Spring has sprung! Knobthorn trees are in full bloom and their sweet smell drifts through the air in pockets. Giraffes and vervet monkeys have been maximizing their intake of the protein-rich flowers. Long-tailed Cassia trees stand out amongst the ever-drying landscape with bursts of luminescent yellow flowers and emerald green leaves as they too reach full bloom.
The first proper thunderstorms are only due to roll in next month, a fact that continues to make the Sand River and other water points dotted around Londolozi, life-lines. Elephants have been plentiful around these watered areas, particularly during the midday heat along, and the migratory bird species are filtering in in drips and drabs, although the real influx is still coming.
Where there’s prey there are predators and leopard sightings have been as consistent as we could wish. With poor grazing conditions, antelope have been feeling the pinch and leopards have been capitalizing on the young, weak and old. Somewhere on Londolozi, at any given time there seems to have been an antelope hoisted in a tree and being fed on by a leopard.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A bucket list tick, and lifer for many guides at Londolozi. A Narina Trogon perches along the banks of the Maxabene riverbed. It’s luminescent red, emerald green and yellow beak make it easily identifiable from any other bird we see here. These birds are secretive and prefers well forested areas, so are never easy to see, even in places where they occur in higher numbers. This one is a male, who is more brightly coloured than the female of the species.. Photograph by trainee ranger Dean de la Rey
In previous posts we have spoken about the success story of one particular female ostrich. Three of her offspring have been spending time together and only now can we see the change in feather colours in one of them as he matures into the distinctive black and white plumage of a male. This adult plumage appears between the ages of 2 to 4 years.
Everyone talks about golden light and its impact on photographic scenarios. The Ndzanzeni young male has featured a number of times in the sightings of the last week. After feeding on the remains of an impala kill his full belly made it difficult for him to get comfortable and he kept having to shift positions. When he eventually climbed a fallen over Schotia tree to rest up it provided the perfect photographic opportunity.
After following one of the Birmingham male lions one early morning on the scent trail of females of the Ntsevu pride he locked eyes on what he had been searching for. The Ntsevu females were lying up at a pan only one hundred meters from where he spotted them a few seconds before this picture was taken.
Evening light on black and white stripes. Two zebra foals of similar age greet one another at a drying pan. The contrast of black cotton soil and warm light made this special moment.
A young hyena cub enjoys the remains of an impala ram head. Hyena adults will sometimes carry food back to an active den site. Adults are believed to have a bite pressure of around 1000 lbs/square inch, yet it is amazing to see the power and strength of the jaws of a young hyena as well.
The Ndzanzeni young male rests up in the shade of a tree, his tail curled over in annoyance of two francolin chirping nearby. The beauty in the white tip of the curled tail is what stands out for me in this shot.
Along the meandering Manyelethi river a barred owlet soaks up the golden evening light in the woody tree canopies.
A spectacle that never tires – the Southern Skies.
New life, bouncing around, cute and confused. It takes time before a young rhino truly starts looking like a rhino.
An intensive stare from the Ndzanzeni female leopard. With her male cub properly independent, it is likely that she will be looking to reproduce soon. With any luck her next success will be a female, which will further the lineage of the official Mother Leopard of Londolozi.
The curiosity of a young elephant calf keeps everyone entertained for endless amounts of time. This individual raises its ears in attempt at intimidation, and stretches its trunk out to smell what presence we present.
A single rhino stands side-on to us in the grass. Side-on presentation in many animal species is a way of demonstrating their size and presenting a less appealing prospect for a rival to take on. Funnel shaped ears alerted by the faintest sound of any threat approaching.
A first for me – the Nkoveni female and her 5 month old cub. Not something to take for granted. This female’s territory is situated very close to the Londolozi camps – in fact she passes through the camp fairly regularly at night – yet in 5 months, going on game drive morning and evening, I still had not managed to obtain a sighting of this young cub until now.
With the heat rising, multiple animals are found around various water points throughout the day. Three zebras quench their thirst on a hot morning.
A tender moment and one that I will always remember. The Nkoveni female grooms her cub in the same sighting as two photos above, just as the sun begins to rise. Not only does grooming serve to clean fur but acts as a raffirming of the mother-infant bond.
Although plentiful, impalas’ beauty is often overlooked. When four of them drank in almost perfect symmetry it provided the perfect photographic opportunity.
My first moment and first capture of the Nkoveni female leopard and her young cub as they walked through a clearing. The Nkoveni female is a small female, so the youth of her cub is emphasised even more by the size disparity between them, and over the next few months we look forward to seeing how the cub develops towards sub-adulthood.
The Birmingham males, although operating mainly around the Sand River, still make regular forays to the far edges of the Londolozi reserve, with a recent jaunt placing them far down in the south-west, in company with three of the Ntsevu lionesses.