The 10 pictures you most regret not getting

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The 10 pictures you most regret not getting

Post by jonathan »

I could include stuff from my childhood before I got a camera (moose/bison/mink/red fox/black bear/grey whale/rocky mountain elk/beaver/grey fox), but decided to leave that out. Here's my list of the 10 mammal pictures I didn't get and most wish I had, from my adulthood:

10. Giant Flying Squirrel in Sattal, India

I've gotten photos of several giant flying squirrels of various species now, but the first one still kills me. I was shining trees at night in the Himalayan foothills when I saw this marvelously weird creature inching along a branch about 15' above the ground, directly above my head. I couldn't figure out what it was - the combination of its size, slow movements, and weird extra skin completely blocked "squirrel" out of my mind. Since it was moving slow and the branch was a dead end, I didn't whip my camera out and just kept watching it for a couple seconds. Unfortunately, my headlamp was too bright and it spooked...but jumping off the branch and gliding straight over my head, less than 10 feet above me! I still regret not having gotten my camera out immediately as a giant squirrel in flight would have been a fantastic shot.

9. Indian Crested Porcupine in Lawachara National Park, Bangladesh

The most fantastic monsoon storm of the year hit while we were in Bangladesh, and I hike the road immediately on my bicycle to survey what would come out. However, the rain was so intense that even with a very powerful headlamp, visibility was limited to 2-3 feet and my feet were actually pedaling through water at times! Even though my camera equipment was in ziplocks, I gave it up to the guys in the car almost immediately because I saw no chance of getting a shot, and simply hoped to collect any interesting herp finds in the storm.

After about 2 hours of pedaling through the storm, with not much to show for it besides hitting the occasional fish with my foot or having frogs actually jump onto me, the rain briefly subsided. Lo and behold, a beautiful Indian Crested Porcupine (lifer for me) wandered right out onto the road, just sort of sniffing along without a care in the world for me. Without any camera, I decided to just watch it and see how close I could get. He sort of stopped in the middle of the road, interested in something he smelled, and let me get three feet away before spooking off the road. I later saw a Leopard Cat that night that was rather unbothered too (let me get 30 feet away before running despite being on the ground), but the porcupine kills me more since it was so close and I'd never gotten that species on camera.

8. Bobcats in Kern River Canyon

I've only seen 4 bobcats in my life, and 3 of them were on the same trip, all crossing the road at various times while I drove to and from a backpacking trip on the Kern River. All of them were in broad daylight, but none stayed on the road long enough to even dream of getting a shot.

7. Kit Fox near Mexican border

One night I was herping on the far southern border of Anza-Borrego when I saw a juvenile kit fox just playing in the road. It was ridiculous looking - jumping around, just seeming to be aimlessly messing with itself. I was mesmerized enough watching it that I didn't take a picture.

Sadly, I found the same kit fox DOR the next morning.

6. Smooth-Coated Otter in Bangladesh Sunderbans

The only Asian otter I've ever seen, it fled into the mangroves far too quick for any of us to get a shot as we approached on boat. Not even a long enough glance to know for sure if it was Smooth-coated or Small-clawed.

5. Brush-tailed Porcupine in Lawachara

A jungle exploration in Lawachara National Park had brought me onto a trail that was barely ever used, and I reached a point where a logjam had blocked the trail. Suddenly a creature started running amidst the logs below me. I got to watch it for several seconds as it didn't really seem to know where to go - my light was bright and logs kept getting in its way. The mix of logs in my line of sight and its constant movement meant that I didn't get a completely clear look at it and never got a chance at a picture, but it was definitely a porcupine and I'm 70% sure it was a Brush-tailed Porcupine, a cool-looking species much rarer than the various crested porcupines I've otherwise seen in Asia.

4. Hog Badger in Lawachara

Yet another Lawachara National Park sighting from last year. I was rushing to get a picture of a strange landscape feature I had told the team about earlier, and took the unusual route of taking my bicycle off-road onto one of the trails to get there and back as fast as possible. As I made my way down the trial, I saw eyeshine running across the forest floor towards me. I braked the bike quickly and pointed my headlamp towards it. The low, stocky, gray creature spun around about 10 m from me and went back the way it had come, loping along. This is still the only member of that family that I've seen in Asia at all.

