The shortest month in the calendar races to an end, while the daylight hours become noticeably shorter at every passing sundowner. The imminent weekend bids farewell to February, another spectacular month at Londolozi.
Despite the difficult tracking this last week, everything eventually started coming together with a little patience and determination; a lesson well learnt from the humble leopard. The team of Rangers and Trackers did what they do best and started uncovering sightings from all corners of the property and continued to try unravel the constantly changing lion dynamics which are recently among us. However, what is always important is that one ought not get caught up in the hype of the large and forget about the small, the usually common-seen and seldom-noticed. Although there are happenings of a grand scale at times, the team always stops to appreciate the beauty elsewhere as well; finding such in the weather, a nest, a small reptile, story telling, relationships and serenity.
These findings remind us of the infinite reaches of the natural world and its connection to us. The big cats and their powerful figures are great, but so too is an emerging butterfly. Each person connects differently to the events in front of them, and so, each takes away something unique. Think back to this week and cherish your own unique connections, and look forward to sharing them with others in the coming week. For now, though, let me share my week with you, in pictures.
A warm sight started the week off as this fiery sunrise blazed across the open clearings. A strong impala ram readies himself for the day’s feeding and grooming; the intention being to catch the eyes of surrounding ewes. 1/1600 at f/2.8; ISO 1250.
It was another week filled with sightings of the young. This curious, yet apprehensive, white rhino calf investigates our presence from behind the towering safety of its mother who carries on feeding without concern. Beyond, a barn swallow snatches up aerial insects most likely trailing the muddy mammals. 1/1000 at f/2.8; ISO 200.
Red oak grass, rooigras or Themeda triandra is very prominent during this time of year. As a climax species, it’s often found in the rich soils around termite mounds and thus indicate the bushveld being in good condition. With everything interconnected, the chance of seeing a wider range of insects increases. Stunning butterflies, like this blue pansy (Junonia oenone), can leave us in awe, despite its damaged wing. 1/400 at f/2.8; ISO 200.
Something a little against the grain: Usually photographed for their vibrant colours and iridescent feathers, this Lilac-breasted roller is cast in an overexposed monochrome style to emphasise the simplicity of its beauty. Unlike the European roller who migrates into Northern Africa and Europe to breed during the middle of the year, we can enjoy photographing this bird all year round. 1/2000 at f/2.8; ISO 100.
The extremely intimidating posture of a waiting Nile crocodile, as it lies dead still, ready to intercept a brave fish. This reptile’s ambush point is strategically chosen to be on the concrete causeway crossing of the Sand River. Various fresh water fish species swim upstream to breed and so need to bypass this shallow section where a row of teeth await, cocked and ready to snap shut. 1/1250 at f/2.8; ISO 125.
Raw and harsh, yet pristine. We catch a glimpse of the gorgeous Nanga female and her striking eyes. In this close-up crop, her well-groomed whiskers are foiled by the few black-jacks (Bidens pilosa) caught in her coat… Signs of an elusive walk through the thickets. 1/250 at f/2.8; ISO 2000.
A fairly common practice by most herbivores, particularly giraffe, of finding and then chewing on old bones found lying on the ground. It is done to supplement their fairly basic diet with other nutrients, such as calcium and phosphorus, and is known as Osteophagia. This tall female seems to have found her supplement for the afternoon. 1/1600 at f/2.8; ISO 160.
Despite an overcast morning, the warming day starts forcing most animals into the shade. However, a couple of the impala lambs, only born three months ago, chase each other around in the open, strengthening their legs and fine-tuning their evasive manoeuvres. Training sessions like this contribute to their survival out here in a world full of predators. 1/1250 at f/2.8; ISO 200.
We were presented with such warm evening light on these zebra, but it is so difficult to ignore the striking monochrome opportunities with their coats. The stallion leans in to be groomed by one of his mares or fillies which he then reciprocates. Does his side profile not reflect a bearded Sparta warrior? 1/640 at f/2.8; ISO 400.
Another shot during that fiery sunrise, where the impala rams start becoming aggressive with one another as we approach their rutting season of March/April when the ewes will be ready to conceive. As the days shorten at the end of summer, the rams’ testosterone levels increase due to a phenomenon known as Photoperiodism. These two compete for females already, as the wildebeest on the left ignores their premature rivalry and grazes. 1/400 at f/2.8; ISO 800.
This male cheetah was a sight for sore eyes as he was spotted after making a kill on Londolozi and then disappearing again later that day. No one saw him feeding, but he was found leaving a massive convergence of different vulture species and on his way to a deserved drink of water. He most certainly had the fullest belly I have ever seen on any big cat! A pleasing sight due to their rarity. 1/800 at f/4.0; ISO 640.
A delicate and naive elephant calf gazes into our direction as its mother collects a few of the last marula fruits of the season. As with the rhino cow and calf image at the start of this post, the curiosity of the offspring is not shared by the adult. Without the satellite-dish-like ears of the rhino, this tiny elephant sweeps its trunk left to right in search of scent, but is still learning how to handle its highly dextrous appendage. 1/320 at f/2.8; ISO 1250.
Also known as lilly-trotters, the African jacana has the largest feet, proportionally, of all the birds in the world. Closer inspection, here, reveals the massive feet of four chicks who are seeking refuge under their father’s wings. Beneath that male stand ten sets of long toes, and the bill of one of his chicks can be seen protruding beyond his wing; they are quickly growing too big for hiding. The eery scales of a Nile crocodile break the water’s surface just a few metres away… 1/800 at f/2.8; ISO 1600.
The seldom seen, little-known and notoriously shy Short-tailed male breaks the mould and reveals himself out in the open, scanning towards a distant alarm call of a Francolin. It was no more than thirty seconds later that he vanished back down into the Maxabeni drainage line for the evening. Hopefully, these are all good signs that he is becoming more relaxed. Watch this space. 1/1000 at f/2.8; ISO 1250.
Which photographs stood out for you the most? And which unique connections did you make with them or with any others this week?
Have a soothing phenomenal weekend.
Written and photographed by Sean Cresswell