19 May 2012

Bucks In The Bush

A young male Bushbuck (Bosbok - Tragelaphus sylvaticus) in the Alexandria forest

As can be expected the latest batch of camera trap images form the Woody Cape included a lot of photographs of Bushbuck. I like the picture above of a young male standing in the more forest-like part of the reserve (near the town of Alexandria).

Nibbling on a few leaves

The Woody Cape gets rain throughout the year, peaking in the summer months. As a result, I got a couple of images containing wet Bushbuck.

During a wet night a dripping male Bushbuck puts his best hoof forward

I got plenty of male activity during the latest batch of images, but as always the females were on the hoof as well.

A female Bushbuck during a sunny day going in the opposite direction as the male (above)

Bushbuck aren't "big" antelope, but they definitely aren't small either. I have severe trouble walking/crawling along some of the trails. So, I felt a little less humiliated when I saw these images of a male having a little trouble along the same trail.

This part of the trail is just big enough for a Bushbuck to pas through

Being true antelope these Bushbuck don't shed their horns in the same way that the Northern deer shed their antlers. There are plenty of good reasons to keep your horns, and there are equally good reasons for shedding them. Fortunately for the males they sport sleek and stubby horns that don't seem to cause them to much trouble.

It still requires a bit of a squeeze

Surely with such good supply of food on the hoof there must be some predator around to keep them honest? But I might have to work hard to track down our spotted friend...

12 May 2012

The Little Guys

Woody Cape: Home of the Blue Duiker

One of the species I'm very interested in at Woody Cape is the Blue Duiker. The Blue Duiker is the world's smallest antelope. Yes, that makes South Africa, and in particular Addo Elephant National Park, home to both the world's largest antelope (the Eland) and the world's smallest antelope.

Well, technically speaking, there seems to be a lot of competition for the title of "The Smallest Antelope In The World". In my books the Blue Duiker easily shares this title with several other small antelope.

Blue Duiker (Blouduiker - Cephalophus monticola) at the Woody Cape

The Blue Duiker has an interesting slit on each side of its face used for scent marking. Both males and females have short horns, although the horns can sometimes be absent from females.

The main diet of the Blue Duiker consists of freshly fallen leaves, flowers and fruit. However being a true Duiker at heart they also indulge in some carnivorous activities and will supplement their diet with animal material. Sure, a big Common/Grey Duiker can stalk and hunt a mouse/baby bird, but what's available to a hungry little Blue Duiker. Well, apparently they have a sweet tooth for ants, but I'm sure carrion, insects and small vertebrates also form part of their diet.

They are often found near water. I haven't seen any fresh water close to where I've camera trapped these Blue Duiker, so I'm assuming they can manage without free standing water if there is enough moisture in the food and some dew/rain might help as well.

Sneaking past the camera

Blue Duiker are often hunted by humans using snares. Despite this they can still be found in many places living very close to human developed areas. This is somewhat surprising to me since the species does not have a particularly fast breeding cycle (about 7 months gestation) nor do they produce many young (usually only one).

To me the adults look very small and vulnerable. One would expect them to be very high on many predators' snack list. But then again I'm yet to photograph any predator that would be a serious threat to an adult Blue Duiker... Maybe the habitat provides enough cover to keep them safe.

Notice the tiny horns

The first Blue Duiker image (at the top) was photographed with my trusty old Bushnell Trophy Cam 2009 (without the built in viewer). It has been a great workhorse and I've been very happy with it.

The two images above where taken by my newer Bushnell Trophy Cam XLT (with the built in viewer). My first unit kept on over exposing most of the images. It must have had an electrical from the start because the battery life deteriorated steadily. The unit eventually experienced a full on electrical failure, melting parts of the battery compartment in the process. It was still under warranty so I got it replaces and the new unit is much better. I'm happy with its performance thus far.

