Archive for the ‘Camera Trapping’ Category
Some old camera trap shots of wildlife in Southern Thailand
Limestone ‘karst’ mountains at sunset in Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary.
In 2009, I decided to go down south to a wildlife sanctuary that was still teaming with animals common to the wet tropical forests found here. Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Surat Thani province is some 500 miles from Bangkok and is one of the top protected areas in the country.
Flooded forest near the headwaters deep in Khlong Saeng.
Once upon a time, this forest was a magnificent natural watershed that provided water throughout the year to the inhabitants of the lowlands on the eastern side of the Thai peninsula.
Clouded leopard at the entrance to a limestone cave probably searching for dead bats.
It still harbors some very impressive animals such as elephant, gaur, tapir, serow, sambar, clouded leopard, sun bear, Great Argus (second largest of the pheasant family in Thailand), and the mighty king cobra to name just a few – and the list goes on.
A serow (goat-antelope) at the same cave.
Probably the most impressive scenic site in the sanctuary are the massive limestone ‘karst’ formations that were formed sometime during the mid to late Permian over 200 million years ago. Thailand was part of Gondwanaland that was still attached to Pangaea, the ‘Supercontinent’.
A serow at another location at the top of a limestone ‘karst’ mountain.
These colossal outcrops, some reaching as high as 960 meters (3,150 feet), look almost ‘architectural’ in design. These configurations were thrust up when India crashed into the Asian plate some 60 million years ago, and are the remnants of a prehistoric coral reef that once thrived here.
An old tapir up near a cave at the top of a limestone massif.
But in the mid-1980s, a drastic change to the Pasaeng River was to come about. To increase Thailand’s electrical power needs, and back when building hydroelectric dams was in vogue, it was decided by the Electrical Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), a state enterprise, and the government, to construct the Rajaprabha Dam that eventually inundated a total of 165 square kilometers (65 sq. miles) of the Khlong Saeng valley to become the Chiew Larn reservoir in 1986.
A tapir calf with its mother in the forest near the headwaters.
The water body extends into the sanctuary for more than 50 kilometers (30 miles) but is only about two kilometers at its widest point. As the reservoir filled up, thousands and thousands of trees and animals perished in the rising waters. It was destruction of a natural habitat in the name of modernization.
A tapir with clipped ears; probably nipped by a mature female chasing the young one out.
Awhile back, my friend Greg McCann, founder of ‘Habitat ID’, a NGO setup to investigate forests in Southeast Asia contacted me. He was interested in starting a camera trap program somewhere in Thailand and Khlong Saeng was chosen as the first forest to see what is still thriving there.
A gaur calf on the trail up on a limestone mountain.
We have just returned from the sanctuary where eight cameras including one DSLR (Nikon D90), a Sony W55 ‘home brew’ and six Bushnell Trophy Cams were set-up in some of the areas where I previously captured some amazing animals.
A very old bull gaur with its hooves in poor condition…!
We will let these cams soak for two-three months and I will be going back then to see what has transpired. It should be interesting…!
A couple of young gaur in the mountainous forest.
When I first began visiting the area, I took my boat-blind (kayak with pontoons and electric trolling motor as a stable shooting platform) to navigate the waters and shoreline.
Another young gaur on a trail up in the limestone mountains.
Over the course of two years, I was able to get some really neat images of the wildlife that had adapted to the new environment. I also began a camera trap program to see what cryptic animals were thriving up in the evergreen forest.
A mature sambar stag on a trail in the forest.
A mature male muntjac (barking deer) on a wildlife trail.
A female muntjac with white spots along the spine and rear torso: a strange anomaly…!
A stump-tail macaque (monkey) up in the limestone crags with its jowls full of food.
An Argus pheasant at the mouth of a cave.
This gallery of shots is just some of the creatures collected over a two-year period (2009-2010). Some of these images are not the greatest but do show the biodiversity of this amazing place. I plan on setting up several DSLRs at these old camera trap locations and will post any new images down the road. Enjoy…!
Leopard, bear, elephant and other rare creatures caught by a home brew ‘point and shoot’ camera trap
A black-phase leopard.
As I was in the forest checking my DSLRs last month, this little area where I park my truck looked like it might be promising and most likely used by some cryptic wildlife. I decided to setup my old Sony P41/BF board/Pelican 1040 with two ‘C’ cell externals (built for me by Dave, the old owner of BFOutdoors.com).
A yellow-phase male leopard.
An Asian black bear.
The cam is encased in an ‘elephant proof’ box attached to a tree and locked down with a Python cable. I’ve had this cam since 2008 and it’s still working very well. I usually carry a few of my old ‘point-n-shoots’ in the truck in case I need to survey a new trail or location like this.
