No one is quite sure what’s happening in the male leopard population at the moment.
The Flat Rock male was found much further north than he normally is, the Anderson male is looking really beaten up, the Senegal Bush male had a kill in an area the Flat Rock male usually patrols, the Mawelawela male was found on a warthog kill and was pretty unhappy with being viewed…
The only consistent one is the Inyathini male, who continues to patrol a huge area (although the dynamic between him and his son the Tortoise Pan male is still a curiosity).
We only get small glimpses into these animals lives, and have to try and come up with 90% of the picture from only 10% of the information. Therein lies half the appeal though.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
You win or you learn. This beautiful branch that was bathed in golden light was clearly where we wanted the Flat Rock male to head after feasting on an impala he had stolen from the Makomsava female. But I told my guests he sadly wouldn’t make it onto the branch as it would be too awkward for him to get there. Thanks to the angle we were parked at, I hadn’t seen the gap between two other branches that he easily clambered through to get here, making me feel a bit foolish. And then my camera battery ran out. Whoops.
The aloes are slowly starting to lose their inflorescences meaning that the sunbirds haven’t been quite as active as before, but they are still plentiful in number. It’s quite unbelievable to me that the incredibly vivid colouration on this male Scarlet-chested sunbird is actually real. It’s almost TOO colourful!
The Ximungwe female has been tough to find over the last couple of weeks, stashing her cub along some of the thickly vegetated drainage lines to the south-west of camp. The chattering of monkeys and the occasional bark of a bushbuck will tell us that she’s there, but sightings remain hard to come by. Here she pauses before stepping out onto a clearing, something that leopards will almost always do to check for what other creatures might be watching.
A dazzle of zebras head down to a pan in the mid-morning. Although prime photographic and game-viewing times for predators are early, during the winter months a steady trickle of general game is usually to be found heading past waterholes to drink during the hotter hours of the day.
The Tortoise Pan male glances up at Ranger Alex Jordan’s vehicle. This leopard is starting to be found further and further afield from his core area, but we are as yet unsure what his future holds. Stay or go?
Looking like he had a bit of a rough night, a weathered buffalo bull looks up from drinking with bloodshot eyes. Buffalo have again been at the centre of our game-viewing this past week, with the big herd moving steadily through the grasslands, often being trailed by lions.
The Three Rivers female launches into the Jackalberry tree in which her impala kill was stashed, the legs of which are just visible dangling down to the right of her head. This leopard was involved in an aggressive altercation with the Ndzanzeni female a few nights later, eventually being chased off without any blood being shed.
Red-billed oxpeckers congregate on a buffalo’s back. Some buffalo seem to have far more of these little birds on them than others, but I’m not sure to what extent it’s a function of parasite load or just the sociability of the birds themselves.
More buffalo. It’s the sheer wight of numbers that is enthralling when a herd like this comes down to drink. The noise, the smell… it’s nature on steroids and you don’t know which way to look. I love how thrilling something as simple as animals drinking can be.
Elmon Mhlongo, one of Africa’s great trackers. Elmon must have watched buffalo herds at a waterhole hundreds of times, but he still finds the grandeur of nature thrilling.
A photo like this should have had a bit more room in it around the giraffe in the foreground, but I didn’t have a wide-angle lens on, and when the giraffe walked away it didn’t look around again, so I had to make do with this single photo.
The Birmingham males are not often encountered as a trio. Three-strong still, for some reason they are either in a pair or found singly; I can’t remember the last time I saw all three together. The Majingilane were similar; meeting briefly and then splitting for days, and I imagine the Birmingham males do meet up more than we know (their tracks seem to indicate this), but after a brief reaffirming of their bonds in the middle of the night, they have usually split again by morning.
The big bulls are usually found on the flanks of the large buffalo herds; they form the protective layer against lions and other threats to the calves in particular. Bulls like this are also usually the ones who start breaking away into a bachelor existence after a while.
The sheer brilliance of a leopard in the stalk-and-pounce is evidenced in this photo; the impala ewe was still chewing a mouthful of grass when she was hit by one of the spotted cats. No time to spit it out and run for her life, it was probably over before she knew what was happening. There’s always the chance that the grass got lodged there whilst the impala was being dragged, but judging by the way a leopard holds a carcass to drag it (by the neck) and the area the drag mark moved through (which was essentially devoid of grass), I doubt it.
A blood moon rises over Londolozi. I’m cheating a bit as this photo was from more than a week ago, but I didn’t want to wait until the next full moon in case it wasn’t as impressive.