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Three Foxes (A Camera Trap Post)

So here is a post based on what the blog is named after, a camera trap in Cornwall. I had a lot of chicken pieces left over from dinner and...

Sunday, 7 December 2014

New Job in Mauritius

Im off on my travels again soon. This time I'm off to Mauritius to work for the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation. I have been given the task of looking after and restoring a small offshore island reserve called Round Island. The work was originally started by the late, great Gerald Durrell. I am very excited to start so expect some posts soon. I won't be as isolated as the Congo and should have internet access more often. here is a site about the island (link).

Round Island

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Bouvier's Red Colobus Expedition: Your Chance to help Primates and Science.

Followers of this blog may remember that I disappeared into the Congo rainforest for 9 months. I was habituating bonobos and when my time was over I was replace by a Belgian named Lieven Devreese. When Lieven was there he was searching for golden bellied mangabey and other monkeys. Now Lieven is planning an expedition to the Republic of Congo to search for a species of red colobus, the Bouvier's red colobus monkey, not see since the 1970s. No one knows if it still exists so he is going to find out. If it does exist then protection for the species can be put into place. Now icier chance to help protect primates, the rainforest and help science. To make the expedition success donations are required. Please if you can help fund this rare and exciting expedition. I wish I could tag along but have other plans myself. So please head over to the site and donate. If you donate a certain amount you will be rewarded with different gifts such as a congolese bracelet, a media pack of the trip, a postcard with a congolese stamp or even a talk depending on how much you donate.  Thank you.
Click here for the expedition page (link)

Below is Lieven in a video explaining in more detail.

Facebook Page
Expedition Page

Friday, 14 November 2014

Congo Watercolours

Over the last few weeks I have decided to start painting some scenes from my time in the Congo. I enjoy painting and it brings back memories. Over time I hope to improve on my technique. Below are scans of my paintings so far.  Each one has a small story to it. I hope you enjoy them.

The Congo peacock is endemic to the D.R. Congo. I had read about the species beforehand and hope to see one. When I arrived in camp I was pleased to hear that everyone had seen at least one, and usually a pair. However it took me over 3 months before I first saw one. I heard them plenty before hand calling out of the darkness. When I finally saw my first pair I was ill. I was returning from the forest after feeling unwell during a shift. Just 300m from camp a pair crossed the transect. Even though I was ill I still followed them. I was so happy I had finally seen this beautiful bird, and a pair at that. I then realised I had not paid attention to where I was and stumbled around the forest for a while trying to find camp. I saw a few more pairs before leaving but never good enough views to get a photo.

Kebo was about 3 years old when I arrived. He was a confident young bonobo and often would watch us with fascination. 

 Just a quick outline here as the story is a long one. We had a platform built over a baii where elephants go to collect salt. I decided to sleep at the platform on a full moon to search for them. We had not had any rain in August so I went at the full moon at the end of August. I spent the afternoon there seeing birds and as night fell I scanned using my night vision scope. I eventually drifted off. I was woken up at 4am by a rumble. I was so excited thinking it was an elephant. Then The sky lit up and another rumble as a storm approached bringing the only rain in August. I packed up and tried to stay in the tree but the rain became very heavy as did the wind. I gave up and walked home in the storm not seeing any elephants. I tried again but in the day and did see a bongo. Another researcher slept in the tree a few months later and was lucky to see a herd of elephants.

Mangos was quite a character. He was one of our local bonobo workers. One day after a shift we came across Mangos in the river bending over with his machete. He struck the water and picked up a fish. We thought it was a lucky blow until he unwrapped a leaf and placed the fish in it with two more fish. He carried on and caught many more. It was quite a feat having to compensate for refraction. Each shot was on the head so the fish died instantly. I was impressed by the accuracy.

One day after the rains one of the pirogues (dug out canoe) floated out of the "port" and into the main river. It sailed away before getting lodged in a fallen tree. It required many of us to free it. As we where doing so a storm was brewing so we had to hurry. Once free we had a race back to camp in the pirogues.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Lui-Kotale BBC film Crew

Long term readers of this blog may know that I dissapered into the Congolese rainforest for 9 months last year. I have posted a few entries into this blog to give you an idea of what life was like. Before I went in a BBC film crew visited to film the bonobos for the new documentary Life Story. On the programme website there is an interview with Gottfried Hohmann who was my boss and a snapshot of what it was like hiking many kilometres each day. The crew had a hard time and where only there for 6 weeks. Imagine 9 months. If you live outside the UK these clips may not work for you due to BBC terms and conditions. Those who can see it enjoy. They are only a few minutes each.

