Whoever the closest glove retailer is, they were probably doing a roaring trade off the Londolozi guides recently, as a cold snap took morning game drive temperatures down to just above freezing, with the wind-chill making it feel like sub-zero. As a ranger, if you forget your gloves on a morning like this, or don’t even have a pair, you’re going to be in a world of discomfort in a very short time as you grip that steering wheel. The only remedy is to swap hands every 15 seconds or so, driving one-handed while pressing the free one under your legs to warm it up. It’s not so much cold as pain that you experience in your fingers, and it’s a lesson you only need to be taught once! The poor bare-handed souls who ventured out then, I’m sure remedied their glove deficit as soon as possible!
Cold temperatures make for fantastic sightings though, as the activity remains constant almost throughout the day. The Tsalala sisters’ absence continues to be felt of course, and the lone lioness was heard roaring plaintively just in front of the camps two nights ago. Alfie Mathebula and Terrence Mahlaba tracked her yesterday morning, and found where she had made a kill but been robbed by other lions, most likely the Mhangeni females. Following the tracks further they found where she had been lying in the Manyelethi River, and traces of blood in the sand indicated that she had been wounded in the confrontation.
She was fine when seen this morning though, but her position remains precarious.
Forgetting the drama of the bush for a few minutes, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
Seeing a Giraffe out in the open without being obscured by any trees or vegetation and with a beautiful blue sky as a backdrop is always a magnificent sight. 1/1600 at f/8,0; ISO 320. Photograph by James Souchon
A first for me! I was ecstatic when the spotlight fell on this African Wild Cat one night. For a relatively shy, small, nocturnal predator it was quite relaxed with the presence of the vehicle and we watched it move through the grass for about 10 minutes before it disappeared. 1/250 at f/5,0; ISO 2500. Photograph by James Souchon
The coalition of two male cheetahs that were briefly seen a few weeks back made a very welcome return and were seen moving through the central parts of the reserves over a two period this week. The great thing about photographing cheetah is that they will often look for elevated vantage points to scan the area as can be seen here. 1/8000 at f/4,5; ISO 1600. Photograph by James Souchon
A Bearded Woodpecker, very distinguishable by its black malar stripes seen on the throat, trying to pluck out insect larvae from the bark and cracks in this fallen branch. It uses its long barbed tongue to do so. 1/2000 at f/5,6; ISO 800. Photograph by James Souchon
This is a bit of a strange photo and my guests had a good chuckle at me getting onto my stomach to try and photograph it. These are processionally caterpillars crossing a road. The long line is made up of lots of caterpillars following each ‘tip to toe’ in order to give the illusion that they are something a lot bigger than they actually are. The hope is that this will deter predators, such as birds, that may get fooled into thinking that this long line is something out of their catching capabilities. 1/2500 at f/5,0; ISO 800. Photograph by James Souchon
Two Mhangeni lionesses walk through Finfoot Crossing. This pride has been encroaching steadily into the northern parts of Londolozi, and with only a single Tsalala lioness standing in their way, it seems inevitable that they will end up controlling a significant chunk of territory in that area. f5.6, 1/800s, ISO 1000. Photograph by Nick Kleer
With eyes that cast one’s mind back to Kaa from The Jungle Book, an African Rock Python suns itself on a fallen tree. The blue eyes are a likely indication that the snake is preparing to shed its skin. The colour change usually happens about a day into the shedding process, and is a sign that liquid is building up between the eye and the eye cap, which is part of the snake’s skin. The fluid helps separate the eye and eye cap so it can release easily. f4, 1/800s, ISO 640. Photograph by Alex Jordan
Sometimes the cliched shots are popular simply because they work well. With rhinos being relatively sedentary most of the time, it’s tough to try and create an artistic angle of one, so the old close-up-to-make-the-animal-more-imposing is a reliable go-to. f9, 1/500s, ISO 1600. Photograph by James Tyrrell
A rare shot of the ever-elusive Anderson male in the open. After drinking in plain sight, allowing some of the best photographic opportunities of him anyone who was there is likely to get, he simply melted back into the wild date palms along the Manyelethi Riverbed and disappeared once more. f3.5, 1/500s, ISO 1000. Photograph by James Tyrrell
Urticating setae. Those are two words you don’t hear often. But they are the technical name for the stinging bristles that hairy caterpillars – like the ones pictured here – possess. The caterpillar stages of many moth and butterfly species are stingers, with their hollow bristles attached to venom glands in their epidermis. Young caterpillars are often found in groups like this, and walking into them while tracking can be a particularly unplaesant experience, with the itching lasting a good while. f3.5, 1/3200s, ISO 400. Photograph by James Tyrrell
One of the Nhlanguleni female’s cubs comes closer to investigate the Land Rover. The relaxed nature of her current litter is in marked contrast to her previous cubs, who at the age of over a year were still very skittish and very difficult to get a sighting of. f3.2, 1/640s, ISO 500. Photograph by James Tyrrell
The fact that the bird out of the frame detracts from the picture a little, but it was still nice to get this Verraux’s Eagle Owl sitting under the (almost) full moon. f2.8, 1/60s, ISO 2500. Photograph by James Tyrrell
The Mashaba female on the move. Slowly. A dramatically reduced shutter speed gives the illusion that the animal is moving fast, when the leopard in this case wasn’t even at a brisk walk. f32, 1/3s, ISO 640. Photograph by James Tyrrell
The inflorescences of a Phragmites reed take on a ghostly look when backlit by the full moon. f4.5, 1/100s, ISO 2500. Photograph by James Tyrrell
A dazzle of zebras clump together on a windy today. Windy days severely impact prey species’ abilities to detect predators; it’s noisy, smells are swirled around and confused, and every waving bush could potentially conceal a threat. As a result, lots of herbivores will be found in tightly bunched groups when the wind is blowing. f3.5, 1/2500s, ISO 400. Photograph by James Tyrrell
Following on from the previous photo, the absence of wind in turn makes everything far easier to hear, and in winter when conditions are generally still, alarm calls can be heard from a great distance. The alarm snorts of impalas alerted us to the presence of a predator on this morning from well over a kilometre, and rushing into the area, we came across the Tamboti female and her cub, in an area in which she has been stashing it regularly. The pair were in a very playful mood, despite the female’s empty belly, evidence of her failure to secure a meal for the two of them. f3.2, 1/3200s, ISO 640. Photograph by James Tyrrell