What is BushCam Adventures?

BushCam Adventures attempts to share some of the amazing images, stories and insights that I've collected during my camera-trapping adventures.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

A Cederberg Survey

As regular readers of my blog will know I'm fortunate to be able to spend a fair bit of time in the wilds of Southern Africa with my camera traps. Over the last few years I've visited many fabulous sites, rich in biodiversity, but seldom get to spend long at any one of them.

So I've been looking for a site that is reasonably close to home where I can leave out a few cameras for many seasons - and possibly even a few years. I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking for - in fact, I have no idea what I'm looking for. I just like the idea of surveying a location that's wild and remote enough that my cameras are unlikely to be spotted by anyone. I'm keen to produce a video rather than a snapshot - if you will excuse the metaphor.

One such place is the Cederberg mountains where I've recently spent a few days. My local readers will know the Cederberg as a wonderful place for hiking and exploring. It is criss-crossed by hiking trails and the odd 'jeep track' but there remain many remote valleys that almost never get visited. But the vegetation has a low carrying capacity and the term 'abundant' would not be used to describe its wildlife. So its certainly not  'big 5' territory but I'm always more interested in the smaller animals: call them the secret seventeen.

The owners and managers of a wonderful place called Mount Ceder ( www.mountceder.co.za ) have agreed to let me leave my cameras on their vast property. I've done a bit of scouting around and I think I've found, with their guidance, a few great spots for cameras. So they're installed and, hopefully, clicking away (to the extent that camera-traps ever click away) as you read this.

During my few days there I didn't get too many images but there were a few that I liked:

A one-horned Grey Rhebuck ram (Pelea capreolus) who seemed totally oblivious to my camera. These guys are fairly common in the Cederberg but one generally only sees them bounding away with their characteristic rocking-horse motion - their white tails flashing prominently.

An African Wild Cat (Felis silvestris) - and again not a particularly uncommon species. However, what is interesting to me is that it was out at midday. There could be plenty of reasons for this but I wonder whether the remoteness of the location could make them more diurnal.

The only primate in the region, the Savanna Baboon (Papio cynocephalus ursinus). Do their babies suck their thumbs too?

One of my favorites, the Caracal (Caracal caracal) - also not often seen during the day. I've been lucky with images of these beautiful cats recently but I particularly like this one. Those eyes are mean!

So I'm hopeful that this new site will produce something interesting. And I'm looking forward to getting back there on a regular basis to check the cameras and swap out the cards.

Monday, 10 December 2012

What are the odds.....

Some friends recently asked me to check out a camera-trap that didn't seem to be working. I established that there was a defective battery in the set and replaced it. It then appeared to work fine but I though I'd put it out overnight to make sure that the flash was working perfectly too. So I propped it up outside our back door knowing that our dogs would trigger it a couple of times before the next morning.

So when I checked the card the next day there were indeed a few doggy pics in addition to one that gave me quite a shock:

This dude clearly jumped our fence (which is not difficult) and was having a furtive prowl around.
I don't recall ever putting out a camera at our back door so what were the odds of getting an image like this?

So given that millions of people around the world read my blog (yeah right!) I thought I'd take a chance and see if anyone knows him. What are the odds of that? Please tell him I'd like a quiet word.

Similarly, if you are the LOSER in this image you can be proud that you are now famous. Your image is on the database of our local neighbourhood watch, the South African Police, Interpol and the FBI! What were the odds that you'd have been so famous doing anything else?

Friday, 7 December 2012

Who's Killing the Penguins?

I've written before about work that I've done with the African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus).

This is the only species of penguin breeding in South Africa and, sadly, its numbers are dropping rapidly. Some of the  known causes of this are the depletion of its food supply, damage from oil spills and loss of breeding habitat. Fur seals are known to predate on penguins at sea but it was sad to hear that something was killing the penguins at the Stony Point colony in Betty's Bay - the only colony in the region that is actually growing.

Most of the carcasses were only partly eaten but it was estimated that, potentially, hundred of birds had died this way. So I offered to install a couple of camera-traps to see if we could identify the culprit.

Most carcasses were located near a thick stand of Rooikrans (Acacia cyclops) which suggested that this would be a good place to start looking. 

There were a couple of well used animal trails leading into the thicket so we installed the cameras a few metres into these trails. It didn't take long before the suspect was 'caught'.............

These aren't great images but they're quite good enough to identify a Caracal (Caracal caracal) as the likely culprit.

The cameras didn't catch much else other than some Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis)  - who had better also watch out for the Caracal........

......and live penguins that wouldn't be in that thicket if they knew what was good for them:

In hindsight, getting images of the culprit was the easy part. What to do with them is way more tricky. I love the idea that we still have Caracals in coastal villages like Betty's Bay but I accept that ongoing predation of the African Penguin, now classified as endangered in the latest IUCN Red Data list, is a big problem. Translocating the cat (if it can be caught) is a possibility but it has also been suggested that it gets fitted with a tracking collar. The authorities can then monitor its movements and chase it away from the penguins when it gets too close. That's the idea anyway........