Just quick announcement. I started a meet-up group for nature photography. Just a place to announce get-togethers, workshops, exhibit openings, exhibit viewing, photo walks and lots of other fun activities for people that share an interest in wildlife, nature, animal, landscape or other related photography. Most of the meet-ups will be announced here as well but I in case you want direct messages, join — its free!
Our most Endangered Neighbor is the California Condor with less than 200 individuals in the wild (There are about 181 in captivity). Like the Sea Otter, the low California Condor numbers are due mainly to historical reasons. Many were shot since they were seen as threats to livestock (sadly not true as they are strict carrion eaters) and for museum specimens. Then, as for so many other bird species, came the problem of pesticides, specifically DDT. It caused their egg shells to be too thin, causing them to break.
Though Condor numbers are on the rise the still face modern day threats:
- Poaching is still an issue (how is this possible?!?!)
- Habitat destruction
- Dying of lead poisoning due to eating hunter killed carrion that contains lead bullets
Though these guys are not as cuddly and cute looking as our beloved otters, there are still people who are devoting their life to saving this amazing species. Mainly, the people from the Ventana Wildlife Society’s Condor Project are responsible for their increase in numbers by managing and conducting a few different projects.
- They collect thin-shelled, wild-laid eggs and replace them with viable captive-bred eggs
- They treat lead-poisoned birds
- They monitor the safety and health of each condor through radio telemetry
In fact, the wild flock in central California, aka along the Big Sur coast is a direct result of their dynamic efforts.
Now as always, there are plenty of little steps we can all take to help condors out. Trust me, if for no other reason than this one, you want these guys to survive to see one of them soar near you. Their impressive nine foot wing span is awe inspiring!
So here are the steps you and me should be taking!
- Adopt a Condor
- Immediately report poaching activities to the Department of Fish and Game at 1 888 DFG-CALTIP (888 334-2258)
- Hunt with non-lead bullets
- Finally, there are limited and irregular volunteer opportunities with the Ventana Wilderness Society (call them at 831-455-9514)
Its that time of year again. Chris Wemmer (aka the Camera Trap Codger) is teaching his Camera Trap course through the Sierra Nevada Field Campus of San Francisco State University. If you are a regular follower of the camera trappers around the blogsphere you will see most of them took the class with Chris and all of them are happy to endorse it as well. There is an obvious reason for that. It is well worth your time both from a knowledge standpoint and from getting to know Chris. Everyone who knows Chris knows he won’t brag about himself but trust me he is simply an awesome guy who is willing to go out of his way to help you. Enough said, sign-up, you will thoroughly enjoy yourself!
As I wrote in a previous post, using camera traps in wildlife photography provides its own unique set of challenges and possibilities for unique photographs. Using camera traps in a different country is a totally different story.
Before this assignment I was only operating one camera trap, but by the time I was getting on a plane to try and get some pictures of the mysterious wildlife Yemen has to offer they totaled five. There was surprisingly little resistance by the immigration people of Yemen to my equipment and me coming into the country. This was mainly due to the fact that I am not a journalist and even more importantly all the work David Stanton and Yousuf Mohageb had put into making this step of the project go smoothly (David is from the Foundation for the Protection of the Arabian Leopard in Yemen and Yousuf Mohageb runs Arabian Eco-tours).
Bureaucratic problems avoided, it was time to focus on placing the cameras in spots where there were good chances of animals coming by. While Waleed Al’Rail and Murad Mohamed (both are Yemeni Arabian Leopard researchers) were checking their cameras and showing me the area, I was imagining all the good locations for the camera traps along the game trails we were using. When I expressed my ideas, Waleed and Murad made me aware of a problem I had not even considered. Yemen is a Muslim country, and in Islamic law it is not accepted to take pictures of woman. Sure that’s easy to control when you are behind the camera but when you put the camera out in nature, especially in an area like ours where people use the land and a daily basis, it is incredibly challenging. There was a fine balance between a good location for the cameras and one that women may use while they were deployed. If women saw the cameras, I was told, they would get destroyed.
Keeping this in mind, we deployed three of the five cameras into the cloud forest habitat of the Hawf Protected Area. Three days later a cyclone arrives (the worst in forty years) and destroys, or better yet, completely obliterates one of the cameras. One camera down, it was beyond repair.
Nonetheless the camera captured one image before being flooded.
The other two cameras also snapped a few images.
After a couple of weeks we placed the two remaining cameras into the far desert inlands. Animal densities are definitely lower in this area but a few different animal species are present there as well.
Throughout camera trapping in Yemen I was surprised by the lack of camera trapping results. It was quite interesting how much more wary the animals are of foreign objects here, I think caused by the constant human pressure on them. As you can see from the pictures as well, most wear taken at night. Animals in Yemen are more nocturnal than in areas where hunting pressures are not as strong. While I was there I heard three live rounds go off, no doubt each time the rifle was aimed at an animal.