Posts Tagged ‘camera-trapping’

Nature Photography – Update Feb. 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013 posted by Bruce 5:21 PM

Creating wildlife conservation awareness through photography

Asiatic jackal by the side of the road in Huai Kha Khaeng

Thailand’s wildlife and forests has evolved over millions of years into some of the most beautiful and interesting in the world. Photographing these ecosystems and rare animals such as the Siamese crocodile, tiger, leopard, gaur, banteng, wild water buffalo, elephant and tapir, plus a multitude of other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, spiders and insects in their natural habitats is a daunting task to say the least. A multitude of different aspects contribute to the difficult and sometimes dangerous pastime of wildlife photography.

Gibbon calling during the morning in Huai Kha Khaeng

Probably the most prominent is the ever-increasing human population and social ills like poaching, gathering and encroachment in the protected areas. This alone has taken its toll and the country’s wild flora and fauna, from under the sea to the highest mountains, are in serious jeopardy with a slim chance of recovery to the magnificent ecosystems of the past. However, not all is lost and the present generation should take a positive interest in preserving what remains of the Kingdom’s natural treasures before it is too late.

Nature photography is one of the best ways to record and promote wildlife conservation awareness. Wildlife photographs create a mental image that can improve one’s love and understanding of the wonderful world of nature. Many people in the cities have a misconception that Thailand’s wildlife and forests has diminished to the point of no return, or has disappeared into the depths of extinction. This is unfortunate and needs constant education and media projection to uplift the people’s knowledge that many species do in fact, still survive.

Sambar with a blue magpie feeding on ticks in Huai Kha Khaeng

Low densities at many sites depleted over the years by poaching and encroachment before any form of protection was implemented is probably one of the main reasons. Human pressure and the Asian traditional medicine trade are directly responsible for the disappearing wild species. The black market trade in wildlife seems to be on the increase and the authorities are continually working to eradicate this destructive illegal business.

Before World War Two, 75 percent of the nation was still covered in pristine forests. Barely 30 percent survives today and most of these are seriously degraded. Wildlife has become scarce and extremely elusive and hence, difficult to photograph. With no subjects, it can be a tough assignment to capture wild creatures that were once quite common. Knowing where to go with the right equipment is just part of the process. Many other aspects are also important and I will try to pass on some of my experiences to those who desire to try their hand at nature/wildlife photography.

Sambar doe on the run in Huai Kha Khaeng

A few protected areas still remain fairly intact with good densities of flora and fauna. Prey species are abundant and carnivores thrive. These havens for wildlife include time honored Huai Kha Khaeng and Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuaries, Thailand’s top nature reserve and a World Heritage Site. Due to its size (more than 6,000 square kilometers) and biodiversity, this site is absolutely the best tiger habitat left in the Kingdom. It must be saved at all costs for present and future generations.

Kaeng Krachan and Kui Buri national parks further south along the western border with Burma still have very good ecosystems with an abundance of flora and fauna. Other protected areas include: Khao Yai, Thap Lan, Pang Sida national parks in the northeast; Khao Ang Rue Nai and Khao Soi Dow wildlife sanctuaries in the east; Sai Yok, Erawan, Sri Nakarin national parks and Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary in the west; Khao Sok National Park, and Khlong Saeng and Khlong Nakha wildlife sanctuaries in the south; and finally, Tarutao National Park and Hala Bala and Budo wildlife sanctuaries in the deep south all have wildlife and make good photographic destinations. However, the security is not too good at the moment and maybe it would be better to wait until things improve for these southern nature reserves.

Gaur herd at a mineral deposit in Huai Kha Khaeng

Wildlife photography is a difficult hobby or profession to become proficient. Years of trial and error, lost shots, bad exposure, out of focus, no wildlife subjects, equipment failure, expense and many other intricate problems make things difficult for the wildlife photographer. Travel plans and permission to enter some of the sensitive protected areas is a hurdle that must be crossed before any photographs can be taken. But where there is a will, there is a way and the difficult can be overcome.

