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  • Writer's pictureIsaac yelchin

How to see the rarest animals

Oftentimes when discussing nature we like to point out different animals that you can see by hiking through your local parks. Things you can find by flipping over logs, looking on rocks in the creek, or scanning the branches and telephone poles. However cool these animals are, and very cool are some of them, the more elusive and rare creatures take a little bit more work to find.

Enjoy a look at the stunningly cute gray fox captured on my wildlife camera!

You can maybe get incredibly lucky, or spend two months camping in the forest to see a bobcat. Unfortunately, we do not all have the time to return fully to nature. There are a few ways that you can still see these incredible animals with a little bit less effort.

Enjoy the gorgeous spotting on this bobcat

If you have a backyard of any sorts, even just a little patio with a drinking fountain or a small patch of grass in the city, you can still see some fantastic creatures. All you need is to buy a motion sensing wildlife camera, some batteries, and a memory card. This can be achieved by spending as little as $40! However, there are much nicer cameras with higher quality sensors and better options.

Cute, (to some) watch the skunk search for prey in the tall grass!

The images and videos you see here, are all taken from my wildlife cameras, which cost about $50 each. The process of setting up the camera is very important. If you place it so there are plants directly in front of the lens, you may pick up 600 videos of wind blowing the plants around. I have suffered this very fate before. The worst part is that while 590 of those videos were just wind moving grass around in front of the lens, 10 of the videos were stunning fascinating animals slinking past.

Poison Oak triggers the sensor

The way wildlife (some people call them game cameras) cameras work, is that the camera remains on standby until it senses movement. Once something moves, it triggers the sensor and the camera takes pictures or starts recording video. (You can chop and change these settings to fit your needs). I like to have my camera take a 20-30 second video. I figure if you want a still image you can just grab one frame from the video.

Watch this Wren forage in the oak leaf litter, and in the end get lucky with a snack!

I started this by saying there are some rare animals you would have trouble seeing just by exploring the woods. This is where the wildlife cameras come in. They sit and wait for something special to walk, dart, gallop, or swoop by, for months at a time. They also have another added feature that often gets the coolest videos.

Meet the owl that lives underground!

The night photography on these cameras is excellent. When the movement sensor triggers the camera to start recording it flares a little infrared light, that is so wide on the light spectrum that most mammals cannot even see it. This way you get an excellent night image that is well lit, without distracting the animal from its normal fascinating behavior.

This coyote visits us twice to show off his bushy tail!

I am lucky to live fairly deep into the wilderness of the Santa Monica Mountains, so I have a lot of options to place my wildlife cameras and get rare critters, but even in the city you can still get some great shots. You might see a possum, a coyote, racoon, or even an owl that you didn’t know frequented your backyard on the hunt for the mice that dodged your mousetraps.

Ever see a hawk eating lunch?

Another fun way to peer into the worlds of animals you wouldn’t normally see takes much less work than wildlife cameras. It also can provide you with angles of things you would never ever get to see otherwise. However, it isn’t as much fun as setting up a camera, wondering every night what's on there, and sorting through your videos looking for gold.

An expert forager, meet one of the loudest creatures in the forest, the mighty scrub jay!

Lots of scientific organizations across the world have set up fascinating live cams of different wildlife. I have listed a few of my personal favorites below, but recommend you search around further if you are interested because there are a few hundred with lots of different critters! Here is a great way to see what kind of colorful and crazy birds flock to fruit feeders in panama. In tropical Central America, all it takes is leaving a few bananas out and you will get the most absurd diversity of birds, and sometimes monkeys, drawn to the scent.

This camera dives deep below the sea to rubbing beach. If you see the fin of an orca on a whale watch you can consider yourself a lucky duckling, so being able to watch orcas all day on this live camera is an absolute treat! The orcas use the rubbing beach to scratch parasites and other organisms that have latched onto them off by grating their big blubbery bodies along the gravel.

These are some of the most fascinating live cams in my opinion, because they give you an angle of stunning bird nests that unless you were a baby eagle, you would never experience. They have all sorts of hawks, falcons, eagles, owls, and more, so do some searching to find your favorite. Here is one of a beautiful bald eagle nest.

Let us know what you think about the wildlife camera videos I’ve collected, as well as the live cameras. Tell us what is your favorite! Also if you set up your own camera keep us updated!

Photos and videos by Isaac Yelchin from wildlife cameras in the Santa Monica Mountains. Live cams hosted by multiple organizations.

Isaac Yelchin is foremost a herpetologist. He studies lizards, frogs, newts, and the like. Specifically, he spends all day and night thinking about what it is like to be an animal. What are the animals thinking about? What is their perspective? When he should be working, he sits and stares at his pet lizard asking himself these questions.

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