A female muntjac (barking deer).
A green peafowl.
A couple weeks later, I was back and found a whole slew of animals had come by. A black leopard was the first through followed by a yellow-phase leopard, a muntjac (barking deer) and then a black bear. Other creatures that also came were green peafowl, elephant, large Indian civet, porcupine, several smaller civets and finally the tail end shot of a leopard again in daytime.
An Asian elephant – some strange flare.
Even though some of these photos are not the best, they are a good indication of what passes through. I previously got a tiger 50 meters from here. I have already decided to set-up a DSLR across from this tree and worked out where the flash and sensor positions would go…it looks very promising….I just gotta get back there…to be continued…!
A large Indian civet.
An Asian porcupine.
The tail-end of a leopard.
Female tiger plus black and yellow phase leopard pass by the old cam
My squinting female tiger – 2nd shot with good flash coverage. Image has been cropped.!
It has taken this Canon 400D quite awhile to capture some good images of the big cats. I have had so many negative issues with this trail cam (sensor, broken glass, full of water, bad cam batteries, leaking case, poor radio triggers for the flash, etc.) and I thought it was jinxed. I then decided to go with hard-wired flashes and sensor and a new case to see if there would be any improvement. I knew that this road in the forest was a good spot as the tree lay-out was perfect for the setup and the cats were walking past out on their hunting forays. Also, found some tiger foot prints further down the road. This set was captured over a three-week period in June-July.
The Canon is still there with fresh batteries for the camera and flashes, and I look forward to visiting this cam at the end of July. Hopefully these cats will be walking this way….Enjoy…!
Due to low flash out-put, this image has been heavily manipulated to show her eyes were open on the 1st shot..!
Female tiger during the day meaning few people around this location. Note front paw…!
Same female: Note rear paw…!
A black-phase leopard…!
A yellow=phase leopard in daylight…!
Camera: Canon 400D.
Lens: Nikon 50mm ƒ1.4.
Flashes: 2 SB-28s and one SB-26 all set to manual mode.
Camera settings: ƒ8 at 1/125 – ISO 400
A young bull at a mineral deposit in the Western Forest Complex of Thailand
This is my first capture with the Sony A500 DSLR trail cam at this new location. Loads of wild cattle including gaur and banteng plus other large mammals like tiger and elephant come to this deposit for minerals. Unfortunately, the flashes did not go off and I have pulled the unit to change out the sensor (SSII) which has been tripping as if refresh is actuating the cam. I was lucky to get this shot as the rest of the frames are empty. I believe the chip is the old #5 hence the camera is tripping till the card is full and the flashes went dry…The 28mm lens however, seems OK for the large herbivores and carnivores at this setup.
Last month, an elephant destroyed one of my slave flashes on the D700 causing a shut down of the system due to a short in the flash cable. I left the cam for awhile longer with only two slaves but nothing crossed over the ‘tiger log’. I then decided to bring the setup to Bangkok to repair the third flash. I left a Bushnell Trophy Cam in place to see what wildlife would come to the ‘tiger log’.
Well as luck will have it, an Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus) came up to the log but did not cross. Some thirty minutes later, a yellow phase leopard (Panthera pardus) jumped up on the log and posed. The next day, a tiger (Panthera tigris) passed by very quickly proving once again that this location continues to produce images of Thailand’s top predators on a regular basis.
My D700 is now back on the log and was working well when I left it two days ago. It is hoped that the ‘big cats’ will continue to cross over the log and trip the sensor…
These camera trap photos were collected between 2002 to 2006.
My second tiger in Sai Yok National Park, Western Thailand.
When I began camera trapping back in 2002, Camtrakker® and Trailmaster® camera trap units were about all that was out there for researchers and photographers. As these units started to show-up here and be deployed, I watched these commercial units be destroyed by the harsh environment of the Thai forest that gobbled these early trail cameras and spat out the remains. They were kind of expensive too..!
My first tiger in Kaeng Krachan National Park, Southwest Thailand.
This male tiger was very photogenic.
Many things happen in the forest but the big destroyer of these traps were elephants for the most part. If the plastic boxes got bashed about, they went down the tubes very quickly after that. The humidity can get to 100 percent sometimes and anything not sealed tightly is a goner.
The next tigers were camera trap down by the river in Kaeng Krachan National Park.
Poachers who do not want their image taken will usually just steal the plastic units that were attached to trees with nylon straps, bungee cords and rope. Sometimes, they would just vandalize the unit by setting fire to them or breakthe glass and fill the trap with water.
The following tiger came back around three months in a row and was identified by the stripe on its shoulder.
