What is BushCam Adventures?

BushCam Adventures attempts to share some of the amazing images, stories and insights that I've collected during my camera-trapping adventures.

Monday 25 November 2013

Camera-trap 1.....Lions 0

When Elephants, Lions or Hyenas take on a camera-trap the result is usually fairly predictable. Its not simply that the former three have home-ground-advantage but they also have many match-winning attributes. Attributes like 60mm canines or many tonnes of body-weight come to mind - and they don't tend to play 'friendlies'. So by the end of most encounters the camera-trap is facing relegation of one sort or another.  Sadly, for me, I seldom get to record the match!

Occasionally though, things go against the run of play ..... AND I got to record the game. This is what happened:
We had a number of cameras set up at waterholes in South Africa's Kruger National Park. All was going peacefully until a large pride of lions arrived during the early hours of one morning.

The cubs spent a lot of time examining the camera (which was loosely enclosed in a pile of rocks) but this was just curiosity rather than malicious intent. They wandered off after a while but the pride returned just before sunrise........

.......and things started to get more serious.

The lioness pulled the camera from the stone cairn which resulted in a number of photos which all looked something like this:

The camera somehow survived and took, in my opinion, the shot of the match:
Amazingly, they then left the waterhole and we recovered the camera later that day - with hardly a scratch!

So I guess lions do play 'friendlies' after all!

Monday 11 November 2013

Just Elephants

In many parts of Africa the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) is under huge threat. Habitat loss and the ivory trade are the major reasons over the last century. Recently we've heard appalling reports of  cyanide poisoning in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park.

But there are a number of wildlife reserves in Southern Africa where elephant populations are flourishing. I'm not qualified to comment on whether these reserves have an overpopulation problem or not, but amongst those that are qualified to comment, opinions are divided. The Kruger National Park has in excess of 16 000 elephants and these numbers are growing.

This was brought home to me in a very real way while I was camera-trapping there recently. My cameras probably recorded more elephants than any other mammal species at the water-holes where they were installed. They were so abundant in one area that I decided it would be financially irresponsible to leave cameras there (even though I consider losing the odd camera to be an occupational hazard!).

Herewith a few of the many camera-trap images:

What particularly struck me was the high proportion of youngsters in the breeding herds. For many of them it won't be long before they too are consuming in excess of 100kg of vegetation per day.

There is lots to love about elephants - their intelligence, gentleness and the way they care for their ill and elderly members. But I've just added another reason to love them: because they didn't mess with my cameras! There is no doubt that they knew the cameras were there but they left them alone, and as a result we can enjoy these photos.

And that is more than we can say about another iconic mammal that I will blog about shortly.....

Sunday 20 October 2013

Close-ups in Kruger

I've recently returned from a fairly extended trip to two of Southern Africa's iconic destinations where we did some awesome camera-trapping. I recorded over 50 000 images and, as you can imagine, its taken me a while to work through them all and find those that are worth sharing.

The first part of the trip was in South Africa's largest reserve, the Kruger Park . At almost 2 million hectares in size this is not a reserve that one can easily cover with camera-traps. So we just picked a few good water-holes for the project. I was privileged to spend the time with staff of the Organisation for Tropical Studies (OTS) and their students - mostly from the U.S.

As always at small man-made water holes camera-traps can record some amazing images. Here are just a few of the close-ups that I enjoyed:

This young elephant had obviously just enjoyed a mud bath in the vicinity.

A young baboon who was curious about the new structure at his regular drinking spot.

A very sick looking old lion. Sadly he is no longer the the King of the Jungle.

An Impala ewe.What was interesting about this series of photos was the Fish Eagle in the background. It spent long periods just sitting in the water. While the impala didn't need worry about it I'd have thought the young baboon in the distance should have.

A White Rhino. They're not known for their good eyesight and when you look at the size of their eyes you get to understand why that is.

More to follow.....

Monday 12 August 2013

Kalahari images

There is something magical about the Kalahari. This vast 'green' desert with its red dunes, ephemeral and fossil rivers is a very special place. I don't know if it's the colour of the sand dunes or the soft light of dawn and dusk but, whatever it is, I'm drawn to it.
Its also a great place for camera-trapping. This is because animal life is attracted to the few water sources (artificial or natural) that exist on the sprawling farms and wildlife reserves that cover the region. So, even though its a 10 hour drive from where I live - I do it happily and always with great anticipation.
This time the anticipation was even greater than usual because there was a suggestion that there might be Pangolin (Manis temminckii) and Small Spotted Cat (Felis nigripes) on the property I was visiting. Now you must understand that to an African camera-trapper these are mega-ticks! Trips like this are not frivolous affairs.

But sadly, by the end of our time there, the above two species hadn't graced my cameras with their presence. Nevertheless, it was great fun and we collected some images that I enjoyed:
Aardvark (Orycteropus afer)

Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)

Bat-eared Fox (Otocyon megalotis)
Gemsbok or Oryx (Oryx gazella)
Cape Fox (Vulpes chama)
Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori)        

So if YOU like the idea of getting images of Pangolins and  Small Spotted Cats then give me a shout and I'll organise a camera-trapping safari to the property. It won't take much to persuade me!

