28 September 2010

No News Like No News

My camera trapping plans have been plagued by problems the last couple of weeks. We had family visiting, bad weather, restricted access, more bad weather and worst of all an injured tittle toe (still hurts) that kept me away from checking my trail cameras.

I'm slightly concerned about the safety of my cameras at the quarry. I'm also concerned that the Bushnells might have filled their SD cards already and the Cuddeback most likely ran out of battery power by now...

The cameras are amongst the loose rocks and the Dassies go onto the flat part to feed

From afar the green "lawn" looks like grass, but it turned out to be a strange mix of plants: some moss-like and others more grass-like or shrub-like. I think the Dassies might play a role in the plant community composition. They also seem to ignore a particular plant that ends up dominating the landscape. If the plant continues the be left unchecked the Dassies might eventually lose their grazing grounds... I wish I could find out what might be happening there, but I don't have time currently to pursue the matter any further...

A very closeup photograph of the second level of the quarry

I'll try and make up for the unsolved mystery by posting these pictures of a Ladybird I photographed recently here in the Western Cape (at Tygerberg).

The Lunate Ladybird (Liewenheerbesie/Blomskilpadjie - Cheilomenes lunata) shining in the sunlight
 Looking for some aphids for breakfast

The adults and larvae are predatory and have a taste for aphids. They are found in a diverse range of habitats throughout South Africa. Interestingly some of these little bugs hitched a ride to Britain on some South African grapes (see the section near the end on the page over here).

13 September 2010

A Hole Lot Of Porcupine

I was running out of time and needed a new location for one of my cameras when I walked past the pipe. I've walked past it many times before and just half-heartedly thought that it might be used by animals. But, since I needed to get to the gate before closing time, I decided to take my chances and set the camera up pointing at the entrance. I wasn't expecting much and certainly no porcupines. The hole seemed far to small to accommodate their huge bristling quills. But I was wrong...

Video: The first night, one of the two Porcupines (Ystervarke - Hystrix africaeaustralis) exits the tunnel...

Video: ...but heads back after taking a quick sniff, they only came out (cautiously) an hour and a half later

The porcupines were clearly much more nervous the first night they exited the tunnel and spent a lot of time sniffing the area I was standing on. They were clearly more relaxed the next couple of nights, after making up their mind that their porch is still safe.

Video: Chilling on the porch, much more relaxed

As it turns out this hole is used only by porcupines, as far as I can tell. My camera only spied on them for five nights, and they used the tunnel every night. I'm sure no other critter will want to use the tunnel when it might hit a sudden dead end filled with a mass of angry spikes...

I think the dude with the spikier hairdo might be the male, since he seems to be more protective and full of manly-charisma.

Video: Checking out the camera

It is amazing how they can flatten their quills and fit perfectly into the tunnel. Where does it lead? I have no idea and, even if I could fit through the opening, I definitely won't be willing to find out.

I decided to move the camera from this location since I needed it to spy on the dassies. I got about 70 video clips of 30 seconds each showing not much more than two porcupines taking live easy, five nights in a row... A truly enviable existence :)

Video: Showing off some fancy footwork

I must admit that these two seemed like a very sweet porcupine couple. Their relationship must be built on fairly strong stuff to trust one another enough to walk right behind each other through the total darkness of the tunnel. I would have loved to record some audio as well, they might have some kind of signal/call they use when stopping...

11 September 2010

Quarries, Cannons And Dassies

Today I moved the cameras to the old quarry on the southern slope of Tygerberg. Apparently they used the stone mined from the quarry to build the N1 highway that runs past the southern end of the hill.

A more interesting fact about the quarry is that somehow a population of dassies made their way there. As I first approached the quarry I only saw sheer cliffs in all directions and wondered how I will ever get down there, but luckily I was meeting up with the reserve manager and she showed me a very easy (and obvious) road, that was hidden from my view, leading onto the middle level of the big hole.

Rock Hyrax/Dassie (Klipdassie - Procavia capensis) keeping an eye on me

The quarry is a bit less secure and there are more trespassers in this part of the reserve. I decided to camouflage my camera a bit in the hope that trespassers won't notice it. Usually I don't bother with camouflage. Animals don't seem to mind it much. Most animals seem to inspect it rather than avoid it.

Now you see it...

...Now you don't (I hope)

The Friends of Tygerberg and boy scouts/cubs where busy with alien clearing close to the quarry and I got a lift back with them. As we got back the reserve manager said we might as well go watch the cannon go off. Tygerberg has an old cannon on its highest hill that still gets fired at every excuse the CAOSA (pleasantly-crazy cannon people) can come up with.


I think the story goes that the cannon was used to inform the farmers in the area when a ship has arrived in the harbour that might want to buy some fresh produce from them.

Video: I set my camera to multi-shot mode and it produced this result

All in all it was a good trip with excellent weather. It seems that spring has finally reached us down here. But I have also learnt that nothing is certain with Cape Town weather.

04 September 2010

Letting The Monkey Out Of The Sleeve

I'm sure all of you know by now that I frequently check up on my cameras at the Tygerberg Nature Reserve managed by the City of Cape Town.

Today I'm going to show what I usually take with me when I go check on the cameras. Because it is close by and a small reserve I prefer to pack light. I used to be able to fit everything into the camera bag and my pants' pockets, but recently I upgraded to a two-bag-system.

The usual collection of items - sometime I also take a water bottle and something to eat along

I write the GPS point and date of each new location into the notebook. I only carry fresh batteries with me when I think some cameras might be getting flat.

Last week was a bright and sunny day and all the flowers were open. Providing a feast for a multitude of insects. I came across this lovely Monkey Beetle. These beetles are important pollinators in the Fynbos landscape and this one was hard at work.

Glittering Monkey Beetle (Glinsterende Aapkewer/Bobejaankewer - Anisonyx ditus) visiting a flower

I looked in my insect book and I'm pretty sure it is a Glittering Monkey Beetle. In real life the beetle glitters even brighter and the colour looks almost metallic and solid, but the camera doesn't capture their full splendour.

The hair help to transfer the pollen from plant to plant

For those of you wondering, there wasn't much action on the cameras last week, so this post will have to do :)

Showing his face at last