29 August 2010

Nightly Encounters

I got an interesting photograph of a Caracal recently.

The Caracal (Rooikat - Caracal caracal) is the largest predator left at Tygerberg and is, in a sense, at the top of the food chain

I would love to know to what those two glowing eyes belong... Caracal have been known to kill smaller predators such as Yellow Mongoose and African Wild Cat. For some reason I don't think that those little eyes are happy to see the Caracal.

One species at Tygerberg I think that gets less trouble from Caracal is the Porcupine. As far as I know a Caracal won't try to kill a healthy adult and the young are always escorted by at least one parent.

Porcupine (Ystervark - Hystrix africaeaustralis) feeling confident on the Tygerberg hills

I don't get that many owl photographs, most likely because of the small chance of one landing in front of the camera. So I was pleasantly surprised with this Spotted Eagle-Owl at the pond, even though it landed a little to close to the camera resulting in an over exposed image.

Spotted Eagle-Owl (Gevlekte Ooruil - Bubo africanus) checking out the camera

F. Palomares, T. M. Caro. (May 1999). Interspecific Killing among Mammalian Carnivores. The American Naturalist. 153 (5), 500.

26 August 2010

A Large Grey Mongoose At Tygerberg

I got my first photograph of a Large Grey Mongoose at Tygerberg this month.

The Large Grey Mongoose (Grootgrysmuishond - Herpestes ichneumon) is also known as the Egyptian Mongoose

The Large Grey Mongoose was kept as a pet in ancient Egypt to control rodent and snake numbers. Snakes do not form a major part of their diet, but they do kill and eat them when the opportunity arises. Their size, long fur and a resilience against snake venom makes the whole business a little saver for the mongoose.

They are mostly diurnal and prey largely on small mammals. They prefer well watered areas close to rivers, streams, ponds, etc.

Now, some of you might be thinking: "Wait! I've seen this mongoose on this blog before... It's clearly a Small Grey Mongoose!". Well, to that I would reply: "Aha, but look at the tail, especially the point...".

I was starting to think that I might be nearing the end of the mammal diversity at Tygerberg, but there might still be 2 or 3 species out there to find. I also still want to try for shrews sometime soon :)

Gus Mills and Lex Hes (1997). The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Cape Town: Struik Winchester. 212.

24 August 2010

Visit Of The Water Mongoose

Two of the camera traps photographed a Marsh (Water) Mongoose earlier this month. The one below is most likely the same animal I photographed a while ago.

Marsh/Water Mongoose (Kommetjiegatmuishond - Atilax paludinosus) inspecting the camera at the pond

Another mongoose also darted past one of the other cameras. They eat anything from crabs, frogs and fish to rodents, birds and reptiles. They are usually associated with water, but will use temporary streams or ponds. They will sometimes venture a good distance away from the closest water body.

Nose to the ground

While I do my camera trapping rounds I also try and keep my nose to the ground. I try and keep an eye open for animal signs, tracks and anything interesting that I might stumble upon. At the beginning of the month I photographed this beetle munching away at some pollen at Tygerberg Nature Reserve.

Digging in

Moving on to the next flower

22 August 2010

The Rain

I haven't been able to check my cameras this month, until today. My father passed away the first week of August, so I had some things to attend to back home with the rest of the family...

Flowers at Tygerberg Nature Reserve

I decided to brave the weather this weekend to go check on the cameras. I ended up walking through one or two light showers as I made my way to the first two cameras, but after that the weather (temporarily) cleared up slightly and I managed to finish my trip without any more wetness.

The rain frogs where out and I crossed paths with one while working my way up the hill. It was a Cape Rain Frog (also known as the Giant Rain Frog), which is listed as vulnerable.

Cape Rain Frog (Kaapse Reƫnpadda - Breviceps gibbosus) inflating itself (not liking my company?)

Lynda from the Mainly Mongoose blog has an interesting post about Rain Frogs and I'll save myself the trouble and just point you over there.

These frogs can't jump and move about with a slow awkward walk

In general I prefer not to bother wild animals too much so I snapped a few photographs and then stepped back, at which point our little friend "hastily dashed" into the undergrowth.

I had a bad feeling about the one camera trap I set at the pond in the beginning of the month. We had some heavy rain last night, but luckily the camera was still high and dry.

At least it was still above water...

Luckily it didn't fall over as a result of the wet soil and strong wind

Below are two pictures taken by the camera. The one is the day I set it up and the other the day I checked it (today).

There is no water visible in this photo

There is definitely water visible in this photo

There where a couple of nice photographs taken in the time I was away, including a new species. I'll try and post them soon.

I decided to retire my Moultrie camera. It was my first trail camera and it served me well. My wife bought it for me and doing so introduced me to the world of camera trapping. I'll hang on to it and might even use it now and again, but I won't be using it extensively anymore. The image quality has been deteriorating steadily and the battery life has been going downhill for a long time. I finally decided to retire it after it didn't even last (what has recently become) the usual two weeks after new batteries where put in.

01 August 2010

Mobalizing The Troops

The long arm of the law has finally caught up to me, again. When I checked my cameras I got served a notice by the Tygerberg Secret Police... They where waiting for me just around a corner. Usually the Secret Police operate, well, in secret. You can find them sneaking around on secret missions and trying to act "innocently" all over South Africa. They have mastered the art of performing secret-police-business in plain sight. Nobody ever wonders what their true motives are, but if you watch them closely you can see that they are hiding something...

The officers arrived at the scene as I got closer to the cameras

They brought their full force. Most of the members of the Greater-Pond-District Camera Trap Policing Unit was present, only some of the junior officers had to sit this one out.

One of the midday patrols passing by the camera

They even brought in some of the high ranking generals. A "Lavender" Helmeted Guineafowl was conducting patrols in front of the Cuddeback for most of the week.

A Lavender officer drilling the troops - these guys are more like military commanders than normal police officers

When the Tygerberg Secret Police gets serious they operate with an iron fist. They made sure that not a single other species was photographed at the primary monitoring site. They (and only they) where on all of the photos the entire week.

They had an eye on my camera the entire time

There where no night time photos from the Cuddeback. I'm sure they must have roosted just behind the camera. At night they made sure that the Bushnell (which was close by) was under watch by heavily armored and seemingly well trained civilian volunteers.

Civilians guarding the Bushnell at night

My other Bushnell was hidden away in a different part of the reserve and snapped a picture of a Caracal passing by. Overall the police force had the entire hill on high alert. Now that I think about it some Hadedas where giving me a lot of grief just before I ran into the the police squad. (Those familiar with Hadedas will know that they have a really loud call and three of them where shouting out the alarm as I walked past...)

I'm suspecting that this might been an elite spy working for the Tygerberg Secret Police Service - sneaking around gathering information

I have a bad record with these particular officers in the Greater-Pond-District, so I'll try and move the Cuddeback before I get into even more trouble with the law - I already moved the Bushnell.

(Those of you wondering how I know that the senior officer is a "Lavender" Helmetted Guineafowl can check out a color key some strange people in Texas USA developed over here. I wonder what the secret police is doing in the USA?)