Opportunism is the name of the game in the bush. Hyenas grabbing a kill from a leopard while it is still on the ground. Jackals sneaking meat from under a lion’s nose while it is distracted by a nearby female.
So when ‘Week in Pictures’ guru Talley Smith left for an extended leave in her native Bermuda, I saw an opportunity to put some of my own pictures on the blog. Thankfully Talley is an ocean away so I will only incur her wrath at usurping her weekly photographic post when she returns in 10 days time.
Here are some snapshots of some of my favourite sightings; enjoy this pseudo- ‘Week in Pictures…’
The young male cheetah reappeared this week, again showing off by climbing every fallen marula tree in sight. His semi-retractable claws can clearly be seen here as he plays with a Knobthorn branch. These claws are unsheathed and therefore always visible. They aid significantly with traction when he runs at high speeds.
A tender moment between two of the Majingilane coalition on a chilly Winter’s morning. We had followed the Scar-nosed male and were with him when he reunited with his brother near our Eastern boundary. I enjoy moments like this as they belie the fierce nature of these big males.
Rangers at Londolozi are often asked the question “Do hippos and crocodiles get along?”. This photo of both species at Taylor’s Dam answers the question nicely. It is a case of “I’ll leave you alone if you leave me alone!”. Artistically the photo is nothing special, but these two dominant animals of the waterways are practically cuddling, so it deserves a showing.
On the subject of hippos, this male has been seen in Nyamakunze Pan of late. This pan lies very close to the road, and when we drove past on this particular day, the lone bull decided we were a bit too close for comfort and treated us to a magnificent display of what is commonly – and incorrectly – referred to as ‘yawning’. It is infact intended to warn would-be threats of the immense power and sharp teeth in the Hippo’s jaws.
One of the three older Sparta cubs nuzzles up to its mother near Serengeti Pan. This photo is a few weeks old, and the cubs are slightly bigger now, but I like it for the adoring look in the cubs eyes so decided to include it.
The first time I ever saw the Dudley Riverbank Female’s cub was a very special moment. We spotted a tiny pair of ears sticking up from behind a dead Weeping Boer-Bean tree near the Tugwaan drainage, and enjoyed an amazing sighting in which the completely relaxed cub came to investigate the vehicle all by itself, sitting barely 5 metres away from us. Here she gazes up at a Bataleur eagle that was circling overhead.
Another photo from a few weeks ago, this one being of the Ravenscourt female and her two cubs. Although a photograph is generally vastly improved by an animal looking towards the camera, the Rhino in the background of this picture makes for a rather unique image.
The Maxabene 3:2 Young Male. It would have been almost impossible not to get at least one decent shot of him in this sighting, as he posed magnificently on a number of termite mounds, all in perfect evening light, facing into the sunset each time. A flap of skin can just be seen sticking up behind his nose; a possible cut from a recent mating bout with the Tamboti female.
The Maxabene 3:2 Young Male in the same sighting as the previous picture. He spied some Nyala browsing in a thicket line south of the airstrip, but was unfortunately spotted by them as he made a not-quite-stealthy approach through some shorter grass.
One of the Sparta cubs tempts fate as it cheekily plays with one of the Majingilane coalition’s manes near Serengeti Pan. These males, brutes of the lion world, can be surprisingly gentle with their offspring, revealing a softer side not often witnessed.
The Dudley Riverbank female basks in the morning light beneath a duiker kill she had made the night before. A golden rule of photography is never to shoot into the sun, but rules are made to be broken, as this photo shows. Taken facing east, into the morning sun, the backlighting of the leopard softens the picture nicely.
The same sighting as the previous photo, as the Dudley Riverbank female approaches her kill which she had stashed in the shady boughs of a Jackalberry tree, just out of picture to the right. Her cub had just been feeding, and just after this photo was taken, the mother stepped gracefully over the youngster to gnaw on some of the duiker’s ribs.
The prize for Londolozi’s most over-confident leopard must surely go to the Tutlwa Young Male, as in the space of two weeks I have watched this barely-a-year-old youngster stalk a large buffalo bull, a fully grown male waterbuck, and in this photo, he can just be seen approaching a large waterbuck cow. She spotted him about 30 seconds later, and with a snort of alarm, trotted away over the rocks.
After his hopeless attempt at waterbuck hunting, he went and lay on some rocks in the fading light, surveying the area below him for further hunting opportunities. His unblemished pink nose, one of the signs of youth in leopards, is very evident in this picture.
It is very hard to get a great sunset shot whilst retaining the colours of both the foreground and sunset itself. Almost all cameras will expose for one or the other, resulting in either a dark foreground or a very bright sky. I cheated a bit in this image and used photoshop to re-lighten the foreground, but smoke from a bushfire in the Kruger Park helped by supplying some spectacular golden light over this magnificent elephant bull.
Written and photographed by James Tyrrell