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Natural History Museum cameras capture L.A.'s wild kingdom

December 28, 2012|By Craig Nakano

In spring we previewed the 3.5-acre North Campus at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which was putting the finishing touches on a garden designed as urban wildlife habitat, a place where L.A. critters could come to escape city life just like the rest of us. Cameras set up throughout the Mia Lehrer-designed landscape were intended to capture feathered and four-legged residents, day and night.

To find out exactly what the cameras have recorded, we recently checked back with Sam Easterson, senior media producer for the museum’s Nature Lab, who described the results as nothing less than “thrilling.”

The opossum babies that we pictured atop their mama in a night-vision photograph have grown up, Easterson said. The babies spurred readers to debate: Cute or extremely not cute? For those who sat on the fence, Easterson now has more shots to help you make up your mind: pictures of the opossums doing everything from yawning to fighting.

PHOTO GALLERY: Natural History Museum wildlife cameras

Southern Californians may feel like they don’t need a critter cam to watch raccoons washing their paws (just ask anyone with a koi pond), but the cameras have documented our collective backyard in detail, capturing six species of dragonflies (including the flame skimmer), two Cooper’s hawks that bathed and drank from the garden’s pools almost daily in summer, and a common poorwill, which, despite its name, isn’t frequently seen around the Natural History Museum, Easterson said. The footage is special “because it shows the poorwill exhibiting 'gular fluttering,' a thermoregulatory behavior” that involves the pulsation of the upper esophagus, he said.

Bird watchers also can geek out over other visitors: northern flicker, hermit thrush, hooded oriole, ash-throated flycatcher, black-throated warbler, an all-red summer tanager and a yellow-rumped warbler bathing in a pond, among others.

Corrected: An earlier version of this post misspelled "gular fluttering" as "gular gluttering."

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