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As the first week of December draws to a close, most of us at Londolozi are struggling to get to grips with exactly where this year has gone. The game viewing has been nothing short of exceptional over the past couple of days; around every corner you turn at the moment you are greeted by the sight of young herbivores; with the impalas having dropped most of their lambs, a few zebra foals about and the reports of a wildebeest calf seen yesterday, there is no doubt summer is in full swing. The return of most of the summer migrants has added something a little extra to each drive as well; just this week we have recorded European Rollers, Carmine Bee-eaters, Amur Falcons, Lesser Spotted Eagles and Steppe Eagles.
As has been a constant theme over the last two months, lions have kept us guessing this past week. The Birmingham males are making regular appearances in the northern parts of Londolozi and we even heard them calling just east of the camp this morning. Although the Tsalala pride and Tsalala breakaway pride have rejoined, they are still up to their old tricks by spending most of their time in the Sand River; only time will tell if they have rejoined for good this time. After a long absence the Mhangeni pride returned and we watched for over an hour as the pride and three Majingilane males trailed and hunted a large herd of buffalo. There is something so exhilarating and raw about watching a male lion in full flight.
The leopard viewing has been as per usual; incredible! My highlight of the week was spending time with the Ingrid dam female and her young cub. This was the first time I had seen these two leopards. We watched the mother stalk a herd of impala, and although she was unsuccessful I am always amazed at exactly how much has to go right for these animals to catch something; so much is out of her control. On this occasion a small bird sounded the alarm and gave her position away. Although most hunts end unsuccessfully, leopards are persistent and will try multiple times until they finally get a meal.
After that lengthy intro, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A male cheetah glances back into the setting sun. After sleeping in the shade of a nearby tree for most of the day, this cheetah made use of this fallen over tree for a quick stretch before moving off. f/5.0, 1/1250, ISO 640
A Fork-tailed drongo mobs a Bateleur eagle. Mobbing is a technique used by smaller birds to try ward off larger birds of prey. Shortly after this photo was taken this Drongo landed on the Bateleur’s head, pecking it multiple times until the exasperated eagle flew off. f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO 640
The first piglets I’ve seen this summer. Warthogs will make use of termite mounds that have been dug out by Aardvarks to give birth in. The female warthog will stay inside the burrow for several weeks nursing the piglets. This could’ve been the first day that the piglets left the burrow. f/7.1, 1/400 sec, ISO 640
A Majingilane male focuses on a herd of buffalo in the distance. When lions hunt larger prey such a buffalo, it’s not uncommon for the males to be involved in the hunt. Photo by Varty Camp manager Thais Bassit. f/8.0, 1/1000, ISO 1600
One afternoon while we were exploring the northern parts of Londolozi we found the Ingrid Dam Female. I had not seen this leopard before, as she is not often encountered, spending much of her time in the extensive thickets of the north-west. f/7.1, 1/1000 sec, ISO 640
The Ingrid Dam female uses the same termite mound as a vantage point, and spots a herd of impala in the distance. We watched her try get into the perfect position to stalk the herd for over half an hour, but she was eventually ratted on by a small bird, ruining the hunt. f/5.6, 1/2000 sec, ISO 640
After an unsuccessful hunt she climbed a Marula tree to watch the herd move into the safety of a clearing. She jumped from a crouching position and almost makes it halfway up the trunk of the tree with one leap. f/8.0, 1/400 sec ISO 640
She is occasionally seen around the far north west corner of Londolozi, and is generally quite relaxed around vehicles.
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A pair of Egyptian Geese with three tiny goslings head for the safety of the middle of the waterhole as we pulled up to watch them through our binoculars. After incubating the nest for roughly 30 days, the chicks will leave the nest within only six hours of hatching. f/7.1, 1/640 sec, ISO 500
At this time of year vultures can confuse a lot of guides here at Londolozi, as they will descend to feed on the afterbirth of the impala lambs. Usually when we see vultures dropping out the sky we presume there is a kill in the area. On this occasion this White-backed Vulture had landed on this tree before heading down to the ground to feed on the afterbirth of a lamb that had been born mere hours before. f5.6, 1/800s, ISO 640
Newborn elephants have little control over their trunks and it can take several months to learn how to use them; they practice by exploring their environment. They need to master the use of their trunks for feeding and with more than 50 000 individual muscles in the trunk it can be a difficult skill to master. f/5.6 1/200 sec ISO 500
Another image of the Mhangeni pride hunting a herd of Buffalo. We watched as the pride desperately tried to isolate a single buffalo. At one stage of the hunt they managed to bring down an individual, but the herd turned and came back to chase the pride off their wounded comrade. Photograph by Thais Bassit. f/8.0, 1/1000 sec, ISO 1600
A White-fronted Bee-eater. This has to be one of my favourite birds to photograph. Thesy practice a hunting technique known as hawking, where they’ll sit on a perch like this one in the photo, then swoop, catch their prey and return to the same branch for the prey to be beaten, then tossed into the mouth and eaten. The length of the bill will help keep the sting away from the bee-eater’s face if what they have caught happens to be a bee or wasp. f/5.6, 1/2500 sec, ISO 800
This massive elephant bull walked straight towards us on a hot morning earlier this week. During hot periods elephants use their ears as a means of thermoregulation. Constantly flapping his ears will cool the blood in them down; he is then able to pump the cooler blood around his body. f/4.5 1/400 sec ISO 500
The Ndzanzeni female (closest to camera) and her male cub quench their thirst from a small puddle formed from the recent rains. Its been a privilege watching this cub grow up over the last 15 months. I first saw him when he was only three weeks old, now he is much larger than his mother and is being left alone for almost a week at a time. This will force the young male to explore and learn how to be a solitary animal. f/5.6 1/2500 sec ISO 1000
If this photo of the Ndzanzeni female was taken two months ago, she wouldn’t be standing on all four legs. With a badly injured back leg we feared the worst for this female, but she has made a miraculous recovery and doesn’t show any signs of the injury. The resilience of these animals is incredible. f/5.6 1/1000 sec ISO 1000 [leopard id='227']
Fin grew up in Johannesburg and began guiding in 2010. He has guided across South Africa, East Africa and the Amazon jungle in Brazil. Fin's primary interests are birds, tracking and developing a passion for photography.