Following on from James Tyrrell’s TWIP 360 last week, some firsts for the season have been recorded in the past week. Even though James headed out early, he still wasn’t the first one to see an impala lamb this year. Nick Sims took first prize with a sighting of a single impala lamb in our far western sections on the 11th, Alex Jordan came in second the following day with a sighting in the far south east. Having seen no photographic evidence though, I am still not sure who to believe…
I am proud to announce however, that my guests and I heard the first Woodland kingfisher calling a few days ago. For those of you that don’t know, the arrival of the Woodland kingfishers signifies the start of summer and begins the several months of their characteristic calls filling our ears.
Enough on the competitive stuff. The past week did encompass a lot of change. A bit of rain just over a week ago has caused the bush to brighten up, with wild flowers surfacing, green grass growing and leaves returning to the marulas and bushwillow trees. Leopards were abundant across the reserve, as was a pair of lions (the Tsalala female and a Birmingham male) who seemed to wander the river in front of the camps quite regularly. The Ntsevu pride and their cubs made one or two VERY brief appearances, teasing us really, before disappearing again.
Without further ado, enjoy This Week in Pictures…
The Nkoveni female throws a hefty paw to the face of her female cub. The mother had killed an impala and hoisted not far from camp in a huge Jackalberry tree. Between periods of feeding, the mother and cub duo would rest in the shaded area to digest their meal. Being a single cub, the mother has taken on role of play mate. Here the cub became restless having been doing nothing for quite some time, and started pouncing on her mother!
The cub of the Nkoveni female stares longingly up into the tree above. Her mother had led her back to an impala kill. Being so excited by the scent of blood on the mother, the cub almost looked desperate to get up and feed on the kill its mother had made, but was forced to sit and watch as the mother had her feed. Leopards will only feed one at a time.
A gorgeous female who is found to the east of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
A scrub hare was flushed out some long grass next to the vehicle as we drove past. Normally they would dive for more cover, however this individual stopped not even 6 feet from us and began grooming. One mostly sees scrub hares running in the road at night, so having the opportunity to stop and watch one in the daylight was quite special!
No matter how many zebra one has seen, they are still as magnificent as the first time you ever laid eyes on one. This herd was slightly above us, thus the heads were out of the grass against the clear blue sky. I found the tree quite distracting, however a flip to black and white not only makes the tree less of a distraction but it also accentuates the zebra’s beautiful stripes.
This Birmingham male lion had been spending time with the Tsalala lioness for a number of days. Having been away from his brothers and not patrolled his territory, on this particular occasion he got up and started walking, scent-marking and roaring before nightfall. It was a magical experience, particularly with the sun setting behind the lion as he walked along the road.
The Manyelethi River flows through the northern sections of Londolozi. ‘Flows’ is a relative term, however pools of water are present for most of the year, drawing a lot of life in. Here a female hyena shares a moment with a hamerkop bird, whilst the (large) cub stares at a kudu further downstream.
An Ntsevu lioness stares towards a herd of impala a little distance from her. The sun was just starting to drop, and the lionesses were just starting to become active. We soon realised that she is one of the mothers, as her teats were showing clear evidence of cubs suckling. The impala moved too far off for her to have any chance of hunting. Seeing the intensity and focus in her stare was quite something.
The same Birmingham male lion that has been frequenting the Sand River looks up toward a herd of impala on the banks. He had once again been hanging around with the Tsalala lioness on this day. We followed him into a thicket in which an impala kill was stashed. Shortly after this the rains came down quite hard, providing some much needed relief from the heat we have been having.
An Emerald Jewel Beetle (family Buprestidae) perches in the sunlight, early in the morning. Its brilliant green colouration is caused by physical colouration, not pigments. This means that as the light hits the cells in the beetles exoskeleton, it is refracted amongst the cells causing an almost metallic sheen. Within the Buprestid family of beetles, certain species may take up to 35 years to reach adulthood!
One of the Nhlanguleni female’s cubs falls to the ground, of course putting its feet first! The two cubs had been having a tug of war over the impala carcass that their mother had hoisted into a sausage tree. This individual kept jumping up and clinging on with its front paws. It tried over and over to pull it down, to no avail. Eventually, it lay on a branch under the crown of the tree, panting with exhaustion. An incredible show to witness!
Initially skittish she spent a lot of time in the Sand River, now relaxed she makes up the majority of leopard viewing west of camp.
A large ant wanders to the tip of a fresh shoot, possibly in search of a pheromone trail from other ants in its colony. They will use their long antennae as feelers, picking up tiny scent particles left by fellow colony members.
A Birmingham male lion stops feeding for a moment as the Tsalala lioness moves close by. He won’t let her get too close to the kill, nor will he let her move too far away. This week was all about natural frames for me. A few times we had sightings in thick bush. At first glance, bushes and branches may appear as obstacles, however often they can make for a more interesting shot than a standard portrait.
A pair of Wahlberg’s eagles stands over an African Hoopoe that they had killed. On this morning, we were actually trying to keep view of a male lion walking at a distance through the Sand River. This pair of eagles were constantly darting back and forth next to us at great speed. We realised that they were hunting an African hoopoe in flight. The hoopoe seemed to be avoiding impact for quite some time. We missed the actual kill but soon realised it had lost the battle when we saw the feathers being plucked out a few minutes later, having lost view of the lion. The eagle on the left almost looked like it was being selfish and inhibiting its partner from feeding.
Luckily I spotted this when I did as it nearly landed smack-bang in the middle of tracker Bennet Mathonsi’s lap! I slammed into reverse, shouting WATCH OUT! I soon realised that it was a boomslang (tree snake), which are particularly docile snakes. Having said that, if I had driven Bennet straight into the snake, I’m not sure it would have been very impressed. It is one of the most venomous snakes in Southern Africa, so we settled for some great close-up shots and drove a clear loop around it!
A Birmingham male lion stares intently down the river, where two hooded vultures had just flown overhead. When we arrived at this sighting, the lion was fast asleep. The sound of the vulture wing-flaps caught his attention immediately. It turns out he had made an nyala kill and stashed it amongst the thicket in the river. The vultures landed in a tree directly above the kill.
A wonderful natural frame created by two trees offers a different perspective of the Ximungwe female. Impala alarm calls alerted us to her lying in a thicket. We decided to wait it out with her as she rested, waiting for the heat of the day to pass. This yawn was exactly what we were waiting for – often a clear sign that leopards (and lions) are about to get up and become active.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.