Bird atlasing with camtraps

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The value of putting camtraps out for bird atlasing purposes or bird monitoring cannot be underestimated.  The accompanying pictures are of a Kori Bustard Ardeotis kori.  They were taken in an area where the bird would not have been observed easily.  The vegetation provided enough shelter (though the pictures show the bare patch where we set the camera up) and the area is very flat – so the birds would either have flushed long before being observed.  Or they would have taken to cover in the tall grass and shrubs.

At first I was a bit shy …

The pictures do not show the complete bird – but we have enough evidence of its presence in the area.  If this bird was not picked up on the camtrap it would not have been recorded in the pentad (5′ x 5′ lat/long square) for atlasing purposes for SABAP2.  Despite the fact that we had driven past the location of the camtrap frequently in the 5 days that we worked in the area.

Let me show a bit more of myself …

The pictures were taken east of Springbok in Namaqualand (Northern Cape, South Africa).

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“When the birds came out to play …”

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Runway 026

While I worked in the Karoo area in the Western Cape, South Africa, I set up camtraps at certain focal points to monitor bird activity.  Focal points would include drinking troughs, cement reservoirs and wetlands and sometimes the extra camtrap will be adjusted to capture passersby.  The birds in these pictures were captured to see what passersby could be captured close to the water.  It was mounted close to the surface (about 60 cm up) with the purpose of capturing small mammals that may pass through to the water.  The White-necked Raven Corvus albicollis were having a special aspirations of becoming “fighter pilots” and the practiced their landing and take offs in view of the camera.

Taxying to the runway…

These birds are phenomenal scavengers and were around in the area in flocks of more than 80 birds at times.  They were scavenging on weak lambs and on the afterbirth where the ewes had been dropping lambs. They must have exceptional sight, for they are sailing through the air at great height and then virtually drop down vertically to the ground to where carrion is spotted.  At other times they hunt for food and tortoises are favourite prey.  The tortoise would be picked up and then dropped on rocks from a great height to crush the shell after which the contents of the shell is devoured within minutes.  I will post some pics at a later stage of what may be some hunting method not yet described.

Taking off for home

And then close to dusk they would disappear raucously to the mountains to roost for the night and in the new day return to their foraging grounds.

This is the only species of raven occurring in southern Africa.

Foraging bustards

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The Ludwig’s Bustard Neotis ludwigii is one of the large terrestrial birds occurring in southern Africa.  Normally one does not get near enough to take proper photos as these birds are very skittish and normally fly off if you are still in the distance.  After studying them for the better part of a day, I went out and set up a camtrap or two in the area they were foraging to take these pictures.  Taken near Laingsburg, Western Cape, South Africa.

Male birds can weigh up to 4.4 kg and  females 2.5 kg.  They stand up to 88 cm tall.  The Red Data Listing of this species is vulnerable (VU). For the current distribution of this species in southern Africa, see the current SABAP2 distribution map.