30 March 2010

Kirstenbosch Summary

I have been wanting to do a basic summary of my camera trapping at Kirstenbosch for a while now, but never seemed to get around to it... Well, I eventually managed to throw something together. It might not be a very thorough report, but then again it didn't take too much time to it slap together either :)

The chart-like-thing below shows the number of sightings for each animal I photographed. As I'm typing this I realise that this might not be the best piece of camera-trap-reporting ever created, but I hope it is at least somewhat interesting, he he.

Information about my camera trapping at Kirstenbosch. Many of the day sightings where in fact just after sunrise (Vlei rat, Porcupine and Large-spotted Genet in particular).
Ten mammal species and five bird species where photographed. For much of the time I only had one camera and it wasn't always in the field.

It was fun to camera trap at Kirstenbosch and I will definitely set up cameras there again in the future. It is right at my office and thus very easy for me to get to. There are a lot of Porcupines and the areas near Oak trees have many Squirrels. I also manage to find some surprising mammal species. When I got the Bushnell Trophy Cam it enabled me to photograph the smaller mammals: Verreaux's Mouse, Reddish-Grey Musk Shrew, Vlei Rat, Striped Mouse and one or two other unidentified species of mouse and shrew. I would like to go back for more small mammal photos some time, especially the shrew, but Tygerberg is keeping me busy.

A Google Earth screen-shot of my camera locations at Kirstenbosch. Each point actually fans out when you click on it in Google Earth to show all the sightings at that location, but the screen-shot only indicates the first sighting in the list for each location. (Please forgive the Afrikaans names - the main idea of the image is to show the locations and not so much the species names...)

I hoped to find some Grysbok at Kirstenbosch, but I didn't find any signs of them in the areas where my cameras were. I heard rumors about Cape Fox in the area, but I also didn't find any evidence of them (but I didn't search extremely hard). I would also have liked to find a Striped Polecat and some "aquatic" mammals, but again no luck... All of these "missing" mammals are reason enough to go back someday and try and track them down.

(Those of you wondering about what happened to the data I collected after wrapping things up at Kirstenbosch: I copy all of the images, locations, sighting information, etc. onto a CD and gave it to the estate manager at Kirstenbosch.)

I just noticed that the terminology used in the image with the chart might be confusing when compared to that used by other camera trappers (such as Camera Trap Codger). For instance: In the image, the "First Visit" is the date of my first camera set and the "Last Visit" is the date of the last camera set at Kirstenbosch. Also note that one sighting can have many photographs of an animal(s), for example: If a Porcupine spent about 3 minutes in front of the camera, resulting in about 6 images of the same individual during one "event", then I consider it to be a single sighting (with 6 images). Hope that makes sense...

28 March 2010

Collared Caracal

A few weeks, while checking up on my cameras, ago I noticed a Caracal walking in the distance. I had a digital camera with me and took a few photographs, just for the record. I was a bit far away for the x3 zoom to reach, but I could see it fine with the naked eye. It had a huge radio collar around its neck.

Caracal (Rooikat) walking over the hills at Tygerberg Nature Reserve

I heard from the people at Tygerberg that somebody is doing research on Caracals at the reserve and this must be one of the research animals. (I would like to find out more about the research and share some of my results with the researcher when I have some time on my hands...)

Last week I photographed a collared Caracal. This is probably the same individual as the one I saw before. The feline posed beautifully and in this picture you can see the radio collar clearly.

That collar might look bigger than his head, but he seems to be wearing it with pride...

Caracal are know for their bad attitude. I always think this is because it's head is way to small for the rest of its body. Its almost as if they are constantly on a power trip.

There really seems to be a strong population of Caracal at the reserve. The first Caracal was photographed the first day the camera was put out and the non-collared individual below was photographed only four days later.

A different Caracal crosses the road

Caracals hunt small to medium sized mammals, although they will also catch birds and reptiles. There are some interesting videos on the internet about Caracals, here is a link to one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57qew_cglac. The information presented by the narrator is not entirely accurate, but the video speaks for itself in terms of the leaping ability of Caracals. The leap at the end of the video is just amazing. (The Caracal is in fact in its own genus: Caracal caracal and not in the lynx genus. They just happen to resemble a lynx to some extent, especially the ears.)

26 March 2010

No News Like Otter News

I have been very busy at work lately... With that said, it's high time for some camera trapping updates :)

After work today I went to Tygerberg to check up on my cameras. I was surprised to find the Bushnell Trophy Cam still running. It is still using its second set of batteries since I bought it. I'm very impressed, especially after all those thousands of bird pictures it took at the pond.

