Scrub Hares are pretty much a given on night drives. Seeing at least a couple is pretty much guaranteed as you head back to camp, and we’ve amused ourselves greatly in recent weeks by having competitions to see who can guess how many can be counted before arriving in the parking lot.
31 is the record so far (which was a spot-on guess by one of the vehicle’s occupants!), which most likely reflects the season; it’s green which means lush grass, which means food for the herbivorous hares. They tend not to do all that much though, and shining a bright spotlight on them as we return to base is the bush equivalent of a neon drive-through sign for a Verraux’s Eagle Owl to come and feast, so we invariably don’t spend much time with them.
There isn’t a picture of a hare in today’s TWIP, but I had a delicious chunk of a Lindt chocolate bunny after lunch and started thinking of easter and the hare association, so figured I’d pay them some homage.
But enough about hares for now. Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Ingrid Dam young female is being left for longer and longer periods by her mother. It’s quite astounding how relaxed this young leopard is, as she has probably been viewed no more than 20 times, maybe 30 at the most. Some individuals are just more comfortable with Land Rovers than others. f2.8, 1/1000s, ISO 1000
Dwarf mongooses are some of the smallest mammals we see regularly on Londolozi. Living in hierarchical family groups, with only a single breeding pair at any one time, they are often to be seen scurrying across the road, usually diving into cover at the approach of a vehicle. If you sit quietly for long enough though, they’ll invariably come out again. Photograph by Rob Jeffery. f5.6, 1/8002, ISO 320
Spotted hyenas are well populated at the moment. The local clan has its members seen regularly, but in the last few months they’ve relocated to a new den-site which we have yet to discover. No doubt it is deep within a big block, but given that they move dens every few months or so, it’s likely that they’ll be using at least one of the old ones again before the year is out. 1/640s, f3.2, ISO 1250
A well-tusked elephant bull in a typical lateral display. Many wild animals present themselves side-on to appear as large as possible to a potential danger. With his sizeable tusks, it really wasn’t necessary for him to do this; he was already pretty intimidating. This was shot with a fish-eye lens, which distorts depth; the elephant was much closer than he looks! f4, 1/1250s, ISO 800
A young giraffe suckles from its mother while another youngster lies down in the background. Young giraffes are regularly kept close together in small creches. This allows the mothers to have slightly lower vigilance, given that there will be at least two of them watching out for danger. f2.8, 1/1250s, ISO 320
The local guineafowl flock spends almost every night roosting in the dead trees in the middle of the waterhole just outside Varty camp. Sleeping in a tree with a natural water defence around it prevents predators like genets or african wild cats from accessing the tree. Photograph by Rob Jeffery. f6.3, 1/2000s, ISO 320
The local warthog piglets are getting larger and larger as Summer draws to a close. Well, at least the survivors are. The litters of 4 or 5 piglets that are seen at the beginning of the season are invariably whittled down to 1 or 2 by winter, as they make a relatively easy meal for many predators. Photograph by Rob Jeffery. f5.6, 1/800s, ISO 2000
A spotted hyena gives a quick tail flick to rid itself of water as it exits a waterhole. Hyenas will regularly wade tight into waterholes, wetting themselves in an attempt to keep cool. f4.5, 1/800s, ISO 800
The local male cheetah scent marks a prominent marula tree. This was the most fortuitous morning, as we had been talking about the possibility of seeing him in the area, even though he hadn’t been found for a good few days. We had stopped to look at some Barn Swallows when tracker Life Sibuyi spotted him walking through the open grasslands straight towards us. f3.2, 1/1250s, ISO 320
The Anderson male slakes his thirst. He had robbed the Nanga female of her hoisted impala ewe kill only that morning, but sometime in the middle of the day one of the leopards must have dropped it, as there was no sign of the carcass; only a few full-bellied hyenas and the Anderson male sleeping in the shade. Not even a leopard as big as him would have been able to stand up to three or four hyenas. f2.8, 1/1600s, ISO 640
The rock monitor is the largest lizard we find at Londolozi. Their skin colour makes them incredibly well camouflaged on the tree trunks that they are regularly to be seen on, but one wouldn’t expect such a colourful tongue in such a drab-looking lizard! The fork in the tongue allows the monitor to ‘taste’ the air, analyzing scent particles by means of a specialized structure called the vomeronasal organ on the roof of its mouth. Photograph by Rob Jeffery. f5.6, 1/320s, ISO 800
Young elephants regularly play their intimidation cards too strongly. Squealing loudly, flapping their ears and swinging their still-rubbery trunks, they tend to look comical rather than scary. Fast forward 30 years and they will be big enough to be really frightening when doing the same thing. This little one I think was more confused about how to operate his trunk that he was interested in us. f. 2.8, 1/320s, ISO 1250
One end of the good-looking stork spectrum. The bottom end. Not renowned for their good looks, marabou storks have only a very downy covering of feathers on their necks and heads, owing to their often dirty, scavenger lifestyle. Big neck pouches (not visible in this individual) don’t add much to their aesthetics, and serve both a thermoregulatory and possible display function. f4, 1/2000s, ISO 640
The other end of the spectrum; the rather better-looking yellow-billed stork. Only a couple of years ago these birds were a rarity at Londolozi, but owing to wildly fluctuating conditions during the drought and afterwards, their numbers have also fluctuated, and we now see them fairly regularly. f4, 1/2000s, ISO 640
For an incredibly well-camouflaged species, we have been enjoying what is a decent frequency of Vine snake sightings. We had been told that this individual was in this particular tree, but it still took us a while to find him. If you look up to the left of his head, you can see just how similar to a stick his body looks. f9, 1/320s, ISO 1250. Macro Lens
Two elephant bulls enjoy a playful jousting session. Fights like this only rarely escalate into more violent confrontations, and then only when each protagonist things he has the upper hand, or at least is evenly matched with his opponent. If one clearly realises he is outmatched, he will most likely break off the conflict before it becomes too serious. f5, 1/800s, ISO 640
The Ndzanzeni young male, still being seen near Mad Elephant Pan. He had been found in the morning by ranger Alfie Mathebula, and we were hoping to find him nearby that afternoon. While sitting with some rhinos that were drinking at the pan, we heard some francolins giving off a small alarm in the bushes about 200 metres away. Francolins are notoriously unreliable as indicators of large predators, but ranger Fin Lawlor was adamant that we should investigate. Driving into a dense block of red bushwillow thickets, we were thrilled to discover that Fin had made the right call, and there on a termite mound was the young male, as goofy-looking as ever. f3.2, 1/640s, ISO 1250
The Birmingham males are making more regular forays onto central Londolozi. With the threat of the Majingilane males steadily waning in the west, it seems likely that they will encroach more and more as 2018 goes on. f5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 800