28 April 2011

Balls And Bucks

One of the strangest things I've encountered at Tygerberg must be the golf balls...

A clutch of 15 golf balls I picked up at Tygerberg Nature Reserve

This weekend I picked up 7 balls while doing my camera trapping rounds! I'm starting to think that maybe they are some sort of disguised tortoise eggs? Maybe the tortoises have started to naturalize to the urban environment and found that mimicking golf balls some how increased the survival rate of their eggs... Now, at first that might sound ridiculous, but if you think about it... Golfers often carry many excess balls in their bag. The bag makes an excellent incubator. A golfer will usually select the best ball in the bag when they need one. Now say the egg looks enough like a ball to fool the golfer, but does not look appealing enough to justify actually using the ball? Mmmm... Maybe I should try incubating one of them and see what hatches...

I have a few slightly more extravagant theories, but maybe I should take a sharp U-turn and bring the discussion back to reality: And what better way than talking about Death.

A little snake that didn't survive the fire

I stumbled upon this casualty of the veld fire while looking for camera trap locations about a month ago. It is a little snake that could not escape because it was stuck under the stone. This is the only fire casualty I could find, except for a couple of fried eggs.

OK... before I cock to many eyebrows... The reason for this post: a Cape Grysbok.

A male Cape Grysbok (Kaapse Grysbok - Raphicerus melanotis) sneaking along

This is a pretty nice photograph I got from the Cuddeback. The first week the camera only got Bontebok and Porcupine pictures, but I decided to leave it out a little longer in the hopes of getting the resident Grysbok. I've photographed Grysbok in the same area before, but a large section of this part of the reserve was burnt.It is good to know that it is still around after the burn.

You can clearly see the white/grey speckles that gives the animal it's name, I guess it is because it looks like it is turning grey. Grysbok translates to Grey Buck. Only the males carry horns.

The Cape Grysbok is more or less endemic to the Fynbos region. There aren't really any other medium-large mammal species that are endemic to this region, making the Cape Grysbok somewhat special.

24 April 2011

Sizing Them Up

I was happy to see I got some pictures of a Pygmy Mouse at Tygerberg Nature Reserve. I've only photographed them once before and the image quality wasn't all that great.

Pygmy Mouse (Dwergmuis - Mus minutoides) on the stony slopes at Tygerberg

The homebrew Sony was pointing at a small hole on the burnt slopes and I was lucky enough to get the above photograph. These mice are pretty small. Their body length is about 6 cm and their tail about 4 cm. The whole package weighs in at 6 g.

Pygmy Mouse checking out the hole - it's good to know where the exists are in the event of an emergency

The Sony and Bushnell were setup in the same general area and both photographed a Pygmy Mouse. These mice can dig their own burrows, but will also use burrows made by other species.

Four-Striped Grass Mouse (Streepmuis - Rhabdomys pumilio) at the same entrance

I was able to get some images of two other rodent species in similar positions. This helps to illustrate the size difference. The Four-Striped Grass Mouse has an approximately 10 cm long body and 10 cm tail, weighing in at 30-85 g.

The Vlei Rat (Vleirot - Otomys irroratus) is clearly much bigger than the Pygmy Mouse

The Vlei Rat in turn has a body length of about 15 cm and a tail length of merely 9 cm. They weigh in at 120 g.

There are many of these "tree-like-footprints" in the burnt area at Tygerberg (Were these made by Ents? Can it be...?)

Another interesting difference is that the two mouse species feed on plants, seeds and insects, but the rat in strictly vegetarian.

23 April 2011

Sumary Site For Tygerberg

Another fire flower at Tygerberg - Some type of Amaryllis I think

Since earlier this year I've been working on a site that I can use to summarise and showcase the (first year's) camera trapping data from Tygerberg Nature Reserve.

I got hold of a really cheap website hosting package and put together some pages for each mammal species photographed at Tygerberg, together with a map showing where the dirty deed happened...

Its not the prettiest little site that ever existed, and the content isn't heart moving prose, but I think it'll do for now. I've already spent way to much time on it...

The idea was to keep it simple (only html), but I ended up doing a bit more... Similarly to WildLog this is also a hobby/pet project in its own right, and I wanted to try some stuff that I can't really do/use/pull of at work...

Anybody that might be interested can check it out over here: http://www.mywild.co.za/tygerberg/index.html (while the monthly bandwidth allocation lasts, hehe).

22 April 2011

Caracal Research

I recently stumbled on some more information about the collared Caracal I photographed here in Cape Town last year.

This website provides some additional information and a map showing all the data points received from the animal.

I was impressed to see that the collar's data distribution matches my camera trap data reasonably well.

All the data points I have for Caracal at Tygerberg Nature Reserve

13 April 2011

Rodents In The Ash

I didn't have time this past weekend to check the cameras, but here are a few rodents that where photographed in the burnt section at Tygerberg Nature Reserve, in Cape Town, during the previous week.

