It’s going to be strange seeing a change in the patterns of animals as the drought starts to break. A lot of animals tend to be creatures of habit, and when conditions are necessarily limiting, as they have been for the last while, creatures will often become well established in their movements.
When tracking the Tsalala pride, for instance, we know they have been spending a lot of time in the boulder fields of the Sand River because of the ease of hunting in the area, so one of the ranger-tracker teams will invariably go and check up ahead around the rocks whilst the others stay on the tracks. And quite often, there they are, and a whole lot of tracking time can be saved.
That’s not to say it’s always that easy, but there has been a fair amount of consistency in the predator movement on the reserve.
As the season changes (it’s pouring with rain as I type this and thunder is rumbling overhead!) the amount of predictability will disappear, and we will have to work far harder to find the lions in particular, but the seasonal shift is riveting, and life is already bursting out which ever way we turn. The resilience of nature is remarkable.
While we await the birth of the first impala lamb of the season, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Tsalala pride have been spending an inordinate amount of time in the Sand River lately, and the large granite boulders opposite Tree Camp have become a favourite spot of theirs. Here one of the cubs looks towards where one of the Matimba males was lying nearby. f5, 1/1250, ISO 800
Signs of the times. A lot has been written recently about the excessive amount of lion-buffalo interaction during the drought, but on this occasion the buffalo bulls were able to fend off the attack by the Mhangeni breakaway pride. Had the pride not been full from a buffalo kill the previous night, they might have been a bit more persistent in their attack. f5.6, 1/1250, ISO 1250
A whitebacked vulture perches atop a buffalo carcass. f5.6, 1/300s, ISO 1000
Another whitebacked vulture at the same kill uses the last of the evening light to find a roosting spot. f5.6, 1/4000s, ISO 800
With around 30mm of rain having fallen in the last couple of days, the pans are starting to fill up again, and the elephant herds have been taking full advantage. f6.3, 1/400, ISO 320
A young Mhangeni cub looks towards where its sibling was approaching to steal its portion of buffalo meat. Cubs are competitive from an early age at carcasses; especially with male cubs, this rivalry will help them establish a hierarchy which will sometimes remain throughout their lives should they stick together in a coalition. f7.1, 1/400s, ISO 800
Getting low can accentuate the size of an animal when photographing it. This giraffe was quite a young one, but appears much larger due to the angle of the shot. f5, 1/640, ISO 320
A black-backed puff back finishes off his display in a tree just outside our top offices. The bright orange eye watching the nearby branches. ISO1250, f/11; 1/2000 Photograph by Amanda Ritchie
It is not often that you will get two litters of wild dogs surviving; the alpha female is usually the only one to birth a litter, and will often kill the pups of the beta female should she also give birth. The Sands Pack this year have had a successful season, birthing two litters of which a large number of the pups are still going strong. The size difference between the individuals of the two litters can clearly be seen here. f5.6, 1/1600, ISO 640
The Mashaba female has been spending time north of the Sand River, which is posing numerous questions about the female leopard dynamics in the area. We had waited with her for an hour on this evening while she lay under a thicket, but eventually, just as the light was fading, she climbed up into this knobthorn tree. f5.6, 1/1600, ISO 1000
With only a zoom lens at my disposal, I had to make do with the stitching function available in Lightroom in order to piece this photo together from about 15 individual shots. 5.6, 1/1600, ISO 1000
The Tsalala pride cubs with a Matimba male, in yet another sighting on the same boulders mentioned earlier in the post. f6.3, 1/1000s, ISO 800
The Nkoveni female pauses to listen as she hears another leopard calling nearby. f5.6, 1/1250, ISO 320
One of the newest faces around the Londolozi camps. A nyala calf, only a few hours old, glances back towards its mother. f6.3, 1/320, ISO 640