22 May 2011

Caracal At The Can

I've been getting lots and lots of Caracal photographs on my camera traps recently.

Caracal (Rooikat - Caracal caracal) to close to focus

However, as I expected, the last week or two at the tuna can saw barely any activity. There was only one visit from a Caracal and it didn't seem to be overly fond of the horrible stench oozing from the can.

Video: Caracal sniffing the tuna can

15 May 2011

Birds On The Road

A flower (possibly Ploegtydblommetjie - Empodium plicatum) at Tygerberg Nature Reserve in Cape Town

I don't get many photographs of birds at night, so I was surprised to find a pair of Spotted Thick-Knee frequenting the one Bushnell camera trap at Tygerberg.

A Spotted Thick-Knee (Dikkop - Burhinus capensis) pair keeping the camera company

If you think of nocturnal birds you usually think of owls. However, these birds are pretty much nocturnal. They hunt insects and other small animals at night. You can see their bright eyes reflecting the flash.

Just standing there...

Apparently they hunt by rushing forwards in short bursts and stopping to grab food. This might explain why I got many empty photographs at night. The birds must be rushing past, not stopping in front of the camera. In the images I did get of them, they were standing dead still.

I also got a nice photograph of a Bokmakierie at the same locations.

Bokmakierie (Bokmakierie - Telophorus zeylonus) calling or feeling the heat?

The camera is next to a dirt road and I photographed a couple of people walking past. It is slightly concerning because there is a no access sign up the road... Thus far I've been lucky with people walking past the cameras, but who knows...

A very interesting thing happened while I was setting up this camera. It was a very pleasant day, after some rainy whether. It was nice and warm, but not hot, and there was almost no wind (which is rare for this part of the world, especially Tygerberg itself).

As it turns out the local ant colonies decided it is the perfect day to mate. And they were at it by the thousands. Everywhere I went there were swarms of them mating, luckily usually just above head height.

A mating swarm

As it turned out a rather big swarm was busy doing their thing right above the place I wanted to put my camera.

There were many of them...

They crashed into me and I into them, but it went pretty smooth (under the circumstances).
I'm not sure what species they are, but I think they are some kind of ant.

One of the ants on my finger

One of the things I really enjoy about camera trapping is that it "forces" me to get out into nature more often and enable me to have such enjoyable experiences. Tygerberg might be only 5 minutes from my home and almost surrounded by houses, but there is still plenty of nature to be found, even here.

08 May 2011

The Tuna Can

After a long drought in Small-Spotted Genet photographs I've been running into them everywhere here at Tygerberg.

Small-Spotted Genet (Kleinkolmuskeljaatkat - Genetta genetta) pawing into the scene

I'm getting desperate for new species, especially the much desired Cape Fox, so I'm thinking of using some lures/baits/scents. I got the idea from the Camera Trap Codger and also read a research paper that showed that fish is a good general attractant. I don't know how to get my hands on some of the more fancy stuff they use, but I'll make do with tuna instead.

Caracal (Rooikat - Caracal caracal) taking a sniff

Using attractants don't turn an area devoid of animals into a zoo, but it does help. If the animal passes by close enough they will often stop to investigate the source of the odour. The animals end up staying longer. Using lures often result in some good images, because the animal doesn't just pass through, but stops for a while. However, it seems as if they get used to the smell after a while and interest tend to drop off.

Sniffing the tuna

They often return to the same spot and take another sniff, and even if they lose interest they might still pass through the area without stopping for a sniff.

Smelling something fishy...

It is difficult to be sure, but from comparing the spots on the genets' neck it might indicate that more than one individuals were photographed at this location.

A Small Grey Mongoose also came for a sniff. I should have moved the can or trimmed the grass a bit more to show the animals' faces more clearly.

A Small Grey Mongoose (Kleingrysmuishond - Galerella pulverulenta) came by to smell what all the fuss is about

One side effect of using lures is that the data collected from such visits does not reflect the animal's natural movement/behaviour as well as non-baited camera sets do. I have no preference/dislike for baiting, but when those foxes haunt my dreams, I'm willing to sleep with the fishes.

02 May 2011

Some Tortoises And Birds

They call me MR. Parrot-Beaked Padloper (Gewone Padloper - Homopus areolatus) !!! 

Tygerberg is home to a rather pretty tortoise species, the Parrot-Beaked Padloper. The one above might not be one of the best looking individuals, but he made of for it with attitude. However, some individuals can be spectacular, with wonderfully coloured shells.

Then I guess, we shell call you MISS Parrot-Beaked Padloper ???

I always enjoy running into these tortoises. Unfortunately I've noticed that many motorists also like running into them... The name "Padloper" roughly translates to Road-Walker and they seem to have a tendency to be killed on roads. They are rather small and don't move very fast and thus easily end up as road kill.

A Blacksmith Lapwing (Bontkiewiet - Vanellus armatus) and Common Moorhen (Grootwaterhoender - Gallinula chloropus)

I had a camera at the pond hoping to get some photographs of an otter. I saw some fresh prints in the mud, but no luck. I moved the camera this weekend, because I didn't see any fresh signs of otters to persuade me otherwise.

However all was not lost, I got some images of a new heron species at the pond.

A Purple Heron (Rooireier - Ardea purpurea) not looking very purple to me, but um OK...

This is the third heron species I've photographed at this pond. the other two being the Grey Heron and Black-Headed Heron. Actually the fourth if I can count the Black-Crowned Night-Heron as well.

Photographs of new species, be it animals or birds, have been slowing down and I might be close to the theoretical limit of having photographed all the mammal species currently found in the reserve. Luckily there are still a couple of spots I haven't camera trapped very thoroughly, so there is still a small chance for a new species to pop up.

A grey-ish looking Grey Heron (Bloureier - Ardea cinerea)

Highest on my wish list is a Cape Fox. A farmer on a neighbouring farm told me that there were a pair of foxes living on his farm a couple of years ago. They would come up to his fence and drive his dogs crazy. So, atleast I know they were around...

Some other missing species are Common Duiker, Scrub Hare and maybe a Shrew/Mole/Mouse or two. One of the fun parts of camera trapping is cumming back each time hoping that this time you got a photograph of a new species.