The natural world has the power to uplift, to bring people down to their essence and instill appreciation and gratitude for one’s surroundings. It also has a calming effect in that being out there in the wilderness brings your heart rate down, slows your breath and relaxes you, leaving you feeling peaceful yet invigorated when you return to camp. The bush does this to guests, guides and staff members, all of whom get the chance to explore the natural ecosystem we live in.
This past week’s game viewing has been spectacular once again; the Tamboti female has been the most viewed leopard and the Nkoveni female and Flat Rock male were found once again after an extended absence. There have been a number of unexpected leopard sightings including the Piccadilly female, Ingrid Dam young female, the Nanga young female and the Mvula male. Four lionesses of the Nstevu pride were seen, once again with the other two absent, probably away with the new litter in a thicket somewhere close to the river. We have seen both the Birmingham and Majingilane lion coalitions over the last week. We have also been visited by a male cheetah and a pack of wild dogs!
This female is most often encountered near the Sand River to the east of the Londolozi camps.
Plains animal viewing has been exceptional; many of the grazers have given birth in the last month or so which means we are seeing many, many zebra foals and wildebeest calves, all of which are a joy to watch in action! We continue to hear that classic call of the woodland kingfisher around almost every corner, large flocks of swallows and Amur falcons, pairs of Wahlberg’s eagles, weaver birds flying back and forth around the waterholes building their nests and a handful of special sightings of the migratory white storks The marula fruits are close on being ripe (I’m sure the elephants are more excited than us!), and we look forward to more rainfall in the coming weeks.
The bush is ever-changing and all of us, guest and guide alike, learn more each time we go out into the bush!
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
We had chosen a waterhole to have a break for a coffee and, to our surprise, as we approached it the Torchwood male was already drinking there! We of course cancelled our idea of having a coffee and followed him through the bush for about 45 minutes; it was a great sighting of this rarely seen leopard. Leopards will usually yawn before getting active; here he is yawning before walking off into the veld. The Torchwood male inhabits a unique territory which is comprised mostly of open grassland. He is known for hunting warthogs and will peer down burrows in each termite mound he passes. F5.6, 1/1600, ISO 400.
The Torchwood male holds territory falling mostly to the west of Londolozi and is infrequently seen.
This male ostrich bends down to pick at new shoots of grass, some of which are stuck on his beak. Ostriches amaze people because of their completely unique physiology, having two exceptionally long legs and an elongated neck. The flightless bird can reach heights between 1.7 and 2.8 meters, weigh between 130-150 kilograms and their long, muscular legs allow them to run at a speed reaching over 65 kilometers per hour! F5.6, 1/3200, ISO 1250.
The martial eagle is the largest eagle we see here on Londolozi. It has a wingspan longer than a two meter doorframe and can lift prey the size of a young impala. Monitor lizards make up a large part of their diet and if you look closely under the talons of this eagle you will see the remains of a monitor. Shortly after I took this photograph the radio sounded and the bird took off, allowing us all to sit there in awe of its great wingspan. F5.6, 1/2500, ISO 1000.
This elephant calf follows closely behind its mother whilst watching its observers out the corner of a wary eye. This youngster feels comfortable and safe when it is close to its mother. The way elephants learn is through the elderly in a herd passing down knowledge to the adolescents which they have gained over many years of experience. Elephants are one of the longest-lived animals in the African bush; they are highly intelligent and emotional and each have individually unique character traits. F8, 1/1250, ISO 5000.
Two African wild dogs or painted wolves stand side by side in late afternoon sunlight on an embankment at eye level with our vehicle. The light landing on their coats makes their incredibly unique patterns stand out. It is always a privilege to see these rare carnivores. One reason for this is because a pack will utilize as much as 500 square kilometers as a home range. Another is because their numbers are declining; there are only 3,000-5,750 wild dogs left in Africa. F5.6, 1/1250, ISO 800.
This was one of my favourite sightings of the week; a newborn duiker lamb still wet from its mothers womb instinctually lies flat on the ground as still as the leaves and branches surrounding it. It does this to blend in with its surroundings and lessen the chances of being noticed by a predator. It was rare to witness this because usually one will only see a duiker lamb a few weeks or more after it is born, as the mother will hide it away in a thicket until it is large enough to join her in foraging and feeding. This one, however, had rolled out of the bush in which it was hidden and landed in the riverbed. The mother stood about thirty meters away. F5.6, 1/60, ISO 2500.
A male cheetah stands on a fallen tree and scans the surrounding landscape. In the open grasslands and with stalks sometimes taller than the cheetah’s shoulder height, he needs to utilize the height available to him to survey the land for prey and potential danger. At this sighting he used every opportunity he could to elevate himself; these included termite mounds, fallen trees and boulders. When tracking a cheetah it’s always a good idea to scrutinize these features as the animal will eventually hop up onto one. F5.6, 1/500, ISO 3200.
A zebra foal plays with its mother. At this time of year many calves, lambs and foals will be born. The zebra, even though it does not have any specific birthing period like the impala, does naturally have a birthing peak during these greener months. Due to their natural black and white contrast, using a black and white edit in a zebra photograph can make their patterning stand out even more! F5.6, 1/2500, ISO 500.
It is not often that one sees the giant African land snail; usually one will come across an old white shell of a snail that has long been dead. It is one of the largest terrestrial gastropods, lives for 5-7 years, and grows to 8 inches! F5.6, 1/3200, ISO 6400.
The Tamboti female lies atop a termite mound for the same reason as the male cheetah above; to gain a better perspective of her surroundings whilst looking for prey and potential threats. To her left was a herd of about forty impala, all oblivious to her presence. Another guide, Sandros, had previously stopped his drive for a break at a waterhole, where we found her about ten minutes afterwards… she must have been watching Sandros and his guests from cover nearby! F5.6, 1/2000, ISO 1600.
The Tamboti female inhabited the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.
She is occasionally seen around the far north west corner of Londolozi, and is generally quite relaxed around vehicles.
The magpie shrike, or umQonqotho in Zulu, was a battle symbol for a warrior in Zulu culture. Their tail feathers were attached to leather bands wrapped around each arm and worn in the headgear of each Zulu warrior in battle. F5.6, 1/6400, ISO 400.
A juvenile crocodile pauses, still as the night, at our presence. What draws me in about the image is the ominous stare this ancient reptile wields, even as a youngster! Due to the coolness the night offers crocodiles will be more active after dark than in the heat of the day, when they will lie for hours on the banks of the river basking and warming up their ectothermic bodies in the sunlight. F5.6, 1/250, ISO 4000.
A Southern carmine bee-eater in flight shortly after take-off. The bee-eaters are identifiable in flight even by their silhouette due to their elongated central tail feathers and long curved beak. The species sports a distinctive pinkish-red plumage as well. These birds will perch on the higher strata branches of trees, wait for an insect to fly into its space, hawk out at a tremendous speed and with great accuracy grab their prey, and then return to the perch. f5.6, 1/5000, ISO 500.
A female kudu and her male youngster stand together on a termite mound surveying the landscape in a similar fashion to the cheetah and leopard above. Kudus will spend most of their time in thickets because they browse on the leaves of various plants and trees and hence need to use any available height to scan their surroundings for any predators. F5.6, 1/6400, ISO 1250.
Red-billed oxpeckers perched on the back of a zebra. Notice how the oxpecker in the center has a yellow eye-ring where the one right of center does not; the bird right of centre is a juvenile because the yellow eye-ring is only present in adults! Most of the birds in the photograph have slightly ruffled feathers because they were cleaning themselves as we arrived at the scene. F5.6, 1/2000, ISO 500.