The last few weeks seem to have carried with them a certain amount of uncertainty. In the wake of the Piva male leopard’s death, there was a certain amount of anxiety on Londolozi as what would happen, who would move into his territory and how the females would likely behave. The subsequent week has been remarkable for leopard viewing though and one of my highlights would be seeing the Tatowa female’s cubs for the very first time. It is also always special to witness the high and lows of these animals lives. A week ago, we struggled to find the Nkoveni and Tamboti females, who were both constantly on the move trying to hunt. This week though, they each managed to make three kills. Summer is most definitely on its way here and the strong August winds may well have had something to do with the success of these two animals, as windy conditions make hunting that much easier for the predators.
As for lions, there was also uncertainty regarding their ever-more-complicated dynamics. North of Londolozi the Tsalala and Mhangeni prides had an altercation and for a day or so, two cubs were unaccounted for from the Tsalala pride. They have subsequently joined up, much to the relief of the team. We have also been impressed with how well these females have been doing since the abscondment of the Matimba males, especially with the Ntsevu Pride pushing further west along the river.
The August winds have also brought with them some of the summer migrants. Sightings of yellow-billed kites and alpine swifts have been recorded and the Wahlberg’s eagles should, in all likelihood, be back within the next fortnight. Elephants are concentrating around the Sand River as the temperatures continue to rise and the general game can be seen congregating around the rapidly-drying mud wallows.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Tamboti female grooms one of her cubs as the youngster looks back towards a hoisted impala kill. These cubs are now approaching four months old. f5,6; 1/200 at ISO 1250
The Tamboti female inhabited the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.
An Ntsevu lioness glances back towards a Majingilane male who had stolen their wildebeest kill. The blood on her muzzle shows that the kill was fresh. f5,6; 1/400 at ISO 800
An Ntsevu lioness follows her pride members towards the Sand River and away from the Majingilane males. Sometimes shooting into the sun has its benefits in soft lighting conditions like this, as it allows for backlighting of the fur and whiskers. f5,6; 1/500 at ISO 800
One of my favoruite sightings of the week and a scene I have been hoping to see for a long time; the Ntsevu Pride resting on a set of boulders in the Sand River just downstream from Plaque Rock. f5,6; 1/1000 at ISO 800
A hyena drinks water from a small pan. Hyenas are animals that enjoy water and can even be found resting in these small pools on hot days. f7,1; 1/1250 at ISO 640
The Ndzanzeni female looks down at a hyena circling the base of the tree she was in, looking for scraps. This female has an injured foot at the moment, but despite this has been successful in making a number of kills, proving the resilience of these cats. f5; 1/800 at ISO 1250
This female is a success story all in herself, being born as a single cub to the Dudley Riverbank female in early 2012.
Crested francolins photographed during a territorial dispute. These birds have spurs on the back of their feet that they attempt to kick and stab each other with, resulting in bouts filled with flurries of dust and feathers. f8; 1/400 at ISO 800
A white fronted bee-eater sits perched, waiting for its next meal. This has to be one of my favourite birds to photograph because of their incredibly beautiful plumage. f11; 1/500 at ISO 500
A crash of rhinos drink from a pan in the late afternoon. Despite being territorial, rhino bulls will allow other bulls to drink in their territory during the dry season, as long as the visiting bull avoids displaying dominant behaviour. f7,1; 1/60 at ISO 640
Two of the Majingilane males continue to push further east into areas that we assumed they had previously ceded. They have been spending a lot of time with the Ntsevu lionesses, just east of Londolozi. f7,1; 1/160 at ISO 1600
The Tailless lioness displays her rather unusual characteristic of hunting during the day on a hot winter’s morning. Despite being a rather unsuccessful mother during her life, her most recent litter has been well protected thus far. f5; 1/400 at ISO 800
A rufous-naped lark calling from a perch in the early morning. These small but feisty birds are highly territorial. f5,6; 1/4000 at ISO 500
A rather unusual capture of a rhino bull approaching a waterhole as a giraffe takes a drink. The water droplets are from the characterisitc head flick of the giraffe at the end of its sip. f5,6; 1/3200 at ISO 1250
The Tamboti female as she led her cubs away from a kill they had recently finished. With cubs growing rapidly, she will need to start hunting almost immediately again. f6,3; 1/500 at ISO 1600
A Tsalala Breakaway lioness rolls over and grooms herself on a beach in the Sand River before getting up and going on the hunt. f5,6; 1/2500 at ISO 1250
A yellow-billed hornbill with a recently caught grasshopper. These birds have an eclectic diet, which includes many species of small animals, scorpions, bird eggs, quelea chicks, termites and even fruit. f5,6; 1/640 at ISO 800
One of the Nkoveni youngsters finds refuge from a hyena in a Tamoboti tree. It will be interesting to see what happens to this leap of leopards with the likely arrival of a new male leopard into the Piva male’s now-vacant territory. f5,6; 1/800 at ISO 500
A young female that lives to the east and south of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
Another highlight of the week; the Tatowa female with one of her cubs, which I had not seen until now. Her cubs and the Tamboti female’s cubs are a very similar age and have at times been seen just a few hundred meters apart. f5; 1/800 at ISO 500
The Tatowa female was one of a litter of three females born in early 2012 to the Ximpalapala female of the north.
A beautiful sunrise from a favoured elephant crossing point on the Sand River. One thing I’ll miss about winter is being able to watch the sunrise out on game drive every morning. f5; 1/1600 at ISO 1000