First up, the answer to Mystery Bird #16:
The answer was a Burchell’s Coucal, which many of you got right.
A combination of long tail, habitat (the green of the Sand River in the background was a subtle clue), the russet on the wings and pale belly all pointed in this direction. Size is of course hard to tell in a photo, so Tchagra (either black- or brown-crowned) wouldn’t have been a bad guess, but here is a proper photo of the actual bird:
Back to The Week in Pictures…
The most dramatic scene played out this week with a 3-way predator interaction over a giraffe carcass. A young giraffe was found with its mother standing guard over it. The Tortoise Pan male leopard lay nearby, and two hyenas skulked about 50 metres off. Indistinct puncture marks on the giraffe’s neck were strongly suggestive that it had in fact been the leopard that killed the calf. The giraffe cow wouldn’t let leopard or hyena near, but had to give way that night, when under cover of darkness the Ntsevu pride suddenly came tearing down the hill, chasing the mother into the blackness, then returning to feed on the calf’s carcass after they were unsuccessful in the hunt. The hyenas and Tortoise Pan male meanwhile, had made themselves very scarce.
Unfortunately most of the real drama took place at high speed and in the dark, so I only managed to capture some photos of the lions once they were actually feeding. 14 lions on a kill (6 females and 8 of the cubs) can make a lot of noise, with many of the growls sounding like an outboard motor idling in the water, but a pride can be hilariously inefficient when feeding, spending most of their time growling at each other rather than actually eating.
The next morning a sea of tracks told the story, but barely a shred of fur was left….
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
One of the Ntsevu adults comes up for air from the melee around the giraffe carcass. With sightings of the pride only including 8 cubs for the last while (two were seen moving by themselves near the Sand River a few days ago), we are beginning to worry about the missing three. It’s still too early to tell though, and we will need to wait a couple of weeks before we can confirm that anything has happened to them. Hopefully our fears are unfounded.
There must be a number of females in oestrus in the large herd of buffalo in the south of the reserve, as many of the males are sparring with each other. One can see how the male on the right has rolled his eyes back in this clash – probably to reduce the chance of a wayward horn point causing him some serious damage.
It’s very hard to tell male from female Martial Eagles unless they are sitting next to each other (the female is quite a bit larger). No one has conclusively proved why it is that female raptors are larger than the males, but the most convincing argument is that since they spend more time incubating the eggs, they need to be larger in order to defend the nest. This individual was nowhere near a nest, but we think he was a male in any case.
The puncture wound in this hippo’s side looks very much like the tip of another hippo’s incisor did some damage there. Although hippos can be extremely aggressive towards each other, particularly competing males, this pool in the Sand River holds about 60 of them in relative harmony.
Tracker Lucky Shabangu has been with Londolozi for over 10 years, and knows the property like the back of his hand. On this day he had successfully tracked and found the Styx Pride, which explains his satisfied smile.
The Makomsava female is fast approaching an age at which she can start mating. With so many males vying for territory to the north of the Sand River however, it might be better for her if things settle down first, but I doubt whether she has the ability to control her reproductive instincts.
An African Jacana takes flight from a rock in the hippo pool mentioned above. Jacanas have massively elongated toes that allow them to walk on lily pads and other aquatic plants without sinking, so evenly is their weight distributed, but for some reason this one has found it more profitable to forage from the backs of the local hippo population.
Although still heavily dependent on its mother’s milk, a white rhino calf this young will be feeding on a little grass (visible poking out of its mouth), more as a dietary supplement than anything else…
The Tatowa female had killed a common duiker and hoisted it in this massive Jackalberry tree. Her remaining cub is still a little skittish around vehicles, having not been viewed that often, and chose to spend most of this sighting lying further off in the thicket. Every now and again the mother would glance around to see where it had got to, as in this photo.
Young hyena cubs resemble bear cubs in a way (you have to really want to see it), and can really help change the way people feel about this misunderstood species. The new den that has been discovered in the north of Londolozi at present boasts two small sibling pairs.
This is the slightly older pair of cubs at the den. The second is quite a bit smaller, far more camera-shy, and probably only about a month old, if that.
The Three Rivers female drinks from the only one of the three watercourses she gets her name from that is currently flowing; the Sand River. She had hoisted a bushbuck kill in a large Matumi tree right up against the steep bank but there was limited vehicle access at this point, so we could only watch from above.
This was right next to the Three Rivers sighting; an African Goshawk making itself inconspicuous in the canopy, feeding on a kill of some sort. Although we couldn’t see exactly what it had caught, we could tell it was a small bird. African Goshawks like forested and riparian vegetation, so are usually found along watercourses.
For a photo like this to work, only one small section of it needs to be sharp. Or at least relatively sharp. Whilst this one didn’t come out quite like I was hoping (panning shots are very hit-or-miss), there is still a small point where the foot joins the leg that is in focus, which immediately draws your eye. It gets a pass, but only just…
The same sighting as the photo above. The largest land mammals in the world can be tricky to photograph, and you often have to scan the herd for where the best photo opportunity is, or is coming. Elephants are always moving in some way, so something should come along eventually, and being so big, they will regularly present natural framing opportunities, like this one.
With the Sand River slowing to a trickle, waders, storks and herons are congregating in the larger pools to take advantage of the bounty of stranded crustaceans and arthropods. This yellow-billed stork was one of many birds moving through the shallows on this morning.
Look closely. This photo is actually a composite of 12 photographs. I had a 70-200mm lens with me, which wasn’t even close to being wide enough to take in this whole scene, but snapping a number of overlapping images quickly and then merging them in Lightroom did the trick. The Nkoveni young female pauses at the bottom of a large Schotia to look back at where a herd of kudu were alarming at her.
The Nhlanguleni young females are officially independent, as far as we can tell. They have been spending much of the last few weeks traipsing up and down the Sand River, still within their mother’s territory and catching what they can. I don’t think they can be expecting anymore handouts from their mother from this point on…