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Winter is a fantastic time for photography in the bush. The light is excellent, and the animals stay active well into the morning. The summer birds and bright colours of the vegetation have gone for now, but other creatures come to visit more frequently. This week we had a visit from a rare predator and a once in a lifetime leopard sighting, amongst countless other incredible moments. Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The week started with a visit from a very rare predator - a cheetah! The young male caught an impala, and here he was feeding on it. Because cheetah are so vulnerable to other predators, he nervously kept looking up to scan around.
The next afternoon we found him very full, enjoying the sunshine. The great news is that he is still around Londolozi, and has been seen several times on the open areas of our southwest. We are hoping he might settle there, at least for a little while!
A herd of buffalo rest near the water amidst some leadwood tree skeletons.
Sometimes the best sightings are not the most photographic... here, this young calf raced back and forth in the riverbed, playing and bucking, even falling over and tumbling in the sand. Unfortunately it was too dark to capture a great photo, but his exuberance had us all in hysterics!
The Maxabene Female looks at some nearby impala at sunrise. She was out of her territory, deep in the heart of Marthly, north of the Sand River. This was because she was pursuing the Marthly Male, and they were seen frequently mating over a period of a few days. Female leopards will leave their territories when mating, but return soon after the 'honeymoon'.
The intentions seemed divided that morning. The Maxabene Female seemed very keen on mating with the Marthly Male, and she continually harassed him until he mated with her. On the other hand, the Marthly Male was very interested in a nearby warthog burrow...
We guessed there were warthog inside the burrow, but were surprised when another warthog came up and circled us, the burrow, and the 2 leopards whom he could clearly see. Our best guess was that the rest of the warthog's family was inside the burrow, but regardless it was very brave behaviour for the warthog!
Maxabene seems to scowl after getting 'denied' by the Marthly Male, who clearly rather to hunt warthog!
Suddenly the warthog family came scurrying out of the burrow, and the Marthly Male managed to grab one! There were about six piglets, but the leopard got the mother. Probably the worst situation for the warthog family, as the youngsters are still the size to need nursing. We did see them afterwards with the protective male, and we hope they can survive off of vegetation alone.
A huge struggle ensued as the sow thrashed around, but the leopard's jaws were clenched too tight around her neck. The Marthly Male held on, strangling the warthog.
Then the Maxabene Female appeared, and started feeding on the carcass! I wasn't sure what was going to happen, as I'd never seen two leopards on a kill before. I thought they would fight over it, or that there'd at least be some growling, but the Marthly Male seemed perfectly happy to retain his grip and finish the job (which is not easy - warthogs are strong!) while Maxabene started reaping the rewards of his kill. Be sure to keep your eye out for the video and post about this sighting which will be on the blog in a few days...
An elephant calf curiously gives us a smell. The dry winter months bring the breeding herds of elephants to the Sand River.
One of the Majingalane Males - the one with the broken tooth - searches for his brothers. We found him early one morning roaring consistently and then listening for a response. Unfortunately it seems they did not want to find him!
The Vomba Female - rarely seen, despite having a territory surrounding the camp, and being a very relaxed leopard. This beautiful female is known for her particularly golden coat. We were lucky to catch a glimpse of her one morning as she stalked impala.
Two Hooded vultures linger near the site of a kudu killed by lions. They managed to scavenge on some entrails but were quickly chased away by the lions.
A young Tsalala lioness feeds on the fallen kudu. This pride - comprised of four young lionesses - was seen frequently on Londolozi this week, and two of them were mating with the Majingalane Males.
A Little bee-eater waits for a passing insect. This species is becoming a frequent feature in the Week in Pictures... but they are just so photogenic, it's hard to leave them out!
The Mashaba Female focuses on the morning's hunting effort. Usually we see her in areas suitable for good photography, but on this morning she gave us a real challenge, moving through thickets and drainage lines as she hunted nyala.
Unfortunately, she was not successful on her hunt and eventually settled in some shade as the day became warmer.
A tiny hippo calf rests on the riverbank next to its mother. In the winter, it is far more common to see hippo out of the water during the day, as the cooler temperatures are perfect for sunbathing.