I also own one of the new Cuddeback Attack (white flash) camera traps. The image below of a Blue Duiker was taken with this camera.

The "blue" in their name comes from the blue sheen of their coats, but I think Orange-Legged Duiker might have worked as well

The Cuddeback Attack is a horrible camera! This might sound a bit harsh, but I love my old Cuddeback Capture and compared to it the new Cuddeback Attack is terrible.

The new Cuddeback Attack is a huge step backwards. The image quality and flash is worse. But the worst of all is the new mounting mechanism. It is absolutely terrible! Anybody who has used an old Cuddeback Capture will know that its mounting mechanism was pretty bad, but Cuddeback somehow succeeded in creating something even worse: the "Genius Mount System". This new moulting system is truly horrible. In fact I've even lost half of the mounting mechanism somewhere between the Woody Cape sand dunes and the park's offices.

So, now if I want to use the camera I have to be a little bit "creative" when I try to mount it...

With the Cuddeback "Genius Mount" lost somewhere in the Woody Cape I patented my own system: the "Truly-Genius Mount". Consisting of a helpful tree and a piece of wire it truly surpasses the previous system!

From the first day the camera didn't impress me. When the recommended firmware update came out I thought "what can I lose" and went ahead with the upgrade.
Um, well...
I followed each step carefully, and according to the output from the camera all went well...
However, I can assure you that everything did not go well.

For example the entire menu is now confused. None of the timer values on the dial (used to set the camera's delay) match with the digital display any more.

But in the end the camera still "works"... So now I use it as is.

In fact this new quirky behaviour even resulted in an unexpected surprise! The camera somehow decided (by itself), halfway through the camera trapping session, to switch itself into video mode. The result of which is a short (and pretty bad) video clip of a Blue Duiker walking past the camera.

Video: A cropped and rotated version of the video taken by the Cuddeback Attack

Camera troubles aside, I think this is a decent start at photographing this intriguing little creature. Now if only I can get one to look at the camera...

02 May 2012

Webs Of Fear

I'll be heading off to the Woody Cape this weekend and can't wait to check my camera traps. I didn't have much time to scout for good locations, so I hope the ones I picked turned out well.

One thing I have noticed about the Woody Cape is that it is home to an amazing variety of spiders. Now, I must admit that I have a healthy fear of spiders, but some of the ones I've come across are just to intriguing to ignore.

A spider on a leaf (unfortunately I didn't have a proper camera with me to photograph these spiders)

There are spiderwebs everywhere, especially early in the day. One morning I was busy looking for a good place to put my camera, somewhere on the edge of the thicket, while having a really hard time finding a place for my next step that is free of a spiderwebs.

A spider on its web full of early morning dew drops

But the spiders that scare me the most are the ones that spin huge thick webs in the openings amongst the thickets. It is hard enough to move around in the small game trails without these huge spiders obstructing your way. The worst part is that I often have to bend so much forward while walking that I can't really keep an eye open for the webs...

This photo came out pretty well for a "cellphone" camera, partly because of the huge size of the spider

I don't usually post pictures of humans passing the cameras, but this next set of images were just to strange to pass up.
I must admit that my heart was beating in my throat when I saw the first image: Here was I guy walking past my camera, a camera that is hidden away some distance from the closed human building, in spider invested territory, with some kind of sharp/dangerous object in his hand!

But when I noticed the toilet paper I was truly shocked! Surely I did not capture such a sacred moment on film?
A Human (Mens - Homo sapiens) heeding to the call of nature

It required true courage to master this new sense of horror I felt creeping up inside me. I reluctantly pressed the button to view the next images... I was relieved to find that this gentleman decided to seek a truly secluded spot to conduct his affairs. On his return 10 minutes later he was still unaware of the camera and clearly missing something else...
I'm always amazed how people can walk right past a camera and not take any notice of it, I think the animals pick up on its presence much better

All is well that ends well, but I must admit these images still stir an uneasiness in me...