Monday, 26 October 2009

Operation Migration - The Dreaded Weather

Everything was going so well. There was an extended period of perfect flying conditions and everything seemed to be running smoothly. Once the three groups of birds have learned to fly they are then brought together to make one flock. Once together they must organise themselves into a hierarchy before they can carry on. This entails a lot of pecking and bullying but finally each bird finds its place and the flock is ready. However this year, the heavens opened during the mixing of the last cohort. They need a lot of good weather and flight practicing before there is unity in the air and this year they have not flown for what seems like weeks due to rain and heavy winds.

The bad weather has forced the team to look at a variety of difficult decisions. The birds are fast becoming sedentary and reluctant to leave the pen. When they go out to practice the winds are so strong that the aircraft cannot slow down to wait for the bird and often birds turn back for the pen. They just want the comfort of the wet pen with lots of food. The team now have to work out whether they should carry on this negative training in bad weather or risk crating them to the first stop over. Crating can be dangerous for the birds and will also make them wary of the men dressed in white who pack them into the crates. After avidly watching the forecast and seeing no break in this terrible weather they decided to box eight of the birds and send them to the refuge.

The next question is whether to box the birds that they think will turn back and therefore disrupt the flock and box them to stopover two? This will at least ensure that the ones who are likely to make it will have the best chances and they can start to rebuild the flock. However, as mentioned crating is dangerous and is it worth doing damage to the birds who are already reluctant to follow the aircraft?

It is such a disappointing start to a very long and challenging journey. However, the bad weather can't last forever and WE are rooting for their success. Keep watching for their broadcasts. They are few and far between at the moment which is why they do not show up on the portal. However, the camera is on the trike and when they are in the air the shots are fantastic.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Update on the Pix Controller Wildlife Webcam

The PixController wildlife webcam recently has been updated with Hotspots. This has been a great addition to the camera as it allows people to view videos clips of action they missed during the day. This coupled with the addition of an upgraded and better PTZ camera they've been able to capture some amazing fall action in Western Pennsylvania. Some of the video clips captured include several nice whitetail bucks and does as well as groundhogs, mourning doves, various song birds, and raccoons. With the new PTZ camera they are able to zoom in and follow the animals around like you have seen on the African cameras.

Here is a red fox licking the salt lick.
Some of the more interesting clips include two small whitetail bucks sparring and one 2 1/2 year old whitetail buck chasing doe around in the morning. These are signs of the whitetail mating season which is just getting underway. Another interesting clip captured was a groundhog feeding at night, which they typically do not do. Groundhogs will only feed at night as winter approaches in order to prepare for hibernation. Last year was the first time they saw this behavior since groundhog have very small eyes which are not meant for nocturnal use. The interesting thing about this video clip was watching the groundhog feed with the raccoons. There was a little spat between the two species and the groundhog puffed himself up and stood his ground against this predator.
They also are pleased to announce the addition of yet another remote motion-activated camera which will come on-line very soon. This is in addition to the remote motion-activated carcass camera due to come on-line in about a month. This next remote camera will be placed on an active whitetail scraping site, which is used during the rut or mating season. Scraping sites are typically found under small trees and are 2' to 4' in diameter which a whitetail buck will create during this time period. Bill Powers from Pix Controller has been filming scraping sites for about 8 years now with their motion-activated video systems. What they've seen is that much of what has been written about scraping sites does not follow with what they have captured on video. These sites present a wonderful opportunity to see some very mature whitetail bucks which typically are very elusive throughout the year. Being able to broadcast this action live over the Internet will be a first of it's kind.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Whooping Crane Migration

There are 21 cranes in the class of 2009 and group dynamics have been very interesting. The pecking order on the ground is often very different than in the air with the roles of dominance swapping around. 924 has been the biggest bully of the group this year and 925 the meekest and most timid. This has been the largest group that they have ever attempted to migrate in nine years of migrations.

The migration itself is an incredibly hard mission to make. It is 1285 miles and covers seven states of America. They will be using four ultralight aircraft each weighing 365 pounds. There will be five pilots and altogether fourteen people in the migration team from the US and Canada. It is important to note that they are at the mercy of mother nature, they need ideal conditions to fly. There needs to be moderate wind, no rain and ideally cold air. Birds fly much better in cooler air. They will use the network of as many as 26 stop overs pre -established along the migration route. This year Operation Migration will log their 10000th air mile. WE and Operation Migration invite you to give a WHOOP and help us celebrate this incredible achievement.

Also for the first time ever this year there will be a camera on the aircraft. This will bring views never before been seen of these beautiful birds in flight as they guide them to their new winter home and survival of the species. CraneCam will provide LIVE views from the ground and you can watch it on

The migration will take off very soon so keep your eyes on the Operation Migration Channel so that you can join them.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The circle of life.

