It was almost twenty years ago now that I was diagnosed with a heart problem called arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia. It’s a tricky disease to diagnose because it often manifests itself in intermittent bouts of ventricular tachycardia (essentially a dangerously fast heartbeat), but leaves no trace on an EKG when the affected heart is beating normally. To make the diagnosis, you have to first catch the heart in the act. To do that, you use a Holter monitor.
A Holter monitor is a 24-hour EKG. The leads are attached to your chest, the machine is clipped on your belt, and you go about your business. When your heart acts up, there’s a record of it.
The sure cure for any heart ailment is a Holter monitor. I don’t know how many 24-hour periods I wore one, but in none of them did I get even a single off-beat. The same principle dictates that your car never makes that funny noise when you bring it to the mechanic. And that the intruder never invades your chicken run when the motion-detecting camera is there to bear witness.
We bought the camera over the weekend. It’s a Moultrie GameSpy i40, and it does lots of cool stuff. It can take up to three pictures, or a 15-second video, when it detects motion. At night, it uses an infrared flash that’s not supposed to spook the animals. It’s rain- snow- and cold-proof. Each photo is tagged with the time, temperature, and even the phase of the moon. It’s good to know that, when the weasel ate your chickens, Jupiter was in the seventh house.
The morning after its first night guarding the run, I was out there at dawn retrieving the SD card that stored the photos. I plugged it into my computer, and opened the folder.
The only thing on it was a three-photo series of Kevin testing the camera by jumping out from behind the coop.
The next night, it was the same again. Pictures of us, making motion in the motion-detection field. At least we know the camera works.
The third night, I figured it was useless to point it at the coop, and I turned it to look out into the open space by our upper garden, where I’d seen tracks of various kinds of animals. When I checked the photos the next morning, I finally had something!
I use the term loosely. What I had was the blurred rear end of what appears to be a coyote, disappearing behind our stacked lobster pots, which we’re storing next to the garden.
I now understand why there aren’t any clear pictures of the Loch Ness monster, or the Yeti. There are challenges inherent in trying to photograph something that might show up, but probably won’t. Before motion detection and digital imaging, it was almost impossible. You could sit out there by Loch Ness, clutching your camera, for months at a stretch, and Nessie was guaranteed to show up when you were eating your lunch, or blowing your nose. So, yeah, you only got the tail. I understand.
Cameras like my GameSpy (the name and appearance of which make me feel like I should watch for black helicopters coming up over the horizon) make endeavors like this easier, but by no means foolproof. When Kevin and I went outside to check for coyote tracks behind the lobster pots (we found them), we also found wild turkey tracks – two feet outside the camera’s range. It’s like they knew.
Tonight, my plan is to put fresh scraps on the compost pile and fresh clam shells on the clamshell pile, and aim the camera in that direction. I think that would guarantee us some foraging wildlife, but Kevin thinks it’s unsporting to put bait out there and photograph the animals who come to eat it.
I don’t think it’s any less sporting than putting chickens out there, and photgraphing the animals who come to eat them. But I speak hypothetically, because everyone knows that never works.