26 October 2010

A Ninja Mongoose

I recently photographed two Small Grey Mongooses at Tygerberg. This is the first time that I've captured more than one of them in the same photo.

Is the one Small Grey Mongoose (Kleingrysmuishond - Galerella pulverulenta) trying to sneak up on the other mongoose or the camera?

I don't know much about the inner workings of the mind of a mongoose, but is the mongoose to the left trying to hide behind a single blade of grass?

22 October 2010

From The Flats

Two weeks ago an opportunity came my way to do some camera trapping at the Cape Flats Nature Reserve at the UWC (University of the Western Cape). It is a (very) small reserve about 6 km from my house, in the opposite direction as Tygerberg.

Cape Dwarf Chameleon (Kaapse Dwerg-verkleurmannetjie - Bradypodion pumilum) barely managing to stick around on the slippery bamboo
 All of my cameras are currently occupied at Tygerberg so I decided to bring my Moultrie out of retirement. I bought some fresh batteries and set it up. Unfortunately nothing was photographed the first week. I moved the camera to a new spot, but the batteries where already starting to run low. On day two at the new location I got a Cape Francolin passing by.

Some Cape Francolins (Kaapse Fisant - Pternistes capensis) were the only visitors at the camera before the batteries 'were no longer with us'
 On day three the camera 'left us'. I'm very disappointed with the battery life of the Moultrie these days. This time round it didn't even last 10 days!! In short the Moultrie is back into full time retirement. The only reason it is not in the dumpster right now is because I have a sentimental attachment to it (it was my first trail camera). I'm thinking instead of turning it into a display piece on the wall, a door stop or something along those lines...

A student gives this fellow a helping help back to the bush it came from
 I was fortunate enough to see this Cape Dwarf Chameleon two weeks ago when I went to set up the camera. These little guys are incredibly charming and very pretty. It was my first time seeing one in the wild.

I'm thinking of temporarily moving a Bushnell down to the flats to shoot some Grysbok and Small Grey Mongoose action...

20 October 2010

1 Year 1 Day To The Day

It has been exactly one year and a day since I took the first step and posted my first entry on this blog.

I felt I had to add some colour to this post...

This isn't a big/popular blog, but I never thought it would grow so fast. I'm not doing this blog for the number of visitors/subscribers. I would probably still do it even if I only had one or two readers (like a year ago when I started). Still, it is great knowing that there are people out there that also enjoy the results from my camera trapping escapades and I enjoy sharing it with you.

I would like to thank all the readers, form the new comers to the few that followed the blog from early on.
Also a spacial thanks to all the people that comment regularly on the blog - none of whom I've met in real live (sadly).

18 October 2010

Last Collection From The Quarry

I've moved all my camera traps from the quarry. In the end I only photographed Dassies and a Small Grey Mongoose at the quarry. I was hoping for signs of other mammals, but I couldn't find anything to convince me to leave the cameras another week. It has been over a month since I started camera trapping at Tygerberg's quarry and I never expected much more than the Dassies in the first place.

So, to wrap things up, here are some more Dassie photographs and a few birds.

Dassie/Rock Hyrax (Klipdassie - Procavia capensis) fattening up some more

I'm sure a Caracal will drop by every now and again, but I've got bigger/smaller fish to fry and don't feel like waiting around for a Caracal to come pussyfooting around.

Dassies going about doing Dassie things

Some, rather common, feathered friends also visited. There are a few Egyptian Geese living in the quarry and I'm surprised I didn't get any photographs of them. They hang around close to where the cameras were set out and always shout at me.

Hadeda Ibis (Hadeda - Bostrychia hagedash) coming for a closer look

The local Helmeted Guineafowl (Tarentaal - Numida meleagris) making sure everything is in order (the Dassies might have lodged a complaint)

The local pair of Red-winged Starlings (Rooivlerkspreeu - Onychognathus morio)

"Anonymous" commented on a recently post that there used to be a pair of Peregrine Falcons in the quarry long ago. Well, I think everybody will be happy to know that there are still falcons breeding there.

I was peacefully standing around inspecting the boulders for camera trap locations when suddenly I got dive-bombed out of nowhere by one of the falcons. As it turned out I was to close to the nest, so I moved away. The falcon then landed in a tree on the opposite side of the quarry.

Peregrine Falcon (Swerfvalk - Falco peregrine Falcon)  not happy with me hanging around to close so the nest

Sorry for the bad photograph. I couldn't even see it with the naked eye, but I had some idea of where it landed and took a blind shot at it.

17 October 2010

Tortoise Time

When I went to check on the Cuddeback two weeks ago I wasn't expecting much (I knew the batteries would be flat). The bad news was that the camera died even sooner than I expected. I only got three images from it. The best (and last) photograph was of this Porcupine.

Porcupine (Ystervark - Hystrix africaeaustralis) walking through the grass
When I place my cameras I prefer not to alter the terrain to much. I usually just try and shorten/remove the taller grass and twigs that might obscure the view, but usually I miss a few...

With spring (somewhat) in the air the plants where growing vigorously. When I eventually got a chance to collect the camera I found it somewhat overgrown...

