Tuesday, January 01, 2013

GoPro BurrowCam

On these 10 wooded acres that we call home, there are somewhere between 7 and 10 gopher tortoises that also call "our" place home.

They have been here since the last ice age and we, well, our St. Augustine rooted family brags about being in Florida for the past 250 years ... which always seems pretty impressive until the gophers drop their ... "since the last ice age" bombshell.
That always ends the discussion ... I try not to bring up generational timelines anymore when I am chatting up a gopher tortoise.
It's a dead end street.

Speaking of dead ends ...  consider the scene below.

In the photo above, we see a gopher burrow that has been dug into by some nongopher critter.
The entrance, which should be a nice semi-circular, domed opening barely bigger than the gopher who made it, has been dramatically enlarged.
Also, at 3 places along the length of the burrow, the ceiling has been breached by holes that break through to the tunnel below.

The day before I took this photo, all was well. It was a perfectly normal, active gopher burrow.

When I discovered this dramatic change, it was late in the day, but a dead gopher not too far away from this disturbed burrow got me wondering about what was inside that burrow now, and how were the other gophers on our property doing?

The unfortunate dead gopher was a mystery, young, maybe only 3 years or so, with hardly a mark on him except for a puncture through his carapace.
A puncture about the size of a canine tooth.
While demons from hell neighbor's cats do cross PFHQ, uninvited dog traffic is nil and Bear walks on a leash with me, so I doubt a domestic dog got this gopher.

I did suspect coyotes though.
They are abundant here, yipping like crazed hyenas on moonful nights ... this past week was loaded with moonful nights.

It seemed to me that I should be able to take a little looksee in that burrow.
After all, I had a 3.5 pound human brain on me, a GoPro video camera in the house, and a workshop full of odds and ends.

With all of the possibilities bouncing around in my brain like a pack of coyotes on an electrified trampoline, I headed to the workshop.

I pondered a moment and then quickly rigged up a "burrowcam" which I christened, "EXPLORER 1".
To a 10 foot piece of schedule 40, 1 inch PVC pipe, I attached a small block of 1"x2" wood.
Next, I took one of my extra GoPro adhesive camera mounts and adhered it to the wooden block.
After that, I ziptied a small, but bright flashlight to the device.

With no view finder, my AWESOME little GoPro Hero camera couldn't tell me what it was seeing in real time. That would have to wait until I could hook the camera up to my laptop.

At least I could peek in the burrows and see if the gophers were okay.
Or, would I see the green glow of coyote eyes staring back at me?

Only time would tell.

Gopher burrows are fairly straight affairs, which is a good thing since the one inch PVC pipe was not going to turn any corners.
My goal was to get in and out pretty quickly, with minimal disturbance to the burrow occupants.

Once the camera and light hit a wall, a curve, or a dead end, I would just retrieve EXPLORER 1 and move on.

Sliding the camera into the burrow was a bit of a "deja vu" moment for me.
Substitute a bamboo pole for the PVC pipe and a large wire hook for the camera, and you would have a gopher pulling pole.
Growing up in St. Augustine in the 1960's and 70's, a device like that was a common sight in the bed of any pickup truck and the gopher stew it provided was traditional backyard cookout fare.

I like the camera concept much better.

I love my resident gophers and manage the areas around their burrows to keep the forest back and provide the sunshine and forbs they need to remain here. A little meadow burning and tree trimming is all it takes to give them the open space they need for gophrolicking.

I checked 4 burrows with the burrowcam.
The dugout burrow and another had just enough of a curve that the pole dead-ended.
The third burrow sloped down and then up a little and the pole dead-ended again.

Those videos show burrow tunnel and then ... plunk! A sand wall.
Not too exciting.

But the 4th burrow was easily navigated by EXPLORER 1 and it contained a healthy, fat gopher.

EXPLORER 1 came back from it's mission in great shape.
Just a little sand here and there.

I see great potential for this little prototype "stick it where you don't want to go or can't fit" camera setup.

I'm thinking "culvert cam", "dark scary hole cam", "big scary toothy fish cam", "rattlesnake cam",  ... the possibilities are mind boggling.

Here's the burrowcam video that bore fruit ...


tai haku said...

