30 November 2017

Snake!!!

Over the years I've recorded all sorts of "coldblooded" animals on my camera traps, from frogs to insects. Most of these critters didn't trigger the camera themselves but just happen to be in the background while another animal passed by, or was a pleasant surprise in a long sequence of false triggers caused by warm wind or vegetation.

When it comes to reptiles the lizards and tortoises have been the only groups I've managed to photographed. Some of these species even managing to trigger the camera trap themselves, with their own body heat.

However the snakes have always evaded me, until now...

Cape Cobra (Kaapse Kobra - Naja nivea) slithering past the camera trap at Paarl Mountain

There must have been snakes hiding in the background in some of my camera trap photographs in the past, but I never noticed them. This is the first time one is clearly visible in the photos.

The sequence of images showing the snake in action

In this case the camera trap has been triggering almost constantly for a while. The SD card was almost full by the time this Cape Cobra showed up. In fact it was one of the very last set of images the camera trap was able to capture.

I've stumbled upon these guys, and other snakes, a few time while doing my camera trap rounds. I remember one time in particular: I paused a while on top of a flat rock to take a scenic photograph with my cellphone. When I looked down to put my cellphone away I was shocked to see a huge Cape Cobra right in front of me, leisurely slithering away! In fact it was so close that it must have passed practically in between my legs moments earlier, without my knowledge!

28 October 2017

So Few Caracal

I've been camera trapping at Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve for over a year now. In that time I've only recorded a handful of Caracal observations. Caracal were rather common in the other nature reserves I've camera trapped in the past. I'm assuming that something about the habitat doesn't appeal to them.

Nonetheless it didn't prevent me from finding one running over the road one sunny day. I was able to snap a quick photo of the animal sneaking away into some pine trees.

Caracal (Rooikat - Caracal caracal) at Paarl Mountain, near the Afrikaanse Taal Monument

Some time later, at the opposite side of the reserve, I got my first "decent" camera trap photograph of a Caracal.

Caracal heading down the slope towards the road at Paarl Mountain

The photo was taken by my old Cuddeback Capture camera trap. I've been using it extensively since back in 2010 and I'm not sure how much longer it is going to last.

Cuddeback camera trap at Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve

I'll be sad to lose it, because it is by far my best white flash camera trap and leaps and bounds better than what I've seen from any newer Cuddeback model that came after it.

30 September 2017

Finding The Stinker

The camera trap location was a dud. I was in a bit of a rush when I placed it, and now three weeks later I didn't have time to move it. I reduced the sensor sensitivity, to avoid filling up the SD card with false triggers again, and left...

Bushnell NatureView HD at Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve

I didn't have high hopes when I left. Two weeks later I returned and found only two observations. The first one was of a Cape Grysbok, but the last one was a surprise. It was a Striped Polecat. These guys can be found throughout most of Southern Africa, but are usually not very common.

Striped Polecat (Stinkmuishond - Ictonyx striatus) camera trapped at Paarl Mountain

These guys have been seen on the reserve before, so its not a new species, but it always feels good to to get some "hard evidence" in the form of a camera trap photograph of elusive nocturnal mammals such as these.

Interestingly the Striped Polecat might look a lot like a skunk, but it is in fact closer related to the Honey Badger and African Striped Weasel (all being from the Mustelidae family). True skunks (being Mephitidae) are absent from the African continent.

26 August 2017

Living Under A Boulder

Camera Trap Codger's recent video of a Pygmy Rabbit inspired me to upload these clips of rodents at Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve.

SecaCam hidden under a huge boulder at Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve

Lets first meet the Neophobic Four-Striped Grass Mouse.

Four-Striped Grass Mouse (Streepmuis - Rhabdomys pumilio) with a skeptical glare at the camera trap

I initially placed the SecaCam HomeVista quite far back, near the edge of the boulder. From the start the mouse already didn't like its presence, but the mouse didn't like it one bit when I later moved the camera trap much deeper into the boulder's overhang.


Video: The mouse's reaction after moving the camera trap closer

The twig nest in the background doesn't belong to the mouse, but is in fact of Vlei Rat craftsmanship. I believe this particular individual is a Saunders' Vlei Rat, but it is hard to be sure from just the photographs.

Saunders' Vlei Rat (Saunders-Vleirot - Otomys saundersiae) at its nest underneath a huge boulder

From the very beginning the Saunders' Vlei Rat showed very little interest in the camera trap, even when I moved it closer to the nest. Towards the end of the camera trapping stint I captured a photograph of the rodent fixating on what I thought was the camera trap.

Is this thing edible?