The first is the interview with Gottfried, the second is the film crew being exhausted. Here is the link to the page with a bit more information (link).

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

HDR and Full Free Photmatix Software

 I have wanted to get into HDR (high dynamic range) photography for a while but the software was quite expensive. My Canon eos 70d has a built in HDR mode but the effects have been disappointing. Yesterday I was in the supermarket when I saw a magazine that had a free full copy of photomatix which was one of the pieces of software I looked at. I picked the magazine up and downloaded the software. I decided to give it a try today since it was stormy and produced a nice sky. The process works by combining 5 images and keeps all the details from both the shadows and highlights. The effects vary but I prefer a little bit more HDR effect than a natural image. The images are taken in the camera using exposure bracketing mode which is 5 images automatically taken at the different exposures. Below are my results from today. Take a look and scroll down to see about the free software.

As far as I can tell anyone can download the software if you have the code. The code seems a generic one and not unique per magazine reader. If you would like to try and see if it works head to this link http://www.hdrsoft.com/download/dpmag/ .
In the access code box enter PDM112014
The software is available for free until December 9th 2014. I recommend getting the magazine though as it has some handy guides on HDR technique and how to use the free full photmatix software. The magazine is called Digital Photo and it is the November 2014 issue. (Link to magazine site)

Monday, 6 October 2014

North Cornwall Natural Timelapse

Over the last month I have been having fun with my gopro mainly making time-lapse videos. I also made a rotating tripod for this to give some movement. I like the effect of movement in a time-lapse but it is so hard to do manually which is why I made the rotating attachment. For this time-lapse I sabot around North Cornwall and made sure only natural objects appear. This was rather difficult since wire, roads, people, an buildings just to name a few are littered across the landscape. I hope I didn't catch any and this is a true natural time-lapse. Enjoy. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Damselflies and Spiders

Last week I visited RSPB Arne to do some birding hopping to see an osprey but was unsuccessful. I did see a few dartford warblers but one of the highlights was a spider. I was watching some dragonflies and damselflies by a pond. While watching two mating damselflies lay eggs the UK's largest native spider, the raft spider, paid a visit. From under the water a raft spider pounced on the female laying the eggs. A second spider came rushing in to joint the attack. The male damselfly decided that the battle was lost and left the female to the spiders. The spiders then fought each other for the female damselfly. In the end one spider got a good meal. 

Monday, 22 September 2014

24 Hours Alone in Amakhala

I recently found some footage of mine on my hard drive which I have not used. I edited it together today. As part of Ulovane's Field Guide training you are required to spend 24 hours alone and unarmed on foot in Amakhala game reserve. It is to get you immersed in nature. I really enjoyed this part of the course.

Find out more here:

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Spider Up Close

I was pleased with the results I got when using my macro lens with a white blank background when I took photos of froglets (here). Today I saw a big spider on my window. I carefully grabbed him so as not to hurt or damage it and placed it on the card. You may not want to look if you are arachnophobic since this is a big looking spider. If you look at the bottom of the fangs you can see what I believe to be venom. I was surprised at how hairy the spider actually was.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Drone and GoPro Surfing

As you know from previous posts my dad has a phantom drone which we have been flying. Yesterday my dad went surfing and I decided to try and film him. We need some bigger waves and better light. The weather was very misty which did not burn off for hours so the whole film appears slightly washed out. 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Bonobos Eye to Eye: Slideshow

Another bonobo video I have made from my time in the DRC. Some of my favourites are in this one. Hope you like my little twist on a standard slideshow. Watch the video to see the effect. The transition effect is a bit different to traditional slideshows. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Lui-Kotale Tour of Camp

Its been a while since I got back from the Congo but I still have some videos to edit and upload. I have just made a short one which is a tour of Lui-Kotale research camp, my home for the whole 9 months (except for 2 nights in the savannah and one in a tree but thats another story). I hope you like this clip showing you how basic camp was but also looking back now it looks very idyllic. I can tell you it is not always that way. This was shot in the afternoon when just myself and Leanne (my field partner) and Cisterbol the cook where in camp. You can sometimes have 8 or so researchers and 4 or 5 local workers. It can become quite loud. But more often than not it is a peaceful camp.

You can see the rest of my DRC films at this link here (Link)

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Eye in the Sky: Gopro Edition

My dad has just bought a DJI Phantom FC40  drone and as you can see from my last post I have bought a GoPro HERO3+ BLACK Edition  camera. We decided to attach the camera to the drone and see the results. We where impressed by how stable the drone kept especially as it was a windy night. We have plans of other things to film but for now here is our first flight. I hope you enjoy it.

