Of late, James Tyrrell and I have been spending extended periods of time looking for, following and filming leopards. This is fabulous and I’m certainly not complaining but as a result my TWIP this week is ever-so-slightly dominated by two sightings, in particular, of these rosetted creatures and not all of these images are from this week alone. Quite honestly though, I think my most favourite sighting happened on a golden summer’s morning when we found two giraffe bulls necking. Although the fighting is violent and brutal, it is also one of the most graceful and beautiful things to watch. The artistry of their movement, perfect morning light and reminder of the moment make it my favourite from the selection.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
Two giraffe bulls fight in the early morning light. Because these animals were so intent on fighting each other and were paying me no attention, I was able to get out of the vehicle and lie down so as to get this low angle.
The Ndzanzeni female snarls at a hyena that has come too close to a bushbuck kill that she has stashed away. Leopards do not enjoy the presence of hyenas because they attempt to steal kills and draw the attention of other potential predators to the area.
The Nhlanguleni female cleans her paws and face after finishing off a carcass. Leopards are meticulous groomers and this sort of behavoiur is very typical.
A rhino bull quenches his thirst at a waterhole, while some guests look on. Rhinos are very water dependent creatures and when water is scarce, territorial males will wander into neighbouring rhino bull territories to get a drink. As long as the intruding male shows no signs of dominance as he passes through, the territorial male for that area will turn a blind eye.
The Ndzanzeni female rests on the cool sand of the Tugwaan drainage line. She really is a very relaxed, beautiful young leopard that is a joy to spend time with.
A young hyena cub inspects the vehicle curiously. When the youngsters aren’t sniffing and checking out the Land Rovers, they’re typically racing around with their fellow clan members, making them incredibly fun animals to spend time watching.
A Goliath heron flies low over the water of the Sand River. With the water levels dropping, there is a very high density of herons and storks around the river making bird watching fantastic at the moment.
A young monitor lizard attempts to hide from view in the mess of a tree. This was the first time I had seen a monitor this young and I was amazed by the beauty of it’s markings. This phase of their lives is a difficult one and they are vulnerable to predation from birds, snakes and even leopards.
The Nhlanguleni female rests atop a termite mound, waiting for the temperature to cool before she begins moving. Although we typically avoid photographing into the sun, I wanted to try to capture the beautiful light at that time of the day.
As the sun dipped, the Nhlanguleni female began to move and headed straight for a small pan to quench her thirst. It is fascinating to watch exactly how it is that a leopard laps water into their mouths.
A young elephant calf flaps its ears and trunk at us as it wanders past. At this young age, the calves imitate their parents but lack the confidence to really intimidate the vehicle in any way.
One of the Matimba males laps water from a small tributary in the Sand River. This water lies at the core of their territory and is an important sustaining force for them.
The Ndzanzeni female gets up from in amongst the roots of some trees she had been resting between. It is images like this that make you realise just how good a leopard is at going unnoticed. Had we not seen her kill in the tree, we could very easily have passed by this female unknowingly.
The Ndzanzeni female rests in the boughs of a Weeping boer bean tree. James Tyrrell posted a very similar photograph to this recently but I have left mine in colour. The light in her eyes and the pose of this leopard are just too beautiful not to share again.