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This week, we spent a lot of time enjoying the ‘smaller’ pleasures of the bush – because summer is upon us, a lot of the migratory birds are back, as well as all the creepy crawlies! It seems as though the diversity of birds, reptiles and insects has about doubled in the past few weeks! On top of this, however, we had few sightings of the big cats that can only be described as epic – truly once in a lifetime. Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
An elephant calf gives us a show by sticking out his ears, making himself appear larger than he is, and giving a loud trumpet.
There’s one in every crowd…. Just when I thought I’d nabbed the opportunity to photograph all four of the impressive Majingalane Males together, the fourth member simply didn’t feel up to posing. Regardless it was a privilege to see all four together, and unbeknownst to us at the time, it was to be the beginning of an incredible sighting.
The three males above were looking at the Tsalala Pride, who had been accompanying them that afternoon but rather suddenly started moving towards the river. The little cub lagged behind, seemingly more interested in playing than keeping up with her family.
Once we got to the river we realized what had made them move so early in the afternoon. They were following the scent eminated by a dead hippo, floating in the river surrounded by crocodiles, and also curious (living) hippos nearby.
Things got a bit more heated when the crocs tried to come and feed! The lionesses (the ‘New Tailless’ above) were very keen on a free meal, even though the carcass was rotten and very smelly. However, they were not happy about competing with the crocodiles.
The crocs had much more success than the lionesses, feeding from the bottom of the carcass under the water.
The Tsalalas kept losing their balance while standing on the floating hippo, and did not want to risk being grabbed by the crocodiles if they tried to drag the carcass away. In the end, they left having only fed on a small portion of the meat.
Week 2 of Jacana Nest Watch! We try to go by the nest at least every other day, and this week we had a few sightings of the male still on his eggs.
Whereas last week there were four, this week there are only three eggs. We hope all three make it until they hatch… watch this space…
We bumped into a face we hadn’t seen in a while – the Dudley Riverbank 3:3 Young Male. He seems to be expanding his area, as we saw him hunting impala much further west than we had seen him previously.
We watched him for over an hour as he moved through thick (and flowered!) bush, stalking a herd of impala followed by a near miss on some nyala!
The sunsets this week were amazing on every night, despite a mix of sunny and rainy weather.
An extremely full cheetah does what he seems to do best whenever we are lucky enough to see him – pose on top of a termite mound! He was seen on the eastern section of Londolozi this week for a few days, but returned to his stomping grounds in the southwest later on in the week.
I probably should have edited this photo differently to emphasize what an amazing spot this Foam nest frog was by Freddy. The tiny arboreal creature blended in perfectly to her dead thorn bush surroundings and is only about 4cm long – a difficult spot whilst driving by in the Land Rover!
A pair of Black crakes busily search for food at the Sand River.
Another big highlight this week was having the Tutlwa Female around her hoisted impala kill for about three days. When we first saw her, she had recently killed the big ram so hadn’t fed much on it. The vultures were circling, and she was not happy about it! She had been resting on the ground but quickly raced up the tree, hissing at the descending scavengers, and chased them away.
She then decided that resting in the tree itself was easier – acting as a scarecrow. Of course we weren’t complaining, as it gave us a fantastic view of one of the most beautiful leopards on Londolozi!
Summer is here and the Dung beetles are everywhere! We have to constantly swerve off the roads to avoid crushing the little creatures as they tirelessly push their dung balls to a place where they will be buried and used as a future food source.
Another seasonal visitor – the Diederik’s cuckoo has been back for some time now. This one had staked out a weaver’s nest colony and was waiting for the birds to leave – they are brood parasites to the Village weaver.
The densite at Maripsi never gets old! I was teased by some of the other rangers this week because we go there so frequently, but I believe this is one of the huge highlights out here at the moment! The little ones are constantly full of mischief and are loads of fun to watch!
Because of the early summer weather conditions, the vegetation is flowering and fruiting early. One of the most fragrant scents around at the moment is the Bride’s bush flowers, which are found near the Sand River.
The sun sets over Lex’s Pan.
A first for us this week – a sighting of Vomba’s cub! We had a brief glimpse of the shy youngster some time ago, but this was our first ‘real’ sighting of the adorable 5 month old little one. She was following her mother mid-morning back to a small kill the female had secured near our airstrip.
Vomba confidently walked out into road, hoping the cub would follow. It took some coaxing in the form of contact calls, but eventually the little one had no choice but to follow.
The little cub darted across the clearing in a ‘leopard crawl’ – shy naturally of open areas, but also because this individual has been raised in the Sand River bed, she hasn’t had a lot of exposure to vehicles, or open spaces. We are happy to report though that she is progressively becoming more relaxed, as her mother brings her out of the densites more often.
A Wahlberg’s eagle sits atop a tree eating termites emerging from a nearby mound.
Two millipedes coil in the defense formation – a behaviour used to mimic snakes and therefore deter potential predators. If you’re wondering why one is white and one is brown (they are usually black), you aren’t the only one! Even the other rangers were asking upon seeing this photo. There are many different species of millipedes, and my best guess is that these two are different species.
Another once in a lifetime sighting this week. We found the Marthly Male mating with the Maxabene Female, north of the Sand River, on Marthly. They were near a termite mound that was housing a warthog family. For some reason, despite knowing the leopards were there, the warthogs came running out, and one was seized by the big male leopard.
Warthogs are strong creatures and it took a lot of effort for him to grab this large sow by the throat. The female leopard (Maxabene) even came in to ‘help’ – although the male ended up doing most of the killing!
As the male suffocated the warthog, the female began feeding. If you are a regular follower of our blog, you might remember we had the exact same thing happen the last time we saw the Marthly Male and Maxabene mating (about 6 months ago). Interestingly enough, this warthog’s burrow was only about 100m from the burrow of the previous incident!
The Maxabene Female was not helping as the Marthly Male tried to drag the carcass to cover. She half-heartedly tried to keep feeding on it. However, just like we witnessed the last time, neither leopard was aggressive in any way towards the other when it came to ‘sharing’ – there was never any growling or competition over the kill.
It is an incredible sight to witness a leopard dragging a kill, particularly a heavy warthog like this. The Marthly Male kept stopping for a break every 20m or so to catch his breath.
Determinedly, he eventually reached an ideal location – a thicket at the base of a Jackalberry tree which would be easy to hoist the kill into, if he was under any pressure from hyenas or other predators.
Once safely stashed away, the Marthly Male could feed in peace, occasionally watching the circling vultures approaching. The warthog would be too heavy for him to hoist until they had fed on a significant portion of it. The Maxabene Female rested nearby but came to feed again a bit later.
The clouds catch the remaining rays of sunshine over Dudley after the sunset.