You may remember a similar previous post of mine when I had bought a £30 drone (link here).

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Gopro Birdfeeder

In my last post I mention I had a new GoPro hero3+ black edition and made a small frog video. Today I attached it to a bird feeder to see what the result would be. I was happy with the angle but it started to rain so the birds all left. I hope to do more another day but for now here is a small sample.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Slow Motion Frog

I Recently bought a GoPro hero3+ black edition camera and while trying it out last night I found a small frog in the field. I captured 3 films of him then safely released him back into the grass. I filmed this using the gopro hero black 3+ using the 240fps vga mode and slowing it to 10%. I am happy with the effect but it does reduce image quality. Expect more gopro films once I get to grips with it.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Only Know Footage of Wild Golden Bellied Mangabey

While I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo habituating bonobos I came across some other very special animals. One of the most memorable encounters was with a rare DRC endemic. the golden bellied mangabey (Cercocebus chrysogaster). Few people have seen this little know species. I was lucky enough not only to see them but film them. We where following the bonobos up a rather steep hill. When we got to the top we where surprised to see a different primate there. The mangabeys showed no fear towards us. We where probably the first humans they had come in contact with thus showing us no fear. These naive communities are rare since humans are everywhere. You can hear the strange chattering and also the bonobos in the background. Strangely they showed no fear of the bonobos either even though I had seen bonobos eat red colobus monkey. I hope you enjoy this rare and exclusive short video showing the only know footage of this species in the wild. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Froglets Up Close

The tadpoles in my pond have grown legs, shed tails and are now on land. They are tiny and no bigger than my little finger nail. At this stage they are known as froglets. I decided to put my macro lens to use and take a few photos of them. I wanted to try something different so put one on white cardboard as a background. This was to draw all attention to the froglet rather than having a distracting background. However the images where quite difficult to take. The exposure was tricky since the frogs are black and the background white. In the end I managed to set the right exposure. The little guys also like to move so once I had one in focus it usually hopped off. In the end I managed to snap these 4 photos. I hope you like them.

On the move 
High Five

Coming for me

Sitting still for a change

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Animals of the Congo Basin

Here is another video I have put together using footage I shot while living in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It features a range of animals which I managed to see. Monkeys, bonobos, bongos, snakes and weird insects are plentiful in the forest. I hope you enjoy seeing the variety of life that we had in our part of the forest.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Baby African Animals

At the moment I am enjoying editing together some of my video footage from last year while I was in Africa. I have footage from South Africa and the D.R.Congo. Here is one I have put together of some of the baby animals I have seen having fun. The bonobo is Mobini, a highly energetic infant. I hope you enjoy this short but nice video.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Meira the Leopard on a Kill

Last December while in South Africa I visited the Kgalagadi transfrontier park. While there I was lucky enough to see a leopard on a kill. She had not long ago caught the springbok as there was very little eaten. We where later informed that she was named Miera. The video is very short but I wanted to share it anyway.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Barney: Sleeping Cat Timelapse

I haven't added anything for a while so thought I would add a small video. I am waiting for my HD version of my quadcopter to arrive since mine had a crash landing in some water which destroyed the camera. I hope to do some nice ariel videos once it arrives. In the meantime I am doing some timelapse shots. Some of you may remember Barney the cat who lives in the barn. He used to be very scared of us and run away when he saw us. Now he is very friendly even coming in the house. You can see previous posts with Barney here (link) . The other day he was enjoying the sun in the garden and had a lazy day. I decided to practice my timelapse photography on him. Its a surprise how much he actually moved in his sleep. Watch his eyes and ears in particular.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Eye in the Sky

In my last post I promised you something special. I recently purchased a quadcopter with a camera. I got it for free. See how here (link). I have made a short film of the area around where I live with it. I hope you enjoy it.

The video below is taken with a Hubsan X4 H107C . It only has a sd camera so the quality isnt great. I have decided to upgrade the camera to a HD model since I was so impressed by the little quad. Once that arrives expect many great videos from the sky.

