Archive for the ‘Camera Trapping’ Category
Camera trapping in India…!
A pair of Indian or grey mongoose at the Denwa Backwater Escape lodge in Satpura Tiger Reserve, Central India…!
These small predators were not spooked by the sound of the camera or the flashes…!
Jet travel is fine and dandy if you like to go places that requires a commercial airplane to get to your finale destination. The hustle and bustle, and increased security (but very necessary in this day and age) through airports is a pain if you ask me, and baggage and weight can also add to your problems. A couple DSLR trail cams in ‘Outdoor Products’ cases, plus sensors and four flashes in ‘Tupperware’® type boxes with hard-wires and a couple 10mm Python locking cables will make your suitcase bump the scale up a bit near the maximum for check-in baggage (40 kilograms). I decided to go with a couple small Nikon D3000s that are reasonably priced cameras on the used-market here in Thailand plus they both fit is the cases I had.
Nikon D3000 #1 & #2 trail cams…!
D3000 trail cam #2 in small Outdoor Box and SSII sensor on a 10 meter hard wire…!
D3000 #2 open at the back…!
While I was in the U. S. in 2013, I picked up two ‘Outdoor Products’ or ‘Wally’ cases as they are sometimes called (one small and one large) that seemed perfect for my travel DSLR idea. I put the cameras in and they fit perfectly: one D3000 with a battery pack install in the large one for longer soaks, and a D3000 without a battery pack fit in the small case for short time soaks (3-4 days). I used 3” aluminum tubing for the snorkels and fit 77mm UV filters with Marine Goop. Two ‘eye-ring’ bolts are installed in each cam.
Nikon D3000 #1 in large “Outdoor Products’ case and a SSII in a ‘Tupperware® box…!
As the Nikon D3000 has no remote control port (older model and cheaper), the cameras had to be hacked at the shutter button. This allowed both cameras to fit nicely without any protrusions as if a shutter release plug used as any of the newer Nikon’s in the 3000 series. When I travel, I hand-carry the cameras and pack the traps in my luggage: never put a camera or lens in your suitcase..!
D3000 trail cam #1 open at the front…!
Camera No 1: Uses a Nikon 24mm manual lens with the battery pack (two batteries) and is hard-wired to a SSII in a small ‘Tupperware’® type box on a 10-meter cable. Two ports are for the external flashes: one on a 6-meter cable and the other flash on a 10-meter cable. Both flashes are in ‘Tupperware’® type boxes. A couple of ‘eye-bolts’ are used in conjunction with a ‘Python’ locking cable for minimum security.
Camera No 2: uses a Nikon 50mm manual lens but without a battery pack and hard-wired to a SSII sensor in a small round plastic ‘Tupperware’® type locking box on a 10-meter cable. The camera is hacked inside at both the shutter button and the flash connection and there are two ports for flash cables and a large pair of ‘eye-bolts’ for a 10mm Python locking cable. A couple of bungee cords are also used to position the cams on trees or poles before installing the steel cables, and then using them to set the flashes in place. This is my smallest DSLR trail cam to date…!
D3000 #2 with two connections on the side of the case for hard-wired SB-28s…!
Nikon SB-28 in a ‘Tupperware®’ style box held in place with a ‘bungee cord’…!
Four Nikon SB-28s in ‘Tupperware®’ boxes and hard-wired from 6 to 10 meters…!
The mongoose pair tripped off quite a few frames attracted by chicken bait and Thai fish sauce
in a small cup surrounded by water in a larger bowl to keep the ants out..!
My safari to India in November 2015 was the perfect time to test these two cams out and is the first time I have used them abroad. No: 2 cam captured a couple of breeding Indian or grey mongoose at the last hotel I stayed at in Satpura Tiger Reserve shown here. No: 1 cam got a scavenger dog (which came out quite nice for sharpness and exposure) and then a feral cat that told me there was no wildlife around Earth Lodge outside Kanha Tiger Reserve.
In 2014, I got a couple of ‘jungle cats’ on a Bushnell Trophy Cam at the King’s Lodge in Bandhavgarh Tiger reserve but this time another feral cat tripped the sensor meaning the wild cats were no longer there. Even though the mongoose images are not super sharp, it was still good to at least catch something really wild. The feral cats and dog was a bit of a letdown but were still good test subjects.