Cameras and lenses in the professional range are expensive but amateur equipment can also provide satisfactory results. Modern technology like the Digital Single Lens Reflex (D-SLR) is now the ultimate and both Nikon and Canon remain the most popular brands for variety (beginner to professional both in lenses and cameras). Other makes like Sony, Pentax, Olympus and Sigma also offer very good equipment. Aftermarket lenses from Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina cost less than the top brands but produce satisfactory to very good photographs.

Spangled drongo in Doi Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary

Another form of wildlife photography is the use of infrared camera traps that allows one to capture illusive and rare animals, plus new digital cameras show results in real time. Readymade camera traps are available and a quick search on the Internet will show dozens of makes and models.

 

Female tiger camera trapped in Huai Kha Khaeng

The use of a photo-blind is very important as is self-control and patience, which comes with practice and a desire to get a photograph of nature’s creatures. Long stints in the blind and hot weather are something that comes with practice. Wildlife encounters are usually brief and one must always be ready with camera in hand ready to shoot on a moments’ notice.

Black orb spider along a trail in Huai Kha Khaeng

No two days are alike in the natural world and opportunities must be taken then and there if one is to be a successful wildlife photographer. Finally, share your photographs with as many people as possible in order to send a message to all that nature is truly worth saving for the future.

 

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Africa Series: Sony S40 catches bat-eared fox

Saturday, January 26, 2013 posted by Bruce 6:57 PM

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….!

Enjoy.

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Indochinese tiger camera trapped in Huai Kha Khaeng

Friday, October 5, 2012 posted by Bruce 7:27 PM

An Indochinese tiger with a radio collar around its neck.

A big cat camera trapped in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Western Thailand using my BFOutdoors’ camera trap with a P43/1040/two ‘C’ cell externals.

There is an on-going scientific survey following some eight tigers in the sanctuary gathering data on their range and behavior. It has been proven in India that tigers with collars do not breed well and hence, I’m not too convinced the program is viable at this location. Also, the data on tiger numbers is not shared with the general scientific community and kept highly secret by a few individuals and an international conservation NGO. It is hoped that one day these collars (which must be very uncomfortable) will be removed to allow these magnificent cats to carry out their lives naturally.

 

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Chasing a Wild Dream

Sunday, August 12, 2012 posted by Bruce 4:16 PM

A video about Thailand’s Amazing Wildlife in the Western Forest Complex. From wild elephants to green peafowl, this film shows the world the wildlife in the Kingdom’s protected areas, and the need to save this wonderful natural heritage for present and future generations to come.

In the heart of Southeast Asia, the Kingdom is blessed with some of the best and last remaining examples of Asian animals and ecosystems that harbor the tiger, leopard, elephant, gaur, banteng, wild water buffalo, tapir, sambar, muntjac, gibbon, green peafowl, hornbill, plus thousands of other amazing creatures and biospheres that have evolved over millions of years and show-case Mother Nature and her magnificent beauty…!

 

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More camera trapping in Kenya

Elephants and egrets in Amboseli National Park by the side of the road

For the last three years, I have made an annual photographic safari to Africa catching the ‘bug’ as they say. On my first trip in September 2010, I did not take any camera traps along but concentrated on ‘through the lens’ work. It was simply amazing seeing and photographing so many animals including the ‘Big Five’. I was with a group of Thai photographers. After visiting a few of the top protected areas in Kenya for 12 days, and taking more than 90 gigabytes worth of images, you can say I’m now addicted to this place.

In August 2011, I headed a new group of Thai photographers on safari. This time I took a few camera traps hoping to set them in the bush. The first hotel was a tented camp near the famous Masai Mara National Reserve (where the wildebeest and zebra cross the crocodile infested Mara River). The camp has wildlife running all over the place including the rare bushbuck, an antelope found in only a few places in Africa. Other creatures include mongoose and genet. See my previous thread entitled ‘Camera trapping in Africa’.

This year in May, I went to Kenya once again but this time down south to some new locations including Amboseli National Park near Mount Kilimanjaro on the border with Tanzania, and then to Tsavo (west and east) national parks (together they form the largest national park in the world), plus Shimba Hills Wildlife Sanctuary near the coast at Mombasa, and finally Taita Wildlife Sanctuary on my way back to Nairobi. It was once again terrific seeing and photographing some incredible creatures of nature.