3. Jaguarundi in Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve, Belize

I am one of those men lucky enough that he married a girl who agreed to center our honeymoon around a few days in the Belizian jungle, and even read "Jaguar" together with me as preparation! Unfortunately, a massive, destructive, once-in-a-generation storm (two tropical depressions colliding simultaneously from both sides), wrecked much of our honeymoon, especially the Cockscomb stretch. After three days of nothing but constant rain, the skies cleared for the first time and we went on a little hike in the morning. My wife had been a bit tired of my flipping earlier in the trip and had made an agreement that I could flip whatever I wanted, but she wouldn't stop and wait for me.

Sure enough, on this little jaunt, I was in the process of flipping a log (finding nothing, as always) while she went on ahead, when she suddenly made a quick shout to me. I looked up just in time to see a jaguarundi flee off the trail. She said that when she had come upon it it had been stopped in the middle of the trail with its head down, sniffing at something....quite likely preoccupied enough that I might have gotten a camera shot if I had only been up with her!

2. Cougar in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

A good friend and I were backpacking in the southern Sierras when we crested a small hill at 11,000+ feet. I was absorbed with watching marmots play when we suddenly saw a large shape fleeing from us about 100 yards away. We only got quick glances of it as it passed between boulders in the boulderfield - maybe 3-4 shots of less than a second each before it disappeared behind a ridge. But no doubt that it was the one and only cougar that either of us had ever seen.

1. Small Indian Civet chasing Golden Jackal in Lawachara

I was surveying frogs alone at night in a marsh when I heard a grunt and rustling come from the bushes. Thinking for sure that I was about to get a wild boar charge (something I'd narrowly avoided several times already), I pulled off my backpack and got my stick ready in the other hand (sword and shield).

Suddenly, instead of a boar, it was a Golden Jackal that burst out of the bushes next to me...with a Small Indian Civet right on its heels. They were almost oblivious to me, passing only about 5 meters away as the civet chased the jackal across the marsh and eventually back into the bushes on the other side. I still think every once in a while - if only I'd gotten the camera ready instead of the stick!

Anyone else have their own stories? I'm betting that there are some good predation/interaction stories especially that never made it onto film.

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Re: The 10 pictures you most regret not getting

Post by Antonsrkn »

1. A leopard cat with kittens in Borneo. We were driving along a road in the evening when a leopard cat slowly started sauntering across the road and then just a few seconds later several kittens ran out after her. I had my camera on my lap and my camera bag by my feet but I had my macro lens attached. I made a split decision and decided that by the time I switched to my telephoto the cats would be long gone and chose to enjoy the moment instead. Well little did I know that one of the kittens was going to be hesitant about crossing the road and that they would all linger for a little bit. Again I thought about changing lenses but the cats were all halfway across the road so again I decided to just enjoy the moment. Then the hesitant kitten lost its confidence and ran back to the starting point, finally i started changing lenses but by the time I had finished the last kitten had crossed the road and just as i was ready it dissapeared in the tall grass. Had I started changing lenses immediately or better yet had my telephoto equipped I would have definitely had a shot at producing some incredible photos.

2. A marbled cat running across the road in Borneo. I was out for an evening walk with a friend, we hadn't gone far from the research station and I glanced over my shoulder just in time to see a marbled cat sprint across the road. Without some magical sense of premonition there is no way I could have gotten the shot or known what was coming, but I can still wish i had gotten the shot.

3. Bobcat in Florida, 1 of only 2 bobcats I have ever seen. The first was in S. illinois and was only a glimpse the 2nd was while I was kayaking in Florida, I was going through a relatively narrow channel when I glanced at one of the banks and laying there not 6 feet away from me was a big ole bobcat. Caught me completely by surprise and this was the only time in my life I can remember something catching me so off guard that I audibly gasped. It stood up stretched and with one leap vanished.

