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This week was yet another good week of leopard sightings. Included were kills, mating, cubs and many “regular” sightings of Londolozi’s most well known inhabitants. I also included some more camera settings which I will try and make a weekly addition for those who are interested. As always, enjoy!
We had hoped the Vomba Female may have been pregnant as a result of some previous mating. However, she was seen mating for some time this week with the Marthly Male in and around the Sand River.(Shutter 1/60sec; F2.8; ISO 800; Underexpose 2/3. Despite not being dark quite yet, we used a spotlight in this and the next two shots to add some light. Settings the same for the next two photos)
The source of much of the wear and tear on a female leopard's ears, the Marthly Male bites down on the Vomba Female's neck and ear at the peak of mating.
A blur of spots due to the low light and slow shutter speed, the Marthly Male swipes at the Vomba Female, pushing her face into the ground as he finishes mating. This is most likely a pre-emptive strike, hoping to avoid the blow that usually comes from her at this stage
The Vomba Female leaps across a small channel in the Sand River, in pursuit of the Marthly Male.(Shutter 1/1250sec; F4.5; ISO 500; underexpose 1/3. Good light and a low aperture ensured a fast enough shutter speed to capture the movement)
Marthly Male, instantly recognisable by his torn right ear and brushcut "mane", strides confidently down a game path whilst being mobbed by a swarm of flies. He was seen well south of his normal territory this week, about 3-4km south of the Sand River. After mating with the Vomba Female, he also found time to steal the last of the impala kill made by the Tutlwa Female, featured below.(Shutter 1/250sec; F2.8; ISO 800; underexpose 2/3. Had to use the full range of the lens and drop my aperture to F2.8 in order to get a reasonably sharp image of a moving subject.)
Vomba Female rests on a small island in the Sand River in between bouts of mating. Looking back over her shoulder, she is keeping a keen eye on her mate, the Marthly Male.(Shutter 1/500sec; F2.8; ISO 500; underexpose 1/3)
Technically not a great photo, but finally proof that the Tutlwa female does in fact have a cub! This was my first view and it is still very nervous of vehicles. Rangers have tracked and found the female with two cubs, but at this sighting we only saw one. At this stage we are not sure if the second was just too scared of the vehicle to show itself, or if it has perhaps been killed. This was one of the only times when mom had brought them to kill in an area that we could access with a vehicle. (Shutter 1/400; F3.2; ISO 320; underexpose 2/3)
The Tutlwa Female stares intently into the distance, assessing the danger posed by the fast approaching pack of wild dog. (Shutter 1/640; F4; ISO 320; underexpose 1/3. Also used spot metering)
It's not a leopard, I know! An almost exact replica of the previous shot, except instead of a leopard, wild dogs. Three of the pups and one adult sniff the spot where the Tutlwa female was sitting just moments before. After she had climbed a tree to safety, they soon lost interest and moved off. Fortunately they didn't find her cub(s). (Shutter 1/400; F4; ISO 320; underexpose 1/3. Notice how the shutter speed has decreased for exactly the same photo, just seconds later. This is due to having the camera set on spot metering. With the much darker wild dogs being used to meter light instead of the lighter coloured leopard, the camera has compensated and slowed the shutter to allow more light in.)
After being chased up the ebony tree by the pack, the Tutlwa Female decided she may as well feed on her impala kill. (Shutter 1/400sec; F3.5; ISO 320; overexpose 1/3. Here I overexposed instead of under. This is due to the bright background. If not adjusted for the leopard would have come out almost black.)
The 4:3 Nyaleti Young Male has continued his nomadic existence, being seen in and around camp, south of the Sand River. Here he cautiously circles the entrance to a warthog burrow. His caution is well founded, as it is not uncommon for a warthog to come charging out at a leopard, tusks-first, from their burrow. (Shutter 1/640; F5.6; ISO 200; underexpose 1/3)
The third member of the young Nyaleti trio, the 2:3 Young Male, was also seen this week. He had killed a young nyala and hoisted it up this milkberry tree. As gruesome a sight as it is for us, for the leopard that is a great tasting meal that will sustain him for the next few days. (Shutter 1/640sec; F5.6; ISO 320; underexpose 2/3)
David left the bright lights of Johannesburg and a promising career as a chartered accountant to join the Londolozi Ranging team in 2009. After three years spent as a guide, during which he built up a formidable reputation as one of Londolozi's top ...