We’ve received a very interesting letter from Richard Chesher, one of the most dedicated 360cities.net members. It’s a story about his journey to take a photo of the rare and endangered Cagou, Rhynochetos jubatus, in it’s natural habitat. We’ve asked him if we could share the breathtaking story also with you, our readers, and he agreed.
When Frederique and I set out at dawn from Noumea to take a photo of the rare and endangered Cagou, Rhynochetos jubatus, in it’s natural habitat I really did not expect to succeed. But it would be fun trying. The Cagou only exists in New Caledonia and of the estimated population of 1000 half of them live deep in the protected wilderness and wet forests of the 9,045 hectare Parc Provincial de la Riviere Bleue, about an hour’s drive from Noumea.
Against all probability we came upon a small family of Cagous close to the largest Kaori tree in New Caledonia – a tree that is over 1000 years old. Cagous, the national bird of New Caledonia, have wings but cannot fly. They are very shy creatures and at first they vanished into the brush, then after we waited quietly for awhile Freddy saw two of them moving slowly through the trees. Freddy waited while I slowly tracked them with camera ready. There was, of course no way to set up a tripod and take a shot so I planned to try and get as close as I could, with the camera as low as possible (right on the ground) and take the image while marking the exact position and height of the lens until Freddy could come up with the pano-head so I could complete the panorama.
I ended up crawling through the forest on my belly while wiggling a finger at one of the birds, trying to emulated a big fat grub (which they eat). I was able to coax the female close enough to get an image with my fisheye lens. She cautiously came to within 1.5 metres when the male rushed over and extended his crest, hissing like an angry cat. She put her head down, turned and ran off. The male glared at me for a moment and then followed her into the bush. I did not see them again, although Freddy and I wandered around the forest for about 3 hours.
I had a series of shots by then and the one I used, with the male’s crest feathers extended, was perfect. I kept the camera as exactly in place as I could and Freddy came into the forest with my special ground-level Nodal Ninja (just a 200mm spike attached to the head). I shoved the spike into the soft forest soil, set up the camera, and finished taking the sphere.
You can see where this pair have been scratching at the ground searching for small lizards, grubs, insects, earthworms and snails. Cagous mate for life and can live for more than 20 years. The female lays one egg a year and both the male and the female tend the egg and rear the chick. Young cagous may stay on the parent’s 10 to 30 hectare territory and familys may have a maximum of 6 birds.
There is a beetle under a leaf close to the camera, hiding from the Cagous. Can you find it?