Photographer attempts to outsmart cheeky woodpeckers who keep attacking his trail cams

Jul 25, 2023

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

Photographer attempts to outsmart cheeky woodpeckers who keep attacking his trail cams

Jul 25, 2023

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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This photographer foiled these cheeky woodpeckers who kept attacking his trail cams

In the landscapes of northeastern Tucson, Arizona, wildlife enthusiast Keith Cannataro has set out on a captivating journey to document the region’s diverse fauna using a network of trail cameras. Through his cameras, Keith has observed nature’s raw drama unfold.

From heart-wrenching encounters between roadrunners and baby squirrels to quirky standoffs between roadrunners and smaller, fearless squirrels in his front yard, these moments have been immortalized on film, showcasing the untamed spirit of the animal kingdom. However, an unexpected and persistent adversary has emerged, putting a literal dent in his passion for wildlife observation – the mischievous Gila woodpeckers who are relentlessly attacking his cameras.

YouTube video

Keith shared with The Sacramento Bee how these unrelenting birds have taken a liking to his trail cameras, causing headaches and a few laughs along the way. The year 2022 marked the onset of the problem, with woodpeckers pecking holes through the cameras’ plastic sensor coverings. Despite trying various deterrents, the feathered culprits have remained undeterred, leaving him pondering the mystery behind their relentless attacks.

Understanding the Woodpecker’s Mysterious Behavior

Curiously, the woodpeckers’ assaults aren’t constant throughout the year, leading Keith to speculate that their activity might be linked to their mating season. According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, woodpeckers are more likely to cause disturbances from March through June as they establish territories, attract mates, and create nests.

Gila Woodpecker female

The first attacks of the year occurred in March, leaving two cameras damaged in their wake. To date, Keith has sent six cameras to be repaired. ““It’s taking the fun away from this hobby,” he lamented to a Facebook group.

The damaged camera

Creative Solutions and Frustrations

Desperate to outsmart his feathered foes, Keith turned to the online group for advice. Bird spikes, shiny Mylar strips, and even peppermint oil were among the inventive measures he tried, but the resilient woodpeckers showed no mercy. Undeterred, Keith remains determined to find a solution, seeking guidance from fellow enthusiasts who share his passion for wildlife observation.

An attempt to scare away the woodpeckers using spikes and reflectors

And it’s not just the woodpeckers that are causing a problem. The coyote family were also caught in the act of destroying power cords and solar packs. “They ruined 2 power pack cords and 2 solar panel cords. I had to come up with a way to help protect the cords. This was last June before woodpeckers started doing their damage,” says Keith.

YouTube video

The Fascinating World of Trail Cameras

While battling the woodpeckers, Keith hasn’t lost sight of the beauty his cameras have captured over the years. Reflecting on his journey, he shared valuable advice with DIYP for aspiring trail camera enthusiasts.

Coopers hawk in tree

“Do trail camera research first to learn more about how to decide where to put your camera(s),” advises Keith. “There are multiple resources on Youtube and in Facebook trail camera groups,” he adds.

Keith also recommends doing similar research on cameras. “My first camera I started with was an inexpensive model. Very quickly, I found I did not like the quality of the video, and soon I purchased my first Browning in 2020. It was a big difference in quality, and 60 frames per second made a big difference.”

Where to place trail cameras

“Behind where I live is what we call a wash or arroyo,” says Keith. “It is normally dry, but when there are heavy rains, they can fill with water as well as have a flash flood. I placed two cameras in the wash and have gotten some of my favourite videos there. In particular, a pack of up to 10 coyotes.”

Keith has also monitored animal trails and paths around his house and found good places to set up trail cameras in the busiest areas. Because of this, he has been lucky to observe interesting animal behaviour, and not just animals walking past. A water dish he put out during a drought provided some particularly interesting footage, he explains.

Nature’s Dramas Unfold

Through his cameras, Keith has observed nature’s raw drama unfold. Keith has witnessed road runners killing baby squirrels. “Very recently, one of my trail cameras in that open area recorded a roadrunner that had a baby squirrel in its beak and was banging that squirrel on the ground. Then two squirrels ran into the frame and chased the roadrunner. It could have been the parent squirrels,” he surmises.

Clearly, Keith gets a lot of satisfaction from his trail cameras and has some fantastic footage and images to show from it. Let’s just hope he can stay one step ahead of the woodpeckers!

You can follow Keith on his YouTube channel.

[All photographs copyright of Keith Cannataro]

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Alex Baker

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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