A dry and windy week ended with 4.4 mm of rain yesterday bringing joy to everyone. Water levels across the reserve have dropped to very low levels, so the soft, soaking rain is exactly what we have all been hoping for. Following on from Don Heyneke’s incredible TWIP 354 and his references to change, this change in weather will bring the bush a fresh feel, with wonderful smells of petrichor (that great smell of wet soil after the first rains) and flushes of green as trees start to regrow their leaves.
Windy conditions provide excellent hunting opportunities for predators as the wind masks the sound of their footsteps and blows away their scent. The leopards took advantage as several leopard kills were found in trees across the reserve this past week, including one that was just outside the camp fence! Elephants – having been so plentiful in the river about two weeks ago – seem to have dispersed across the landscape a bit more, possibly in anticipation of change? The mother cheetah and her two sub-adult youngsters have been darting on and off the reserve providing for many exciting moments as we revel at how privileged we are out here. As much as I’d love to tell you more about how wonderful this week’s game viewing was, I’ll let you soak it all in through the images below. Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The female cub of the Nkoveni female stares up into the tree above. Her mother had killed an impala and pulled it into a tree on the banks of a drainage line not far from the camp fence. Leopards will only feed one at a time on a kill thus when the mother went up to feed, the youngster stared up longingly. A small gap in the trees let just enough light through to catch the glow in the leopard cub’s eye.
A young female that lives to the east and south of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
An impala ewe runs across the road in front of us to rejoin the rest of the herd. Impala will often run in a straight line from one area to the next to regroup. I have been playing around with panning for some time now and have been struggling to get the subject in focus with the background blurred. With some advice taken from ranger Don Heyneke a few weeks back and many throw away images, I managed to capture this one – almost there…
Having spotted three young giraffe calves left alone in the shade of some trees on an open crest, we figured the adults couldn’t be too far off. After a few minutes, the adults came ambling back towards their youngsters. With excitement, this little one ran straight in for its mother’s teats to nurse!
It’s great to appreciate the little things out here. This tree squirrel was in the middle of a bushwillow bush, feeding off seeds that it was foraging from some of the dried pods. With some awkward balancing, I managed to find a gap amongst the branches to get a shot of this squirrel nibbling away!
Seeing one cheetah is rare enough. Seeing three at once is like celebrating your birthday, Christmas and Easter all in one day – it doesn’t really happen that often.The mother cheetah and her two sub-adult youngsters made an appearance again this week. They were looking quite hungry and walked through a thicket, ready to chase any scrub hare, duiker or anything they flushed out the bush along the way. They used termite mounds and fallen trees as vantage points to scan ahead for potential prey or danger, as pictured here. A sudden gap in the clouds cast some light on the three of them at the opportune moment.
Having been left to fend for herself at a young age, it is great to see that the Tamboti young female is making kills of her own. Here she had taken advantage of the windy conditions and managed to capture and hoist a young impala into a very thick tree. This would block the view of vultures circling above, provide some shade and also stop hyenas from reaching the carcass. It also stopped us from getting clear pictures other than this small gap of her face as she stared down toward us.
The Tamboti female inhabited the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.
The Senegal Bush male lies perched on a very prominent boulder in the Sand River. He had pulled a kill into a tree on the bank nearby and chosen to let his food digest on the comfort of this rock. This was a significant sighting for me for several reasons: i) this was my first time seeing this male leopard; ii) the Senegal Bush male is pushing into the territory of the Flat Rock male here; and iii) I witnessed the Nkoveni female and her cub in exactly the same position in a dream sighting a few months ago…
Two lilac-breasted rollers perched next to each other on a branch in the Sand River. A common bird in the area, however an unusual sighting seeing two next to each other.
The Nhlanguleni female hisses at one of her cubs as it tries to play with her. They had been lying on the banks of a steep drainage line, with pretty much zero view of them. Patience paid off here as after some time, the three of them began to wake up, stretch and played with each right in the open. Moral of the story – spend that extra fifteen minutes waiting!
Born to the Tutlwa female in early-mid 2011, the Nhlanguleni female spent her formative months (and years) in and around the Sand River.
A large herd of Cape buffalo were seen passing through Londolozi this past week. Buffalo bulls will often trail behind a herd. In this case, two bulls became quite distracted in a confrontation with each other as the herd continued on their search for grass and water.
A Birmingham male lion yawns having had a long day of rest, waiting for the heat to pass after sunset. Large cats (lions, leopards and cheetah) all show ritualised behaviour of yawning before getting up and moving. With a spotlight from the side, his impressive mane and canines (reaching about 4-5 inches in length) are highlighted.
Elephants have quite a presence about them. The textures in their skin and soft look about their eyes give off a humbling feel when one is close enough to them. I have seen a few front on “half” portraits of elephant’s faces, which I have found intriguing. This is my first attempt to try and emphasise an elephant’s features by darkening the background and using a slight vignette.
We encountered this rhino bull on the banks of a dry riverbed as he walked along with intent on a territorial patrol. By dropping down into the ravine, we were able to sit quietly and watch as he walked past at eye-level.
Ranger Grant Rodewijk and guests drive on from a sighting of a Birmingham male lion that had started to settle in a clearing not far from the Sand River. This male had been searching for the Tsalala lioness who has been wandering the banks of the river.
Windy conditions have kicked up dust into the atmosphere, which creates incredible orange sunsets. Here a marabou stork settles in a dead tree for the night, silhouetted against the backdrop of a deep orange sky.
The Flat Rock male stares back towards where the Nkoveni female and her cub were lying close by. He had discovered the kill that the Nkoveni female had hoisted into a tree close to the camp fence (as mentioned in the first image of this post). We were fortunate to see all three leopards at the same time in this sighting.
A leopard who took advantage of the death of the 4:4 male in 2016 to grab territory to the west of the Londolozi camps.