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Archive for March, 2013

A ‘Trails End’ camera trap comes my way

Friday, March 29, 2013 posted by Bruce 9:30 PM

A neat trail cam: Sony P41/Snapshotsniper SS board/Pelican 1040/2 AA externals by Trails End

Last week, I visited my old buddy Suthad Sappu, a forest ranger in Kaeng Krachan National Park down in southwest Thailand along the border with Burma. We worked together along the Phetchaburi River deep in the interior of the park for some 10 years back during the 90s, and we got many tigers and leopards on camera trap plus loads of other cryptic creatures like elephant, tapir, gaur, bear (both species), fishing cat, banded palm civet, banded linsang and many more.

As we were chit chatting over dinner and drinks about our favorite subject, camera trapping, Suthad pulled out a very nice camera trap from his bag. It is a homebrew that was made up by ‘Trails End’ using a Sony P41/Snapshotsniper SS board/Pelican 1040/2 AA externals. It is very well built and looks new, and is unused. The case and eyebolts are dipped in a woodland type camouflage.

He says I can have it if I can get it working. Took me a few minutes with some fresh batteries and reset the date on the Sony. Flipped the toggle switch down and it fired up, and was working normally in a few minutes. I said thank you very much and smiled.

He has two more and I said I could get them going too. Does anybody know who ‘Trails End’ is and are they still in business? They certainly do very good work. I’ll be taking this cam along with a Bushnell Trophy Cam to India on April 3rd after tiger. The lodge I’m staying is reported to have leopards walking through the camp. Can’t wait to get there.

Some days are better than others….especially when a nice trail cam comes your way for free…!





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Doi Chiang Dao: Northern limestone massif

Friday, March 22, 2013 posted by Bruce 4:10 PM

Mountain sanctuary and protected area in Chiang Mai

  Sunset taken from Doi Luang Chiang Dao at 2,226 meters.

Imagine a huge limestone karst massif with vertical cliffs towering strait up into the clouds and Doi Chiang Dao in the northern province of Chiang Mai comes to mind. This enormous horseshoe shaped mountain was formed over 200 million years ago during the mid to late Permian era.

It was a time of widespread mountain building and volcanic activity. Thailand was part of ‘Gondwanaland’ that was still attached to ‘Pangaea’, the ‘Supercontinent’.

  Goral male with a winter coat up on the rocks of Doi Luang.

This colossal outcrop with the highest peak, Doi Luang, reaching some 2225 meters above sea level looks almost ‘architectural’ and is the Kingdom’s third tallest mountain after Doi Pha Hom Pok and Doi Inthanon. Doi means ‘mountain’ in Thai.

In December last year, a trip to photograph the flora and fauna of Doi Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary was undertaken. Prior to that, I visited the headquarters near the famous ‘Chiang Dao cave’ and had a talk with the chief, so I could get an idea what I was about to embark on. The walking trail up to the summit of the mountain is 8.5 kilometers long and said to be pretty tough. This was an understatement!

  Parrot flowers or ‘Tien nok kaew’ in Thai (Impatiens psittacina).

From the back of the mountain, some 25 kilometers west of Chiang Dao, a ranger station named ‘Denyacut’ is located where the walking trail begins. From there it is long hard climb that can be very dangerous in some places. The karst mountain still has serious run-off just after the rainy season ending in late-October.

This makes for a slippery trail and in some locations, ‘slick as an eel’ is the only thing that can be described. Every step was with great effort to keep from sliding down to what could be the end of my days.

  A view of ‘three in-laws’ karst outcrops.

That first climb took me nine hours but I did take my time going real slow stopping to take pictures of flowers and the view from time to time. My guide and forest ranger named Thep Kanoo and my close friend Sawawut Sawkhamkhet plus four pack bearers accompanied me as we made our way up. I eventually arrived in the dark at 8pm and it was already getting cold.

We had a quick meal and it was straight into the tent for me. I was totally exhausted. Winter is in full swing then and the temperature dropped down to 6 degrees Celsius early the next morning. For a tropics guy like me, it was freezing but I slept fairly comfortable because of a good mountain tent and super warm sleeping bag.

  A pansi butterfly near the summit.

The next morning, we all got up at 4am and had breakfast made up of some coffee, eggs and bread. There were about 100 visitors and bearers already up there, set-up in clusters around the valley close to the top. As in many of Thailand’s protected areas, noisy-people is a common occurrence.

We left the campground at 5am and climbed out to a viewpoint on the cliff face to watch the sunrise. We could see Chiang Dao town below beginning to come alive. The air was crisp and hovering then around 10 degrees. It was absolutely beautiful up there and the moment is etched in my memory.


