17 September 2011

One Night Stand

This past weekend my wife and I flew up to Johannesburg for a friend's wedding. The wedding was in the Magaliesberg and we took the opportunity to sleep over at the small nature resort called Utopia. We haven't been there in more than 3 years and were looking forward to it.

I think this is a Wild Pear (Drolpeer - Dombeya rotundifolia) flowering

It was here in the Magaliesberg that I did my first true camera trapping. You can find my old post over here.

This time around we only spent one night at Utopia, but I still made a last minute decision to take some camera traps with me. I ended up taking a Bushnell (2010 model), a homebrew Yeticam Sony s600 and a ScoutGuard (flash model).

A stream in the Magaliesberg

I had only one night to trap for the nocturnal mammals and I set out looking for a good location shortly after we arrived. I set the Bushnell next to a stream (in the picture above). I saw signs of Cape Clawless Otter (Groototter) and Water Mongoose (Kommetjiegatmuishond) and thought it might be worth the risk. The verdict: nothing passed during the night except for some humans. I'm assuming they were from one of the other houses.

Scrub Hare (Kolhaas - Lepus saxatilis) at dusk

Luckily there is plenty to see even without the help of camera traps. This Scrub Hare showed up just as the light was fading. I was hoping for some camera trap images of these guys (there were two), but they managed to evade the cameras.

The light was very bad and this is the best the camera could do

We also saw a Bushbaby (Nagapie), Baboons (Bobejaan) and plenty of tracks such as Porcupine (Ystervark), etc.

When I tried to setup the homebrew Sony I ran into another problem. The Sony's lensgears are problematic. I managed to fix it at home, but it started to give problems again. I think it might have been the vibrations during the flight. Luckily in the end I got it working.

I found a very promising spot for the Sony, but nothing walked past the camera during the night. If I had a week or two I'm sure I would have gotten some great images at the location.

Some kind of Coral Tree (Koraalboom) growing next to one of the houses

So, by now my last hope was on the ScoutGuard... I have one word to describe this camera: disappointment. If you are thinking of buying one, then don't. If you already bought one, then I feel your pain. On top of all it's shortcomings the camera chose this weekend to stop flashing. I had a great location and had some good bait set out. I even had nocturnal visits, but nothing to show except some completely black photographs. The camera still triggered, but the flash never fired.

So in the end the night was lost. I didn't get any images of the nocturnal animals, but I still had half a day to go and I pulled out all the tricks I could think off to skew the odds in my favour. I ended up capturing two mammal species and a couple of birds. Nothing new, but both species aren't found down here and make for a welcome change.


  1. Hi Henry
    I am an owner at Utopia and we are putting together an environmental management plan - I wanted to know if I could use your info. Please could you contact me on lizwarren.za@gmail.com? Thanks Liz

  2. Sure, I'll send you an email :)