Archive for January, 2013
A camera trap’s final stint at a fox den in Amboseli National Park, southern Kenya
Bat-eared fox cub in its den
I took a Sony S40/Plano 1449/SSII/4 double AA externals to southern Kenya in December 2012 to be used in quick set-ups with minimum security (no Python locking cable) mainly to be used by the side of the road. The first location was Amboseli National Park near Mount Kilimanjaro where I captured a rare carnivore: a whole den of bat-eared foxes.
Bat-eared fox adult just outside its den
As me and my driver/guide Patrick Njoroge were on game drive, we noticed two adult foxes running away from their den that was about 10 feet from the road. I got some nice shots of the adults in great light. I decided to leave the cam overnight in some rocks near the ground as the site looked promising.
The other mature fox in the afternoon
While setting up the cam, I heard the pups in the den and one of them actually barked at me. I sat in the truck and waited, and in a few minutes a young one popped its head out shown in the lead photo. I had a great time shooting the little carnivore with my Nikon D3s/600mm.
Fox family checking out the S40
We left shortly thereafter so as not to disturb them and let the home-brew do its work. That night, two adults and four cubs were caught by the S40. The next morning I was elated to see that this family was surviving in Amboseli. I downloaded everything from the card immediately. It’s a good thing I did too…!
Getting closer and not afraid of the flash
Later that day we moved to Tsavo West National Park situated east where I previously had set-up a Bushnell Trophy Cam at a waterhole deep in the park. With no cable, the S40 attached with tape was vulnerable but I thought who would steal a cam way out here. Boy, was that ever a big mistake. That night, a hyena came and took the S40, and the Bushnell recorded it all as seen on my previous post ‘Bad Hyena Night’.
Even the cubs are not afraid
It’s hard to believe an African hyena would actually take my cam. Somehow, the creature must have been attracted to the salt residue left by my hands is the only explanation I have. The next morning on our way out, we looked around but could not find it. We left but I accepted the fact the S40 was gone but it had done a brilliant job of catching the foxes and that was that…!
My favorite S40 shot
I wonder where the S40 is now? Could it be down the hyenas den still tripping? Is it a chew-thing for the hyena cubs? I will never know.
Sony S40 camera trap set in rocks by the road at bat-eared fox den
The moral of this story; whenever you can, always download your card or you could loose a lot….!
A safari to Kenya’s protected areas photographing the ‘Big Five’
Leopard mother in Samburu National Reserve
As we motored back to the lodge after my last game drive in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve in December 2012, the feeling of disappointment began to overcome me. With no leopard in the bag, I would not get the so-called ‘Big Five’, which are the most dangerous animals on the African continent made up of elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. Of these, it is the leopard that is the most notoriously difficult to obtain and is the secret to a successful safari.
My driver/guide Patrick Njoroge was more optimistic and said, we still had time and as if the ‘Spirits of the Wild’ were listening, a female leopard and her two cubs out in the morning sunshine, suddenly appeared by the side of the road. I immediately began shooting my Nikon medium camera, as they were very close. The action was quick and they then melted into the bush. After the dust settled, a feeling of joy took over me. My dream to get the ‘Big Five’ had come true once again.
In September 2010, I had a great opportunity to visit Kenya and on the very first day, got a leopard in a tree in the Masai Mara National Reserve that guaranteed the ‘Big Five’ was in the bag. I managed to get the other four quite easily.
Lion cub with a piece of bark in Tsavo East National Park
On my next safari in August 2011, a leopard was captured the second day, again in Masai Mara. A mother and her cub were hanging out in a dry streambed eating an antelope carcass. My driver/guide, the late George Ndungu managed to get the vehicle real close and I was able to photograph both of them. The elephant, buffalo, lion and finally the rhino were also collected.
On my third trip in May 2012 to southern Kenya while me and Patrick were out on game drive, he spotted a leopard kill (wild cat and jackal) in a tree by the side of the road. This was amazing in itself, and I decided to set a camera trap in a hollow log on the ground facing up at the kill. The next morning, I netted a single photo of the leopard with the jackal in its mouth. This was in Tsavo East National Park and that was a spooky capture.!
Getting the ‘Big Five’ a forth time in a row this last December was for me a complete stroke of luck. Many photographers and nature lovers who visit the ‘Dark Continent’ strive for the complete group but go home feeling empty-handed without the spotted cat. But then again, others bump into the ‘ghost’ easily. It is all about luck and I feel fortunate to have some, I guess.
Elephant bull in Tsavo West National Park
The term the ‘Big Five’ was coined by colonial hunters in East Africa sometime in the 1850s, and was the trophies collected of the large dangerous mammals all taken with a gun. Photography was in its infant stage and very few photographs of wild animals in the natural habitat were available from the era other than pictures of downed animals with the trophy hunter and gun bearers by its side.
Going on safari was big business just after the beginning of the 20th century, and usually only the well off could afford such a journey. It actually was quite fashionable to visit Africa and bag the ‘Big Five’. They then took the trophies home to show them off to other like-minded hunters.
The safari business was thriving and when many famous people like Theodore Roosevelt and later Hollywood movies stars like Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly and Stewart Granger really made the business jump.
Cape buffalo bull in Amboseli National Park
But remember, Roosevelt as President helped establish an additional five national parks to the list that already included Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, General Grant, and Mount Rainier national parks. He doubled the number of national parks to 10 and helped numerous other protected lands get established.
One of the first countries to ban hunting in Africa was Kenya in 1977 whose people and government saw the need and meaning of saving wildlife for generations to come, and as a source of income for the country. Other countries like Tanzania followed suit and now one can go on a photography/viewing safari and see most of the animals that dot the savanna.
Protected areas were quickly designated and the business of safari continued, but because many animals have now come back from the brink of extinction, the efforts of the government has paid-off. Kenya and Tanzania are commended for taking the first brave steps in protecting the environment and its wildlife for the world to see and cherish.
Black rhino female in Nairobi National Park
I am of course addicted to Africa, especially Kenya. They say once you get the bug, it’s hard to stay away. I am planning another safari with my family sometime this year once again with Trans World Safaris in Nairobi. They have proven to be the best safari company for my needs. Their organization, planning and staff are superb.
In the event you take a vacation, I recommend a safari to Kenya. The chances are good that you will see many creatures of nature including the ‘Big Five’. Reasonable costs can be had with a little shopping on the Internet. The choices are broad and a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip is there for the taking. Enjoy!
This is what happens when you get lax….or was it just an oversight…? Needless to say, I lost my great little Sony S40 cam in a Plano 1449 and SSII with double AA externals to some tenacious hyenas. It was a great little cam and took good photos. And yes, it was the S40 hacked by Joe 12-Ringer I won in last year’s camera trap competition held by Camtrapper.com. I took this homebrew to Kenya as a quick-setup cam mainly to be used by the side of the road and hence, there was no ‘Python’ locking cable. Unfortunately, I also lost a whole bunch of photos that the cam took because I used some sticky tape to hold it in position above a Bushnell Trophy Cam. The rest is history.
PS: I do have two spare S40s with boxes and sensor boards that will be built some time in the near future. They are great little cams…!