Wednesday 10 July 2013

The Birds and the Bees

I've always had a soft spot for birds in our garden but, if the truth be told, I'd rather be out camera-trapping for some of Africa's mega-fauna. But since I do have domestic responsibilities it seemed like the time to try some 'close up' camera-trapping in the garden. To get my calibrations right I thought I'd practice on the nectar-feeder with a view to getting some camera-trap images of the Sunbirds that visit it.
I thought the idea worked pretty well and within a couple of days I had, in my opinion, some fun images:

Amethyst Sunbird, Chalcomitra amethystina

Malachite Sunbirds, Nectarina famosa

Cape Weaver, Ploceus velatus

Southern Masked Weaver, Ploceus ocularis, most way through his moult
And that was when the trouble started...............

A Cape White-eye, Zosterops capensis, spots the first bees
I presume these bees are our regular Apis melifera capensis, known for their hardworking ethic. And so, within 10 minutes the word was out:

no more birds!
 ....and 20 minutes later:

What's particularly alarming about this image is not just the quantity of bees but the number of drowned individuals in the bottle. How did that happen? Did they fall or were they pushed?

Within a couple of hours, by the time the liquid was all done, I'd guess there were at  at least 100 dead bees in the bottle:

So now I'm really bummed. The birds have all gone and there is a dent in the local bee population - which we can ill afford.

I can easily make a design change to the feeding bottle so that the bees can't drown. But while there are bees there I know the birds will stay away. I will need to keep my distance too since these guys are pretty aggressive - all sugared-up I guess.

I'd appreciate any advice.

Thursday 2 May 2013

A Raft of Hippos

I've always been amused by some of the collective nouns given to African mammals. Apart from the above, some that make me smile are: a Dazzle of Zebras, a Crash of Rhinocerous, an Obstinancy of Buffalos, and a Skulk of Jackals. But my favourite has to be an Implausibility of Wildebeest - who the heck thought of that?

But lets return to the humble Hippo.Well perhaps not so humble because these beasts are reputed to be the most dangerous mammal in Africa as measured by the number of humans killed. However that dubious honour is clearly not appropriate because man himself beats the hippo hands down - with the malaria-carrying mosquito certainly the most dangerous animal.

But let me get to the point here. I've recently returned from the north-eastern part of South Africa where I spent a few days giving camera-trapping advice to a lively group of trainee field guides. We left the cameras-traps out for a week and, fortunately, none got eaten by hyenas (a Clan of...) or smashed by elephant (you must know that one). We got some pretty cool photos, which I will show in another post, but what was interesting for me was how many hippo (him of the Raft) photos we got.

The first few simply recorded the comings and goings of an individual along a game trail not far from a small river:

However the next few were, for me, more interesting. The camera had been set up on a rocky outcrop where the students had hoped to record images of a leopard reportedly living in the vicinity:

I'd love to know whether this hippo was a regular stroller on these rocks or whether this was a one-time event. It took me a couple of years to record my first hippo photo on a camera-trap and suddenly I get a load of them in a few days. Could one call that an Implausibility of Hippo Photos?

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Two Days at the Salt Lick

For some months now I have had a memory card from one of my cameras sitting on my desk. It is effectively full and contains 3984 images of mammals recorded at a salt lick in the Tswalu Kalahari reserve in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. These 3984 images were recorded over just a 48hour period.
I've been reluctant to write a new post about these images because, well, I just couldn't think of a good story to go with the images. However I now need to use the card and am reluctant to add another 4GB of images to the hard drive on my ageing laptop. So its a case of use-them-or-lose-them - and I've decided to use them.

Salt licks (possibly better described as mineral licks) are commonly used in wildlife reserves in Southern Africa. They're particularly used in the dry winter months when the quality of the grass is often poor. I don't know to what extent the mammals really need the additional minerals or whether they just like them. But that is immaterial because mammals arrive at the lick in droves, especially if there is also water in  the vicinity. So its an interesting site for a camera-trap.

These mineral supplements usually begin as a sold rectangular block. But it doesn't take long before they get licked down into an amorphous blob, like the one at Tswalu, shown below:

There were various mammals in the area when we arrived to set up the camera and it wasn't long after we left that the first 'lickers' arrived. The procession hardly stopped for two days.

Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis)

Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)
Gemsbok (Oryx gazella)
Greater Kudu ( Tragelaphus strepsiceros)
Common Eland (Tragelaphus oryx)
Hartmann's Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra hartmannae)
Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)
Common Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus)

Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus)
Impala (Aepyceros melampus)

So what's the story here?

Well, for many wildlife professionals working in reserves like Tswalu these scenes are a daily occurence. But for the rest of us these camera-trap images represent an extraordinary view into the daily life of mammals in Africa. 3984 images in two days! Its a story that I hope our grand-children will still get to see.