There was only short grass a month ago
I moved the camera from this location, but I picked a terrible new location. While walking back to the car I thought of moving the camera, but I didn't have the time or energy left to go move it again. So this week when I checked it there were, as I expected, no images and I moved it to a new spot.

All in all things where a bit hectic around here the last month or so, but hopefully things will settle back to normal soon and I'll get some more camera trap pictures to share with everybody.

Leopard Tortoise (Bergskilpad - Stigmochelys pardalis) eating some grass next to my camera trap
Last week while on my way to the quarry I found another traveler on the path. The weather is warming up and the tortoises are full of energy. This one didn't pay much attention to me and gorged itself on the grass.

The Leopard Tortoise is in fact not native to this part of South Africa (they occur a bit more north and east), but a few individuals where released here at Tygerberg Nature Reserve years ago. The strange thing is that I have only noticed large individuals, so maybe if they do breed here the young don't survive well - or maybe I just don't see them as easily as the big ones.

This week I ran into another tortoise species, an Angulate Tortoise, not far from where the above Leopard Tortoise was found. The Angulate Tortoise is common in the Fynbos biome and occur here naturally.

The Angulate Tortoise (Rooipens Skilpad - Chersina angulata) was nicely warmed up and moved about surprisingly fast
These tortoises are smaller than the Leopard Tortoise. Interestingly they only lay one egg at a time, up to 6 times per year. Sexual maturity is reached at 9-12 years of age and they can live up to 32 years in captivity.

The characteristic shell markings can be seen on this photograph

Bill Branch (2008). Tortoises Terrapins & Turtles of Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers. 36-38,66-69.

06 October 2010

Mongoose On The Rocks

So who was the other rock hopper? It was a Small Grey Mongoose.

Small Grey Mongoose (Kleingrysmuishond - Galerella pulverulenta)

The mongoose passed by the camera a few times, but these guys move fast and most of the pictures were blurred, or slightly out of frame. They have a tendency to pause for a moment to look around and then quickly move along again. The sharper images are usually when the mongoose happens to be pausing in front of the camera. I encounter them sometimes along a path and then they tend to run along the path in front of me, pausing every now and again to look over their shoulder or scout the surrounding area. After a while they'll dash into the cover next to the path and disappear.

The Small Grey Mongoose's legs are darker than the rest of the body

The mongoose must be catching something in the quarry, and I'm sure it isn't Dassies. Dassies are to big. I'll have to investigate a bit more to unravel the mystery and hopefully manage to photograph it.

The mongoose always moved from right to left, going down, past the camera - it must use a different route going up

04 October 2010

Birds At The Hole

So , who else visited the cameras at the quarry?

A White-Necked Raven settled down in front of one of the cameras for a bite to eat. It is a rather large bird and an impressive Raven.

White-necked Raven (Withalskraai - Corvus albicollis) eating... something...
Big fellow keeping an eye on the camera

A pair of Red-winged Starlings also call the quarry home. The female has 'n paler head than the male. I like these birds and they are rather handsome as well. They always remind me of the breeding pair nesting in the courtyard of the Mathematics building at UP, where my wife and I studied.

A pair of Red-winged Starlings (Rooivlerkspreeu - Onychognathus morio), the female is in front

The Bushnells didn't capture a lot of action at night, but managed to photograph a Cape Eagle-owl landing on the rocks nearby.

Cape Eagle-Owl (Kaapse Ooruil - Bubo capensis) with shiny pair of spectacles

Next time I'll post the other mammal species that got captured at Tygerberg's quarry.

03 October 2010

My Quarry From The Quarry

I've been sick this week, but I just had to go check on the cameras at the quarry. It was a pleasant spring day, and even though the hills where calling I didn't feel up for the trip to do the Cuddeback camera as well, it will have to wait.

Ah, yes, Dassies... Do I need to say more? I believe the picture speaks for itself...

The main purpose of the quarry visit was to add Dassies to the list of species (photographed with a camera trap) at Tygerberg. I was also hoping for some new species or to discover some other unexpected visitors that might use the quarry. Unfortunately I didn't get any new species (in addition to the Dassies).

I still think there might be a new species out there amongst the rocks... I think I'll have to look for new locations that might be better for rodents and the like next time I check the Bushnell Trophy Cams.

A Dassie/Rock Hyrax (Klipdassie - Procavia capensis) confidently navigating the rocky terrain

Unfortunately, not all Dassies are made equal

Dassies are amazingly agile for such stocky, chubby, bulky, awkward little creatures. One of the cameras was set to video mode and captured the reaction of the Dassies as I approached the camera trap.

Video: Dassies dashing for cover as I approach

Together with Elephants, Aardvarks, Golden Moles, Elephant Shrews, etc. they belong to the superorder Afrotheria. It is believed by some that long ago many (now extinct) herbivores from this group were the dominant grazing animals on the African continent, but were out competed by animals from the Laurasiatheria superorder when they crossed into the continent from the northern landmass.

Dassies are grate at relaxing on the rocks, soaking up the sun 

Later this week I'll post some photos of a few bird species that also visited the cameras and the only other mammal that I managed to capture this time round at the quarry.

A bold young fellow that kept me company while I checked the first camera