First up of course is the answer to our Mystery Bird Challenge #10.
The answer was a Monotonous Lark.
These little guys have practically been infesting the marula crests of the reserve, their trilling call being a constant background noise on our game drives, both night and day.
The distinguishing feature is of course the white throat patch, which the all-knowing Robert’s Bird App singles out with the line, “Difficult to identify unless singing, when white throat shows prominently”. Thankfully this individual was in full cry, which made things a little easier.
Congrats to those who got it right.
On the subject of birds, it seems the migrants are already starting to vacate their perches and fly north for the winter. We are seeing fewer Wahlberg’s eagles, and the European Bee-Eaters and Barn-Swallows are already flocking together, as they do before embarking on their long journey.
The Ntsevu pride have been pushing further and further onto Londolozi, being found to the west of the camps on a couple of occasions. The hunting has clearly been prolific for them, as either they or the Birmingham coalition have been found with full bellies on most mornings. The waning moon, cloudy nights and long grass have combined to create ideal conditions for them to move in stealth.
Long grasses make spotting cats on the ground difficult, but the local leopard population has been spending more than enough time in trees, so sightings have been as consistent as ever.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The often overused elephant eye shot, but I liked the way this one came out because of the similar colours of the eye and the earth on the elephant’s ear.
The Nhlanguleni female has been spending a lot of time with her cubs in the drainage systems to the south-west of the Londolozi camps. It seems as though the Mashaba female has shifted her territory permanently now, but did she move out or get forced out by her younger niece? This photo is of one of the Nhlanguleni cubs, resting on a termite mound after having descended the Weeping Boer Bean tree in the background, where a duiker kill made by her mother was stashed.
The big birding event of the week was the discovery of a Fulvous Whistling duck by ranger Marc Eschenlor. This is a very rare bird for the area, and none of the current rangers or trackers recall having seen one here before. The Fulvous duck (pictured right) is apparently often found associating with its cousin the White-faced Whistling Duck (pictured left), and there has even been a recorded case of successful cross-breeding between the two species.
As mentioned above, the Mashaba female has shifted her territory further south into the central parts of the reserve. Once the mainstay of Londolozi’s leopard viewing thanks to her territory being centred squarely around the Londolozi camps, sightings of this – our current oldest female – have become far less frequent.
This was an amazing find! We were driving through long grass approaching a sighting of the Ntsevu females when movement from a patch of elephant dung near the front tyre caught our eye. It was a Kurrichane Buttonquail and two tiny chicks! The adult Buttonquails normally flush when you drive that close to them, but with her two hatchlings there the mother clearly didn’t want to abandon them. Thank goodness they had moved out of the way of the vehicle, as we never would have seen them! The two chicks remained absolutely motionless, trusting their camouflage to keep them safe while we took a couple of quick pictures.
Two of the Ntsevu lionesses were found by themselves on this morning, and we followed them as they slowly approached the airstrip, where many grazing animals are to be found at sunrise. This lioness had just caught sight of some wildebeest up ahead, and immediately after this photo was taken, snuck into a Tamboti grove out of frame to the left to attempt an approach.
She and her sister watched the wildebeest herd intently for awhile, but unfortunately there was just too much open ground between them and the prey, and they eventually just fell asleep in the thick cover.
This is the same elephant from the opening photo. I was using a wide aperture here as the light was low, but unfortunately this meant that the depth of field was very shallow, so I ended up missing out on a lot of the detail of the rest of the foot…
The Ndzanzeni female is not often seen, but has been stashing a cub in the south-east of the reserve, so more attempts are being made to find her. She was moving through long grass on this day, making photography tricky, and eventually we lost her completely as she headed into a practically impenetrable Tamboti thicket.
Two of the Ntsevu females on the prowl. These are the two lionesses in the pride that don’t currently have cubs.
Ranger James Souchon, tracker Jerry Hambana and their guests enjoy a close-up view of the Ndzanzeni female.
An elephant cow with oddly angled tusks leads her herd through lush woodland verge, while ever-present impalas also take full advantage of the excellent grazing while it lasts.
The long grass of summer can make life tricky when photographing cats moving through it. This was the Tatowa young male, and I normally wouldn’t have taken this photo, there was so much grass in the way, but I hadn’t seen him for over a year, so wanted a record of just how much he’d grown.
A female waterbuck makes use of a termite mound to scan the surrounding hillside. The Ntsevu females were found only a couple of hundred metres from this spot, and must have walked quite close to the waterbuck, maybe even attempting to hunt them, so the antelope were understandably wary.
A colossal white rhino bull. Adult rhinos can be sexed fairly accurately by their horns; males have a distinct step at the bottom, whilst females generally have a more gradually tapered horn.