4. Any red fox I have ever seen. I have a soft spot for foxes yet circumstances never quite allowed me to get a shot of one, despite seeing them a handful of times. My camera is either put away, not with me at all, etc...

5. The Sechuran fox (Lycalopex sechurae), endemic to a small part of southern Ecuador and Northern Peru, I visited an area where there were a few individuals who were commonly sighted (practically guaranteed) and by the accounts of my friends not difficult to photograph as they were not particularly afraid of people. I was only in the area one night and a few hours during the day and saw them slinking about in the distance and at night. In the few hours I had in teh day the rangers in the area told me where to wait for them and were confident I'd have my shot at them during daylight hours. The foxes didnt turn up and I had to leave due to time constraints. If I had been able to spend just a little more time in the area I would have surely had my chance at them. As is i only got a terrible shot at night.

6. Stink badgers in Borneo, saw them more than a few times, never got them in the viewfinder. Again circumstances just never aligned.

7. A saddle back tamarin choking on a katydid. Unlike all the other animals I mentioned, I have lots of photos of saddleback tamarins but i missed my chance at a special shot with one. I was watching them forage and saw an individual find and dispatch a big katydid, he immediately began tearing into it but was in such a hurry that he choked on a piece of it. It was quite comical complete with protruding tongue, bulging eyes, and heaving, in just a matter of ~10 seconds the tamarin had recovered and continued stuffing the katydid into his face. I didnt get the shot, kicking myself for that.

8. Small clawed otters, I have a few shots none of which im happy with. Needed more time to devote to photographing them than I had.

9. Olinguito, no real story, I have seen several but never low enough in the trees to get photos.

10 . Any tropical porcupine species. Again no real story, but I have seen a few now but never managed any worthwhile shots.

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Re: The 10 pictures you most regret not getting

Post by jonathan »

Your leopard cat with kittens story is awesome. The saddle-backed tamarin is great too.

I like how we had so many overlaps. Bobcat, small-clawed otter, stink badger, and multiple tropical porcupine species on both of our lists.

Quite coincidentally, within 2 weeks of posting this list I have to completely rewrite it. Two new incidents that definitely create a new top-10.

First off, I'd have to put this one right behind the Jaguarundi. Last Wednesday I was herping in the hills above Udaipur, a good-sized city in southern Rajasthan. I hadn't seen much in the evening, and rode my bicycle down the hills at night, stopping here and there where I had seen herpable areas. There was one huge undeveloped spot next to the road that looked great. As I began herping it (mostly hoping for saw-scaled vipers), a light storm came in and it began to rain. Afraid for my camera, I packed my camera case inside my backpack and continued herping. The rain began to slow soon, but before it quite stopped, I turned and saw some eyeshine sitting just 20 meters away. The animal was sitting on its haunches looking at me and my first thought was "jackal?", but then I thought "its head silhouette looks more cat-like than a this my first Indian fox?" Wanting to photograph the lifer, I try to get my camera out as quickly as possible, but it's really laborious to take off my backpack, then open it, then take out my camera case, then open it, and then turn on the camera. At first the animal had backed up and watched me again, then it moved away.

With camera finally ready, I moved towards where the animal had moved. Only a few seconds later, I picked it up again in profile to me just 15 meters away this time....and saw the beautiful body of a Jungle Cat walking causally away parallel to me. Unfortunately, a bush was perfectly placed between me and where the cat was going, so that I had to keep side-stepping to keep the cat in view, and couldn't manage to keep my headlamp on track and focus the camera and pull the trigger at the right moment to get a shot in the dark. I got to watch it take 5-6 nonchalant strides before the trail it was going down disappeared into brush. Since there was open land on every side of that small amount of brush, I spent a good amount of time walking around trying to pick it up again or have it come out, but never saw another sign. I went back the next night too, and saw nothing.

Then on Saturday night just a few hours away on the outskirts of Mount Abu, Rajasthan, I had the following happen, which probably has to be a new #1 on the list: ... =2&t=23791

Cats, man. Five freaking spots on this list to stinking cats that I don't have photos of and possibly never will.

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