Jeff and I spent the last four days, or I should say nights, filming flying squirrels at my cabin. The footage will be used in an upcoming rocky mountain wildlife film.
Jeff has built an array of blacklight infrared lights. These don't have the usual red glow that plain infrared gives off, and since they are silent, there's nothing to alert the night time squirrels they are being lit up.
So after stategically setting up the ten or so lights, we were ready for the first night.
Our first squirrel, a large adult, arrived at 6:45 PM. It climbed around the dead snags I'd set up for twenty minutes or so, but somehow managed to do it's best acting out of our lights view. It had just left when two youngsters arrived. They also seemed to know what areas weren't lit up and our filming was also compromised when a marten suddenly appeared. This of course sent our subjects streaking off into the night like shooting stars.
By the time the marten finally moved off, it was late. Two more squirrels did show up, but were spooky.
We'd have to make some changes.
Night two began with great promise. We'd re-adjusted our lights to match the squirrels activity areas. Right away our early squirrel put on a show. We filmed several leaping off into the dark and landing shots. Once again when it disappeared our twins showed up. But just as they were about to perform, the marten appeared. It actually leaped at one of the youngsters but did not come close.
Well, that meant the end of our squirrel filming for a while but it also gave us an idea. Why not offer him a job as co-star in the film and re-write the script Now instead of the segment being about flying squirrels coming out to forage at night, it would be about them being hunted by the marten.
Night three came with more adjustments to the lights and an urgency to film as much as possible before the marten appeared. By now we had the staging areas so well lit, we could pretty much film no matter where the squirrels hung out. It's funny, one could barely make out faint shadows of movement but looking at the moniter you could see the little flyers like it was mid day.
Our early squirrel flew in at 6:15PM. We filmed him leaping from snag to snag and climbing in and out of numerous cavities. Our twins showed up next but soon became triplets as another youngster joined them.
By the time the marten showed we'd already had a good night.
We were suppose to be finished filming after three days but Jeff and I both felt one more nights footage would really complete the segment. Jeff called the client and we got the go ahead.
So night four began. Our early squirrel appeared on schedule, but when the youngsters arrived they brought friends. At one time I counted five. Not so they could all be filmed but at least there was constant activity all over our set.
When the marten appeared we thought we'd be shut down for a while, but this time a squirrel cautiously approached obviously aware of his enemy's presence. The marten heard the scratching of claws on bark and whirled around to peer into the dark. The squirrel continued to move about and the marten kept his nose pointed at the squirrels location. This went on for several minutes. Eventually the marten lost interest and bounded off into the night. Instantly the squirrels were back, giving Jeff more filming opportunities. Making the whole shoot a success.
It's fascinating knowing a whole population is just starting their day as we're headed for bed.