Needless to say, I decided to build my own traps housed in aluminum that could be tightly attached to a tree and be totally waterproof. The internals were mostly Olympus and Canon film ‘point and shoots’ hooked-up to a local-made sensor board. It took awhile to get the first ones going and feral cats that walked a wall behind my shop provided good subjects to test the first batch of cams. It took me sometime to get my first tiger but after that, I saw loads of the striped cats on film.
Tiger abstracts in Kaeng Krachan National Park.
An Asiatic sun bear at the same tree in Kaeng Krachan.
Leopards in Kaeng Krachan.
The following leopards were camera trapped in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary.
Other mammals found in Kaeng Krachan.
A male serow, a goat-antelope found in mountainous terrain (relative of the ‘Rocky Mountain Goat’).
A herd of gaur; the largest bovid in the world on the move.
Sambar stags; the largest deer in Southeast Asia.
Elephant herd at a mineral deposit.
A feral cat camera trapped with one of my first cams behind my work shop. This was back in 2002.
Many have not seen these photos so I thought I would share them with you. It was great times but not easy working with these old film-cams. You never knew what was on the roll of slide film (Fuji Provia 400) until it was sent to the lab. Digital cams have made life so much easier for us camera trappers. This is just some of the shots I got back then. Enjoy…!
A big cat crossing the ‘tiger log’
Male leopard shot #1.
Male leopard on one paw….shot #2.
Male elephant – the flash destroyer.
Elephant back for more.
Evert year, forest fires occur in Thailand’s ‘Western Forest Complex’ during the dry season usually started by the human population living around the protected areas. Occasionally, lightning ignites fires but this natural phenomena, is less frequent. Stray cigarette butts also account for many fires. For the most part, local poachers start them to allow long distance spotlighting during the night. With the brush gone, they are able to see the reflection in the eyes distinctly (usually deer) with their headlamps.
Occasionally these fires are fierce and any camera trap left in the forest during this time will likely be destroyed. I always move my cams to evergreen forests from about February through to April that normally do not have fire, and this year was no different. But as soon as the first monsoon rains come in mid-April, the forest is safe once again for camera trapping.
With the first good rains through, I decided to setup my Nikon D700 back on the log. This time the cam is using a hardwired SSII sensor (Snapshotsniper.com) with a 10-meter cable setup in the tree stump apposite the cam. Also, a third flash was added and installed above the cam’s ‘elephant proof ‘ box. However, the ‘third flash’ is now history as a young tusker found it and turned it into rubble (below) but the cam, the sensor and two other flashes survived.
It was great to see this male leopard cross over the log. The first image is a good record shot but the second one is really something special catching this mature predator on one paw with the other three in mid-air. Also, the reproductive organ is sharp and just hanging there with its tail is balancing the big cat. He looks like he is winking at the cam. Once again, within two shots, the leopard turned his head to see what the flash was all about just like my tiger in late January 2014. The speed and reaction time of these felines is legendary and it doesn’t get any better…!
I also got the elephant that destroyed the third flash plus a banteng bull that stopped short but did not cross over. All in all, it was a great start to a new season at the ‘tiger log’. The full-frame D700 firing off a two-shot burst is in its element with a 28mm lens but now with only two flashes thanks to the forest giant. I have installed a 35mm lens this time to see what a tighter crop will do. Enjoy..!
Damaged SB-28 flash.
Nikon D700 setup on the log.
Hardwired external SSII (Snapshotsniper.com) sensor.
Hardwired Nikon SB-28 flash setup.
D700 settings: ƒ8 – 1/125 at ISO 400.
Edited in Adobe Camera Raw.
Leopard shot #1: full-frame.
Leopard shot #2: cropped.
Elephant and banteng bull: full-frame.
After downloading the card on my Canon 400D DSLR trail cam, there was no tiger but this sambar doe and a young tusker had showed up tripping the sensor just past the log. The 50mm lens seems to be OK if a leopard or tiger were to come through…I’m still waiting patiently…! The first shot is a crop to see what is possible at this location..
You never know what might show-up at a DSLR but when in elephant country, it’s pretty certain the big herbivore will pass the cam. However, this middle-aged wild male elephant was in a state of ‘musth’, a serious natural affliction. It would be a disaster if you bumped into this guy in the forest. Better to catch him with a trail cam…much safer..!
‘Musth’ is known to affect both wild and domestic elephants. It is an extremely dangerous time to be around one when it occurs characterized by highly aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. A smelly liquid seeps from the temporal gland and sometimes into the mouth. These males have headaches causing severe pain. Needless to say, it was a great catch, something that is not documented to often, specially in the wild…! Enjoy..!!