22 April 2012

Welcome To The Woody Cape

Sunset at the Woody Cape

I'm currently busy camera trapping at the Woody Cape section of the Addo Elephant National Park. This section of the park is separated from the main camp area and thus, unfortunately, isn't home to any of the elephants found in the main game area. However it is home to plenty of Bushbuck - and based on my camera trapping success thus far not much more. (But I'm hoping that will change over time.)

A male Bushbuck (Bosbok - Tragelaphus sylvaticus) in the Woody Cape thicket

Most of the vegetation of the Woody Cape section of the reserve consists of dense coastal dunes and very dense thickets. This vegetation is generally know as Albany Thicket. In some places the thicket starts to transition into the beginnings of a "true" forest.

This dense habitat is proving tricky to camera trap in. It is very hard for me (and I believe most other animals) to move around in the dense thicket and even the game trails are usually only Bushbuck size or smaller.

Illustrating the vegetation as it changes from coastal dune plants to thicket plants

I also believe that thickets and forests have lower mammal species richness and animal density compared to a similar area of Bushveld, Savannah, etc.

However, camera trapping is at it's best when faced with a challenge and I've got my sight set on unlocking the secrets of the Woody Cape (and its surrounds).

Bushnell Trophy Cam keeping an eye on the prize

The Bushbuck is a very sexually dimorphic species of African antelope with the male and female looking very different, especially down here in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. It is the most widely distributed antelope species and is found across most of sub-Saharan Africa, wherever there is suitable habitat.

The female Bushbuck is usually a lighter brown colour than the male, with some white spots and a varying amount of vertical stripes across the body. The females don't have any horns.

A young female sneaking past the camera

The male is a much darker colour and sports a pair of impressive horns. They are said to put up a fierce fight when hunted, even killing dogs, leopards and people. The males are up to 80 cm high at the shoulders and can weigh 45 kg.

A male checking out my Cuddeback Capture camera trap

Bushbuck are mostly browsers (preferring leaves), but they will also eat some grass. They are mostly active during the night, but can also be seen during the day.

An interesting set of photographs I got showed a female Bushbuck covered in flies. She doesn't seem to be in particularly bad condition, so I'm not sure why she has such a large amount of flying pestering her.

A female Bushbuck covered in flies

These photographs also show the curious patch of bare skin (or short hair) at the back of the neck. I've noticed this spot on other Bushbuck as well. The patch of bare skin seems to be part of a short haired "collar" around the neck. Sadly I couldn't find any reference to it in any of the field guides, so it remains a mystery...

Clearly showing the patch of bare skin (or short hair) on the back of the neck

It has been a slow start at the Woody Cape, but there's still plenty to explore, so let's keep our fingers crossed!

15 April 2012

Wrapping Up Suikerbosrand

Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve in Gauteng province of South Africa

I really have to go back and do some more camera trapping at Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. I managed to camera trap (and see) an amazing amount of animals during a very short period and I'm sure there is much more to capture...

Some lizard checking us out, One of many spies for the Secret Police...

As usual the Secret Police was in attendance. The officer threw the book at me at some of my more intrusive camera trap location. Luckily there wasn't any police brutality. I'm sure all members of the force were glad that my camera trapping trip was short lived.

Helmeted Guineafowl (Tarentaal - Numida meleagris) patrolling the neighborhood

No camera trapping trip is complete with out some members of the traffic department also patrolling the paths and trails. They love to sound the siren when a camera trapper is spotted.

Swainson's Spurfowl (Bosveldfisant - Pternistis swainsonii) making sure the trigger speed does not exceed the permitted limit

One of the more elusive characters wasn't technically trapped by yours truly. (I guess the local officers-of-the-law had me on their radar.) A few months before I made the trip I asked my father-in-law to try one of my cameras at the reserve to see what we might find. It's hard to distinguish between Scrub Hare and Cape Hare, but I'll guess this is a Scrub Hare.

Possibly a Scrub Hare (Kolhaas - Lepus saxatilis) sneaking past the camera

I'm a little disappointed that none of the cameras I placed out managed to photograph any of these guys. Maybe next time :)

And since the images in this post are getting worse and worse I might as well add some photographs of animals we saw, but didn't manage to camera trap. First up were some Kudu.

A female Kudu (Koedoe - Tragelaphus strepsiceros) at maximum zoom

I was very surprised and happy when I spotted some sun worshippers.

Were we watching the Suricate/Meerkat (Stokstertmeerkat - Suricata suricatta) or were they watching us...?

Suikerbosrand is also home to a wonderful diorama of a Cheetah hunting some Grey Rhebok. As a matter of fact the reserve used to have a few Cheetah (during the 70s or was it the 80s), but I think they were removed because the reserve is to small to maintain a viable population of Cheetah and prey. It's a pity. Maybe they'll reintroduce some Cheetah if they actively manage the population.

Diorama at Suikerbosrand

That's it from Suikerbosrand.
Next up: Woody Cape.