Again the Ottawa male seems to be front and centre in the lion dynamics this week (although I don’t have a picture of him today).
Seven days ago we were talking about whether or not he would be able to ingratiate himself with the Mhangeni females, but since last Friday’s post he has been seen more and more with the lionesses, and in a couple of the sightings some of the pride’s cubs were even present. The long-term prospects for him might not be too healthy though, as he was chased for his life by one of the Birmingham males, from the Sand River in front camp right out of the western boundary of Londolozi. He managed to get away unscathed, but if he is to be spending more and more time with the Mhangeni lionesses, I think we can expect more aggressive encounters between him and his Birmingham counterparts and the Ottawa male is most certainly outmatched.
Lions aside, the last week has been nothing short of phenomenal in terms of game-viewing, and on one day alone 30 big cats were found! The Ximungwe female leopard is believed to be denning a litter of cubs somewhere, and the Tatowa and Ndzanzeni females have been seen on and off. They will also most likely be seeking out the resident males to mate with, as their latest male offspring are both independent.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
An Ntsevu lioness pants heavily over her Nyala kill. Although the males of a number of the antelope species on Londolozi are in possession of viciously sharp horns, Nyalas included, the horns are used for intraspecific competition, i.e. fighting amongst themselves. They are not used for warding off lions. The only defence is to flee, which this bull clearly didn’t manage too well.
An elephant cow and her calf eke out some grazing amongst the towering Leadwoods in Londolozi’s south-eastern corner. With the grass as dry and rough as straw right now, the elephants’ diet is consisting predominantly of browse matter, but as soon as the rains come and the first spring flush pushes through, the herds will phase the grass into their daily consumption once more.
Ranger Bruce Arnott, Tracker Rob Hlatswayo and their guests get a close-up view of the world’s largest bird species; the ostrich. Despite seeing some ostriches mating over the last few months, there has been scant evidence of any nests so far, but we continue to live in hope.
When the wild dogs come through, panic spreads. Impalas flee, nyalas flee, and even giraffe, who have nothing to fear from the small canids, get caught up in the general panic and run for their lives. The pack that was hunting on this particular afternoon chased a bushbuck for well over 600 metres and managed to catch and kill it when the Bushbuck eventually tired.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; one only needs to spend time at a hyena den site for half an hour to dispel any false ideas about the species being lowly scavengers. Viewing the obvious affection with which the females interact with their cubs will immediately convert those in the anti-hyena camp to the pro-hyenas.
The world’s largest heron species – the Goliath – taking full advantage of the Sand River’s dropping water level to hunt in the shallows. These birds primarily eat fish, and with the resident tilapia and catfish being forced more and more into the remaining pools, it is fast becoming a free-for-all among the piscivores that inhabit the reserve.
Impala are by far the Lowveld’s most successful antelope, with many thousands inhabiting the Sabi Sand Reserve alone. Although somewhat unique in their allogrooming behaviour (in which they groom each other, and for which they even have special teeth), occasionally an itch just needs to be scratched when there’s no one else close or willing, as this male ably demonstrates.
The Nkoveni female continues to soldier on in her third attempt at raising a cub. The first litter was never seen, the second was killed by the Flat Rock male when they were almost a year old, but her current cub – a female – is around six months old now and going strong. Only really turning the corner out of danger when they reach a year, there is a long way to go yet for the diminutive leopard, but with the resident male population being relatively stable as far as we can tell, the odds are slowly swinging in her favour.
Wahlberg’s Eagles are being seen all over the reserve now, and being the first migrants to return – along with the yellow-billed kites – it’s likely that almost all of the individuals that are going to arrive are here already. The Steppe Eagles will put in an appearance in the next few weeks, one or two Lesser Spotted Eagles will be seen, and all-in-all, the large brown raptor population of Londolozi is about to expand rapidly.
Photographically this is nothing special, but seeing as how it’s one of the only duiker photos I’ve ever taken, I thought I’d include it. Normally skittish little creatures, duikers rely heavily on camouflage to avoid detection and possible subsequent predation. As soon as they realise they have been seen, the take off in leaps and bounds. This male (told apart from a female by his horns; Females have none), was very relaxed, wandering around picking up small morsels from the ground. He knew we were there, but for some reason remained unconcerned.
Londolozi’s airstrip is perfectly formed for photographs to be taken against a clear sky. Looking up the hill towards the runway from the northern side, it is not uncommon to have a giraffe or elephant wander across, framed against an uncluttered background. In this case, it was the dominant white rhino bull of the area that cooperated.
Vervet monkeys. Always looking like they’ve been caught performing mischief (which they usually have), their humanoid expressions are great fun to read.
Five of the Ntsevu pride’s cubs (one is in the bushes to the right, and there’s a sixth out of frame) follow one of their mothers down towards the Maxabene riverbed. With a stable coalition running the show, the females have finally been able to make a real attempt at raising litters, and although the cub viewing has been relatively inconsistent, it is gratifying to know that the pride now has over ten cubs.
This white-fronted bee-eater was not quite as pretty as it could have been, as a strong tail-wind was ruffling up its feathers, revealing brown underlayers where there would normally have been uniform rainbow colours. Non-migratory, these birds are here all year, and the roads near the Sand River can provide spectacular sightings of big flocks dust-bathing on golden afternoons.
This Birmingham male has been spending more time than his brothers with the Ntsevu females. Whatever his reasons, it can only be a good thing to have a large male always in attendance for added protection. Here he was looking up at a Bateleur eagle flying low overhead.
The Ximungwe female slinks across a boulder field in Londolozi’s southern reaches. She is believed to be stashing young cubs somewhere, which isn’t too surprising as she has been seen mating with the Inyathini male on a number of occasions. She is only three-and-a-half years old, but with the Inyathini male controlling a massive territory, which totally encompasses hers, she has a better chance than most females at being a successful mother on her first try.