13 January 2013

One Night Stand

I believe all camera trappers are doomed to succumb to the allure of a one night stand every once in a while. Fellow camera trapper Jeremy recently shared his latest heartbreaks with us (over here) and yours truly also tried his luck during the festive season with "modest" results.

My first one night stand over the festive period was a total no-show. After spending some time looking for a suitable location, getting to close for comfort to some fighting baboons, being terrorised by vicious ants and fearing that my stealth cam exploits would be exposed I finally found a decent enough looking spot for my romantic date with camera trapping destiny.

Most one night stands are also stealth cam setups. Fellow camera trappers should be familiar with stealth camming: looking for camera trapping rapture in dangerously exposed areas and without proper permission. The key to stealth camming is to pull the whole thing off without anybody knowing. I remember first hearing the term being used by the Codger over here. Few things beat the thrill of the rebellious pursuit of mammals in forbidden areas.

My Bushnell camera trap on the lookout for mammalian action in Xxx National Park

The area was crawling with ants and Oogpisters so I had to be quick. Oogpisters are fascinating creatures, but I'll leave it to David Attenborough to explain why over here.

I decided to play it safe and didn't get too close to the Two-Spotted Ground Beetle (Oogpister - Thermophilum homoplatum) since their Afrikaans name translates to "eye pisser" and gives fair warning of what they are capable of

I took the Oogpisters as a good sign and thought my destiny with the camera trapping goddess was set for a night of mammalian delights... However, as all camera trappers will know, camera trapping is a cruel vixen that enjoys crushing our dreams just as much as she delights in exceeding our wildest expectations.

In the end I didn't photograph anything at all. The usual collection of false triggers was like a slap in the face. Camera trapping can be cruel...

Our cottage at Addo's Matyholweni camp

Like any star struck lover I was back in the game two nights and 230 km later.

It all started when my wife called me to see the mouse in the cottage's kitchen. We were only staying over for one night and having an interesting rodent in our kitchen sounded like a good omen. I grabbed my digital camera and managed to get a few photographs of the visitor before it jumped back out of the window.

A shy Woodland Mouse/Woodland Thicket Rat (Woudmuis - Grammomys dolichurus) paying us a visit

The photographs turned out good enough to make a positive identification. This little fellow is a Woodland Mouse and a rather attractive rodent. I liked the reddish-brown splashes on the sides, sporting a respectable dark mouse-grey on top and a dashing white below. I would love to camera trap these charmers in more detail in the future...

Unfortunately it was a bit camera shy

After managing its escape I felt my heart stirring anew for the excitement that comes with a one night stand. I decided to put one camera under the wooden deck of our cottage and another in the road that leads up to the camp's gate.

An early morning visit from a Scrub Hare (Kolhaas - Lepus saxatilis) was a pleasant surprise

At the one camera only a Scrub Hare showed up, but one Scrub Hare is better than none at all. It's a decent photograph and I was happy, although I would have liked a Genet as well.

The other camera captured a video clip of a Giant Eagle Owl hopping around on the road.

Video: Giant Eagle-Owl (Gevlekte Ooruil - Bubo lacteus) dropping in for a visit

In the end, as always, after toying with your heart, the vixen gives you a tease and leaves you wanting more. I'm already thinking how and when I can sneak away for another stealthy one night stand.

Now, on a different note...

I usually try and keep the posts on this blog informative and fun, but I believe all emotions are good in their own way...

While on holiday this year we drove about 4000 km and noticed road killed animals everywhere. It is always sad to see an animal killed by a car, but of all the killed animals we saw the Woodland Mouse below moved me the most and possibly illustrates the animals' plight the best. I know nature is both kind and harsh, but somehow being killed by a car while going about your daily activates just doesn't seem natural. I found the Woodland Mouse below on the road in Addo Elephant National Park. (I must say that we saw very little road kill in the park itself and in general people that visit the park drive responsibly, but unfortunately sometimes accident do happen.)

Its a sad loss...

05 January 2013

Caracals at Candlelight

I'm just back from the Woody Cape and the gamble with the cameras payed off! First up is the familiar (at least on this blog) profile of a Caracal.

Caracal (Rooikat - Caracal caracal) walking down the hiking trail in the Woody Cape thickets

Caracal are by no means scarce and seems to be camera trapped quite frequently in many places in South Africa. However, I haven't photographed many at the Woody Cape, and this is the first one I've photographed in this area of the Woody Cape - the thickets next to Cannon Rocks.

I placed the camera trap looking directly across the trail. The Cuddeback cameras have a wonderfully fast trigger speed and a very narrow detection zone making this setup the easiest and most effective.

My camera trap mounted to one of the trees

About two weeks later the same animal walked down the trail again. Caracals aren't easy to uniquely identify, but I've used the stripes on the insides of their legs in the past with reasonable success, so I'm pretty sure this is the same individual.

Looking a little sulky compared to the first image?

This was the first time we were able to take our dogs with us and I just can't resist slipping in some photographs of them. This one of Scout was taken by the camera trap when we went to fetch the camera. She's a "rescue dog" and we've had her for about 9 months now. She really turned out well and was having a blast the entire trip.

Our domestic dog (Hond - Canis lupus familiaris) aptly named Scout

You might think she is looking in the wrong direction, but after reviewing the photos from this camera I noticed that she is actually looking down a small path that is occasionally used by the animals to join up with the mail trail.