Posts Tagged ‘camera traps’
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…!
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…!
Leopard passing a S600 after a rain.
Awhile back, one of the members on Camtrapper.com forum (zaj56) posted on June 22, 2013 ‘some bear pics’ and had forgotten to put a memory card in his cam but the internal memory (10 shots) was able to get some very nice bear shots.
A leopard up-close to the S600.
A night predator passing-by.
Going through my S600s recently fixing on/off switches (just posted on the forum), I found some shots on the internal memory from November 2012 on one cam and decided to have a closer look.
A tiger up-close to the S600.
Imagine my surprise when I saw 10 shots including a tiger and leopard close to the cam. This means I had forgotten to put a memory card in the cam and just lucked out getting the two big cats.
A tiger passing by the S600.
The moral of this blurb: Try not to forget your memory card before deploying the cam…!
This series of camera trap images of a young tigress was collected in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary with a Sony W55 homebrew trail cam during May of this year. This particular tiger does not seem bothered by the flash and I have caught her several times prior to this set. Some animals don’t mind flash while others do. I have a tiger on video growling and back-tracking after seeing the red-LEDs on a Bushnell Trophy Cam. I tend to believe it all depends on the individual animal.
Note the wound on her left flank and ticks in her ears.
Sony S600-S40/Plano 1449/SSII/4 AA externals homebrew cams
This year’s competition in Camtrapper.com was great and really a challenge to make a winning shot. I was surprised to see my ‘Needle in the Haystack’ leopard actually place and when all the winners took their prizes according to their rating, I was left with a Sony S40. I felt extremely lucky to win this cam hacked by Joe 12-Ringer and waited patiently to get my prize, as I have never have had one and wanted to use it for a homebrew.
Sony S40 and S600, Plano 1449 case, Snapshotsniper II boards and 4 AA externals
While I was in the States recently, I visited Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Albany, NY. It took me awhile, but I eventually found some Plano cases Model 1449 that looked perfect for camera traps. I liked the clamp that looked strong, and the seal was nice and soft for a watertight seal similar to rope seal. The case looked plenty strong and the internal dimensions would allow two twin-AA externals. With Gary’s SSII, I can get everything in with room to spare. A snorkel was machined from 3/16” thick aluminum tubing.
Ready for final assembly
While I was in the U.S., I had several cameras working in the forest here in my usual locations including two Sony S600s/1020s/SSIs with security tubes. These had elephant proof boxes with Python locking cables and two 3/8” Stainless lag bolts at the bottom of the box but one was in a very low down set-up. An elephant found it and decided to give it a whirl. The giant managed to bend the bolts 90 degrees and finally dislodged it from the horizontal tree and stepped on the cam breaking the glass. The 5/16” ‘Python Locking Cable’ however survived the ordeal.
S600 unit in a ‘elephant proof’ box
Fortunately, the S600 and board is still working so I decided to build another cam using the S600 and the 1449 (same set-up as the S40 above). Machining the cases for the snorkel and the HPWA is pretty straightforward. I have begun making the ‘elephant proof boxes’ which need further work but will get these done just before my next trip into the forest. I will up-date this post with pictures when these are done.
Machining S40 faceplate
Finished S600 faceplate painted with primer
Camouflage painting both cams
Finished S600/S40 cams ready for the field
Both units setup on a fallen tree on a game trail
A new Sony W55 trail camera catches the big cats
On May 19th (my birthday) 2012, I decided to celebrate in the forest after returning to Thailand from a two-week photographic safari in Africa. It was once again a great trip to the Dark Continent and I managed to photograph the ‘Big Five’ (three times now) plus a multitude of other animals including some rare species like black-mane lion, black rhino, striped hyena, sable antelope and bush baby. I also got many other common animals like elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, warthogs and antelopes. I also managed to catch Mount Kilimanjaro when the clouds lifted. Kenya is absolutely one of the greatest natural spectacles on the planet and I look forward to returning next year.
A male leopard caught by a Sony W55 homebrew trail camera trap
However, there are still a few wild places in Thailand that harbor many magnificent Asian creatures such as tiger, leopard, elephant, gaur, banteng plus many other mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and plant species. Huai Kha Khaeng is one of the top wildlife sanctuaries in Southeast Asia, and the world for that matter.
Leopard caught again checking out the camera
To get there, it takes about five hours by vehicle from Bangkok and is tucked away in the forested mountains of central-western Thailand in Uthai Thani province. I have written many stories about this place and its wildlife, and it never fails to live up to its status as a ‘World Heritage Site’ but this time it turned out even better than my wildest dreams.
A young female tiger caught by the Sony w55 trail cam
My birthday wish to catch a tiger and leopard up-close with one of my camera traps was granted by the ‘spirits of the forest’ and all the hard work building the cams, setting them up, waiting while they soaked and then the pain-staking collection was truly worthwhile.
My favorite shot of this young tiger
Arriving early in the morning, I got everything ready and went out to check the cams. One location has been extremely productive and had been very lucky catching tiger and leopard almost every time (three months in a row). When I went through the photos on my new Sony W55/SSII/1020/3 AA externals, I could not resist shouting out loud with one big hurrah. A leopard had stopped at the cam for a few shots and a night later, a tiger posed for a whole series of close-ups from the low-down set-up. I was speechless for a few seconds.
