Wild, wild life

Sally Naser helps uncover a hidden world using wildlife cameras.

For a bit of inspiration to start looking more closely at the sometimes hidden creatures on the Island, spend an evening with wildlife camera specialist Sally Naser of Conservation Research Wildlife Cams. The Vineyard Haven library hosts a Zoom gathering on Oct. 15 at 7 pm. We will see beautiful and compelling photos and videos of wildlife in Western and Central Massachusetts, and hear her stories from the field. We will also learn how trail cameras work, and tips on where to set them up to reveal the secret lives of our wildlife neighbors in our own backyards. The following evening, the library hosts artist Elizabeth Whelan as she shows us how to draw some of the wildlife seen in the Trail Cams presentation, including how to quickly sketch wildlife in its habitat.

“I primarily deploy wildlife cameras on conservation properties in Western and Central Massachusetts,” Naser says. “I have helped a couple of Vineyard conservation restriction landowners with setting up otter cameras near freshwater pond edges. Shallow ponds and vernal pools are also good places to capture photos of great blue herons.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Naser was not a photographer before getting into wildlife cameras. “I first got interested in wildlife cameras, a.k.a. trail cameras, in 2007, when the Smithsonian Institution did a study on the Appalachian Trail, where I worked,” Naser explained. “In 2013, I won a grant from the Norcross Wildlife Foundation to set up wildlife cameras on Trustees of Reservations’ conservation restriction properties in Western Massachusetts.

“The thing I love most about wildlife cameras is the hidden window they provide into the behaviors of our wildlife neighbors, especially their overwhelming curiosity. Black bears never seem to pass up an opportunity to take a ‘smellfie,’ and occasionally a photobomber bobcat will flash a Cheshire Cat smile.”

Although the animals we might see are a lot tamer, if you feel you need some advice to start your own forays into wildlife photography, Naser is there to help. “There are tons of makes and models of cameras to choose from, and I’m always happy to help folks with a recommendation to get started based on their budget and target species,” she says. “My general advice for someone just starting out is to purchase a Browning or Bushnell camera, versus a $50 no-name brand from Amazon.

“One of the most frequent comments I get from followers of my Conservation Research Wildlife Cams Facebook page is that my photos and videos help them reconnect with nature and provide a much-needed respite from the daily news cycle,” Naser continues. “I hope that my presentation will do the same, as well as jump-start those interested in getting started with their first wildlife camera.”

For an enticing preview, visit Naser’s site, Conservation Research Wildlife Cams on Facebook, bit.ly/34dQEI5. Sally Naser will present the program on Zoom through the Vineyard Haven library on Thursday, Oct. 15, at 7 pm. To register, contact Anne McDonough at amcdonough@clamsnet.org.