Nice vid!

I suspect you may raise an eyebrow or even two at some of what goes on herein but I think this may be the ultimate in GoPro Big Scary Toothy FishCam:

Marilyn Kircus said...

Way cool. I'll definitely have to steal this idea since I can't think this stuff up on my own. Now I now why I need a Go Pro.

Floridacracker said...

Yowza! Went there!
I'm not a fan of shark feeding by divers, but I like the guy's inventiveness and "If at first you don't succeed ..." attitude.
Beautiful sharks though.
Thanks for the link!

This is just the original GoPro Hero, they've tweaked it twice since this cam came out and now they are up to GoPro 3.
I see lots of kayak potential on quiet clear H2O.
You could take a look around beneath you without getting out of the yak.

Jencie said...

Very cool! Who needs 3-D in the movies, when you have this? Who knew that going into a little sandy tunnel could be every bit as dramatic!
Happy New Year Mr. PF. I enjoy your blog often--it's very nice to feel some virtual Florida warmth from up here in frigid New England.

robin andrea said...

It really is pretty cool seeing into that gopher burrow. Very inventive!

Caroline said...

Everybody's got to eat, just wish some of our favorite creatures weren't on someone menu! What a neat view of what life is like underground.

Dan said...

This is wonderful! I once tried to do this, but the camera always got hung up on tree roots. I have to admit I was also a bit scared that I would flush a rattler from the burrow. Your device would be cool to extend upwards, too, to look in hollow trees or bird nests.

Sandcastle Momma said...

Brilliant! We've got several non-gopher but definitely something in there holes up on our property in the forest and now we know how to have a look. Hubby is rigging a way to mount our GP to the bottom of our yak so we can get underwater footage as we paddle. One thing I have learned about the GP and the yak is don't put the GP on your head - you don't realize how much you swing your head from side to side while paddling until you get home. We now mount the GP on the front of the yak - which only swings side to side when we make it.

threecollie said...

Infinitely cool, beyond description!

Floridacracker said...

Thank you for the nice comment! I'm glad PF provides some Florida sunshine for you!

I just asked myself, "What would roger do?"

True. I do get attached to these plodding tortoises though.

I plan to use some elbow joints to provide some variety of angle for that very type of peeking.

True that! I use the head mount alot on my runs and I have to make a conscious effort to keep still at times.
You might try a chest mount strap for kayaking topwater shots. I have one, but haven't used it yet.

LOL! Thanks! There's so many places this little camera can go!

Julie Zickefoose said...

Just crushed that you lost a juvenile gopher. To a single tooth mark? I would be devastated. I look at my Sluggo's grievous lawnmower gouge and marvel that he's alive at all, much less able to move his back legs.

However. All hail the inventive omnivorous primate who came up with BurrowCam. I LOVE IT. And love how the gopher squidges away from it. SO COOL. Looking forward to the additional applications of BurrowCam!! because you're always sticking your nose into ooky places, aren't you?

Floridacracker said...

OOKY is my middle name.
More primate driven burrowcam adventures to come!

Anonymous said...

Plumbers have the scopes that look in pipes and walls to look for leaks. I am sure they are a bit more expensive than the go pro. Also if you stuck one in a hole and something bit it, might mess up the wiring. Sort of like doing a gastrocope on a patient and having them bite it. A no no. I wonder about one of those small fleixible tripods attached to the pvc pipe might work and give you a bit more flexibility on the end. Just a thought. tammy in lower Al.

Aunty Belle said...

Dear Mercy, cain't a body jes' go home at the end of the long hard day an settle down wif'out some curious primate jammin' a light in your face?? Poor l'il creachure!

Youse inventive, I must admit. Heh.

Hey, yore folks is famous!! Has ya seen a new book, Field to Feast. Florida Farmers, Chefs and Artisans (UF Press)? Take a looky at p.188-189 for Minorcan Black Beans wif' yore Datils in 'em.

Happy New Year to all at PF!

Anonymous said...

An interesting look "down under." I love turtles but don't get to see many around here, so thanks for the view.

Floridacracker said...

I got one of those flexible tripods for Christmas. Good idea!

Thanks! I'll check that book out!

Glad you liked the trip downunder!