A feral dog drawn in by chicken bait and Thai fish sauce in Kanha Earth Lodge, Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India
I recently set-up my other Canon 400D-#2 near the front gate of the sanctuary I’m working in. This is somewhere in the Western Forest Complex of Thailand (sorry; I don’t pin-point locations of my cameras anymore as these big cats are in really big demand for the black market, and location could put them in serious jeopardy). The camera is pointed a bit high and will need to be re-adjusted. I am going there in a couple of days before my trip to India and will take care of that then. Also, this is one of the research team’s collared tigers, and they know him well. I always give the sanctuary chief pertinent information and photos with date and time, and he passes it on to the researchers for their records…! The home range of the Indochinese tiger is about 250 square kilometers that has been well documented by them. I’m not against research; just not too fond of radio collars and sometimes I wonder how much data they really require or need. There are something like eight tigers collared here (both males and females). I have captured several tigers that keep coming around on this trail in their never-ending search for a meal. I have also caught a black leopard at this same location…! Enjoy.
A male tiger with a collar not too far from the main gate in the sanctuary…!
10/13/2015 – 2:08 AM – 1/80 sec; f/8; ISO 400…!
Another tiger captured last year on my Sony A500 trail cam at the same location-opposite side…!
9/17/2014 – 10:26 PM – 1/80 sec; f/8; ISO 400…!
A male leopard crosses ‘tiger log’ on 8/26/2015 – 1:26 AM
A yellow-throated marten in the afternoon on ‘tiger log’ on 9/4/2015 – 11:09 AM…!
This is my latest camera trap pull: a male leopard at night and a yellow-throated marten in the daytime captured by a Nikon D700 trail camera in the ‘Western Forest Complex’ of Thailand on my ‘tiger log’…! Enjoy…!
Colossal limestone massifs in Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Surat Thani province, southern Thailand.
Down in southern Thailand, the Khlong Saeng River flows from the Phuket Mountain Range into the Gulf of Thailand at Surat Thani province on the eastern side of the peninsula. Up in the highlands, many tributary streams flow into the Rajaprabha Dam (formally know as the Cheiw Larn Dam) permanently flooding this forest in the upper reaches of this once magnificent biosphere. Some of that natural heritage still remains to this day.
Khlong Saeng is part of the Khlong Saeng-Khao Sok Forest Complex that has been a protected area since 1974 way before the destructive dam was constructed on the river in the 1980s. This large waterway flows east known as the Mae Nam Tapee flowing through the city of Surat Thani. The watershed is an immense wet tropical rainforest with many wild Sundaic and Himalayan species still thriving here.
Colossal limestone massifs some as tall as 900 meters rise up from the reservoir and dominate the landscape. These were laid down more than 200 million years ago during the mid to late Permian. Then they were thrust up when India crashed into the Asian plate that began 50 million years ago. The Indian plate had separated from the ancient continent of Gondwanaland and moved north on a tetonic plate resulting in the formation of the Himalayas and causing a north-south uplift across Southeast Asia in a ripple effect.
Unfortunately, the tiger and the leopard have already disappeared from the sanctuary but many other beautiful predators such as clouded leopard, golden cat and marbled cat still thrive here. This habitat unfortunately has been seriously degraded by the construction of the dam. However, some of this forest still harbor rare and unique Asian creatures like tapir, gaur, elephant and the magnificent Argus pheasant that continue to thrive in the thick vegetation made up primarily of moist evergreen forest.
There is a permanent reservoir 60 kilometers long and 20 kilometer at its widest point, and dammed near the Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary headquarters. Many people live on floating rafts and fishing is allowed. However, some fisherman in the past used devious methods like electricity or explosives plus trap-lines to catch fish and stocks plummeted. The Fisheries Department regularly release certain species to boost the local economy. Next door to Khlong Saeng is the world famous Khao Sok National Park. However, this has been very detrimental to the environment with extreme tourism that seems to be increasingly damaging to the biosphere.
