On the 13th April, after injuries, sickness and misfortune plagued the rest of the ranging team, our Head Guide turned to the accounting department for help and experience…and so with great excitement I closed my laptop, dusted off my camera and birdbook and headed back into the field accompanied by repeat guest, Kendra Clarke and her mom, Linda.
Last year Kendra and her husband Rob visited us and the day we shared on the Specialist Photographic Safari Vehicle still ranks as one of my most memorable days in the bush. This time Rob was unfortunately unable to come, but for Linda, Kendra’s mom, it was her first trip. As with the last time out, we maximised our time in the bush, spending one full twelve hour day out. From this time of year and for the next few months this becomes possible due to the cooler days. Sometimes after such an incredible experience it is tough to match, but we had some amazing sightings over the two days. Below are a selection of photos taken during their stay, which proved a welcome break from life behind a desk!
Our first afternoon proved to be the perfect start. Firstly Lucky Shabangu showed off his tracking skills to find the Vomba Female. Then later the Short Tail (Tugwaan) Male above, came strolling down the road towards us.
Here he provides the perfect profile shot of a male leopard in his prime.
Being out for the whole days allows more time for appreciating the smaller things. Here a Little Bee-Eater takes a dust bath in the middle of a dirt track
Next morning it was the turn of the Tamboti Female. She patrolled territory for well over an hour,scent marking and calling as she went.
Every now and again I will attempt a photo like this-by slowing the shutter speed down to around 1/50 of a second or even less, and then panning with the subject as it moves, you try and get part of the picture in focus but the rest blurred. If one in forty come out ok I am usually happy!
After the long walk and scent marking constantly, she needed a drink, and fortunately there was still plenty of water around.
In the previous photo you saw Tamboti Female drinking at a shallow pan-and you can see why animals in general will avoid drinking from larger bodies of water when they can. From the thicket next to Shingalana Dam, she keeps a close eye on a crocodile of about four meters that slipped into the water on our approach
As the day warmed up we headed towards the Maxabeni Drainage-a great spot for animals to shelter from the heat. Here we found one of the Sparta Pride females with her two cubs, not far from where they had been left earlier in the morning
The female looks up at a disturbance in the trees, but soon put her head down and went to sleep
The cubs on the other hand couldn't seem to get comfortable, constantly tossing and turning in the sand
Later we found this enormous elephant bull following a herd. He was in musth, a stage in a male elephants life when their testosterone spikes dramatically and they search for females willing to mate with them. This photo has been processed using a technique known as HDR Toning (I use Photoshop CS5), which with a bit of experimentation can produce some striking effects
Later that same day we had another incredible elephant sighting. A herd of around thirty elephants strolled across Fluffy's Clearing, with Sithlawayise Kopjie providing a dramatic backdrop
As with the previous bull pictured, this male was also following the herd, his size and stature complimenting the background perfectly.
A brief stop in some shade at the side of a waterhole allowed me to snap this shot of a Grey Heron flying low over the water. In order to get a sharp photo of a bird in flight you need to try and have a shutter speed of around 1/2000 second or faster.
An impala ram stands alert, seemingly posing for a photo-however he most definitely was not interested in us...
What he was interested in was the Vomba Young Female-who Talley politely informed me had been re-named the Masahaba Female. After regaling Talley with a few stories about how it used to be "back in my day", we proceeded to follow her on a patrol of her territory (The Masahba Female, that is...). This image has also been processed using HDR Toning. In the end it proved to be our final sighting of the morning, and great way to finish an extraordinary two days. There can