21 January 2017

Spotted On Paarl Mountain

It is the middle of summer at Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve and the world is hot and dry.

Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve in January

I've been camera trapping here since August last year and the species list is still fairly small, only about 15 mammal species thus far...

The strangest part for me is that I've yet to photograph a single Caracal (Rooikat). At both Tygerberg and Koeberg the Caracal was one of the first species to get photographed.

To make things even stranger one of my camera traps recently photographed a Leopard, and still not a single Caracal!

The photograph was taken at 6:21 AM in the morning. The sun was already up, but there was still some early morning mist hanging around.

Leopard (Luiperd - Panthera pardus) photographed by a camera trap on Paarl Mountain

I've been seeing possible Leopard tracks and scat on the reserve since I started camera trapping and knew it would be only a matter of time before one was captured by a trail camera.

Even though the odds of encountering such an elusive animal in person is very small, it is great to know they are still around. I love how camera traps enable you to "see" things you would otherwise never be able to see in person.

The camera trap also captured a lot of Grysbok and Duiker at this location. I'm sure these small antelope also caught the attention of the Leopard.

A female Cape Grysbok (Kaapse Grysbok - Raphicerus melanotis) aka Leopard-Food

I didn't find many Grysbok at Tygerberg and Koeberg, but here at Paarl Mountain they seem to be quite common. I'm looking forward to see the total number of sightings increase over time. It will be interesting to compare the data of all the small antelope I've camera trapped in the greater Cape Town area (Duiker, Grysbok and Steenbok).

There are lots of interesting landscapes at Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve

Paarl Mountain is a popular reserve and is visited by many people on a regular bases. Now, before the masses go crazy about the Leopard, please remember the usual storie of "your life is not in danger, we don't have to kill the Leopard, your kids will survive, etc." apply. If anybody has any concerns then please contact the reserve manager. Remember how fortunate we are to have a member of the "big five" still roaming wild on our doorstep.

31 December 2016

The Owl Project

This Christmas season I decided to stay home, relax and maybe work on a few small projects around the house. Highest on my list was to make an owl box.

An owl nest box, hopefully for a Spotted Eagle-Owl (Gevlekte Ooruil - Bubo africanus)

I got a rough idea of the size and design from online sources, but didn't feel like following any specific plan. Instead I bought a couple of pieces of scrap wood, screws, varnish and a brush from my local hardware store and started putting it together as I went along. It isn't finished yet, but I think its turning out decently well.

The plan is to place the nest box at our family holiday home. I've seen Spotted Eagle-Owls in the area, but we'll have to wait and see what happens...

The Spotted Eagle-Owl is a common species throughout most of South Africa and I've even camera trapped them a few times.

Spotted Eagle-Owl camera trapped at Berg River Dam

Hopefully towards the end of 2017 I'll be able to do a follow-up blog post with some good news.

26 November 2016

Lizards Of The Pearly Mountain

I recently started camera trapping at Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve. The reserve is situated a short distance outside Cape Town, on the border of the town (of similar name) Paarl.

Like most of the small nature reserves I've been camera trapping at it borders partially on urban development and partially on rural / farming development. This nature reserve is unfenced, which is somewhat problematic (as I'll try to touch upon in future blog posts).

Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve in the Western Cape province of South Africa

When visiting the reserve you are bound to see many Southern Rock Agama basking on the boulders scattered over the landscape.

Southern Rock Agama (Suidelikke Rotskoggelmander - Agama atra) soaking up the rays

Their body color usually match very well with the rocks they live on, but when ready to mate they can become brightly colored. The males are larger than the females and develop a much brighter blue head and a yellow band on the sides of the body. They also usually have a white band running along the spine. These Agama lizards can also quickly change their body color, similar to chameleons (but not as dramatically). They can use this ability to subdue their bright mating colors when a predator is around.

I have a camera trap placed in a small natural shelter formed by the boulders. Like most boulders on the reserve it is home to some of these lizards.

Bushnell camera trap monitoring a grotto at Paarl Mountain

Having reptiles trigger a camera trap is very uncommon. In the past I've mostly managed to camera trap the odd tortoise walking past a camera trap. There have also been a few flukes when a lizard stopped in front of a camera trap, but this is the first spot where I'm getting a lizard repeatedly triggering the camera trap using its own body heat.

Southern Rock Agama triggering the camera trap in the grotto

The lizard usually triggers the camera trap in the afternoon. By then it must surely be hot enough from all the sunbathing.

The photos are in gray because the camera switches to IR flash mode, even during the day, due to the low light available in the shelter.

Southern Rock Agama running up a boulder

If all goes well I'll be camera trapping at Paarl Mountain for the next few months, so stay tuned for more about the wildlife at this nature reserve.

Three lizards basking in the sun