There are many noisy boats and loads of tourists that visit Khao Sok National Park everyday next door. The Department of National Parks (DNP) manage the lake, and due to poor policies and low budgets, has had an enormous impact on the wildlife and ecosystems in the Khlong Saeng valley. The Electrical Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) who own the dam unfortunately gave responsibility to oversee the reservoir to Khao Sok. The national park’s mandate is to get as many people in as possible and make money for the park and its officials, and the local venders. Protection and enforcement is not part of their program. This of course has had a serious impact on the scheme of things.
In Early 2013, I became friends with Greg McCann with Habitat I.D. on Facebook. We decided to do a camera trap survey in the forests of Khlong Saeng as I knew it well having worked there photographing wildlife for two years in 2008-2009. It took us sometime to put a program together but we finally made the first foray into this forbidding and mysterious forest back in July of 2014. Habitat I.D. provided four Bushnell Trophy Cam (video/stills) camera traps plus some financial funding. I also threw in three Bushnell cams and a Nikon D90 DSLR cam.
In September 2014, I went back to Khlong Saeng to check our camera traps and make an assessment of this forest and its inhabitants. It was the middle of the rainy season and the water level in the lake was full. Accompanied by rangers from the sanctuary and research station, we moved up into the forest and serviced all the cams changing out batteries, memory cards and desiccant (silica gel). All the cams were left in place to further record any animal traffic on the wildlife trails down several ridge lines.
After downloading all the cards, imagine my excitement to find so many rare animals on video including elephants, tapir, clouded leopard, golden cat, sambar, Fea’s muntjac and common muntjac plus many others. My DSLR Nikon D90 produced an amazing shot of a clouded leopard.
In mid-January 2015, I made my 2nd visit to Khlong Saeng as scheduled to close-out the camera trap program. Once again this forest did not disappoint. Due to problems with flash on my Nikon D90, I changed it out for a Canon 400D with three flashes. I got some terrific shots of an old female tapir (she looks pregnant) that was totally unexpected on the Canon, plus some absolutely amazing behavioral videos of Argus pheasant. This beautiful creature did ‘wing displays’ in front of a Bushnell Trophy HD Cam and video quality is quite good as this bird came in daylight. In the future, I will be setting higher quality video cams here again as it looks like this male uses this opening in the forest for his display area…!
Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary needs new direction in management plus better protection and enforcement. However, it’s doubtful that any major changes will happen anytime soon. Making money has taken precedence over everything else and that alone will be its downfall. After years of abuse, the future is uncertain as we move into the 21st Century. These wonderful animals and ecosystems are in serious jeopardy…!
A black and yellow phase leopard caught on trail cam
After the dry season when the first monsoon rains arrived here in Thailand this year, I decided to go back to my old stomping grounds where tigers, leopards and other Asian species travel back and forth down a wildlife trail deep in the Western Forest Complex of Thailand. Last year, a bull gaur charged me not too far from this location and it still brings shivers down my spine when I look back on that incident. However, it is one of my favorite sites to catch the denizens of the Thai forest on camera traps.
Spotted leopard caught in the afternoon.
A couple months ago, I pulled out my first DSLR trail cam that had been rumbling around in my truck for sometime. It’s a Canon 400D with a Nikon 50mm manual lens that uses an external hard-wired SSII (Snapshotsniper) sensor and three hard-wired Nikon SB-28 flashes. The camera is housed in a Pelican 1150 encased in one of my ‘elephant proof’ aluminum boxes and firmly bolted to a tree just by the trail. When I set the cam, it was pointing a bit high and the framing was off. Of course I did not notice it at the time of installation. I recently posted somewhere that sometimes if takes a little experimentation and adjustment to get the composition just right. This is one of those times…!
Black leopard caught in the morning.
The cam has been on that tree for almost two months now, and I decided to go and service it. A female muntjac (barking deer) had passed but on August 22nd at 3.40pm, a yellow phase leopard passed the Canon that ripped off six quick shots. Then on August 28th at 8.26am, a black leopard got caught going the other way and tripped the cam for another 6-shots. Funny enough, both cats are males. For some reason, the flashes were not powerful enough and the images of the black leopard are underexposed with loads of noise. I have tweaked them a bit but they are what they are; good record shots.
Common red muntjac or barking deer female
A female on the run…!