I got some good activity at the cameras recently. I am especially excited about the video I got today of two Cape Clawless Otters passing by the camera at night earlier this week. I have been hoping to photograph an otter for a while but I didn't find any evidence of them or a Marsh Mongoose at Kirstenbosch. At Tygerberg I encountered a Marsh Mongoose a few times, but this is my first time photographing an otter(s).

I recently started noticing otter-like scats near the new locations for the cameras, but I wasn't 100% sure that the scats are actually from an otter. Even if I was suspecting the presence of otters I still wanted to confirm it. It could have been the scats from the odd individual passing through the area (wondering or dispersing).

Video: Cape Clawless Otters (Groototters) checking out the camera while walking down the little stream towards the dam

Well, from the video it appears that these two otters are very much at home and in good condition. This lets me think that they are the local resident pair and have been around (and will stay around) for a while.

The habitat preferences of Cape Clawless Otters are rivers, marshes, dams, dry river beds with ponds and tidal zones, however they can sometimes be found many kilometers from water. Fresh water crabs are a big part of their food, but they also eat fish, frogs, crayfish, small mammals, birds and insects.

Otters checking out the camera

I hope to see a lot more of these otters in the coming months, but I suspect I might start turning my attention towards Common Duiker soon. It is the one antelope believed to be present on the reserve that I haven't yet manage to photograph...

09 March 2010

Other Visitors At The Pond

The Bushnell Trophy Cam keeping an eye open for any Helmeted Guineafowl at the pond

Some of the other visitors to the pond where Porcupine (Ystervark), Striped Polecat (Stinkmuishond), possible Bat-eared Fox (Bakoorjakkals) or Cape Fox (Silwervos) and a couple of birds.

Porcupine (Ystervark) making his presence felt

Striped Polecat (Stinkmuishond) darting past the camera

A Bat-eared Fox (Bakoorjakkals) or maybe a Cape Fox (Silwervos)...

The picture with "the ear" has been giving me unpleasant dreams for weeks now... I was hoping that the owner of this ear will appear again at the pond, but nothing happened. Both Cape Fox and Bat-eared Fox are high on my wish list for Tygerberg, but I just can't be 100% sure of which one it is from this picture. I'm leaning heavily towards Bat-eared Fox, but another better picture would have been great...

By now both cameras have been moved away from the pond. The pond turned out to be a good spot even though the Secret Police was giving me a lot of trouble.

The Moultrie camera ready to snap the next picture of a Helmeted Guineafowl

06 March 2010

March Of The Marsh Mongoose

A very pleasant surprise was the Marsh Mongoose (Kommetjiegatmuishond) at the pond. The pond seems to have water throughout the year and seems to do a good job at attracting animals that are associated with water.

The eyes of the Marsh Mongoose (Kommetjiegatmuishond) reflects brightly at the camera

The photo is very dim and grainy, but it's always nice to get a picture of the smaller and less "glorified" animals.

I got a few (blurry) pictures of this fellow walking along the edge of the pond and sometimes entering into the shallow water, but it never seems to get more than its paws wet. Now that's my kind of mongoose :)

03 March 2010

Finaly My First Grysbok

When I started camera trapping here in the Western Cape a was hoping to find many Grysbok. During a year of camera trapping at Kirstenbosch I didn't manage to photograph even one Grysbok. It is true I didn't spend the entire time just looking for a Grysbok, but I did spend some effort in trying to locate one, but with no luck.

But my luck has turned here at Tygerberg. A Grysbok walked past the camera one evening (near the pond). I have been pleasantly surprised with the number and variety of animals at Tygerberg. I really hope they manage to obtain some new land in the near future, because that will provide a lot of breathing space for the animals.

Grysbok (Grysbok) passing by the camera near the pond one evening with the lights from the houses in the background

A few days after this picture was taken I moved the Bushnell camera into the same spot. The Bushnell managed to get more pictures of the Grysbok (thanks to the faster trigger speed). The infrared flash from the Bushnell does not look as good as the natural flash from the Moultrie, but the Bushnell does have a much better trigger speed and is capable of night time videos. The IR flash is also "invisible" and can be useful for certain situations. Unfortunately the Bushnell's lens speed is a bit slow during night photos and the pictures tend to blur more easily.

The Grysbok's eyes are glowing brightly from the flash

One of my main interests are to identify different species occurring in the "study" area, and for that the Bushnell is great.