This week brought a new twist on the recent leopard drama. The rutting season of the impala also made sure there was plenty of full-bellied lions and leopards, as the testosterone-fueled rams spent more time chasing one another than detecting predators nearby. The vegetation is getting drier and the air clearer, making for excellent photographic conditions, as well as exposing some of our ‘smaller’ friends who have been hidden by the summer thickets. Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Tamboti Female relaxes by a mud wallow. This leopard is extremely confident and we found her on this morning because there was a group of kudu nearby alarming loudly at her. She did not seem to care at all and sat all morning out in the open.
She vocalized regularly, making her presence known. From the other sightings called in over the radio, we knew there were other leopards in the vicinity, although none of them answered her territorial rasping.
A very relaxed and curious Lilac-breasted roller perches next to us.
Even though this is not the best photo, this was my highlight of the week. The Sparta lioness was lying with the other three pride members when we found her one afternoon, but soon after, walked to a thicket nearby and softly called her three tiny cubs out. It was the first time Freddy and I had seen them, and I'm not sure who enjoyed the 'moment of discovery' more - us or the cubs!
Once the cubs had played around a bit, rejoicing at the reunion with their mother, they began to nurse. However, the lioness expressed her discomfort at their tiny new teeth in no uncertain terms!
A steenbok - the smallest antelope in our area - looks up from his browsing. Now that the grass cover is getting less thick, we are sitting more of these beautiful antelope, as well as the slightly larger duiker.
Even a leopard needs a pillow every once in a while! The Maxabene 3:2 Young Male rests his head while he sleeps with a full belly. He had managed to kill an impala ram which he hoisted in a nearby tree, and fed upon for about three days. Luckily his father, the Camp Pan Male, did not show up to steal it!
The Maxabene 3:2 Young Male yawns, truly showing off his impressive teeth, as well as the small barbs on his tongue. This youngster is still coming-of-age, and we did not expect what would happen later in the week...
A Martial eagle waits for the morning to warm before catching a thermal into the sky.
The Mashaba Female walks into the sunset, raising her tail as a polite request to silence the alarming cisticolas nearby.
The Mashaba Female never seems to disappoint anyone looking for a beautiful photographic opportunity of a leopard!
The following morning, we found the Mashaba Female hunting impala. This time of year, the impala rams are 'rutting', meaning it is their breeding season and they do little else other than fight for dominance amongst males, fight for females, and chase the females to help bring them into estrus. This leaves little room for watching for predators, and the predation rate of impala rams is extremely high at this time of year!
She made a run for it, sprinting after the fighting impala. Unfortunately for the hungry leopard, they did see her at the last moment, and got away.
Even the oxpecker seems to be hiding away from the swarm of flies around this old buffalo bull's head.
A Side-striped jackal peers towards the Tsalala Pride, who were munching on the remains of an impala ram. Side-striped jackal are omnivores, but always keen to investigate whatever the apex predators leave behind.
A sign of the beginning of winter - the Euphorbia tree flowers. This cactus-looking plant grows into a giant candelabra shape, but mustn't be mistaken for a cactus in a survival situation - it is extremely toxic. The yellow flowers bloom in winter and are pollinated by flies, attracted by their putrid smell.
The Camp Pan Male climbs a marula tree to get to the remains of his impala kill. After his mating spree with the Tamboti Female last week, he secured himself a kill right away, although half of it was stolen by hyenas before he could hoist the rest.
Even though he was very full, Camp Pan finishes the last bit of the impala carcass.
A Little bee-eater shows off his brilliant colours in the afternoon light.
Hyena cubs! When we 're-discovered' the hyena den site last week, what we didn't realize until now was that it is also housing two tiny new youngsters! The curious duo came out of the den upon their mother's call, and playfully investigated a nearby twig.
The sun rises over Sparta.
With our separate sightings of the Tamboti Female and the Maxabene 3:2 Male earlier this week, we thought perhaps the drama was over. But then, one morning the two were discovered together again. Except this time, he meant business! Unfortunately for her, not mating business. He very aggressively chased her away and fought with her. Still, she kept nearby, but at a safe distance (look behind the bush on the left in the photo).
This was a whole different Maxabene 3:2 Young Male. He was salivating, growling, rasping, and scent-marking - territorial behaviour we haven't seen from him yet. We then discovered there was another young male around, this time an unknown male. The unknown male had an impala kill but the Maxabene Young Male chased him off of it! The two young males have now been facing off for two days, coming to blows occasionally as each leopard holds his own ground, but it seems as though the Maxabene 3:2 Young Male will turn out the victor. We think this is the turning point in this youngster's life and that he will start to establish a territory from here on out.