WASHINGTON -- Brian Balik is looking for flying squirrels. In Northern Virginia.
"That's right, the D.C. area is home to many flying squirrels," he says. "I have yet to take a picture of one though, as they don't venture out too often on our coldest nights."
What he has taken pictures of, over the last couple of months, using hidden infrared cameras in local woodsy places: Raccoons mating. Bucks tussling. Foxes fighting, then mating, by a deer carcass, while an opossum looks on.
Our parks are full of animals, says Balik, a naturalist and fishing instructor with the Fairfax County Park Authority who, in early January, began posting the fantastically candid, sometimes downright saucy, animal shots on his blog, A Case Of Wild Fever.
"Foxes, coyotes, bobcats, flying squirrels and, once in a while, a bear or two," says Balik. "The D.C. area is home to all of these animals and they are all native."
Check out some of Balik's amazing photos in this slideshow -- story continues below...
Balik captures these images by "camera trapping," which means setting up cameras that go off automatically when they detect motion. The cameras are put in places where animals are likely to be, like game trails, dens, "water sources, deer carcasses, and even in abandoned buildings on park property," Balik says, adding that he follows "all Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries Rules, federal wildlife guidelines, park rules and landowner rules where I place the camera."
After days, or even weeks, Balik collects his gear, and checks to see what's turned up. "Results range from 'dead sets' where I have no results due to camera error or weather," he says, "to cameras that have taken up to 5,000 pictures in one night."
Head over to A Case Of Wildlife Fever to see the wonderful results -- and if you want to try and get to know Northern Virginia's animals for yourself, Balik recommends heading out to see them just before sundown or right after the sun comes up.
"Any park around here is great though, as we are in a very ecologically diverse area featuring rivers, forests, meadows and wetlands that are all part of our D.C. suburban area," says Balik. "If you walk around in our local parks enough, I promise you that you will see many kinds of birds and all sorts of wildlife that you may have never knew existed in our area."