The hubsan x4 107c

Monday, 23 June 2014

Fox Cubs Playing and 25,000 Views

This blog had now had over 25,000 views. Thank you all for viewing and I hope you enjoy my posts. I was planning on posting a video I am making. Its not great quality but it is different. However Last night we had two fox cubs in the garden. I thought this was too good to pass up posting so that is what I have uploaded. There where a few captures so I have put them all together in a short clip about 45 seconds long. It shows play fighting, feeding and even attempted mating. The other video will come once I have edited it.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Headless Tsetse Vs Ants

Tsetse flies are monsters with a painful and sometimes deadly bite. They spread numerous diseases such as sleeping sickness. They are in all the swamps in the Congo basin. Once one finds you it wont leave until it has your blood. The are fast and hard to kill. Squashing them doesn't always work so its off with their head. Sometime an invincible one comes along. During my time in the Congo I was plagued by them This one I beheaded but it still managed to fight off two ants!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Fox Cub and the Potato

Last night the little fox cub came back. He is a little bigger than when we last seen him or her. This one is very independent being so small yet not with an adult. I captured no adults last night at all. If you look at this ones tail it has a black stripe running down the centre of it. This could be handy to help identify it once it grows up if it sets up territory here rather than dispersing.

This little guy picked up one of the large potatoes we threw out. It looks so comical. The potato is massive and only just fits in its mouth. 

Last week I went to Poole. The foxes there are so habituated. I got some great shots of them in the twilight. I will upload them here very soon. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

New Blog

From time to time other things other than nature take my interest. These are usually gadgets or electrical equipment but also little projects usually making something. Since this is a wildlife blog and they dont fit the theme I have decided to start another blog to post to. Check it out here (link). I will update as things interest me. Hope you enjoy it.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Converting a Camera to Infrared Nightvison

I have had an old kodak compact digital camera siting around for a while now. It didn't work very well as it would eat batteries which meant it would last about 3 minutes at best. I had seen online that you could remove the infra-red filter from a camera and it would work as a night vision camera if used with an infra-red light source. I was skeptical about this but since the camera was useless in the cupboard my father and I decided to give it a go. The process was rather straightforward considering we just did what we though we should and didn't follow a guide. The infra-red filter was a small plastic square. This out we reassembled the camera, cleaning some of the insides as we went. We got some batteries and tried it out. Everything was different colour since it was picking up the infra-red spectrum. Also amazingly it was no longer eating batteries but the screen would flicker at times and the focus wasn't working well. 

We waited until night fell and headed outside. I have a night vision scope with a small infrared light on it. We used this as our test light source. Incredibly it worked as you can see below. Its not great, yet. We need to get a better light source to make it better. I have ordered some infrared LED bulbs to make a light for this. As you can see it works but needs some improvements. Also for some reason it wont take photos at night.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Fox Cub

Last night I had my camera trap up at the end of the garden and left some chicken scraps out. We have been having 3 regular foxes coming lately. Socks, has black socks, a white patch on his back and a scar on his face. Limpy has a limp and Ear has a broken ear. Last night a new fox came. This one was definitely a new one since it was a cub! It was alone so I wonder if the den is nearby. Hopefully I will see more of him soon.

Walking up

Having a snack

Off he trots

Saturday, 10 May 2014

The Island of Improbable Doom

Ok so this post is not about wildlife or nature but it is about books which are another of my passions. My uncle has published his first book on kindle. I have read it and enjoyed it. Its a comedy fantasy book, think lord of the rings meets monty python. I thought I would let people know about this so if you are interested and have a kindle check it out (The Island of Improbable Doom Link)


Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Red Bonobos of Lui-Kotale

Its about time I uploaded some more on here about the bonobos. First up is a short film I made of my favourite bonobo family.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Back From The Forest

Hello readers. I am still around. Having got back from no internet after working with bonobos it is time for a quick overview. Expect more posts soon. So I accepted a position to habituate bonobos with the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The field site was only accessible via a two hours flight into the interior, followed by a 25km hike from the nearest village to the study site. A flight arrived approximately once a month, bringing in any supplies we could not obtain from the village. I followed a group of semi habituated Bonobos on a four days on, one day off schedule through the dense tangle of the rainforest. I would cover an average of 10km per day (my working day commencing at 3.30am and ending around 7 pm). The field conditions at times where less than favorable, the path to the study site involved crossing rivers and swamps and the weather, intense humidity and dense vegetation made movement difficult.
            Accommodation was in a two-man tent and the whole of the camp was constructed of wooden buildings that have to be replaced annually. We had limited access to the outside world via radio frequency emails that where checked daily. During my time there the camp manager was forced to leave suddenly. With no replacement available until the next flight I took on the role of camp administrator. This position involved paying local staff, keeping to a budget and paying the village for use of the forest, among other demands on the camp finances. I was also in charge of paying for provisions that came from the village via porters once a week. In addition I helped out, together with the rest of the research team of five individuals, with the general management of the camp. This involved organising local staff rotation, making sure staff carried out work, camp maintenance and checking supplies. I was sad to leave once my visa had expired, but very fortunate to be offered a position as a field guide at Amakhala game reserve for Lion Roars just three weeks later; a position I naturally accepted.