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The Carlos Avery Wildlife Survey, Apr 4 & 5

posted Apr 1, 2020, 3:03 PM by Jonathan Poppele   [ updated Apr 1, 2020, 3:11 PM ]

It's time for the Cedar Creek Carlos Avery Wildlife Survey!

By executive order, Govern Waltz is asking all Minnesotans to stay in our homes through April 10 except to engage in specific activities. These include "outdoor activities," such as "walking, hiking, [...] hunting, or fishing." Or tracking? You bet.

Our Spring Cedar Creek Wildlife Survey was scheduled for this coming Saturday, April 4. Well, Cedar Creek is closed, and we all want to maintain social distancing. So I invite you to take part in our first asynchronous tracking club event, the Carlos Avery Wildlife Survey. Here is a quick overview:

Here are all the details:

Carlos Avery: Where To Go

The Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area covers about 24,000 acres to the south and east of Cedar Creek. It is about 2/3 wetland and 1/3 upland and is managed primarily for Deer, Waterfowl and Turkey.

Interior roads at Carlos Avery are now closed to motor vehicle traffic in the spring. Walk-in and non-motorized bicycle access is allowed. There are parking areas located all around the perimeter of the Wildlife Management Area. You can download a PDF map that shows parking locations here.

Any of the roads or upland habitat at Carlos Avery can offer good opportunities to explore sign. Many of the roads have sections of loose dirt or sand that capture clear tracks. Here are a few specific locations that some of our trackers have suggested:
  • Pool 23 Trail: Parking at trailhead. This is a dirt and sand two-track located just off Viking Blvd. It extends for about a mile though mixed forest and along wetlands. View here on Google Maps.
  • Near the DNR Offices: Trailheads near parking. From the Carlos Avery WMA Headquarters, you can cross Broadway Ave and follow the South Rd, which makes a nearly 7 mi loop. The surface is a mix of gravel, sand and dirt, some of which should offer good track traps. Old Gamefarm Rd heads north, offering an out-and-back (or very long loop). View here on Google Maps.
  • Swamp Trail: Trailhead is 1.2mi from the nearest parking. From Stonebridge Rd, you can pass through the gate and follow this two-track south. The first quarter mile or so is sand, and often captures a good diversity of tracks. Another quarter mile on, the road passes by a spillway with beaver and otter sign before reaching pine thicket. View here on Google Maps.
  • Peaceful Canyon: Trailhead is 2.4mi from the nearest parking. Though "just" a sandpit, Blake Southard of North Winds Wilderness School Though tells us he has taught his entire introduction to tracking course in this spot. It offers great substrate and good animal diversity and activity. View here on Google Maps.

Hazards, Considerations & Conditions on the Ground

Two-thirds of Carlos Avery is wetland. While the roads are usually well drained, you may encounter deep puddles in some places--especially with rain forecast for the next two days. Plan you footwear accordingly.

Ticks out and Anoka county is considered high-risk areas for tick-born diseases. Please come prepared and plan to do a thorough tick-check when you get home. Most experts now recommend permethrin treated clothing and a DEET based insect repellent, in addition to daily tick-checks. For more information on protecting yourself from Lyme disease and other tick-born illnesses check out this page from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Migrating waterfowl are passing through, and Carlos Avery can be a prime spot for birding. You may want to bring binoculars and think about how to share bird observations on iNaturalist. Maybe time to try digiscoping?

iNaturalist (please read this part)

As most of you know, we use iNaturalist as a tool for recording and sharing our observations. This platform will be even more valuable for this survey as we get out on our own and make individual observations. If you do not already have an iNaturalist account, you can get one here.

For this survey, our iNaturalist observations are not only a record of what we find, they are also the way we will be able to discuss what we see and get others help with identification and interpretation. Because of this, we will want to document our findings more thoroughly than we may be used to. Here are a few tips:

  • When we track, we use clues at multiple spatial scales to help us identify and interpret what we find. Make sure to document multiple scales. A good observation of tracks will include multiple, clear, in-focus photographs of:
    • Individual tracks with a ruler for scale
    • Groups of tracks, showing enough to clearly interpret the track pattern.
    • Context photos showing the habitat and how the animal is using that habitat
    • For an excellent example of documenting tracks, see this Facebook post by German naturalist Simone Roters.
    • These examples of bobcat, toad and chipmunk tracks on iNaturalist show how to document tracks and trails--but remember to add habitat shots as well.
  • When documenting sign, also take multiple, in-focus photographs of the sign at multiple scales, including the habitat. Context is often even more important for sign.
    • These examples of squirrel and mouse feeding sing on iNaturalist are great examples of how to document sign.
  • In addition to your photographs, include notes about your observation to help others interpret what they see in your photographs. You may want to include measurements of tracks and trail parameters or notes about behavior.
  • When photographing tracks, remember these basic tips:
    • Make sure the outline of the track is clearly visible. In full sunshine, you may need to shade the track. In flat light, you may need to side-light the track with a flashlight.
    • Try different exposures and lighting conditions. You can delete the poor photos later, once you see how things look on a full-sized screen.
    • Take photos straight down. Even a slight angle can distort features and apparent size.
    • Include a ruler. Even then, your hand won't be the same distance from your lens as the track, distorting the apparent size of the track.
    • Use popsicle sticks, sticks, or arrows in the dirt to help point out track patterns if tracks are small or faint in the frame.
  • Remember that you can take photographs with any camera and add them to iNaturalist once you are back home. I often take a placeholder observation on my phone and additional photos with a camera to show added detail.

Story-of-the-Day on Zoom

At the end of the weekend, you are invited to join us on a Zoom video conference to share your story of the day, ask and answer questions, and see what others found. We will gather on Sunday afternoon, so everyone will have time to do some of their own research, upload observations, and even get feedback from others on iNaturalists. Many of our team leads will be reviewing observations on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Here are all the details on the gathering

Sunday, April 5, 4:00 PM

We recommend registering for the gathering in advance. To register, follow this link.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.