First up (and I apologise here as this post was initially published without this information; I added it subsequently), the identity of the Mystery Bird Challenge…
The answer was a Juvenile African Hawk Eagle.
This is a tricky one in the raptor realm as the young eagles are very differently coloured to the adults, who are black and white. A confusing species can be the the juvenile Black Sparrowhawk (much rarer at Londolozi), but what separates the two is primarily the feathering on the legs. The Sparrowhawk has bare legs while the juvenile Hawk Eagle has feathering all the way down.
Congratulations to those who got the right answer! Now on to the photos…
If each week has a theme animal, this one’s would be buffalo.
The large herd that has been roaming around the grasslands in Londolozi’s south-west made an unorthodox move and shifted to the central areas, something we haven’t seen for awhile. Being much closer to camp meant there was a heightened interest in the herd, as the bovines typically aren’t seen in the areas we have been viewing them over the past couple of days.
Water-dependent, they will usually drink twice daily, in the morning and the evening. As a result, there have been some amazing sightings of well over 300 buffalo pouring down to the waterholes.
No one has actually counted how many are in the herd, and there could be in excess of 400 of the beasts; we are all too enthralled by the occasion to worry about basic arithmetic.
It’s not just about the buffalo though, so enjoy the rest of this Week in Pictures…
A big bull buffalo looks up from drinking, his muzzle glistening with water droplets. When a herd is strung out and moving quickly, they are almost certainly on their way to water, so best practice is generally to drive up ahead of them, position the vehicle, and wait for the show to start…
The ostriches are at it again. The bright pink beak and forelegs of this male told us he was in breeding condition, which was strongly evidenced by the fact that he was chasing one of the females around. She wasn’t looking too enamoured though, and kept fleeing.
The male races past us, hot on the trail of the female. When shooting in Aperture priority, a quick trick to slow your shutter in order to capture motion blur is simply to dial your aperture right down. This saves you having to change modes, you can keep your eye on the viewfinder, and if your ISO is low enough it can drop your shutter speed well below 1/100s to blur the background.
A male cheetah was found this week by Ranger Mrisho Lugenge. The south-west of Londolozi is usually one of the quieter areas of the reserve, but for some reason the last two weeks have been providing incredible sightings, from cheetahs to leopard cubs to lions chasing buffalo…
Ranger Guy Brunskill explains the intricacies of cheetah behaviour to his guests.
This photo was taken only a few minutes after the one above. Leaving the cheetah sighting, we were driving past a small pan when we saw this mother rhino and her small calf approaching. We waited patiently as conditions were a little windy and rhino can spook easily in the wind, but thankfully the cow continued to approach the water, drinking for quite a while as her calf stood by her side.
Tracker Raymond Mabelane takes a closer look at some yellow-billed oxpeckers that were hopping around in the middle of the large herd of buffalo.
As most of her herd-mates had already drunk their fill and were leaving the waterhole, this cow persisted out in the deeper water, making sure she had enough water on board to last until the next day.
The Tsalala lioness and two of her three cubs cross an open patch in the Sand River bed. With the river and its closest tributary the Manyelethi providing some of the best places to hide her litter, the female is seldom to be found far from either of these two watercourses.
When judging how old a track is, it’s important to look at what other tracks the animal you are following has walked on top of, and what tracks are on top of ITS track. Here the footprint of a female leopard is clearly on top of a vehicle track that had passed by earlier that morning, which makes it very fresh indeed.
And the leopard that made the track just happened to be 30 metres ahead. The Nkoveni female hasn’t been seen much of late, as she has been spending time outside her normal territory to seek out males; presumably she is looking to reproduce again as her last cub is now fully independent.
I read an short article that claimed that the world’s first blue-eyed African buffalo was photographed in 2015. That’s only 4 years ago (if true), which makes the sighting of this blue-eyed cow even more special. The colouration is likely caused by a lack of melanin in the iris.
Not entirely weaned yet, the Tsalala cubs are still suckling from their mother, but in a couple of months will be entirely dependent on meat, which will add further pressure to the lioness’ hunting efforts.
Zebras are notoriously skittish when coming to drink, and this herd was no exception. Conditions were still, there was ample space around the waterhole for visibility, yet the slightest rustle in the bushes had them spooked and dashing away from the exposed water’s edge.
One of the Birmingham males walks straight past Ranger Warren Pearson’s vehicle, totally ignoring the humans only a couple of feet away from him.