One usually imagines the African bush to be a peaceful place, but as the moon heads towards full, the impala rams are hitting their stride in the rut, and their bellowing, roaring and grunting is anything but peaceful as they go around the clock. Many of them have fallen prey to the local predator population, and although I don’t have an exact figure, probably in excess of 75% of the kills that are made during this period are adult impala rams whose vigilance has slipped or whose energy levels are simply at such a low ebb after defending a harem 24-hours a day that they become easy pickings.
It’s an exciting time to be out here, and what we are in essence seeing is the sowing of the seeds of the next generation of impalas, due in early November a the onset of the rains.
While the leopards and lions glut themselves on fresh impala ram meat, it has been business as usual for the rest of Londolozi’s inhabitants.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
You know those beautiful settings you drive by and think, “If only…”? Well I’ve been imagining seeing a leopard on this massive boulder for over 8 years. I’ve seen lions on top on a number of occasions, but this particular morning was the first time I was gifted a spotted cat. The Senegal Bush male leopard made the long wait worthwhile.
An impala ewe stands fully alert. We had made a noise in the vehicle and had disturbed her grooming. The male impala population are probably the noisiest creatures on Londolozi at the moment as the rut is in full swing; the rams can be heard at all hours of the day, chasing each other around as they fight for mating rights. This female was part of a small harem that was being closely guarded by a big male.
This hyena was part of a big inter-clan fight, that I unfortunately arrived just too late at to witness any action. A clan from the north had a major set-to with the clan from just south of the Sand River, and their crazy whoops, laughs and shrieks were all we could hear on the northern bank as the sun slowly rose. I got there just as the northern clan were actively scent-marking on one of their prominent pasting sites as they moved back towards the core of their territory.
The Anderson male leopard passed by the night before. A lot of leopards can be identified by small idiosyncracies in their tracks. The Anderson male has a slightly skew toe, the Mashaba female has inordinately large tracks for a female, and the Nanga female has tracks so small, they are often mistaken for those of a cub. Most of the Londolozi trackers can tell which leopard walked past simply from a glance at its tracks.
Unofficially the biggest leopard in the Sabi Sands, the Anderson male is an absolutely enormous individual in north western Londolozi.
A male pied kingfisher. Often seen around the Causeway over the Sand River, these birds can easily be sexed by the bands on their neck; the male has a band and collar (pictured) while the female has only a single band.
A rhino bull grazes into the evening. Rhinos are non-ruminants, so don’t digest their food very efficiently. They compensate for the deteriorating food quality through the winter by simply upping their intake.
Ranger Shaun D’Araujo out on an early morning walk.
The large pool down by the Causeway is slowly drying up, and the wading birds are taking full advantage of the exposed sandbars. Here three Water Thicknees and two Blacksmith Lapwings share the space.
This photo appeared in a post from last week, but the Tsalala female lioness has been keeping a low-profile for a few days, and we wanted her to enjoy the limelight a bit more, so here she is again. Currently stashing her cubs in an impenetrable part of the Sand River, the bark of a kudu or bushbuck is often all that tells us that she is returning to or leaving the den.
A lone zebra looks up from grazing on one of Londolozi’s firebreaks. Zebras are grouped under the heading of “Plains Game”; animals that prefer more open environments. They rely heavily on their sense of sight to detect danger, so a firebreak like this one provides a welcome refuge in an otherwise thick area.
The left side of a young elephant, with Ranger Pete Thorpe photographing the right side. A large herd was drinking at a waterhole behind Pete’s Land Rover while tracker Bennet Mathonsi was hot on the trail of the Ximungwe female leopard and her cubs nearby. Unfortunately the elephant herd, once they were done drinking, started feeding right through the area where Bennet was tracking, and he had to hastily abandon the tracks to get out of their way.
Crocodiles can completely disappear in water barely a foot deep, so animals are always incredibly wary when drinking from any large body of water. Sometimes even small bodies of water can spell death as well, as an impala recently found out when it was nabbed by a crocodile in a pan so shallow it would barely cover the tops of your feet.
Playing around with White Balance can yield some interesting results. I dropped my white balance right down for this silhouette shot of a gnarled Leadwood, as I preferred the bluer feel of the photo. It fits better for me with the idea of outer space being stark and freezing.
Three giraffes cross the Londolozi airstrip at dusk. We came around the corner just as they were about to cross it and quickly managed to get in a couple of shots. Ideally there would have been less of a hill behind them and more of their legs would have been visible, but now I’m just getting picky.