memory to view the pictures, a hope of surprise and discovery.  It might be really neat to focus this on a bird house or nest or something more dependably interesting than a random garden path.  And it would be useful to identify which garden tour visitor is taking cuttings from your treasures, or which neighborhood child is using your back yard as a shortcut from school to home.  Depending on your garden activities, you'll at least get some nice candid shots of yourself working in the garden, because you quickly forget it is there.  The latter lapse of memory could also, if you think about it, be the danger of having it around, again depending on what nongardening activities you enjoy in your garden.       


  1. We've wondered about getting one of these. The photos (at least in the daytime) are really good. If you don't mind my asking, what make and model did you get?

  2. I'm cheap...and figured a 5mb picture size was sufficient for my purposes, so I bought a Moultree Game Spy M80 on sale at Cabelas (regular $129.99 and on sale for $89.99). It's good to about 30 feet at night...there's an M80XT that takes out to 60 feet for $40 more but I've only seen it in the catalogue. You can go costwise anywhere from about $60 up to $500 with these things, but most of the main features are available within the $100-$200 range; after that it's just field of view and larger pics (up to 10 mb). I suppose the focal length might be important for watching a bird nest.

  3. Thank you! No, we're just thinking about putting alongside several animal trails we've noticed to see what's using them. There is also a den that I'd like to know about. I know we have coyotes on the property, as well as skunks, possums, and rabbits. I've seen raccoon tracks, but never seen a raccoon. Just that sort of thing.

    Most of all, I'd like to know which trails the skunks are using, to be sure to avoid them in the late evening!

  4. Actually they take nice photos don't they? I'm trying to think what I would want to photograph. hmm.

  5. If you do decide on a white garden, may I suggest Sally Holmes as a dependable rose? She may be a single, but her buds are elegant, and I rarely have much dieback from winter. She's a bulletproof rose, disease-wise.

  6. No offense bojojoti, but perhaps you hadn't yet read my expose on Sally ( I've never been very crazy about that rose and even this year, when it is blooming better and healthier in my garden than ever before, I'm entirely underwhelmed.

    1. I just found your blog last week, so I hadn't read any of your older posts, but I just now looked up your review of Sally. I agree that she gets shabby when her blooms age, but I keep her at the back of the garden, against the fence, and I probably have more comments about her than any other rose! People don't realize she is a rose, and they are forever asking me what she is. In my garden (Salina, Kansas), Sally is wonderful: prolific, healthy, and robust. I didn't get her pruned this spring (between late freezes, early heat, and a sinus infection), and I think she is going to eat my fence. I'll be pruning over my head if I don't get to her soon.

      And no offense taken at all! I'm not especially fond of white roses in my garden, because they do tend to look tatty quickly. I have a Helena Renaissance who rarely has an attractive bloom--when she does, it's wonderful. My favorite white rose would have to be Marie Pavie. She's a perfect little lady for a small area. I was hoping to become familiar with Darlow's Enigma, but the heat of last summer was too much for my newly planted little specimen, and he didn't show up this spring.

      I'm going to enjoy reading your blog!

  7. The pictures are even better, Greggo, in the original (I compress the pictures on this blog for loading speed, bandwith, etc)


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