With the inevitably dry winter creeping ever closer and the consistent mumblings of a summer not delivering enough rain, it would be a lie to say that this last week was not unusual.
We are long passed the scheduled February rains, and have been experiencing fast colour changes of the surrounding vegetation as the last of early March’s rainfall dissipates. Last weekend, however, we were pleasantly surprised by a sudden burst of clouds and a much-needed rejuvenation of our surroundings. Puddles, mud wallows and slippery roads were the order for the week and this late-April adventure was celebrated by all.
Even more exciting than the uncharacteristic weather was the wildlife. Herds of Elephant and Buffalo were a plenty, Leopards and Lions were as active as ever, and the huge numbers of Impala have begun moving and mixing as their breeding season is nearing. This week has taught me that no matter how prepared you have planned to be out in the wild, there is often another surprise around the corner. If a surprise throws you off course, there is no need to rethink everything, but rather a need to adapt and recalculate. This beautiful autumn rain kickstarted many animals and plants into heightened activity this last week as opposed to dampening everything, and ironically has got us all looking forward to the dry spell ahead.
Enjoy this interesting past week in pictures…
We start the week with a raging sun rising through the mist and drizzle of the past weekend; outlooking from atop Ximpalapala koppie. 1/160 at f/11; ISO 200.
The ever stunning Nanga female suddenly noticing a passing Bushbuck and begins to stalk. Despite being unsuccessful, her immediate focus and drive left all in awe. 1/1250 at f/2.8; ISO 1600.
This Buffalo bull enjoys the edges of a freshly filled mud wallow. The late afternoon light warms his face, illuminating his armoury; his shield of “boss” shining. 1/800 at f/2.8; ISO 500.
Some of the most pleased with the late rain would be the countless Termite colonies. They take the opportunity of soft soil to maintain and add to their towering mounds. However, this provided many insectivorous animals with the chance to devour thousands of them at a time. It was a time of much risk and reward for the colonies going into the dry winter. 1/160 at f/5.6; ISO 1000.
The young Lioness of the Tsalala Pride may be searching for a suitable male to mate with, as we have seen her separate from the pride for the most of this week. She is quickly maturing and signs of potential mating are slowly becoming apparent. For now, though, she makes her way back across the Sand River toward where she last saw her pride. 1/400 at f/4.5; ISO 1250.
Much time was spent with a mating pair of Leopards, the Piva male and Tamboti female were at it again. We have seen these two spend longer than the general 5-7 days together before, but this mating bout only lasted two days. Here, Tamboti quickly jumps out the way as Piva descends a tree after resting a short while, ready to engage in copulation once again! 1/1250 at f/2.8; ISO 320.
A vicious affair. Underneath the growling and rumbling, both cats draw claws and bare teeth. As they explode apart, a moment is captured where muscle, flying fur, tails, rosettes and weaponry stand out. 1/1600 at f/2.8; ISO 400.
Lion dynamics, as always, intrigue us as story-tellers of the wilderness. This unfolding script keeps us glued to every page. The solid figures of the Styx males were present far into the centre of the property, consistently pushing the parameters with the Majingilane’s territory, their fathers. 1/250 at f/4.5; ISO 200.
A male Cheetah stretches on the far side of a fallen tree out in the open areas of our South-Western region, flaunting his front claws; the running spikes which help him achieve the highest animal speed on land. 1/1600 at f/2.8; ISO 200.
Soon thereafter, he uses the tree as a vantage point to look for both prey and any potential threats. The soft sunlight only briefly pierced through the gloom to illuminate his tear-marked face and hazel eyes. 1/800 at f/2.8; ISO 200.
The most photographed bird in Southern Africa, the Lilac-breasted Roller. However, I couldn’t resist taking this picture as he was perched so close to us and gave my 70-200mm lens so much more effect. 1/4000 at f/2.8; ISO 200.
Another sighting of the Piva male as he patrolled his newly established territory, scent marking and scraping the ground with his hind legs; a face of Royalty? 1/1600 at f/2.8; ISO 200.
The Piva male’s maturity is evident is his bulk size with strong shoulders and a wide muscular neck, but his slightly young age of only 5 years gives him the pristine coat which lacks scars, damage or tatty ears. He is a pleasure to photograph. 1/1250 at f/2.8; ISO 320.
As the sun goes down behind this Waterbuck bull, the windless evening provides a mirror of water and a light prism around him as he finishes a quick drink of water, droplets trailing his chin. 1/500 at f/2.8; ISO 400.
The week comes to an end with the two Styx males about to engage in a brotherly greeting before the busy night begins; monochrome emphasising their prominent manes and striking faces. Power stored in the potential. 1/500 at f/2.8; ISO 100.
The vast activity experienced here was an interesting and surprising change to the expected. Did anything throw you out of routine this last week? And which photographs did you enjoy the most?
Have a phenomenal weekend.
Written and Photographed by Sean Cresswell.