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Trail Camera Helps Meet the Neighbors

wood ducks on streambank

When you move to a new place, you want to know “who are my neighbors?” When Kestrel moved to our new headquarters at the base of the Mt. Holyoke Range last year, we were most curious about the non-human neighbors who live all around us. With the help of a wildlife camera, we’ve been gathering videos over the last year to discover who our wild neighbors are and how they use the neighborhood.

Among other things, we’ve learned that our neighbors are numerous. The camera is positioned at a stream that feeds into Plum Brook Pond, where roughly 40 species have passed by this single spot in the past year: more than 21 bird species, 15 mammals, and one reptile big enough to trigger the camera: a snapping turtle.

Mudflats Are for Munching

We also learned that a small mudflat can be a significant foraging spot for many species, from birds to muskrats, and more. Mudflats can be loaded with good sources of food like insects, worms, snails, and other invertebrates.

Coastal mudflats support millions of shorebirds during migration. Here at the pond, our most numerous visitors to the mudflat were not shorebirds, but robins, which showed up in big numbers during the breeding season.

The most surprising visitor was Cooper’s Hawk, better known as a hunter of small birds. There were other surprises, too, that you’ll be able to see as we release episodes in our new short video series, “Meet the Wild Neighbors at Kestrel’s Home on the Range.” Our first episode is online now.

coyote in stream at night
This coyote—identifiable from her unusually short tail—passed through several times.

Just Passing Through

Our camera showed that streams are not merely sources of food and water. They’re also important wildlife byways. Raccoons make the most of this route in our backyard. We collected more than 180 videos of raccoons feeding and using the stream as a speedy route between the pond and the woods.

Sometimes, a stream is an obstacle to pass over—no problem for leggy species such as deer, coyote, and bobcat. Others have to work a little harder at it, such as the “rodent athletes” (including chipmunk) who took mighty leaps across the stream—and, in one case, swam for it. Check it out here.

Making the Connection

At 16,000 acres, the Mt. Holyoke and Mt. Tom Ranges comprise one of the state’s largest remaining forest blocks, a haven for wide-ranging species such as black bear, bobcat, and migratory birds, as well as 27 rare or endangered species. Since 1970, Kestrel has helped conserve more than 2,000 acres on and around the Mt. Holyoke Range, and our camera confirmed what we already knew: This land plays a critical role as a home for our wild neighbors.

Yet, when wildlife venture to Plum Brook Pond, they hear the hum of vehicles on two major roads a few hundred yards away. Aside from the obvious hazards, roads and other human development limit animals’ ability to move in response to climate change. That’s why every acre counts to give wildlife the space to adapt and thrive.


We’ll release new episodes of this video series throughout the summer in our bi-monthly Enews and on social media. Sign up for our email list or follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see the next episode!

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