The slight rain we had a few days ago didn’t really change anything in the bush, apart from making for a slightly damp morning’s game drive.
What it did do was provide superb hunting conditions for Londolozi’s predators, as a combination of wind and utter darkness make for much easier stalking. This was evidenced in the number of leopards found on kills the next day (6 in total), all of whom had managed to nab an impala. The Ximungwe female had managed to catch and hoist two impalas, in trees less than a hundred metres apart.
The hot topic of conversation, while we’re discussing leopards, is the Mashaba female and where her den is. It seems she has officially shifted her territory to the Maxabene riverbed (we will release a tribute post for the Tamboti female next week), but exactly where she is stashing her cubs now remains to be seen. We know she had them around the Inyathini drainage a couple of weeks ago, but since then her movements have been a bit more irregular. Good things come to those who wait, so I imagine someone is going to get lucky fairly soon and catch a first proper glimpse of them.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
One of the legendary figures in South African tracking circles, Elmon Mhlongo originally rose to prominence through his work with John Varty; tracking and habituating leopards in the early years and working with John on his filming excursions around the world. Elmon is still tracking, and is still just as thrilled when he finds a leopard these days as he was thirty years ago. Here he was listening to one of the talks given every couple of days at the Ubuntu hut in the staff village.
The Ingrid Dam female on the move in the early evening. Although she featured fairly regularly in the sightings book in the first part of this year, we haven’t been seeing her as often in the last few months. A very small female, it is sometimes difficult to tell if she is an adult or a sub-adult when she is first found and before her ID can be confirmed.
The soft grunting of Verraux’s Eagle Owls is often heard in the early mornings along Londolozi’s more prominent riverbeds. The shrill plaintive wailing of their chicks has also been a common sound recently, and at least three different youngsters are being regularly seen on the reserve; one in the north, one in the central parts on the Maxabene riverbed, and a third in the deep south. The term “chick” when referring to a Verraux’s Eagle Owl can be misleading, as even the youngsters are still big birds!
A helmeted guineafowl searching for seeds in the early morning light. After the drought of 2016 and 2017, we saw an explosion in the populations of certain seed-eaters, particularly red-billed queleas and the local rodents. It also seems to me that there are far more guineafowl around this year than before, but this is purely anecdotal…
Wild dogs, like many other predators, are very aware of the potential danger of crocodiles in large water bodies. Thankfully the Sand River is low at the moment, which almost eliminates that danger, although not completely; a wild dog was killed by a crocodile on a neighbouring property last year. Despite shallow channels meandering gently with clear water, the dogs will almost always hesitate before crossing, and will generally try to cross at the narrowest gaps.
The Ostriches move through their grassland home. We are still waiting for another nest to be discovered, but judging by all the mating activity that has been observed, we should hopefully not have to wait for too long.
A rather uninteresting photo of one of the Birmingham males, but I felt we had to include a lion photo of some sort, and I haven’t really taken any this week apart from this one. This male was found with four of the Ntsevu females in the south-central parts of the reserve, but by the next morning he had linked up with two of his brothers after they and the Ntsevu females had apparently chased the Tsalala lioness in the river near camp, judging by all the roaring we heard at dawn.
A bull Nyala, alert as can be. His gramaphone-like ears are evident in this picture, and a sound in a nearby thicket had caught his attention. Pointing both ears in that direction allow him to hear that much better, and since his habitat is generally quite bushy and thick, his ears are his best means of detecting danger.
A male white-bellied sunbird probes deeply into an aloe flower to extract the nectar. Sunbirds have long, decurved bills (bending downwards) to take advantage of tubular flowers exactly like these, and can be seen flitting in and around the Londolozi aloe gardens during winter.
Not the best photo ever, but an interesting one in that it shows a Klaas’ cuckoo, way out of season. Cuckoos are meant to be migratory, only visiting Londolozi in the summer, but this individual has been hanging around the camp for the last month or two, calling occasionally. There is apparently a small population that overwinters in South Africa, and we can only assume that this is one of them, or simply a young one that couldn’t quite work out which was was north when it came time to leave for the winter.
Tracker Euce Madonsela and a large white rhino bull who was following the scent of another rhino. These huge mammals (officially the second biggest terrestrial mammals in the world behind the elephant) make use of a lot of olfactory communication, demarcating territories and advertising reproductive status by means of scent .
When cute turns ugly. This little elephant calf was struggling to regain its feet, and its expression here happened to be frozen in an unfortunate way, as with its flailing trunk it resembles some kind of aquatic monster. Maybe I’m being a little too harsh, as it was rather a comical sight and the calf was actually very cute.
The local hyena den continues to produce. Although highly social creatures, female spotted hyenas generally won’t nurse young that aren’t their own, unlike lionesses, who will nurse from multiple litters at the same time. This female was keeping watch on a third and slightly older cub that kept attempting to move in and feed, and she would get up and snap at it each time it came too close.
The Nhlanguleni cubs enjoy the last of the day’s sunshine from atop a boulder. Although as yet unconfirmed, we believe both cubs to be female, which means that should they survive to independence, they may well attempt to establish territories next to that of their mother, and we can enjoy many years of viewing ahead.
A different angle of the same sighting. One can see from this picture how similar in size the cubs’ heads are, which is a very good indication that they are the same sex, as a male would already be visibly bigger than a female at this age. Since one was almost 100% confirmed to be female, it’s safe to conclude that the other one is as well.