First off the answer to this weeks’s bird challenge…
Many of you got it right; it was of course a female Scarlet-Chested Sunbird. The streaky breast was a big clue; unfortunately one of the biggest giveaways in the field – the size – is difficult to gauge from a photo. Scarlet-chest Sunbirds are the largest we get here, and are regularly seen chasing other sunbird species away from the nectar-filled aloe flowers.
Congratulations to those who got it right.
Moving on to today’s gallery…
Skimming through the photos you will notice a distinct absence of big cat pictures. I put in one of an Ntsevu lioness just for the sake of it, but the real reason there aren’t any is that the winter light is just so beautiful, everything is becoming more and more photogenic, seemingly by the day. Big cats simply aren’t needed. Game Drives are heading out close to 15:00 in the afternoons, and the light is already fantastic by that time. The so-called Golden Hour extends for significantly longer than just 60 minutes at this time of year!
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A young impala ram; one of last November’s batch. Young rams are relatively simple to age from their horn size, especially those less than a year old. With the rut starting to wind down now, peace can settle on the herds once more.
A tiny hippo calf comes up for air. Calves of this side are difficult to photograph as they are notoriously shy, surfacing for a quick breath and then immediately submerging again. We had to be quite patient to get some photos of this one.
Most of the White-Faced Whistling Ducks have departed by now. Although not classified as migratory, the species is highly nomadic, and we see far more of them during the hot summer months. One or two are still populating some of the more prominent waterholes on Londolozi.
The Airstrip can allow for great eye-level shots. The slight curve over the a hill-crest, an open clearing and a plethora of general game all combine to make it one of the photographic hotspots on the reserve. A lone waterbuck bull wanders sedately through the clearing.
This was on the same morning as the waterbuck photo above, and the reason we were on the airstrip in the first place. This female wild dog has been seen trotting around Londolozi over the past week, possibly having dispersed from a pack and trying to find a new one. She took a long look at the impala in the distance but eventually decided against a chase and trotted off in the opposite direction.
Although Tawny Eagles can be found in many different colour morphs, this one is particularly unusual. It is in fact a juvenile that is in the transition phase between its immature and adult plumage.
Another airstrip shot, this time a lone wildebeest, chewing on some grass. We spoke about the importance of a clean background in a post a few days ago, and although far enough away to be blurred out, the marula tress in the background are a little bit distracting from the isolated wildebeest shape.
We regularly encourage people to get as low as possible when photographing wildlife (within reason), as putting yourself at eye-level with something allows you to see the world from its perspective. Getting low sometimes means getting right down to ground level, as in the case of this Senegal Lapwing.
One of the survivors of the rut snatches a drink between fights. A good number of impala rams have been killed by predators over the last few weeks because of their lowered vigilance and sapped energy levels; it’s simply nature’s way of ensuring a healthy population as only the strongest survive.
Rhino bulls are highly territorial and demarcate their territorial boundaries by use of middens and urine-spraying. Kicking their feet in their dung – like this bull is doing – not only opens the dung ball to help the smell spread, but attaches a scent to the rhino’s feet, so that he effectively drags a scent-line with him when he walks.
An obligatory big cat photo for the week. This lioness was mating with one of the Birmingham males and was very full-bellied, but wasn’t above watching a vulture fly past to see where it landed, potentially indicating a free meal.
This dwarf mongoose and its troop had just been chased by a pack of wild dogs. Ironically, the two species are very closely aligned in terms of their social structure, with both systems revolving around an alpha pair that does the breeding. Luckily none of the dogs managed to catch a mongoose.
As the shadows fall behind them, two impala ewes are bathed in one of the last beams of sun for the day. The moon has been full for the past week, which means poor hunting conditions for the predators, but as it wanes it rises later and later, increasing the hours of solid darkness at the start of the evening, the time of the greatest risk for prey species.
One of the local packs recently killed four impalas in an afternoon. Even for wild dogs this is incredibly good going. Fortunately for us, their full bellies meant they weren’t keen to move that far, and the next morning were found within a few hundred metres of where they had been.
Ranger Fin Lawlor explains Wild Dog behaviour to his guests while a hyena sneaks in in front of his Land Rover. The pack actually visited two active hyena dens on this morning, but either found no cubs there or the hyenas simply weren’t home; wild dogs have been recorded raiding hyena dens before, going in and killing newborn cubs.
Curious animals by nature, one of the dogs comes to investigate our vehicle a little more closely.