With the rains that we have had over the last few weeks, lush green vegetation has burst, and the herbivores of the reserve are looking a lot healthier with all the lush grazing around. With the river now flowing and most of the migratory birds already returned for the summer, the bush has erupted with beautiful songs and melodious calls, the most prominent coming from the woodland kingfishers and cuckoos, but there have been so many birds along the river all in mating plumage and really thriving with the abundance of food.
The Nhlanguleni female and her two cubs have been providing some incredible sightings. The Tsalala lioness as well as the last remaining Ntsevu female that has not fallen pregnant have both been mating with the Birmingham males, all of whom have been spending a lot of time in and around the Sand River. The Ntsevu pride have been popping in and out from the east and the Mhangeni pride form the west, and with both groups of lionesses rearing cubs, the lion population on Londolozi is suddenly very healthy.The local leopards have been glutting themselves on impala lambs, with barely a day going by without a kill either found or witnessed.
Without further ado, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
It was a wet rainy morning when the Mashaba female was spotted moving from vantage point to vantage point as she was also hunting while on a territorial petrol. She stopped briefly on this fallen tree when a heard of impala caught her eye no more than 50m away. She got close but not close enough this time.
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the camps and vehicles.
The Tsalala lioness and Birmingham male have still been seen together; we were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to watch them mate on these boulders. Here the male was following the female as she moved off the rock. We are growing more and more hopeful that she will fall pregnant with each mating bout she has.
The sun was fading as the Ndanzeni young male had just walked past our vehicle and into a drainage line with the remains of an impala lamb. He descended after placing the kill in a fork of a the tree and stared at an approaching hyena.
A rather rare and elusive bird to see, yet one of my favourite kingfishers; the Malachite. With the river now flowing it provides ample opportunities for this bird to catch small fish, tadpoles, frogs as well as small crabs which have all been washed down with the rains.
We waited in anticipation to see whether this male giraffe was going to drink as he walked down the road towards our vehicle (we were parked next to this small pan). It was a beautiful hot summers day with perfect lighting to capture the head shake of a giraffe after it had quenched its thirst. The blood pressure in a giraffe’s brain is regulated by a special system of elastic blood vessels in the neck. This system is effective in preventing blackouts when they lower their heads to drink.
The Nhlanguleni female and her two cubs have most certainly been a highlight for me to watch this week. Both these cubs grown in physical ability each day as they attempt to catch almost anything that moves. On this day we watched both cubs running up and down trees, tackling each other and practicing certain instinctual skills which are going to be vital when they become independent and have to fend for themselves. One cub had seemed to have enough of play time as a a ray of light perfectly lit up her face.
Born to the Tutlwa female in early-mid 2011, the Nhlanguleni female spent her formative months (and years) in and around the Sand River.
It’s been an incredible time watching these pups grow week by week. In Southern Africa, wild dogs have pups in winter each year, so by the time the young dogs are moving with the pack at the age of a few months, the impala lambing season has commenced and food is plentiful. With the abundance of lambs around the property at the moment the pups have been learning each day how to become more successful with each hunt. These animals are among the most successful hunters out of all the predators. They had just had something to drink at a nearby waterhole and rested up as the sun started to set.
One of the Birmingham males sat intently listening to the calls of another male and female who were no more than a hundred meters away. Moments after this photograph he proceeded to roar in unison with the other two lions. This call could be one of many; either a territorial call to indicate to other lions their position or it may have been a contact call to the other male in the coalition in the pride. This sound is inexplainable and one of my guests was in tears of joy to have finally heard this incredible noise after numerous visits to the bush.
With the Sand River now flowing there has been an abundance of bird life and activity around the Causeway and the middle channels. This grey heron seemed to have bitten off a bit more than it could chew. While wading through the shallows of the water it managed to stab a catfish. Once it had caught the fish it proceeded to take it to dry land and re-stab it with its sharp beak to ensure it was not going to get away.
It must be one of the most incredible feelings when a young rhino calf strays from its mother to inquisitively come and investigate the Land Rover. It is so satisfying to see the hard work Londolozi has done to ensure the safety of these majestic animals and it shows in the sheer number of young calves roaming the reserve.
Waterbuck are not the most prevalent antelope on Londolozi but most guests find them beautiful with the long fur on their neck and very distinctive white ring on their rump. This female was rather curious about the laughter coming from our vehicle.
It really has been special to watch this mother cheetah raise her two cubs and still hunt so efficiently even though she is blind in one eye; it just goes to show how resilient these animals are and how they will adapt and overcome setbacks. These three have been thriving with all the new impala lambs, although this time we were with them one of the Birmingham males moved in to steal what they had caught no longer than 15 minutes after this was taken.
Martial eagles are the largest eagles we have in the area with a height of 81cm. These massive birds will feed on small mammals like hares, small antelope, mongoose but one I have seen more than any other is the kill it had made on this morning, which was a monitor lizard.
Another one of the Nhlanguleni female’s cub. I love this photo of this curious young leopard as it peered at us in the vehicle with one eye; her mother had pushed her away in a playful dispute. She soon lost interest in annoying her mother and proceeded to take on a stump positioned perfectly in an elephant foot depression.