Last week we focused on the ‘little’ things, and this week the big cats are back! As I’ve mentioned before, Freddy’s and my favourite thing to do is find an animal or a group and follow them, watching their behaviour as they go about their daily lives in the bush. This is particularly interesting with the big cats, as they are territorial which means we generally see the same individuals and can tell the stories of their lives over time. This week we had some great moments spent with the Sparta Pride, as well as other familiar faces and an interesting antelope sighting. Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The week started with a dark, cloudy morning which found three of the Sparta lionesses having been sucessful in the previous evening's hunt on the airstrip. Remember the implausibility of over 100 wildebeest mentioned last week? Unfortunately for them, the lions have discovered them and between the Sparta Pride and the Majingalanes, there are a few less now...
A very full (and pregnant) lioness walks down the airstrip, panting heavily from her recent feast. The three lionesses managed to consume most of the adult female wildebeest overnight, leaving the scraps for the hyenas.
Knowing that the lions were no longer in 'hunting mode', the wildebeest and impala watch them walk closer and closer, shouting alarms. Eventually the antelope would run off, but the theory behind this behaviour which sometimes includes actually running towards a predator is that a predator you can see is better than one that you can't... so it's best to keep a close eye on them! Also, sometimes the annoyance of being pursued and alarmed at is enough to push a potential predator out of the area.
Two of the females pause at the top of the airstrip, a high vantage point to check the plains below.
Some impala look at the approaching lions. Our most abundant antelope, impala can be easily overlooked but are graceful and beautiful creatures on their own!
Another lioness takes a break, also extremely full. They were heading towards water, as predators need water after feeding to aid digestion. However, they were too tired to make it all the way there in one go: they stopped and had a nap along the way, on the airstrip!
Meanwhile nearby the hyenas were polishing off the wildebeest carcass. After the lionesses had had their full, it didn't seem worth it to fight off the hyenas for the scraps, who slowly increased in numbers and confidence as the morning progressed. The lionesses left and the hyenas descended.
One lucky hyena carries the wildebeest head quickly away from the others. Another interesting sighting we had this week involving wildebeest and hyenas (unfortunately not photographable) was of four hyenas being chased by four wildebeest cows! They were clearly not happy with the predators lurking nearby, with their calves around.
Later on that morning a group of waterbuck display their 'trademark': the white ring around the tail.
At the end of that very cloudy day, we came across the Maxabene 3:2 Young Male perched atop a termite mound. He was very full after having eaten an impala over the past 2 days which was hoisted in a marula tree nearby, and apparently enjoying the view.
The following days brought some fairly intense heat and sunshine. It was wonderful to see this Carmine bee-eater in light which showed off his brilliant colours.
Three of the Majingalane Males sleep piled together, in what was the only small patch of shade during a hot day before the afternoon clouds rolled in. They used the cloud cover and stormy conditions that evening to their advantage, killing an impala nearby. The gruesome scene was quite a contrast to this endearing moment!
The sunset variations continue with the unpredictable summer weather, but are always uniquely stunning.
The Londolozi Welcoming Committee! Or perhaps security... quite fitting for the meaning of 'Londolozi': Protector of all living things.
A very small waterbuck calf hides behind its mother. It is quite rare to see them so young, as they are kept very well hidden for the first few weeks of their lives.
Two nyala bulls display for one another, possibly gearing up to fight. A unique behaviour to the nyala, the display where the hair stands on end and they slowly 'prance' around one another is beautiful to watch, and supposedly decreases the chance they will actually come to blows as they are essentially sizing one another up.
However, on this day apparently the two bulls decided they were an equal match and attacked each other, pushing violently with horns locked.
After the tussle, they continued their display, still sizing one another up. Eventually the one on the right moved away slowly, showing submission.
The Mashaba Female drinks after feeding on her bushbuck kill and dragging it to the base of a nearby tree. The light was getting very low, as evidenced by her large pupils, and we left her shortly afterwards to hopefully hoist the remainder of the kill into the tree. With leopards on kills, the vehicles and particularly the spotlights can unfortunately attract hyenas as they hunt and scavenge at night, so we do not view them unless the kill is hoisted safely into the tree. Indeed the following morning, we found she had successfully taken the kill up the tree.
A misty sunrise was to be the start of a fantastic morning spent with the Sparta Pride.
When we found the Sparta lioness with her two cubs, they were in a dense thicket polishing off scraps from a wildebeest kill she had made a few days before. We thought that might be the height of our sighting, but it was our lucky day as soon after they got up and started walking towards water. We immediately noticed the porcupine quill in the lioness' left shoulder - ouch!
They all huddled around a nearby puddle, drinking. This lioness has spent a lot of time with her sister whilst raising the cubs, however, the other lioness has not been present of late and we think she is busy having cubs of her own somewhere safely tucked away!
The cubs seem to be getting bigger by the day, growing into their ears! After drinking, the cubs followed their mother on a long walk towards the area where we think her sister is hiding her cubs.
Seemingly in a playful mood, the cubs kept climbing on any easy point of elevation they came across, like this fallen marula.
Perhaps a little ambitious for a first hunt, one of the cubs 'stalks' a territorial male wildebeest. The wildebeest was hardly threatened and stood his ground, but when the cub's mother walked towards him, he decided it was time to run.
They seemed to have a quick drink at just about every water source they came across on the hot morning... much to our photographic excitement!
The lioness looks back after drinking, her watchful and protective eyes always scanning for potential danger to the cubs.
Just before disappearing into the donga where we believe the lioness with the newborn cubs to be, one of the youngsters plays on a fallen log. Hopefully we will be meeting her cousins soon!