Giraffes in Tsavo (West) National Park

This year I also took a W7/1010/SS1 cam with one of my custom ‘elephant proof-boxes’ as a double or back up to the Sony S600 trail cam mentioned in previous stories. Tough restrictions made it difficult to set them up. But at one location in Amboseli NP, there was a tree right next to the road and I quickly got down from the ‘Land Cruiser’ and slipped it on with a ‘Python’ cable with my camouflage sleeves and stuck some grass and leaves around it to break-up the outline.

I left it for two nights and picked it up on the way out of the park. Low and behold, two elephants had passed the cam. The distance was considerable but the sensor still got one shot in good light. I was pleased. We then headed to Tsavo (West) national park for a three-hour drive.

As we moved into the reserve, I found a tree with loads of ungulate tracks crossing the road. It was the same drill: get down and throw the cam on quickly with a Python cable and sleeves. I let this one soak for two nights and picked it up on the way out. A couple of giraffes were caught nibbling on some leaves and the W7 worked well. We then moved further East and I caught elephants but they were reddish from the red-colored clay soil found here.

Elephants in Tsavo (East) National Park: note reddish color from clay found here

We then motored down to what I would say is one of the worst roads I have ever traveled on in my entire life. For more than thirty kilometers, the road was potholed with some large enough to swallow a small car. Hundreds of truck trailers moving in and out of Mombasa on a daily basis (Kenya’s main port on the Southern coast) have destroyed the road and causes huge traffic jams.

It was hell getting through but my driver Patrick Mjoroge was very skilled having driven safari vehicles for more than 25-years. He knew how to weave in and out but I stayed ‘white-knuckled’ for most of the way. I tried to stay cool no matter what the conditions were but it was nerve-racking to say the least.

Male ‘bushbaby’ at the Shimba Hills Resort bar

We finally reached my 4th destination on this trip at Shimba Hills Wildlife Sanctuary past Mombassa. Being near the coast, it was lush and green unlike the hot dusty plains inland. The forest was thick but due to frequent patrols by rangers, I could not slip a cam in.

That night as Patrick and I were having our sun-downers and dinner, a male ‘bushbaby’ showed up at the bar. I immediately went to my room and got the W7. These small primates are semi-habituated and addicted to bread. I set-up my cam and left some bait. It did not take long to capture some candid camera trap shots.

Bushbaby: one of Africa’s smallest primates

In the event I travel to Africa again, I will surely be taking a couple DSLR trail cams and a few video cams. The opportunity to trap Africa’s exotic creatures on digital is great and I look forward to visiting Kenya once again. I hope those interested will enjoy this thread.

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Camera trapping in Tsavo (West) National Park, Kenya

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 posted by Bruce 3:09 AM

Trail Camera catches hyena, waterbuck, impala and baboon

Sony S600 trail camera at a stream in Tsavo (West) National Park

Before I departed for my annual safari to Kenya during May of this year, I decided to take my trusty Sony S600 trail cam with a Snapshotsniper SSII board in a Pelican 1010 case hoping to put it out in the field.

Stream in the interior of Tsavo (West) National Park

It is small and I knew I could depend on it to catch some interesting wildlife shots. Prior to trapping my ‘ghost leopard’ in Tsavo (East) with this cam, I visited Tsavo (West) National Park, southern Kenya.

Camera trapper testing S600 trail cam

One day while out on a ‘game drive’, my driver/guide Patrick Mjoroge and I stopped for a pit stop near a bend in a small stream close to the road deep in the interior. I got out to stretch my legs and walked on down to have a look around. There was a large group of baboons nearby and they were headed our way.

Waterbuck passing the cam on the first night

There were several trees next to what looked like a game trail by the little waterway so I quickly set-up the S600 using a ‘Python’ locking cable with my camouflage sleeves in conjunction with a ‘Snapshotsniper’ Pelican case locking bracket. I threw down some salami, meat and bread from dinner the previous night as bait. It was worth a try. We departed and left the cam for an overnight soak.