I have re-adjusted the cam for better framing and put in another flash near the sensor down low (switched to radio flash triggers). Hopefully that will lighten things up a bit in the target area. Replaced the batteries, card and desiccant, and tested the system. Seems to be working OK. This highway in the forest should produce more mammals as they go about their daily lives. I now have four DSLRs working in this forest: a Nikon D700 at the ‘tiger log’ and a Nikon D90 just up the trail a bit, plus another Canon 400D at another location and then this Canon. Hope to get one of my Canon 600Ds and a couple Sony DSLRs going soon with different locations and composition. Enjoy…!
Last month, I had a hamburger at a joint close to my house up-north in Thailand. The next day, I was admitted to hospital with a ‘acute’ food poisoning. It has taken almost a month to get back to normal, hence not much camera trap work from my end. However, I finally got to my only Nikon D700 DSLR trail camera and got a pleasant surprise.
A male leopard (can just see his family jewels) crossing my ‘tiger log’…this is in the ‘Western Forest Complex’ of Thailand…! Daytime shots of leopard are rare for the most part but it does happen here where I work from time to time…Enjoy…!
Camera settings: 1/160 sec; f/8; ISO 400
Nikon D700 – Nikon 35mm manual lens – Two Nikon SB-28 flashes – SSII external sensor
Southern Thailand’s natural heritage – an odd-toed ungulate and a carnivore
A mature Asian tapir caught by a Canon 400D trail cam…!
Just returned from Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary in the south of Thailand and pulled my Canon 400D camera trap. These shots are of an old Asian Tapir and the best ones in this set as shown here. Being odd-toed ungulates and strictly vegetarian, these large herbivorous mammals thrive quite well in this unique ecosystem made up of moist evergreen forest. These unique creatures have been on the planet for about 40 million years. They are the largest of the world’s four species with the other three in South America…!
This tapir almost looks pregnant…!
A clouded leopard in daylight…!
This cam also caught a clouded leopard but the cat came in a bit low. These cats are not normally out in broad daylight but I guess they do sometimes prowl during the day. That was the trade off for the full-frame tapir shot. This sanctuary is simply amazing and I look forward to future visits…! Enjoy…!
Sony A500 catches a tiger and poachers at ISO 12,800
Sometimes, mind lapse is a serious problem for a senior citizen like myself. I set my Sony A500 on a trail just inside the boundary of my favorite protected area in Thailand. This location has already produced some amazing shots of black leopard and tiger plus many prey species like elephant, banteng, barking deer, sambar and wild pig.
Tiger passes the Sony A500…!
Tiger with a radio collar passes the Sony…!
On the negative side of things, this cam has also caught poachers and gatherers as they illegally sneak into, and exit the sanctuary. Poor patrolling and enforcement with many loopholes allow these undesirables to penetrate and poach animals and forest products for sale or personal use. It is a serious threat to all of Thailand’s protected areas and is on-going problem for the Department of National Parks (DNP)…!
Poachers with baskets and digging tools after bamboo shoots during the rainy season…!
Wildlife poachers with no basket…!
This Sony has been working very well catching a male tiger with a radio collar at night several months ago. I noticed that several people on the forum were setting their cams at ISO 200 and thought I would give it a try. When I left the cam, I thought it was at the 200 setting.
A month or so later, I went back to change out batteries, card and desiccant, and saw the same tiger with a collar had visited twice plus some poachers caught using the same path. When I downloaded the images, I was shocked to see the ISO at 12,800…what the heck happened here…?
I don’t know but it looks like I did not save the settings before buttoning up the cam and somehow pushed the 12,800-button. This was of course another disappointment. The shots are cluttered with noise and I have tweaked the images but it’s a fact: photos with ISO this high is absolute rubbish and can only be counted as record shots.
Another thing: only one flash on the right was working hence the deep shadow. I found a broken wire on the other flash so brought the whole unit in for repair. I will be setting another Sony (A55 with a 55mm lens) DSLR cam with 4 flashes (hard-wired) to see what might pass-by.
The ‘Tiger Hunter’ setting a Bushnell Trophy Cam…!
The A500 cam is now back in the forest but at a new location with settings at ƒ8 – 1/125 – ISO 200. It was working well firing off 4-shot strings during walk test and hopefully it will produce some good shots now. Leopards and tiger plus all the other denizens of the Thai forest use this trail so I can only wait till I get back to the cam in a couple weeks.……!