  Sunrise from the summit near Doi Luang.

My main photographic objective was to get some pictures of goral or ‘angel horse’ as the Thais call them. These small goat-antelopes are extremely endangered throughout their range in northern Thailand due to serious persecution by the people living in the hills. Goral are considered a delicacy by many and are eagerly sought after.

Since some protection has been afforded here, there is a small-herd that lives primarily out on the cliff face. The steep karst terrain has also helped them to survive. As one of the Kingdom’s rarest-mammals with just a hundred or so left in the county, it was a high priority for me.


  A Gould’s sunbird at ‘Denyacut’ ranger station.

I missed a goral on the first trip but went back in January (it took me six hours to climb this time) and the next morning, I got a few shots of a very mature male goral with a winter coat shown in the story. He was sunning himself out on a favorite rock above the camping area around 9am.

Fortunately, it was mid-week and there was nobody up there except us. The goat was not disturbed and the next morning was back at the same spot.  Goral are creatures of habit and defecate around the boulders midway up Doi Luang.


  A green leaf bird, also at ‘Denyacut’.

The mountain is primarily known for its beautiful flowers with hundreds of species found with some endemic ones. One of the most beautiful is the parrot flower or ‘Tien nok kaew’ in Thai (Impatiens psittacina) as seen in the story. They only last for a couple of months but by January, have disappeared.

Many other species are also found along the trail and up on the mountaintops. There are 150 mammal and 295 bird species recorded plus thousands of plant and flower species, some of them endemic. It truly is a natural paradise and shows the legacy of Thailand’s natural heritage.


  Sunset over Doi Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary

In the early 1960s, there were serious attempts in Thailand to establish protected areas in order to save the flora and fauna, and the natural ecosystems for the Thai people.

Over two-hundred national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and non-hunting areas have been set aside. Doi Chiang Dao 75 kilometers north of Chiang Mai is one of these. The importance of this mountain sanctuary cannot be stressed enough due to its unique beauty, biodiversity and formation.

Like most parks in Thailand that have excessive visitation, the problems here are serious at the moment compounded by no water available at the so-called campgrounds at the top near the Doi Luang summit (the main attraction).

A tent-city has been erected by the pack-bearers and trash is a problem. Fortunately, the park is closed from March 31st to November 1st every year to allow the area to rejuvenate.

Too many people up the mountain at one time should be curtailed. As it takes sometime to hike up to the top and there are no facilities, some people are abusing the natural surroundings for personal reasons. This should stop and be monitored by the park staff.

One thing is for sure: the sanctuary is unique, and needs improved management and better protection to keep its pristine beauty intact. It can be said that Doi Chiang Dao is “a mountain with flowers like birds, and birds like flowers”. Only time will tell whether Thailand’s highest karst formation will continue to be as magnificent and beautiful as it has for ions.

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Camera trapping a new wildlife trail and waterhole…!

Friday, March 8, 2013 posted by Bruce 10:27 PM

Odd-toed ungulates and other fauna in Western Thailand

Some 40 million years ago, the tapir evolved and was found on many continents including North America. These creatures are now thriving in only two areas of the world: Southeast Asia has one species and South America three. The Asian tapir is the largest and have a very distinct two-tone black and white color pattern that acts like natural camouflage, especially at night where the black breaks up its outline. These odd-toed ungulates are now becoming quite rare due to poaching for their meat, and encroachment in tapir habitat.

A young tapir with a distinct ear marking on a wildlife trail

Another more mature tapir a week later

A female tapir at another cam

Other animals caught in this series include elephants, gaur, sambar stag and doe, wild pig, sun bear, porcupine and red jungle fowl.

 Elephants pose for the cam

These creatures were camera trapped using three homebrew cams: a Sony P43/BFOutdoors/1040/C externals, a Sony S600/BFOutdoors/1040/C externals and a Sony S600/Yeticam/alloy box.

Gaur also came through

These cams were setup by a wildlife trail and a waterhole deep in the interior of Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary and left for one month during January to February 2013.

Sambar stag and doe

This place is simply amazing with Asian forest ecosystems thriving today that once almost completely covered most of Thailand. In one century, humans have overcome most of the country except for a few places.

Asiatic sun bear

Throughout the Kingdom, the once large tracts of forests are now sliced-up and wildlife has disappeared. Huai Kha Khaeng remains the shinning star of Thailand’s natural legacy going back to the dinosaurs and before…!

Sambar at a waterhole


Red jungle fowl

I now have setup my Canon 350D DSLR with three flashes on this trail. I’m hoping for some good shots with this rig and will be posting these sometime at the end of March.



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