I was about to write something about the Wild Dogs about to give birth, but then decided against it, as we’ve discussed the power of the jinx before. I’ll keep my mouth shut instead and move on to the leopard dynamics.
We wrote recently about the Hukumuri male, and how he’s slowly encroaching into the northern parts of Londolozi. The Mawelawela male is being seen more frequently in the south-west and all of a sudden there’s a new unidentified male being seen down in the south-east. He’s presumably wandered in from the Kruger Park as he has been skittish on the one or two occasions on which he’s been seen, but since that area is traversed quite regularly by Land Rovers, he will more than likely relax soon enough if he sticks around. The worry of course is for Londolozi’s current cub population, although a number of the young leopards are so closer to independence as to make no difference. The Nkoveni and Nhlanguleni young females would probably all be able to survive on their own (the Tamboti young female was younger when she lost her mother), so it is really the southern females cubs that are most at risk; Ndzanzeni, Ximungwe and Tatowa. As nice at it is seeing new faces in the leopard population, I think we’d rather he sought life elsewhere, at least until the current litters have all made it.
We’ll post some photos of this new male next week sometime, but for now, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
Four Ntsevu lionesses go on the hunt. We are still waiting for the fifth litter of cubs to be introduced to the pride; it usually happens at around the 6wk -2 month mark, so we probably still have a few weeks to go…
Three-banded plovers are some of the smaller waterbirds we find at Londolozi. Existing mainly on a diet of small invertebrates – particularly aquatic ones – including insects and their larvae, the plovers are often found scuttling along the water’s edge at the larger waterholes and the Sand River.
The Nkoveni female leads her cub move past the Londolozi sign. If only they were heading the other way!
The Sand River becomes a hotbed of lion activity during the winter months, with a lot of prey species moving through to take advantage of higher quality vegetation, and that same vegetation providing the best cover for hunting. The Mhangeni and Ntsevu prides have been spending much of their time along the riverbed, so has the Tsalala lioness, and lately, even the Styx pride were found next to the Sand River, upstream from the Londolozi camps.
A magnificent kudu bull bathed in gold. These antelope tend to favour denser thickets and therefore often escape our notice, but with the vegetation thinning out in the dry season, we tend to see a lot more of them.
The smaller they are, the closer they tend to stick to their mothers, and that holds true whether its a tiny lion cub, a human, or the young of the world’s largest land animal…
At up to 4kg (8.8lb) in weight, Martial eagles are impressive, to say the least. Although officially listed as uncommon, we are fortunate enough to have at least one breeding pair residing on Londolozi that we see regularly, although during non-breeding periods, their territories may increase up to 1000 square kilometres! This varies from area to area though, and is likely dependent on prey density. In an area like Londolozi, where food is plentiful, breeding territories tend to average between 130 and 15o square kilometres.
And it is things exactly like this that Martial eagles will be hunting. Guineafowl are common across Londolozi, and although a favourite food of the African Hawk Eagle – that we also see regularly on the reserve – they do fall prey to Martials as well.
The Mashaba female is slowly starting to show signs of her age; tatty ears, a few more scars and a slightly dishevelled appearance mark her down as one of the more senior leopards on Londolozi. In fact, THE senior leopard. Born in 2008, she is a year older than the Nanga female, her closest competitor in the age stakes.
Winter isn’t a time for the smaller inhabitants of the bush, and creatures like this Golden Orb Web spider aren’t encountered too regularly. Their insect prey is in much shorter supply compared to the summer months, and as a result, so too do the spiders tend to be…
With the Ntsevu pride taking down Zebras, wildebeest and impalas along the eastern edges of Londolozi, the buffalo herd that has been stomping around the central parts of the reserve has had a bit of a breather for the last month or two. Inevitably though, as dwindling grazing resources cause the local buffalo population to lose condition, the lions will start shifting their attention to the large bovines…
Do you see it? Three minutes before this photo was taken, that track had a lioness in it. The Tsalala female to be precise. She moved down into the Sand River where we knew her to be stashing her cubs, but the rocky section was inaccessible with a vehicle unfortunately.
This was more an experiment in low-light photography than anything else. Taken at 6400 ISO with a shutter speed of only 1/50, it still came out nice and sharp. A large beanbag helped stabilised the large lens, which allowed for the slower shutter speed, and although a fair amount of grain is evident, it doesn’t ruin the image, proving just how good modern cameras can be in low light.
White tail tips bobbing up and down, one of the local wild dog packs finishes the remains of an impala kill. We’ve had three packs on and off the reserve in the past week, boasting a number of heavily pregnant females. We don’t want to get our hopes up, but could this be the first time in almost a decade that a pack will den on Londolozi?
A wildebeest scurries across the road in the wake of its herd, with lovely pastel colours of winter adding a beautiful softness to the background.