October 2022 Nebraskaland final

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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50 Nebraskaland • October 2022 MIXED BAG Linda and I bought an el Cheapo trail camera — you know, the kind you strap to a tree or post and it automatically takes a photo every time something goes by. We have long known that we are the least of the occupants on these 60 acres on the Middle Loup River and that most of the activity here goes on after we go to bed; we thought the camera might give us a better idea about who was really having all the fun here once the sun went down. We were a little discouraged when we got our January- February 2020 issue of Nebraskaland and saw the magnificent photos, "The Unseen," that Eric Fowler got with his camera traps at Indian Cave State Park, down along the Missouri in the southeastern part of the state. But we decided he invested more than $50 in his cameras, probably knew a lot more about what he was doing, and was working in an area of Nebraska that is particularly rich in wildlife. But what the heck, we had the camera, so why not give it a shot? From the very first recording chips that we took from the cameras, we were surprised. Because they were blank. In the one camera, we had not fully inserted the chip and the second, we'd forgotten to turn the camera on. OK. Try again. Well, this time, when we inserted the chips into our computer reader, we were not only surprised, we were gobsmacked. We had baited the camera with some roadkill we dragged off the highway, and apparently, our invitation to a free meal was taken seriously. We had peeks into the private lives of raccoons, possums, a coyote, a fox and a couple gorgeous skunks. (We have often gone to bed here at night wondering about the rich aroma of a skunk wafting across our yard, thinking perhaps that a car hit one out here on the highway, but now we know that it's all just a matter of the social interaction that goes down along the river bottoms every night, all night.) During the day, there were flurries of crows and a couple of hawks (a red-tailed and a sharp-shinned). The weekly or biweekly viewing of those camera chips has become our winter entertainment. No matter how often we got pictures of the same critters, it was fascinating to see their attitudes toward each other as they all ate at the same banquet. We enjoyed watching their interactions, keeping track of the time of night they visited, and how many days of the week they did. As I sat at my computer, sorting and deleting hundreds of photos (our camera took as many as 200 images in 24 hours), deciding which of the dozens of images of fluffy tailed skunks or stealthy foxes I could bear to delete), I hesitate and only reluctantly discard a moment I alone got to see in these secretive creatures' lives. I'm not Eric Fowler, but I am lucky enough to live on wooded land along a beautiful Nebraska river. But, honestly, even if I still lived in Lincoln, I would get a trail camera and set it up in my backyard. When I did live there, I often saw foxes, possums and raccoons in my yard and along the city streets. Heaven only knows what I missed. You never know. I recommend setting up a trail camera in your own city yard. You might be surprised. A fox? Possum? A neighbor stealing your newspaper? Or maybe his dog pooping on your sidewalk? The night holds a thousand secrets! Roger Welsch is an author, humorist, folklorist and a former essayist for CBS News Sunday Morning. He is the author of more than 40 books and has been contributing to Nebraskaland Magazine since 1977. PRIVACY SCHMIVACY! By Roger Welsch

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