Mount Kupé Bushshrike – some aspects on equipment & logistics

I had been very successful in the Bakossi Mountains with the Mount Kupe Bushshrike (Telophorus kupeensis) – also known as Serle’s Bushshrike. After an unsuccessful first day on an expedition in these Afrotropic mountains, my indispensable guides and me encountered a total of 7 individuals of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike until the end of the second day; including 4 sightings and 3 only heard individuals elsewhere in the forest.

The Bakossi Mountains are part of the so-called Cameroon Mountain Arc in the western country of Cameroon. Here an Afrotropic mountain vegetation prevails. In addition to the Mount Kupe Bushshrike other endemic species like e.g. Mount Cameroon Francolin (Francolinus camerunensis) and Bannerman’s Turaco (Tauraco bannermani) contribute to the wealth in biodiversity.

Overall, I spent nearly 15 minutes at the site where a pair of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike displayed a mating ritual (as described in the blog). Initially I shot with the Canon EF 400mm 1: 2.8L IS II USM from a Gitzo tripod. The frequent relocation of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike along with the unexpectedly low-level location of the bird inside the forest let me switch to the Canon EF 200mm f / 2L IS USM on the Canon EOS 5DS R. Despite exposure times of 1/160 sec. – later also with 1/80 sec. – the excellent image stabilizer allowed shots from the hand. A total of 183 pictures were shot on the occasion, of which 26 pictures were reasonably acceptable and a few were good enough. The image of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike mating ritual blog is one of them. That was hard work, of course. Particularly noteworthy is the performance of the Canon EF 200mm f / 2L IS USM. Also images shot with 1/80 sec. were possible, which were still sharp enough. Vibration of the lens was also the lesser problem given the many lianas, branches, branches and leaves which deter focussing.

Otherwise, I liked to use the Canon EF 400mm 1: 2.8L IS II USM on a Gitzo tripod. This is almost a canopy spotting scope combination. For this I use my long extendable Gitzo GT3542 XLS Systematic and then the ProMediaGear GKJr. Katana Junior. The Katana GKJr. convinces with a load capacity of more than 10 kg with a dead weight of only 1.1 kg. This really is a remarkable payload / weight ratio. Photographers with a long telephoto focal length, as in the case of the Canon EF 400mm f / 2.8 L IS II USM, can look forward to an impressive combination of stability and flexibility.

The pan and tilt function of the Katana Junior was smooth and soft thanks to the ball bearings used. All main parts are made of lightweight aircraft aluminum from precision CNC machined components. The supplied quick release is a clamp, which provides the profiles of Wimberley, ReallyRightStuff, Kirk or Novoflex.

When mounting the camera and lens you can beautifully balance the centre of gravity. Prerequisite is a long quick release plate or a lens replacement foot with swallowtail clamping profile. So I had all the lenses – also the Canon EF 400mm 1: 2.8 L IS II USM and the Canon EF 200mm f / 2L IS USM equipped with replacement feet. I used the Katana GKJr without the supplied boom. That the camera-lens combination is hung on the side of the supplied clamp. Although this means a little more effort and accuracy when inserting the quick release plate. But the power transmission and precision is wonderfully direct. In cooperation with the Gitzo GT3542 XLS Systematic you can set exactly the right height for the bird activities at tree canopy height.

For a successful search for the Mount Kupe Bushshrike it is not only the right season, which is important. An on-site presence over a few days is definitely advised. I spent a total of 3 nights in tents in close proximity to the heart of the core distribution area of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike with 2 guides and a cook. To carry the stuff, including approx. 60 kg of camera equipment, we took 4 porters from the village. A specific logistical preparation is necessary, as well. The distance from the port city of Douala is just over a day although this second largest city in Cameroon is just 120 km away from the Bakossi Mountains as the crow flies. A four-wheel drive SUV is essential to get to the starting point. This especially in the rainy season. Also on site a careful preliminary work is recommended. The leader of the local tribe called “Chief” must be positively attuned to the presence of strangers by at least a time-consuming ceremony. For free, of course, the visit is not!

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