The mercury dropped to 3.1 degrees Celcius yesterday at camp.
This morning it was only at 3.6, but different parts of the reserve experience slight temperature variations, as down in the south-east was the coldest I’ve felt in a couple of years, and I was in the same area yesterday, when it didn’t feel as bad. I’m fairly confident it was only just above freezing in some of the depressions this morning.
I was in a sighting with the Inyathini male but was particularly loathe to take off my gloves to work the video camera, as I knew the kind of pain they would be in within seconds. Not cold… pain!
Invariably on mornings like this the first hour of drive is quiet. Predators aren’t moving around quite as much, probably conserving energy. It’s usually only when the temperature starts to rise that the action starts, and suddenly the tracking efforts start finding success, and the number of sightings starts to spike.
The bush has essentially followed that pattern for the past week; we leave camp before sunrise bundled up in at least four layers, numb our faces for an hour or so until we start speaking incoherently, and then just as it’s almost time for a warm cup of coffee, out comes the wildlife!
Enjoy this Week in Pictures..
A young giraffe snatches a mid-afternoon drink. Giraffe will invariably spray like this when coming back up from drinking; their necks almost whip their heads up, so just be ready with your focus set and your camera at its highest frame rate, and as soon as you start seeing movement, hold down your shutter release button and hope for the best!
I really hope this buffalo simply had an itch and wasn’t trying to pick its nose. Oxpeckers will sometimes stick their bills right into the nasal passages of buffalo, apparently to drink the mucus, but I doubt this buffalo was that thirsty! It’s amazing just how almost-prehensile their tongues are though…
The Causeway is the epicentre of Londolozi birding. Waterbirds down by the river and the riparian and savannah species as you head up the banks; you can rack up 50 species without too much fuss within a few hundred metres of this river crossing. The tall leadwood trees on both sides of the river offer excellent roosting spots for the local grey heron population, one of whom is pictured here, circling in to land for the evening.
Winter is about gold. The light, the settling dust, the warm afternoon temperatures… Something as simple as grass swaying gently in the evening breeze takes on a beauty all of its own.
The Three Rivers female has established herself firmly in the south-eastern portion of Londolozi, essentially in the eastern sector of what used to be the Tamboti female’s territory. The death of the Tamboti female caused what has probably been the biggest upheaval in female leopard dynamics in recent years. Watch out for a blog post on the shifting territories, coming next week…
A hamerkop waits patiently for any kind of arthropod or fish to pass by under its waiting beak. The fact that these birds stand motionless in their fishing endeavours allows for slow shutter speed experimentation with the running water…
I like the way this hyena is keeping its muzzle out of the dirt by resting it on its paw. Alert ears were focused on some zebra that were, in turn, watching the hyena intently.
Tree Squirrels feel the cold just like we do, remaining in their tree hollows until the temperature starts rising in the morning, at which point they emerge to soak up the sun.
Photographically nothing special, but I put this in to illustrate the wonderful camouflage of a Crowned Lapwing chick. Shortly after snapping the hyena picture above, we were driving past an open area of the kind frequented by lapwings, when we saw an adult scurry off the road followed by two tiny chicks. Unable to fly or run particularly fast, the chicks’ best defence is simply to lie down and stay still, as their downy plumage blends them in with their surroundings magnificently.
We hear lizard buzzards more than we see them, and I think this is the first photo I’ve ever managed to capture of one. As their name suggests, lizards feature prominently in the diet of these small raptors, although their prey choice can be more catholic than that, including frogs, rodents and snakes as well as small invertebrates.
A young nyala licks its nose much like the buffalo in the second picture. It was only when assembling these photos into a gallery that I noticed the similarity in the two shots. To the nyala’s credit, its tongue is nowhere as deep in its nostril as the buffalo, so it comes away as the classier of the two…
Greater Blue-Eared starlings flock to a drying pan to drink. Their iridescence is only on full display when they are sitting in direct sunlight, as they thankfully were here. The reflection adds a bit of an extra edge to an already beautiful scene.
The Nhlanguleni female’s cubs are on the brink of full independence. Every time their mother is found with a kill, our expectations of seeing the young females there as well are lower, and sightings of the sisters moving around as individuals are on the rise. This will be the first intact litter to be raised to independence on Londolozi since the Nhlanguleni female herself and her brother were raised by the Tutlwa female from 2011 into 2012.
These were the zebras that were staring at the hyena pictured above. I was hoping to catch them all with their tails swinging in the same direction, but it seems there weren’t enough flies around to warrant them swishing constantly, and I gave up after a while.
It can be difficult photographing into shadow when areas of sunlight are in frame, as the different exposure levels can clash. Fortunately the light was fading quickly while we were photographing some Cape Turtle Doves that were coming down to drink, and the beautiful golden light on the grass simply added some lovely colour to the scene.
African Spoonbills are uncommon at Londolozi, but during winter when water levels in the pans and waterholes drop, their specialised shallow water filter-feeding comes into its own, and there is suddenly more than enough habitat for them here.
One of the more exciting finds of the last few weeks was this sighting of the Three Rivers female on an impala kill. I’m cheating a bit as this is from a little over a week ago. Ranger Dean de la Rey heard the distress calls of Impala, so three vehicles raced into the area, knowing something had been grabbed by a predator. Hyenas also came rushing in, but for 20 mins neither we nor the hyenas could find anything until trackers Equalizer Ndlovu and Jerry Hambana meticulously worked their way through the scene, eventually finding the leopard with her fresh kill hoisted into a Weeping Boer-Bean tree.
Some affection between two of the Tsalala cubs on a chilly morning.