The camera trap was set to take photos and videos and as it turns out the rat wasn't really interested in the camera trap at all, but rather had its eyes on fresh new shoots growing in front of and next to the camera trap.


Video: The easy going vlei rat

The vlei rat seems to be quite the thoughtful character. He gave the camera trap a good lookover when it was moved closer and then afterwards didn't seem much bothered by its presense.

Both rodent species showed the "raised forefoot" position which I learnt years ago from Codger's blog often indicates uncertainty or analyzing a situation. The mouse however only felt safe to do this the third time it encountered the camera trap.

The rodents have good reason to be cautious, there are bound to be predators on the prowl!

Large-Spotted Genet (Grootkolmuskeljaatkat - Genetta tigrina) hunting on a misty night

One Four-Striped Grass Mouse also showed some signs of parasites or disease. It had a problem with its fur.

Bare skin and dark coloration on the back of this Four-Striped Gras Mouse

I've noticed this condition quite frequently in this species, not only at Paarl Mountain. I'm not sure what causes it, but I suspect some kind of mange (parasitic mite). The other rodent species living in close proximity to the infected Four-Striped Grass Mouse usually seem more healthy.

To close things off I must admit that I'm starting to become huge fans of the entire Otomys genus (Vlei Rats). This Saunders' Vlei Rat was super charming and the Karoo Bush Rat family at Koeberg was too sweet for words. May my future hold many more Otomys-moments.

12 August 2017

The Many Legs At The Tidal Pool

This post will be the last of my photos and videos from the tidal pools at Cannon Rocks, for now. The discoveries have been amazing and I will definitely be crawling over these rocks again. I hope to be fortunate enough to stare into tidal pools for many years to come.

Bright green Strap Caulerpa (Caulerpa filiformis) and other sea algae at the Woody Cape

One of the biggest highlight, for me, was finding this amazing little Cuttlefish.

I think this is a Tuberculate Cuttlefish (Vratjies Inkvis - Sepia tuberculata) hiding under a rock

I was busy filming an Octopus (below) when I noticed that one of the grey stones at me feed wasn't were it was last time I checked. At closer inspection it turned into this amazing little animal. What a sweetheart!



Video: A shy Cuttlefish sheltering in a tidal pool

A close relative, and always a treat to see, is the Octopus.

I think this is a Common Octopus (Gewone Seekat - Octopus vulgaris)

I'm always amazed at how effortlessly members of the Cephalopoda can change color!



Video: Octopuses at Woody Cape

There are also plenty of anemones to be found amongst the rocks.

Some kind of Sea Anemone

Another group of creatures that likes to stick to the sides of the rocks are the Seastars. Some of them can growing fairly large. I definitely don't want to step with my bare feet on one of these!

The Spiny Starfish (Stekelrige Seester - Marthasterias glacialis) is quite intimidating...

The Brittlestars on the other hand are much more, well, brittle compared to the Seastars. From what I can tell they also move around much faster, at times almost crawling like a spider.

Some species of Brittlestar crawling downwards to hide underneath the rock

The Brittlestars might look spiderlike, but at first glance the Sea Spiders seem to be the real deal.

Scarlet Sea Spider (Rooi Seespinnekop - Nymphon signatum) heading back to the water

However when you look closely it becomes clear that Sea Spiders aren't true spiders either.

Don't be alarmed, there are indeed true spiders living in the tidal pools as well. They like to feed on isopods and amphipods.


Chevron Shore Spider (Chevron Strand Spinnekop - Amaurobioides Africana) ready to ambush a Beach Hopper

It would appear that eight seems to be a good number of legs... If it can work for many of the creatures mentioned above then why not also for a Crab? And in fact it does work, crabs have eight (walking) legs as well - if you take some liberties and count the pincers as arms.

A tiny crab with interesting spotty pattern on it's legs

I'm particularly fond of Hermit Crabs, probably as a result of being a bit inclined to hermit-like tendencies myself. :)



Video: Yellow-Banded Hermit (Geelband Kluisenaarkrap - Clibanarius virescens) and Crown Crab (Kroon Krap - Hymenosoma orbiculare)

I've always had a soft spot for Shrimp. In fact I can't get myself to eat prawn / shrimp because they look too darn cute! I like the zebra striping of these Sand Shrimp. They are also semi-translucent.

Sand Shrimp (Sand Garnaal - Palaemon peringuyi) scavenging on the sandy bottom

In these last few blog posts I've only shared a small percentage of the critters I encountered in the tidal pools. This is only a tiny fraction of the diversity of life found in a small stretch of coastline. I don't know what the future will bring, but I truly appreciate the privilege to be able to explore these mazing tidal pools in the here and now.