Perhaps the deepest, greatest part of life is the celebration of birth and, hopefully, the celebration of a full life lived. The celebration of death. It is sad and perhaps even something we as humans fear, but there is a peacefulness in death, found surely by the one who's life it was.
It is with this feeling and understanding, that I can write these words. It brings me peace to say that this elephant cow, this matriarch, mother, and grand mother, passed away at a ripe old age, surrounded by all those close to her. Her herd would have known her their whole lives, as she would have known them, just as she would have known her own mother and family that went before her.
The medical details are not important, the fact that she lived a full life, a rich life and died of old age, is. That experience; to have shared life, and in the end, death, is an important one for every elephant in her herd; just as it was for her over the years. It is how we learn and share the circle of our lives.
From the tracks the morning she was found, it was clear that the herd had been around her as and after she passed away. From what I have seen over the years in the bush, I think humans are perhaps the only mammals that sometimes fear death. I dare say, even to the point of keeping us from living sometimes. In the wild I have seen many battles to live, and always animals will fight and hold on to life with a tenacity and instinct we can well appreciate, but never have I perceived fear of death in wild, free animals.
Were it not for those around us, to observe, "us" would not even exist. In the end, it is those we share our lives with, share experiences and moments with, that give meaning to  life, and every moment we can do so enriches that experience. Every moment.

Written by Pieter Pretorius

(Note: WE would like to thank Djuma Game Reserve, the Sabi Sands and Jurie and Pippa Moolman for fighting so hard for the rights of wild animals to be wild, and always allowing us to share this with you. Also, WE would like to thank Chitwa Chitwa and Charl Brink for giving us the opportunity to visit this cow on their land. Finally, WE would like to thank you. Because it is your wisdom, willingness to learn and trust in those of us that value and protect the rights of wild animals to live lives as unaffected by humans as possible, that makes it all possible. She has gone, but her life lives on. Her calf will grow, and one day she may be the matriach. The circle of life is perfect. WE are happy it happened like this.)

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Marc's Race

Marc got out there and worked very hard, but unfortunately he was not able to catch up with Pieter's score. He did come second, and I guess he can't win every race. :)
Well done Marc for getting 45 positively identified animals with a spine!

15h35 Red-billed Buffalo-weaver
15h35 Brubru
15h35 Yellow-billed Hornbill
15h35 Southern Black Tit
15h39 Southern Black Flycatcher
15h40 Red-headed Weaver
15h40 Fork-tailed Drongo
15h43 White-crested Helmet-shrike
15h47 Impala
15h47 Red-billed Oxpecker
15h50 Human Being
15h52 Lilac-breasted Roller
16h02 Little Banded Goshawk
16h05 Black-headed Oriole
16h08 Grey Heron
16h09 Magpie Shrike
16h12 Grey Duiker
16h16 Waterbuck
16h16 Blue Wildebeest
16h17 Emerald-spotted Wood-dove
16h22 Burchell's Zebra
16h25 Hippopotamus
16h27 Cape Turtle-dove
16h28 Cape Glossy Starling
16h31 Red-billed Hornbill
16h32 White-browed Scrub-robin
16h32 Crested Francolin
16h42 Tree Squirrel
16h44 Nyala
16h49 Vervet Monkey
16h50 Wattled Starling
16h50 Grey Go-away-bird
16h53 Blacksmith Lapwing
16h58 Wahlberg's Eagle
17h07 Barred Owlet
17h10 Egyptian Goose
17h10 Cape Buffalo
17h29 Hadeda Ibis
17h31 Burchell's Starling
17h33 Helmeted Guineafowl
17h34 Chacma Baboon
17h35 Mozambique Tilapia
17h55 Arrow-marked Babbler
18h28 Fiery-necked Nightjar
18h30 Steenbok

Drive times

Summer is well and truly here and so the sun is rising earlier and setting later.This is when WE change our drive times. The morning drive will go our half an hour earlier at 05h30CAT (03h30GMT, 23h30 EST, 20h30PST) and the afternoon drive will also leave half an hour later at 16h00CAT (14h00GMT, 10h00EST, 07h00PST). As a result of this the night safari will also have to leave half an hour later at 19h30CAT (17h30GMT, 13h30EST, 10h30PST). Just to remind you the night drives only go out on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. From now on the Wednesday night Walala Wasala and the Friday and Sunday night Fire Side Chats will be broadcast at 19h15CAT (17h15GMT, 13h15EST, 10h15PST).
Rexon has gone on a well deserved break for two weeks and therefore Walala Wasala will be off for this time. Herman is back in a few days and Peter Braat will be leaving us for a break next week.