We’ll be honest and say that the bird in the last ID challenge still isn’t 100% confirmed. We consulted with a number of bird experts across the country and eventually arrived at a consensus, but with such a nondescript little bird and limited photographic evidence, we understand if a bit of doubt still lingers.
The bird in question is a juvenile long-tailed paradise whydah. The males in breeding plumage are very distinctive, but the non-breeding males and females are much harder to identify. The juveniles are in a whole different league of birding expertise to get right. It was a very tough one, and the next will be slightly easier. Congrats to those who got it right.
Moving onto TWIP, because after all it is Friday! It’s the end of the week and time to rejoice and enjoy the relaxed weekend ahead. It also means it is time to enjoy the images and experiences captured in the working week at Londolozi.
As it’s been mentioned multiple times in many previous posts – it is dry. This has only been reiterated as the bush is in dire need of water and any time now the first thunderstorms will roll in and wet the parched landscape. The lifeline of the Sand River is being utilized to it’s maximum and only a few pools remain before the river starts flowing once again after the rains begin to fall. Even though the bush continues to dry out, the sightings have been far from any withered connotation.
The dry season is always a time of predators as they predate on the weak and old who lack to gain efficient nutrients from the dry bushveld. Leopards have been a true highlight with multiple rangers mentioning how it’s been some of the best leopard viewing in years. A mother cheetah and her two cubs have been frequenting the rolling Marula filled crests, yet the lions have been in and out of the Sand River as they stash their new cubs in the thick vegetation on the rivers edge. Bird life continues to rise with migratory birds arriving, breeding plumage developing and we see various species of males and females separating to mate and lay the first egg clutches of spring.
Enjoy the start of the weekend and enjoy the following images capturing the latest moments and experiences. The Week in Pictures:
Roars and presence of the Othawa male lion along the western edge of the Sand River sparked investigative interest of the Birmingham male lions, who covered the entire area walking in silence to search for the intruder.
Morning silhouettes along the Sand River are jaw dropping. A Goliath heron stands atop a dead tree in the hope of absorbing the first morning sun rays.
Snarls of disgust. The Mashaba female found it more comfortable to rest at the base of this Marula tree as her belly was full from feeding. When a hyena approached she snarled as a deterrent for the hyena to keep at bay.
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best-known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the vehicles.
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We have been so privileged to have a mother cheetah and her two cubs frequenting the rolling crests of Londolozi. When one cub approached the vehicle it provided the perfect opportunity to capture the details of hair, whiskers and spots around the face.
When approaching a waterhole in the late afternoon in hope of seeing a few antelope drinking we were amazed to find the above scene. The Ndzanzeni young male looked all too content as he lay spread out over a dead leadwood that lay in the middle of the waterhole. A scene that wont be forgotten and unlikely repeated.
Heading east from the camps in the early morning provides spectacular sunrise opportunities. When a termite mound had three silhouettes we could all recognize it provided a brilliant photographic opportunity at capturing the golden sunrise and mother cheetah with two cubs.
A back-lit outline we can all recognize yet creates mystery. A Birmingham male lion sat, ears perked, listening to the sounds of the night.
One hyena is manageable but when two approached the Mashaba female, she thought it be a better idea to head up this vertical Marula tree to continue feeding on a young impala ram she caught the night before.
With the Sand River drying up before the first rains return it has provided a spectacle of bird feeding activity. Crocodiles and storks gather in mass to feed on the fish in the shallow waters. A yellow-billed stork comes in to land on the waters edge.
The Kaxane male leopard. Battered through years of dominance this old male has been through it all. We have been seeing him now and again in the open grasslands of the south west. Territorial no more, it will be interesting to see what happens in the last chapter of his life.
He was born to the Kapen female in 2005, and upon independence moved south the lower Sabi Sand.
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As mentioned, it has been a true privilege having this mother cheetah and her two cubs spending time around Londolozi. The rubbing of bodies and heads as they walked through a clearing is all signs of the well bonded relationship. It’s only a matter of time before the two cubs reach full maturity and disperse in search of their own mates.
While driving back to camp at night we often see nightjars lying in the road in the hope of hawking insects flying above silhouetted by the moon. When one refused to move it allowed me to get down on my stomach and capture this photo at eye level showing its details and true cryptically coloured beauty.
A full belly from a good meal or pregnant? How about both. Most of the Ntsevu females have been mating throughout the year with the Birmingham male lions. A few females have given birth yet have been favoring the thick brush around the Sand River. It’s only a matter of time before a few more cubs appear on the scene.
Textures of a giant. When this huge elephant bull approached us in curiosity it provided an opportunity to capture the beauty and details of the wrinkles in its skin.
The playful behavior of these two cheetah cubs can entertain one for hours. One of the cubs bites at the hind leg of it’s sibling when it decides to climb a fallen over Marula tree.
Buffalo are dependent on water and will need to drink at least once a day. With the drying Sand River the herds have been moving far and wide in search of any other waterhole. A mature yet young bull quenches his thirst one late afternoon.
The Mashaba female watches two hyenas as they move about below her. The height of the Marula tree puts her at a good vantage point to not only look out for threats but any antelope she could hunt.
Huddled in a thick Guarri bush a wild dog rests up after a morning of hunting in the northern parts of Londolozi. Converting this image to black and white removes the distraction of the bright green Guarri leaves and brings out the details in the expression and hairs of the wild dog’s face.
Capturing birds in flight is a patient game and doesn’t always go to plan. A bird that is unofficially photographed most in the African bush has to either be one of the hornbill species or lilac-breasted roller. When this roller sat facing the sun and breeze it provided an opportunity of capturing its beautiful colours as it takes to the air from it’s perch.
The bird challenge was a tough one. It is great as we learn about new species trying to find out what thid mystery bird is. It made for great discussions in our home. It can definitely be a more regular feature on the blog. Awesome pics this week, as always Alex. Love the Ntsevu female the elephant and buffalo.
This was a really great wee
k all around. Beautiful and enjoyable pictures. Thank you
What a beautiful blog! I love the variety of photos. Love the one of Mashaba climbing the tree.
The photos were all terrific this week! I have to say my favorites were the the three male lions and the mama cheetah and her 2 cubs. The bird identity was terribly difficult since we could not see the back feather pattern and color. Hopefully, in the future, you will make it a little easier for us less nuanced at bird ID! ? Thanks for sharing all the beautiful photos!
What a great week in pictures Alex! I especially love the one of the Ndzanzeni young male
GREAT capture of the lilac breasted roller!
Beautiful photos this week, especially the Kaxane leopard with his torn ear and the cheetah family. The bird challenge was tough for us non-birders as the image was rather incomplete, but it’s good practice. Keep your shutter working!!???
A really spectacular range of images!!!! The Ntsevu lioness and buffalo drinking, as well as the nightjar, the cheetah siloheutte and the Birmingham males have got to be my favourites!!
I knew that the bird in the ID quiz was a juvenile whydah, but I wasn’t sure which one it was! I thought pin-tailed was a safer bet than LT paradise, but now I know I was wrong there.
Alex, once again all your pictures are stunning. I especially love the one of the Nightjar & Yellow billed Stork. The cheetah three are exquisite as are the ones of the leopards, so thank you & have a wonderful week. We had awesome 60mm of much needed rain in Alberton today, so I’m sure it’s heading your way soon. ?
The lilac-breasted roller shot is amazing! 🙂 What a great TWIP.