10 November 2013

Spiky Mice

For me the Cape Spiny Mouse was a new find at Berg River Dam. They get their name from their coat of sharp bristles that is harsh to the touch. The spiny hair on the back seems darker, witch then fades into the yellow brown on the flanks and white on the chin and belly.

Cape Spiny Mouse (Kaapse Stekelmuis - Acomys subspinosus) turning on the cute at Berg River Dam

As can be seen from the camera trap photographs these mice like to hang out near rocky areas. They are mostly nocturnal (active at night) and live alone or in small groups that may share a rock crevice called home.

Notice the darker spiky bristles on it's back

They are omnivores and feed an seeds, berries, insects and other invertebrates. They can be seen as a true Fynbos endemic, occurring only in the mountainous Fynbos region in the south-western corner of the South Africa.

Snack time! Check out that long tail

I was surprised to find images of wasps triggering the camera during the day. I did some digging and it turns out these large wasps where somehow introduced into the Western Cape from Europe.

They usually nest underground or in cavities close to the ground. They construct paper nests that can contain up to 3000 wasps. Most colonies live only one year, with only the new queens surviving the winter to start a new colony.

German Yellow Jacket (Geelbaadjie Perdeby - Vespula germanica) triggering the camera trap

Although the adults feed mostly on sugar, such as nectar, they feed insects and other animal matter to their larva. In turn the larva secrete a sugary substance for the workers in exchange for the protein.

A lot of the photographs seems to show wasps fighting

During the time my cameras where at Berg River Dam a veld fire started on the slope on the far end of the dam. I'm not sure whether the flames somehow managed to trigger the camera, or the wind, or maybe just an animal that isn't in the field of view, but it resulted in some interesting photographs.

Veld fire at Berg River Dam


  1. Fire is going to give off plenty of infra-red light. I imagine that it was able to set off the camera, but then at some point when the camera reset "background" the infra-red from the fire got zeroed out. Just a guess though.

  2. What surprised me was that the fire was quite far away from the camera.

    @JK: My guess would be that your guess might be onto something ;)

  3. Cool shots of the mouse Henry! Were they taken with the Birdcam?

  4. Great to see that you are trapping and posting again. I am also interested in the cam you used for the mice.

  5. Yes the mice are from the Birdcam 2.0. It's a tricky camera to use, but it fills a certain niche decently well and I don't regret owning one (the way I regret owning the newer Cuddeback Attack).

    I mostly use the Birdcam on baited sets for things like mice or birds. It has an excellent white flash that has minimal overexposure at close range. The fixed focus isn't too bad and I can live with the results. The biggest problem is it's strange detection circuit which isn't very fast and although it works perfectly on a bird feeder (what the camera is designed for) it can miss a lot of action when used under different circumstances.

  6. Henry, I have a 2012 Attack and must say that I am very pleased with it,and don't seem to get many of the issues that seemed to be there in the older models.

    I have stumbled across software that allows Cannon mik-en-druk cameras to use the display as a motion sensor, which can be set to a single pixel, thus useful for very small animals. Battery life is a problem that I hopefully solved now. Will see how it goes with the first real tests this December

  7. @Roelof: I'm glad you are pleased with your Cuddeback. I tried a few firmwear upgrades for mine, and the first ones made it worse, but the last one seemed to help a little, although the images are now very blurry, at least it is usable again... I also don't like the case design one bit.

    I'm desperate for a decent modern white flash camera trap.

    That Cannon trick sounds fun. Have you checked out the homebrew cameras the Americans use? (For example YetiCam, etc.)

  8. Henry, I am busy looking at the Scoutguard SG565F with flash, as the reviews of it looks very promising. They have a new one with a white LED flash, but I believe that movement at night gives some blurry shots,so I am rather going for the slightly older and proven SG565.

    I have had a look at the yeti-cam, but I liked the feature on the Canon,as i had to do no modification on the camera and can still use it for normal photography.

    A friend is in the final stages of building a sensor for his Canon DSLR, if it works,I want him to look a the yeti to see if something similar cant be built locally.

  9. @Roelof: My personal experience with the SG565F isn't that great, but I think Jeremy might have one as well and it would be interesting to hear what his experience is.

    Firstly I found the "clunking noise" a big problem. From the photographs it was clear that it attracted the animal's attention much more than the IR LEDs or white flash. Animals are very sensitive to noise. Secondly, the camera only worked for the first few months, then the flash broke. Luckily I bought it locally so it was easy to send it back (it was still under the 1 year warranty). The images was also somewhat blurry, although the colour was pretty good. The flash tended to be harsh and over expose, but there are ways to improve it slightly. It also uses that weird remote-thing to program, which I didn't like. I decided to trade it in for the infamous Cuddeback Attack, which at least is still working and all-in-all seemed like a better fit for my needs. This was my experience and your mileage my vary. ;)

  10. Thanks for the advice Henry. The Flash models are so limited, and I do prefer colour photos at night. Maybe i need to invest then in the birdcam,you seem to have good use from it. I am looking for something that can get some of the smaller animals, as the Attack's sensor is not that sensitive.