TWIP simply recounts the highlights of the week; it does not, however, reveal the hours we spend out there tracking and sometimes not finding the animals. With that further sense of knowing how difficult it can be to find these animals, we appreciate the sightings even more!
This week we have again been seeing the Ntsevu pride and their cubs and had regular viewings of the Birmingham Males, often tailing the pride. A few lucky guides and guests have had the chance to see the Ximungwe female leopard and her two cubs. An unidentified male leopard swung by for a few days (I was unable to get a photograph – he didn’t enjoy being seen!) and as great as it is seeing a new face in the leopard population, we rather hope he keeps moving, as his presence is a threat to any leopard cubs on the property. A pack of African wild dogs passed through Londolozi, and the Anderson male leopard is being seen more frequently than usual (some of you know how elusive he can be). Sightings of plains game have been great, too, with large numbers of buffalo, zebra and giraffe a part of almost every guest’s stay.
The river is still flowing steadily, the grass seems to get greener and longer by the day, and following the water, some interesting birds have joined the party.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
This sighting was probably the closest I have been to a giant kingfisher. At one point after I had taken this photograph we drove past him less than six feet away. He was relaxed and proceeded to preen his wings in front of us… we were amazed that he did not fly off! When you see these birds up close you realise how large they really are, how long and thick their bills are and you can appreciate how they can catch a fish almost as long as their own body!
As this leopardess stepped onto the branch and paused there for a moment I saw an opportunity for a unique photograph. She was – as you can see by the surrounding foliage – in a dense area. What I enjoy about this image are the summer colours and the light peeking through the leaves to catch the hairs on the leopard’s paw and legs. The patterns and colours in the background also create an artistic feel! I also enjoy how this image leaves you wanting to see more of the leopard. If you just look at the image itself you can’t quite be sure if it is male or female, younger or older… it leaves the imagination spinning!
The oxpecker was coming in to land. But why? It did not make it’s way up to the ears, eyes, nose and wrinkles where ticks and parasites make their homes on rhino’s bodies. It seemed to be using the rhino’s back for a safety lookout, flying back and forth between the rhino’s colossal back and the bank to drink water. The calm bull didn’t care much for our presence in the scene; all we received was a disinterested glance after which he closed his eyes again, retreating back to restfulness. It was a hot afternoon!
After watching this young male leopard walk through the bush as he investigated sounds and smells, he stopped and rested in a rather unique position; with his chin on a branch! It had already been an incredible viewing of him, but this was the grand finale that we would not forget!
A pack of wild dogs came through Londolozi this week. Having home range sizes sometimes four times larger than Londolozi itself, these rare predators show up unexpectedly and each time is as exciting as the last. With only 3000- 5000 wild dogs left in the wild, we know how lucky we are to see a pack. This image shows two youngsters raised up in a play-fight on the airstrip while the rest of the pack lay or stood around them.
A male knob-billed duck (now called the Comb duck) lifts himself up in a display, showing off his great wings, colours and ferocity to a male competitor who quickly paddled away from the displaying male and his females. The most fascinating characteristic of the Comb duck is of course the male’s impressive ‘knob’ on his upper mandible. The knob enlarges in the breeding season to the size you see in the image! The male is fiercely territorial and usually protects and mates with up to four females.
Tracker Rob Hlatshwayo and I had tried many times to see these two cubs. Each time we went to where we thought the Ximungwe female was denning she was either not there and the cubs were hiding away, or she had moved them to a different den. Guests had come and gone, asking to see them, and we tried but were to no avail… until this week. And how incredible it felt to see them for the first time!
I pulled the camera out to capture this moment because this male lion was lying out on an open patch of land at a distance away with an almost jungle-like array of trees in the background. It shows the wilderness of this area. It gives you perspective. This is a wild place.
We were driving through a riverbed one afternoon looking for the Inyathini Male leopard who had made a kill the night before; we were hoping to find him there again when we stumbled across a totally different leopard I had not seen in a long time – the Tamboti Young Female. She was lying gracefully atop a termite mound for a while and then walked down towards the riverbed, before making the final steps toward the sand she stopped, paused, and glanced up at us… I snapped a photo and she moved off into the thickets.
We had a zebra road block. This young foal stood stubbornly in the middle of the track. We pushed slightly forward, trying to edge past but she did not move. Then I trealized how long it had been since I was that close to a zebra. For the people reading this who have been on safari before, you will know how a zebra has the tendency of turning away and showing its rump to you as soon as you try to get a view of its attractive face. With this in mind, I pulled out my camera and took a photo of the beautiful, stubborn animal.
The wonderful saddle-billed stork. As it is one of my favourite birds to see, this viewing was spectacular. Firstly, look at his dark eye and secondly under his radiant red bill you will see a yellow wattle, both evidence that he is a male (the females are without a wattle and have a yellow eye). He did not seem to have a partner in the area (these birds are monogamous and stay together as a pair), so lifting his wings like this may have been in an attempt to regulate his temperature rather than display.
This image was fun to take and took some patience! What I wanted at first was a photograph of the giraffe lying down, which is an uncommon sight in itself. But when I saw a bachelor herd of impalas slowly grazing their way down the slope toward where the giraffe was lying, I saw an opportunity for something different! What made the three of us on the vehicle laugh was the moment when this impala stopped walking and stood exactly in line with the giraffe. To make it even better he slowly turned his head toward us! What are the chances of that happening?
Believe it or not, this jacana is walking over floating hippo dung! A unique bird with a bright blue forehead and long toes and claws to disperse its body weight, it is able to seemingly walk on water.
A hippo returns from feeding to a pool near the causeway. We were lucky to have timed our arrival as she was making her way back. Many guests want to see a hippo out of water, but this can be really difficult to find in the daytime due to their tendency to spend the whole day submerged – especially in the hot summer! In this case, we were just in the right place at the right time
A lioness of the Nstevu pride stands above cubs and looks into the distance with a mother’s protective glare in her eyes. The striations of white soil behind her create an interesting layering to the photograph.