Hyena on the first night eating the bait

The next morning, we returned to the stream to check on the cam and for a boxed breakfast packed by the hotel consisting of two hard-boiled eggs, some bacon, sausage, bread, butter and jam, an apple, some juice and water. It was better than nothing but my mandate was to leave at dawn for early morning light, and since we were at least thirty kilometers away from the hotel, breakfast was out of the question.

Baboons caught on the second afternoon

The bread was not that good and the bacon was cold and greasy, so I decided to top-up the bait left the previous afternoon and left the cam out for one more night. No one could see the set-up from the road and I knew it was safe.

The same hyena the second night

The next morning as we were leaving the park to go further east, we headed straight to the stream to pick-up the cam. As I scrolled through the images, it was evident the bait had worked extremely well. A hyena visited the first night and ate everything except the salami (weird), and then came again the next night for the bacon and bread. I was extremely happy when I also saw a waterbuck, impala and baboon walking past the cam.

Impala passing the cam on the second day

Wherever there are baboons, there are leopards. I vowed that if I ever return to this place, I’ll bring one of my DSLR camera traps plus a small video-unit like a Bushnell Trophy Cam or one of my homebrew video units. Success is always sweet and I hope everyone enjoys this set-up.

 

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HD Video Infrared Camera Trap

Sunday, April 29, 2012 posted by Bruce 11:07 PM

High-tech ‘homebrew’ video trail cam

A joint camera trap video program using a DXG 125r/1060/BF board-array video camera trap

Ron Davis DXG 125 video unit in a LBK elephant proof box

After seeing some of my posts, Ron Davis, a lawyer from Florida offered to send me an High Definition DXG 125R/BF board-array/IR/exchanger video unit housed in a Pelican 1060 (monster case) to put in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary where I’m presently doing a camera trap (presence/absense) survey. I gladly accepted the offer and waited patiently for the unit.

Machining elephant proof box

I have been running three Bushnell Trophy Cams (2009 & 2011 models) and was getting some amazing clips of large mammals like elephant, gaur, banteng, tiger and tapir plus other creatures at night, but also in broad daylight that was quite a surprise. I plan to share these videos with the forum soon. Most Asian animals are nocturnal for their own safety and have evolved this way due to centuries of human poaching pressure.

Drilling out LED ports on elephant proof box

However, as this World Heritage Site is being look after much better than any other protected area in Thailand, and its biodiversity is tops, wild creatures are beginning to feel more at ease about showing themselves during the day. It is a fact they will propagate and move freely in the day if undisturbed for the most part.

 

Video unit and elephant proof box before camouflage paint

I never have had a big Pelican 1060 and when it arrived in the post, my immediate reaction was it would be quite visible in the forest, and is also quite heavy with all the components including a 12v battery to run the array. However, I went to work building an elephant proof security box from aluminum.

Video unit and elephant proof and ‘Python’ locking cable ready for the field

 I got my Tig-welder to make it up and did all the machining required. It was just in the outer limits of travel on the table of my small milling machine but it was OK. I had to do some juggling but I got it done using precision drilling with a center drill first followed by a drill bit, a hole-cutter and milling cutter. The LED ports took awhile to get all 12 finished.

I then painted it with a new camouflage technique for me. Using four colors (black primer coat, then khaki, army green and earth brown in conjunction with bamboo leaves (idea from my friend Chris Wemmer – the Camera Trap Codger), I painted the box in succession until I was satisfied. It looked pretty good to me and it certainly would blend in with the surrounding vegetation.

Ron Davis/LBK video unit at a waterhole in Huai Kha Khaeng

I made my monthly trip on April 15th to the sanctuary and the first night set the unit over a really bad smelling bag of rotten chicken (a previous bait and two weeks old)…whew! This was quite close to the ranger station I always stay at and early the next morning about 4am, I heard an Asiatic jackal barking close to the cam that could possibly mean a leopard. The bait was gone the next morning but I did not check the files deciding to wait.

