The dogs are back. A pack of 6 has been hanging around the big block to the south of Ximpalapala koppie for the last three days, and their reluctance to move has us holding our breath that they might be denning in the area. It is far too soon to tell, but watch this space… Unfortunately the one time I have seen them it was evening, and the low light conditions meant that the fast-moving shapes were almost impossible to photograph.
The leopards have been quiet this last week with not too much movement. Dark nights around the new moon and the impala rut are probably combining to create almost perfect hunting conditions, and a large number of the spotted cats are probably on kills in the thickets.
Enjoy this week in pictures…
The Maxabene 3:3 male leopard, who we have just renamed as the Makhotini male as he appears to have established his own territory, feeds on the remains of the impala kill featured in last week’s T.W.I.P. Some type of stabilisation (I try and use a beanbag) is essential to capture good night shots, as low light means a slow shutter speed which will accentuate camera shake. f2.8, 1/100s, ISO 5000.
The male cheetah this time. We followed him for two hours on this evening, just our vehicle, and he eventually led us right to where the mother and her cubs were sleeping in the shade of a snowberry bush. f4, 1/2000s, ISO 160.
Symmetry in cheetah cubs. The mother cheetah and her offspring have remained in the area for a couple of months now, and they appear to have settled well. We watched a start-to-finish hunt of the mother on a young impala ram yesterday morning. Watch the blog for more… Both photos: f3.5, 1/500s, ISO 800.
A herd of elephants stand guard over their newborn. Despite the presence of the herd, a very young elephant calf is still vulnerable, and the herd will form a protective ring around it while it struggles to its feet and finds its balance for the first time. We struggled to get a clear view of the one here, as the older females of the herd constantly stayed between the calf and the vehicle. f8, 1/250s, ISO 320.
A hooded vulture glows pink as the rising sun hits it. Ugly birds at the best of times, the hooded vultures form an integral part of the clean-up crew in the bush, often the first to spot a kill from above. f2.8, 1/400, ISO 320.
A spotted hyena feeds on the remains of an impala. Tracker Mike Sithole had followed a drag-mark down to a thicket line and came upon the hyena. It was unclear whether the hyena had stolen the kill from a leopard or if it had been killed by a rival male. f4, 1/500s, ISO 640.
A male impala stands guard over his harem. The rut is in full swing, and the hilarious calls of the male impalas, as they chase each other around and fight for dominance, is a constant background noise throughout the day and evening. f7.1, 1/320s, ISO 100.
A band of dwarf mongooses emerge to sun themselves on a chilly autumn morning. They will move to a different sleeping site in their territory each night, returning to each one on a roughly 2-3 week rotation. f7.1, 1/1000s, ISO 250.
More vervet monkey antics around camp. While waiting for guests in the car park, the troop decided to use our vehicle as a jungle gym. This little one was just content to rest in the shade.
f5.6, 1/160s, ISO 640.
One of Africa’s deadliest snakes, and certainly one of its fastest strikers, the puff-adder is responsible for more fatalities on the African continent than any other. Incredibly well camouflaged, one has to be very careful when walking through the long grass in order to spot one of these snakes. Fortunately for us, we spotted this one from the vehicle, and it was relatively sluggish owing to the clouds and lower temperatures. f3.5, 1/500, ISO 320.
An affectionate moment between a dominant white rhino bull (on the right) and a young cow. He was making advances at her rather than her mother, as the older female appeared to be pregnant, and not receptive to mating as a result. f4.5, 1/800s, ISO 160.
A double-banded sandgrouse. My first photo of this species, they usually fly off long before I am able to get my camera out. Superbly camouflaged, they can often resemble a blob of dung on the road, then at the last minute they burst upwards on rapid wingbeats. f2.8, 1/800s, ISO 320.
The cub of the Vomba female leopard – who is really a sub-adult now – stretches in the afterglow of an enormous meal. His mother had actually caught two different impalas and had both kills stashed in thickets about 30m from each other. f4.5, 1/160s, ISO 2500.
A rare photograph of the notoriously skittish Ximpalapala female. Luckily for us, she had been treed by a pack of Wild Dogs, and a descent to ground level would have placed her in mortal danger, so she wisely decided to stay where she was for the moment. f2.8, 1/200s, ISO 1600.
Photographed by James Tyrrell