The ground was full of interesting patterns after the burn

First up were the Porcupines. Not the best photograph, but you can see the youngster tagging along. These guys frequented the rocky outcrop where the camera was placed.

Porcupine (Ystervark - Hystrix africaeaustralis) on the rocks

The camera was fairly deep into the burnt area. I'm not expecting much smaller animals to stick around while there is nothing to eat and no shelter close by. So why are these Porcupines here? Well, the fire has exposed the roots and (especially) bulbs of many plants and it forms a major part of their died. Thus the fire has actually, in some sense, made life easier for the Porcupines. The rocky outcrop had many small bulbs growing between the rocks and the animals are surely here to collect them.

A tasty treat for a Porcupine

I also noticed that some old animal bones where dropped close by. Porcupines are known to nibble on old bones to increase their calcium intake. (The bones weren't there the previous week when I placed the camera.)

Some bones exposed by the burn

Now, I know I've been posting a lot of mice pictures lately, but this guy was just so cute I couldn't resist.

Four-Striped Grass Mouse (Streepmuis - Rhabdomys pumilio) peeking over the edge

With the vegetation gone his hole isn't as safe as it used to be and he was always on the lookout.

Is the coast clear?

This is at the same spot at where I photographed the Caracal and Small-Spotted Genet (in an earlier post).

Flying mouse? Can it be... SuperMouse? (I'm sorry for the lame joke.)

He seems to be doing well and survived the burn, Caracal (twice) and the Genet, not to mention the birds of prey. He knows to dash for cover when danger approaches.

As usual the hole is shared. The lodging agreement seems to work well, with one species being active during the day and the other mostly during the night.

Our old friend the Vlei Rat (Vleirot - Otomys irroratus) graced us with his presence 

These images where taken close to the border of the burn, and the animals can easily make a run to the unburnt vegetation for some food, and still have a home close by to return to.

I just realised that I haven't upload the picture below yet. Its a Vlei Rat I photographed a while back. Its a good shot and it adds some green to this post, which has been dominated by greys and browns up to this point...

Another Vlei Rat at Tygeberg Nature Reserve in the Western Cape

The Cuddeback (the trail camera that took this photograph) doesn't usually capture rodents, so this was a bit of a welcome surprise.

10 April 2011

WildLog v3

Some of you might know that I have developed a small application (called WildLog) for myself to help keep track of my wildlife sightings. For those interested, take a look at the PDF user guide or give the application a try.

It isn't a serious scientific tool, neither is it a easy way to organize your camera trap images. I don't really know what it is, except that it is what I wanted it to be (at least to some extent). There is a part of me that is still hopeful that maybe some school or hobbyist might find it useful in some way, but I'm not breaking a sweat over it :)

I use WildLog to keep track of my vacation and camera trap sightings of mammals and other animals. Your welcome to give it a try and use it for whatever you may like, however, use it at your own risk.

I've set this weekend aside to finish up some long awaited changes to the program. A lot have changed, thus the new version isn't compatible with the old one (unless you do some behind the scenes hacking as I've done with my own data set). If there are actually some users out there that are effected by this, drop me an email and I'll try help you out.

The downloads can be found over here (use the link at the top of the blog for the latest version) for those that might be interested.

03 April 2011

Meeting Again(s)

Burnt area at Tygerberg Nature Reserve

They have been doing some controlled burns at the reserve during March. I'm looking forward to camera trap in that section once the winter rains come and the plants wake up from their summer siesta.

A student at the reserve asked me to put some camera traps in the burnt area, but I didn't manage to get the locations he had in mind from him, so I just picked my own spots. I wasn't expecting much action when I finally managed to placed the cameras in the area, two weeks after the burn.

According to the reserve staff the burnt area was crawling with confused rodents just after the burn and this must have attracted some predators. I'm thinking that the rodents that survived the burn will be forced to move to the neighbouring unburnt areas and this might still make things a bit easier for the predators.

As I went to fetch the camera trap in forest, I was surprised to find the Genet again, sleeping inexactly the same spot.

Small-Spotted Genet (Kleinkolmuskeljaatkat - Genetta genetta) checking me out

I also saw this strange flower growing in the forest area. It is a type of Haemanthus, but I'm not sure of the species.

Some type of Haemanthus

From the forest I headed directly to the burnt area. While setting the cameras I kept on running into this Caracal.

Spooked Caracal (Rooikat - Caracal caracal) - sorry for the burnt bottle and grid in the background...

It looks like a youngster. It was hunting along the border between the burnt and unburnt vegetation.

It was then that the reunions started. I stumbled upon this (different) Haemanthus species flowering amongst the ashes.

Another type of Haemanthus

And when I checked the cameras yesterday I was very happy to find my second camera trap photograph of a Small-Spotted Genet at Tygerberg.

The tell tale tail of a Small-Spotted Genet

The young Caracal was also photographed at the same camera set as the Genet, three times. The camera was setup for rodents...
Caracal doing the rounds

These pictures where taken with my new/replaced Bushnell Trophy Cam XLT 2010 and I must say that it seems to be a much better unit than the previous one I had.