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As winter comes to an end, the days are getting longer and warmer, meaning more time in the bush for photographs! This week we had fantastic sightings of some familiar faces like the Tsalala Pride and the Maxabene 3:2 Young Male, as well as being able to share quality moments with less familiar individuals. In particular it was a privilege to be able to spend more time with the Maxabene Female and the Nyeleti 4:3 Young Male.
What difference a week makes! The Tsalala youngsters have officially left the densite and have been making the rounds north of the Sand River, on Marthly. They seem quite comfortable being out in the open, albeit when their mother is nearby.
Exploring new grounds, the cubs seem torn between trying to keep up with the lionesses or checking out the game drive vehicles!
The Maxabene Female turns to check out a rustling in the bushes nearby. It turned out to be nothing, but this small leopard is known for her acute awareness and stealth. As Freddy says, when you track this leopard you always have to look behind you. She frequently doubles back and you'll find her tracks on top of yours!
The Maxabene Female has a scratch before leaving her naptime perch on a termite mound to go hunting.
That evening, we found her on another termite mound closeby, apparently unsuccessful in her hunt. Even though this was a great photographic opportunity, we were keen to follow this experienced leopard for a while to view her hunting prowess. Feeling certain she was more than hungry enough to hunt, we waited until she started moving. She walked for about a hundred meters as night fell, only to lie down and sleep on another termite mound!
Another leopard who made an appearance this week was the Maxabene Female's son, the Maxabene 3:2 Young Male. At about 3 years old, he is getting very big, although still not confident enough to stake out his own territory. The injury to his eye we noticed last week is unfortunately still apparent, although looking to be on the mend.
A Nyala bull displays in the presence of a rival. Nyala have a unique ritual when two males compete for dominance, in that instead of an outright fight, they will circle each other in a slow, deliberate, prance-like motion, horns pointing forward, with the long hairs of their stunning coat standing up. Making themselves look very large and impressive, the goal is to intimidate the opponent instead of coming to blows.
The Vomba Young Female looks at approaching hyenas, coming to investigate her impala kill. Luckily she had hoisted the carcass safely in this marula tree, but even so, the three scavengers circling the base prevented her from coming down.
A Water monitor lizard tries to bask in a rather strange position, clutching a fallen branch.
The Nyeleti 4:3 Young Male freezes in pursuit of a duiker on the far bank of the Manyeleti River.
We were able to follow this young leopard quite a bit this week, unfortunately however on several failed hunting attempts! Here he descends from a termite mound after scanning an area occupied by vultures. Animals know certain cues from each other: the presence of vultures might mean a meal for him. He was careful to look from a distance first, just to make sure there weren't other predators around. It turned out to be just a bone or two left from an old kill by the Tsalala lionesses, so he moved on.
He hunted everything from duiker to impala to squirrels as he moved upstream in the riverbed. Surprisingly, the closest he got was to the squirrels, but they saw him at the last second and ran off in a flurry of alarm calls.
A White-backed vulture waits patiently for the Sparta Pride to leave a buffalo carcass. Three pride members took down a female buffalo, and one of the Majingalane Coalition was also there to enjoy the feast. When we went to see the 'action', the lions were grotesquely full , sleeping, and didn't even lift their heads! The vultures posed nicely on this ominously grey day, however.