I then moved it to a very productive water hole where it is now. When I return from Africa, I will be going straight in to check all my traps including this unit. Can’t wait to see what it has captured and will of course share any videos later on this website. I would like to thank Ron Davis for the use of his video unit and let’s see what it gets.

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Camera trapping in Africa

Thursday, April 26, 2012 posted by Bruce 4:21 PM

Capturing wildlife by camera trap while out on photographic safari

Reticulated giraffe in Samburu National Reserve: A lucky capture..!

In September 2010, I went on a photographic safari to Kenya’s protected areas including the Masai Mara National Reserve during the annual wildlife crossings at the Mara River, and then on to Lake Nakuru National Park and Samburu National Reserve. It was difficult to set trail cameras as the laws are very strict about leaving the vehicle while out on safari.

Finally, on the next to the last day, I got a quick chance to slip a camera in the bush off a dirt track by the river in Samburu. After three hours, my guide and driver said we had to retrieve the cam. Low and behold, a giraffe had passed the Sony P43/Bigfoot/1040/’C’ externals. It was a fluke and the shot shown here was the best of two. The lowdown set really enhances this very tall even-toed ungulate.

A rare male bushbuck during late afternoon in Siana Springs Tented Camp near the Masai Mara National Reserve

Then in August 2011, I was back in Kenya for another 12-day trip and the first three days was spent at Siana Springs Tented Camp next to the great Masai Mara reserve. The amazing thing about this place was the bushbuck, a very rare antelope, is found on the grounds. I asked for permission and set out three traps. After a couple of nights, a Sony S600/1020/SS1 trapped a ‘male bushbuck’, an African mongoose and a large-spotted genet. On another cam, I got a female bushbuck.

Male bushbuck camera trapped at night on the grounds of Siana Springs

On my older P43/Bigfoot/1040 with ‘C’ cell externals, I trapped a night patrol ranger as he passed by showing his boots, long coat and rifle….amazingly, it is a pre-64 Winchester Model 70 Supergrade in .458 Magnum ‘African’ model with express sights and a beautiful select walnut stock. What a rifle to have out on night patrol?

Night patrol ranger with a .458 Winchester M70 ‘African’ model. A rare firearm left over from the old days of hunting safaris

Some rich American hunter left this rifle with the old boy who was previously a tracker and guide for safari hunters in days gone by. I use to be a gunsmith and built many rifles from old shot-out Model 70s and Mauser 98s. I felt a bit of nostalgia, as this was my favorite caliber and I used a .458 Model 70 when I hunted with a gun here in Thailand but that was 25 years ago, and is another story. I’m still a hunter at heart, just switched from Winchester to Nikon, Minolta, Canon and Sony.


Female bushbuck along a trail on the grounds at Siana Springs

I’m off to Kenya once again on May 1st armed with my big Nikon D3s and a new Nikon 200-400 VR II telephoto lens. I will also be taking three camera traps and hopefully I will be able to set a few cams here and there as I know some tented camps usually have wildlife running around the grounds…plus the guards…..hmmmm!

White-tailed mongoose, a common carnivore

Large-spotted genet, another common predator

These three cams are the ones I’m taking with me to Kenya. The two in the back are Sony W7s in Pelican 1010 cases with Snapshotsniper SS1 control boards, and one in front is a Sony S600 in a Pelican 1010 with a SS1 control board. These cams are small and light, and easily packed in my luggage. I hope I can set them up…..that is the big question??

Camera traps ready for Africa

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Camera trap videos in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 posted by Bruce 8:27 PM

Early in 2011, I set several camera traps and video units including a Bushnell Trophy Cam around a mineral deposit and water hole visited by wild animals including wild pig, banteng, sambar, tiger, gaur, peafowl and crab-eating mongoose plus more. This is a collection of video clips from the Bushnell captured over the course of one month from January to February.

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Goral in Mae Lao-Mae Sae Wildlife Sanctaury – Northern Thailand

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 posted by Bruce 6:02 PM

From June to August 2011, I set a Bushnell Trophy Cam on video mode at the top of ‘Mon Liem’ mountain in the sanctuary. After collecting the camera, many clips of goral were taken, both during the day and at night. This is just a few of those clips.

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