Check-out the ticks and markings on the right ear
Remember this tiger eye and ear
This game trail is situated deep in the protected area and many animals use it to get to a mineral lick and waterhole. The balance of nature is in full force here and ‘eat or be eaten’ carries on everyday. There is a fallen tree right across the trail about 500 meters from the dirt road some 15 kilometers in the sanctuary.
More ticks and note the wound on the left shoulder
Both of these big cats jump this log as they hunt for prey but usually a few days or two apart. The leopard is a very mature male but the tiger is a young female that seems to may have finally left her mother. I have a close-up shot of this same cat captured together in March and identified it as the same tiger two months ago by markings on the right ear. What a coincidence!
Stripe-pattern on right side used to identify this cat
All I can say is: this has been the best birthday in many moons and I know that my prayers are really answered from time to time. It is hoped this young tiger will continue to live out its life in safety and carry on its legacy as the world’s largest cat. Huai Kha Khaeng is truly a remarkable place and I have not even scratched the surface of this amazing wilderness!
LBK ‘Clear-View’ trail camera project: Twin W7/1010/SSIs
Sony W7s in Pelican 1010 cases with Snapshotsniper SSI boards
In 2008 when I first began building digital trail cams, I used several different models of Sony, Nikon and Canon cameras but found the Sony W7 to be one of the best producing very good quality photographs, both day and night, with its Carl Zeiss lens set to ISO 400 in ‘program’ mode. I actually use a W7 for general photography while in the field and have come to like this model even though it’s a bit large for a digital compact compared to newer models.
W7/1010/SSI components ready for building
The W7s are robust cameras that use two AAs and are fairly quick for all-round use. The only drawback; they are tough to hack and a steady hand, good eyes and nerves of steel is needed to modify these as the connections are tiny..! Check out Camtrapper.com and Buckshot164’s video tutorial on the W5-7, or the W1 for that matter (similar camera).
By using the Pelican 1010, they are truly ‘pocket size’. I normally use two ‘Energizer Lithium’ batteries that can usually last a month or more. I bought 8 W7s and built camera traps around six of them but kept these two for a special job one day.
W7/1010/SSI cam #1
I sourced the clear Pelican cases and managed to get some of Gary’s last SnapShotSniper ‘Simple Sniper’ boards before he discontinued them. I also ordered the metal sensor mount for easier installation with epoxy. By laying the camera and the 9-volt battery in the deep end of the case and the sensor in the shallow end, everything just fits.
W7/1010/SSI cam #2
The build is straight forward, and no hole is cut in the case for the flash allowing the camera to shoot straight through. A lens snorkel and HPWA is used and there are no externals. I have tested most of the cameras in this ‘clear view’ series and the power of the flash is not cut down by the case.
In fact on these builds as an experiment, I’ve installed a flash diffuser (cut from a Nikon SB26 flash diffuser) to cut back on harsh light sometimes caused by the factory flash. This idea came from an Olympus ‘dive housing’ for their U-700 digital compact shown here. My main objective with camera trapping is close frame filling shots that really show wildlife and the diffuser just softens the flash.
Olympus U-700 digital camera in an Olympus dive housing with a flash diffuser
A couple of aluminum boxes protect the W7s/1010s and a ‘Python’ 5/16” locking cable is used plus small ‘shark teeth’ are welded on the back to lock the cams in place on a tree. Holes are drilled to accommodate two lag bolts but these will not be used where I’m going, but later when I deploy these cams in the field here in Thailand. I have made-up one with 3D camouflage pattern and the other with 4-color camouflage paint job using fern leaves.
Completed trail cams ready for the field
I have built these two for my yearly African photographic trip that is coming up on May the 1st for two weeks. I will be going to Kenya once again, but this time will be visiting the great Amboseli (close to Mount Kilimanjaro) and Tsavo (East and West) national parks plus Shimba Hills Wildlife Sanctuary (especially after sable) and finally close out the safari at Nairobi National Park.
I hope to slip them in depending on local restrictions and laws, plus available wildlife and forests in the hotels and resorts where I will be staying on the fringes of the protected areas. In most reserves in Kenya, one is not allowed to leave the safari vehicle at any time or place other than in the hotels, and heavy fines can be incurred by the driver/guide (more than a $1,000 US dollars) if they are caught. It seems unjust but some people have already been maimed and even killed by this reckless behavior.
Detail of the drilled and taped box
In 2010, I slipped a trail cam in the bush and got a beautiful shot of a giraffe in Samburu National Park and then in 2011, got several shots of the rare bushbuck (both male and female), an African mongoose and a large-spotted genet plus a night patrol ranger with a .458 Winchester M70 express rifle at Siana Springs Tent Lodge near the Masai Mara Game Reserve. It was a neat experience.
Sony W7s and Sony S600 trail cams: ‘Python’ locking cable and camouflage sleeves.
These two Sony W7s and another Sony S600 are some of my smallest trail cams and just right to take with me while flying abroad. Being little, they are easily carried in my baggage and set-up will be quick. I will post any pictures at a later date.