This week, the recent lion drama subsided somewhat, leaving room for fantastic leopard viewing as well as time with the ‘smaller’ things. When the lions are vocalizing and patrolling their territory with the same intensity as they were last week, the leopards tend to make themselves scarce, as they are so vulnerable to lions. This week we enjoyed some quality time with a few different female leopards, and took a deep breath after last week’s action. However, we believe there are many unresolved situations amongst Londolozi’s felines, and anticipate further happenings in the weeks to come. Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
When we found the Tamboti Female one morning, she was worriedly looking around from an unsteady perch in a marula tree. We also immediately noticed fresh wounds on her back legs, potential signs she had recently been in a fight with another animal. There were tracks of both lions and a male leopard nearby.
She eventually came down from the tree, after deciding it was safe enough. Still, she cautiously proceeded into a thicket, stopping to check her surroundings frequently. It turned out the injuries were superficial, luckily for her. Later on, the Sparta lioness and cubs were found nearby: the mother quite badly injured, it would seem, with internal injuries. We are still waiting to see how she is faring as they have not been found since. It is not absolutely certain, but it does seem that the two animals' injuries are related, based on the tracks.
A giraffe walks across the sunset. This was an interesting sighting considering what you can't see here is the Mashaba female leopard in between us and the giraffe, growling at a hyena over her stolen impala carcass! The giraffe curiously came to investigate, then moved on.
The Maxabene Young Male seems to be growing by the day, physically as well as in confidence, and is expanding the area he occupies. He is not behaving territorially yet and still within the territory of his father, the Camp Pan Male, but he has had a few run-ins recently with other male leopards in the area and it will be interesting to see how he handles these challenges.
A juvenile Martial eagle. The largest bird of prey in the area, the Martial eagle has a brown head when it grows its adult plumage. This white phase is only for a short time until the bird is fully mature. Most raptors have different colours in their juvenile phases, which can sometimes make them difficult to identify.
The two Sparta cubs play together, while their injured mother rests nearby. As mentioned above, we are still waiting to see the extent of her injuries. She is already under a lot of pressure to feed three mouths by herself, so it will be essential for her to heal quickly.
A crocodile swims with a barbel - a type of catfish - in Camp Dam. Even though crocodiles are extremely dangerous, they are usually quite shy creatures and a sighting like this of them feeding is very rare. We didn't think the croc had killed the fish - rather scavenging on the carcass.
The Mashaba Female peers from behind a termite mound, stalking some guinea fowl. She would eventually get very close to them, and as they tried to fly away, she leapt about 2 meters high, paws swiping in the air, trying to catch one, but missed. It was a very special moment I was not quick enough to photograph!
It's dangerous business being a leopard, for many reasons! Here the Mashaba Female was trying to get a drink, but a Blacksmith plover was not happy with her presence, and dive-bombed her until she left the area.
Further on in the week, we found the Mashaba Female very far west of her normal territory - deep in the heart of the Maxabene Female's territory. She had secured herself a duiker kill, but we noticed some wounds on her hind legs, and wondered if she had perhaps had an encounter with the Maxabene Female?
This time of the year, we do not see many snakes, and in general they tend to move very quickly away from us as they are shy creatures. However, we found this Puff adder lying very still in the road one afternoon. We then noticed the faint blood behind its head, and saw a cobra slinking away into the bushes nearby. It appeared that the cobra had attacked this Puff adder, injecting it with venom, and was trying to consume it when our vehicle scared it away. Here, the snake was still alive, but it would have died shortly afterwards, and the cobra most likely returned to consume it after we left.
As Adam mentioned in yesterday's post, the winter skies are a highlight of game drives - especially the sunrises.
A flock of White-fronted bee-eaters bathes in the dust. Dust bathing helps birds control parasites, but does not weigh feathers down like bathing in water would.
A giraffe runs after being startled by something nearby, also causing its oxpeckers to flee.
A buffalo calf stands for the oxpeckers to groom him.
This time of year is fantastic for buffalo viewing for a number of reasons. It has just passed the peak calving period, meaning lots of calves, but it is also their breeding time, which can also mean lots of competition amongst the bulls. We came across this one bull who had recently been in a serious fight, even breaking his horn. The bone had been exposed, which sometimes leads to serious infection and even death. Despite the injury, however, this bull appears to have won his fight, as he was with the female!
The Dudley Riverbank Female peers towards some alarming francolin in the distance. This female has never been featured in the Week in Pictures, as this was the first time I've seen this leopard who is such an integral part of Londolozi history as she has successfully raised so many of the leopards we see today.