02 February 2017

RIP BirdCam 2.0

It is time to retire yet another one of my camera traps, the BirdCam 2.0. This camera was a bit of a roller-coaster ride and true to its nature it took some great photographs just before finally breaking down completely.

Kaapse Klipklaasneus Cape Elephant Shrew Elephantulus edwardii
Cape Elephant Shrew (Kaapse Klipklaasneus - Elephantulus edwardii) camera trapped with the BirdCam 2.0 at Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve

The BirdCam 2.0 was my "small mammal specialist" camera trap. It wasn't very good as a conventional trail camera, but it was amazing when used to target small critters in a fixed area.

BirdCam 2.0 placed under a large boulder

The best thing about the camera, by far, was its white flash. It was simply amazing and could be used even at close range. The camera didn't have any autofocus capabilities, but the adjustable fixed focus helped.

The worst things about the camera must surely be the build quality and strange trigger speed. It simply wasn't as tough as other conventional trail cameras. For example the LED setup screen stopped working long ago. As a result, for the past few years I just turned the camera on and hoped for the best.

This is the third camera trap I'm retiring, and to be honest I have no idea what camera to replace it with... I'm not aware of any good white flash camera traps on the market, particularly ones that can be used to photograph small mammals... (Having color night photographs can help a lot with identification.)

Not perfect, but good enough

I'm really glad that the camera produced some decent photographs of the Cape Elephant Shrew before finally getting retired.

The Cape Elephant Shrew was one of the species at the top of my wish list for Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, and I was thrilled when I saw one in person on my very first day at the reserve.

Cape Elephant Shrew sitting in a small hollow on top of a huge boulder

Despite their name the Cape Elephant Shrews are not a type of Shrew at all, nor are they a type of Rodent. They are in fact related to Golden Moles, Aardvarks, Dassies and even Elephants. These animals are all members of the Afrotheria, which represents a group of mammals that are associated with originating from the African continent.

As with the Golden Moles, the Elephant Shrews are still somewhat shrouded in mysterious, although fortunately to a lesser extent. For example, many sources claim that Elephant Shrews, in general, are diurnal, but other sources say the Cape Elephant Shrew is nocturnal. However, I've been camera trapping these little critters during the day and night, equally. I found one source that claimed they were crepuscular (preferring twilight), but that seems a bit off as well...

Activity pattern of Cape Elephant Shrew camera trapped, thus far, at Paarl Mountain

I suspect there is still much we can learn about these cute little guys.

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.