First off, the answer to the bird challenge from this week.
A number of you got the right answer, which is a young male Greater Honeyguide.
The combination of brown plumage and red bill was deceiving, as younger birds usually have black bills and the adult males have much bolder facial markings. The individual photographed here must have just been starting his transition to full mature plumage. Congratulations to all those who got it right!
Obscure birds seem to be the order of the day, as both a crested guineafowl and a peregrine falcon were recorded on the reserve within the last week. Neither sat still long enough for a photo unfortunately; the guineafowl was hilariously seen to be chasing some of its helmeted cousins into a thicket, while the peregrine was mobbed by a Wahlberg’s eagle just as I was getting my camera out. Of course those just sound like excuses, but maybe both birds will be seen again…
Them aside, it’s been all systems go as per usual as we wait for the first impala lambs to be seen. We normally have a betting pool going on what day we’ll see the first one, but it’s probably too late to start one now, as a lamb could literally be found this afternoon.
Come to think of it, in 8 years I’ve never been the first person to see one on Londolozi, so I’m going to head out early to scour the reserve. We’ll leave you with some photos in the meanwhile.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
Certainly not everyone’s favourite, Nile crocodiles are nevertheless critical creatures in the maintenance of the health of Africa’s waterways. They are essentially dinosaurs, having been around almost unchanged for in excess of 130 million years! When you haven’t had to adjust your hunting approach in that long, you know you must be doing something right. In this case two crocodiles had managed to catch an nyala ewe in a waterhole, and this – the larger of the two – was in the process of swallowing a chunk of meat it had ripped off the carcass.
The dramas in the wilds of Africa are often played out within spitting distance of other creatures that are not in the least bit concerned. This yellow-billed stork was combing the shallows for morsels of food, unfazed by the crocodiles feeding on the nyala only a few metres away.
The Piccadilly female isn’t a leopard we see all that often. Although we have had occasional sightings of her in and around the Sand River downstream from camp, the fact that one of the Ntsevu lionesses is spending a large amount of time skulking through those reedbeds right now is a good reason for this leopard to stay well clear. In this sighting she was looking towards where a bushbuck was barking in the distance, possibly at that very lioness.
This female is most often encountered near the Sand River to the east of the Londolozi camps.
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The so-called King of Beasts looks towards an animal that would send him scuttling away with his tail between his legs. Although lions are known to take down rhinos on occasion – usually only individuals already injured or small calves – it is far more likely to see an adult rhino force the lions to move off instead.
One of Londolozi’s most beautiful birds, the Little Bee-Eater, perched on a piece of elephant dung. Photographically these birds are easier to get a shot of than most, as their preferred feeding method – known as ‘hawking’ – involves them flying off a perch, snapping up an insect, and then returning to that same perch, whether they’ve caught what they were after or not. That was exactly what happened here, and the bee-eater was unsuccessful in its efforts.
Photographically this was nothing special, but this elephant calf was so tiny we simply had to take some reference shots of it. It was probably less than 48 hours old, and was so small it struggled to reach up to its mothers teats to suckle.
The Ximungwe female was sneaking around some rocks near her suspected den site. A first-time mother, she has been seen behaving very cautiously when in the area we think she is stashing the cubs, and prudence has generally dictated that we leave her be, and wait until she is ready to bring them out in a few weeks.
We are in that shoulder period in which most of the waterholes are dry but we haven’t yet had enough rain to slush up the mud-wallows. Rhinos are having to walk further and further afield to find both water to drink and mud to roll around in. Fortunately for this one he managed to find a pan that was still relatively full.
When you see it…! I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many small hippos together. And to have a behemoth of a crocodile calmly lying in their midst was unexpected to say the least.
The Ntsevu lioness that has been frequenting the lower reaches of the Sand River emerges from a reedbed, unwittingly blundering into two nyala bulls that took off before she had a chance to duck back into cover. The reeds are an excellent place for her to hunt, but she blew another opportunity only minutes after this in which another group of nyalas – females this time – were walking slowly in her direction, but the lioness leaped from cover too early and the nyalas managed to dodge her.
Ray Mabelane, super-tracker! Some of you might have seen the recent Instagram Story in which Ray and Ranger Kevin Power took big cat expert Dave Salmoni to track lions. Ray was simply unbelievable, following the faintest scuff-marks over such hard ground that the rest of us couldn’t see a thing. We had utter faith in his tracking abilities however, and two hours later he had found down the Styx pride sleeping in a Gwarrie thicket. This photo was actually taken on the Land Rover ride out to start the tracking effort.
Nervous rhino calves stick very close to their mothers. Although this photo didn’t come out as well as I’d have liked, motion blur is a fun technique to play with, having the added bonus that the worse the conditions, usually the better it is to experiment! Wwitch to low shutter speeds to try some panning!
A crash of five white rhinos under stormy skies. There were actually six here, but the last one was out of frame to the right, and the majority of the group had started moving off before he deigned to make an appearance in the frame.
The Nkoveni female has been very localised around the Londolozi camps of late, with her tracks often being found moving through the sandy car parks from which the Land Rovers depart. In this sighting she had killed an adult nyala and hoisted it into a small Jackalberry tree, below which her cub was sleeping in the open.
This is the cub, looking up to where the mother was repositioning herself in the Jackalberry above.
What a Week! this makes me long for the smell of a potato bush, the sawing of a leopard & a francolin yelling. Thanks James. Hope you find the 1st impala lamb!
Loved TWIP! The panning is such a fun idea, but it is not easy. I am still working on it. Thanks for sharing, James!
Wowzer, some wonderful photos, but I have to say the pick of the bunch are the rhinos. But the Little Bee Eater shot is also pretty good going.
Beautiful pictures James, these ase not easy conditions with the bush still being dry. The one with the 6 rhinos is great, did it involve much post-processing as it gives an impression of an HDR post-processing. And I was also puzzled to see that you could use an aperture of f4 at 600m on the bee-eater; what lens are you using? Well done, you bring us such pleasure with your pictures and blog
This week brought a variety to the week. Love the perfect image of the Little Bee-Eater and the various relaxed images of leopards. But my favorite was the massive number of young hippos with the huge crocodile lying compliantly in their midst! It seemed like such a contradiction.
Glad to see the photo of Tracker Ray. He and Ranger Kevin made our stay in Londolozi beyond memorable.
Dear James. I have NEVER seen so many hippos all in one place. Has there been a sudden population explosion in the hippo world? And a large croc in the middle of them! How strange. Have you had any rain at all yet during the Spring and Summer seasons this year? Wendy M
I’m here in Chobe and there are many Impala lambs with many more to come. Looking forward to seeing the little ones in Sabi Sands soon.
Such an incredible range of images!! That is a pretty specila shot of the little bee-eater!! Also love the Ximungwe Female in hiding, the hippo crowd, the feeding crocodile and the rhino crash!
A lovely Week in Pics, thanks especially all the rhinos and an unknown leopard!
I loved seeing all the hippos but I imagine the crocs were waiting for the smaller ones to come closer to the water! Great photos as always, love your work!
Thanks James for more gorgeous photos – the bee-eater is stunning, also the Nkoveni female cub and the multiple hippos one is just astonishing, also the croc – but you’ve done it again, they’re all wonderful!
Lovely pics James. Love the rhinos and the hippo. It is definitely baby season.