Firstly, the answer to this week’s Bird ID challenge…
The correct answer was a female Lesser Masked Weaver.
Female weavers are notoriously difficult to ID, but in the case of the lesser masked variety, the slightly paler eye and pale belly were the giveaways. Congratulations to all those who got it right.
I think it is fair for us to officially bid farewell to winter. Temperatures this last week could be compared to what we would normally expect in summer. Along with the spiking temperatures we have found a huge amount of activity along the river, where animals are coming down for a drink and to feed on the more nourishing vegetation.
This of course in turn leads to the arrival of a few predators in the area. The Mhangeni pride and Ottawa male, Styx Pride, Tsalala female, and a Birmingham male have all either been seen or their tracks have been around the same river crossing. Along with that many lions, the Nhlanguleni young females have also been seen in the river, scavenging off the last tiny little bits of a Kudu Bull that had been killed by the Tsalala female and subsequently stolen by hyenas.Elephants are loving the river as well, coming down to drink and mud bathe most afternoons.
Photographically – as you will see – this week was heavily inclined towards the big cats doing their thing.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
Photographically it can be especially satisfying to watch animals drink. In this case the water was perfectly still and gave an amazing mirrored effect of the Inyathini male, seconds before he lapped up his first tongueful of water.
Hyenas often take their drinking one step further, by lying in waterholes to cool down. This one thought about for a minute or two first…
While tracking a male leopard in the south-eastern sector of Londolozi we heard a territorial rasp. Eventually we found the Nweti male after he called numerous times; he was most likely on the scent of the male we were originally tracking. We followed him around as he continued to call and salivate – which is often a sign of a rival being in the area. Nothing much came of it after that and we never saw the other leopard.
The Tortoise Pan Male has been found moving around a lot during the day, and often moves from one waterhole to the next, enabling us to predict where he is going to be with a certain amount of confidence. That is how it worked out on this particular afternoon. We found him walking towards one waterhole while we were watching a herd of elephants. By-passing that waterhole he continued along a prominent game path straight towards another one, and drank there instead.
The last remaining cub of the Tsalala female has got the odds stacked heavily against her. With her mother the Tsalala female adapting to life as a solitary lioness, she spends the majority of her time in the River, and uses the dense vegetation to keep the cub safe. Life will get easier for the Tsalalas but in the meanwhile the mother needs to be vigilant with where she chooses to keep the cub.
The golden light makes for some perfect photographic opportunities, especially if your subjects are slightly cooperative. We came across these two Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills that chose to stick around and sun themselves for a while. As we’ve mentioned before, these hornbills can be sexed by their difference in beak sizes; the male with a slightly larger beak is on the right and the female is on the left.
Early one morning, the Ntsevu pride had been found just as they were finishing off an impala kill and fighting over the last few scraps. After only being with them for a short while, a herd of elephants came charging in and sent the pride – along with the three vehicles viewing them – scattering in all different directions. Once the elephants had disappeared the lions reunited and set off towards the Sand River to drink. This was the lead female, who had stopped to survey the clearing they were approaching.
Male leopards being a hot topic of late; there was recently a run-in between the Tortoise Pan Male and the Nweti Male. The smaller Tortoise Pan male – who would normally stand up to his father the Inyathini Male – backed down to the Nweti Male and submissively escaped into a nearby tree. The Nweti male lay at the base to further intimidate him. Shortly after and quite poetically it seemed, the Ndzandzeni Female, mother of the Tortoise Pan Male, arrived on the scene. Walking close enough by to catch the attention of the Nweti male she then ran away as he noticed her, and SHE climbed into a tree. The Nweti Male proceeded across to the female as though to claim and protect her. This gave the Tortoise Pan male an opportunity to descend the tree and get away. Shortly after that the Nweti Male got up to go find the Tortoise Pan Male which allowed the female to descend the tree. That’s what this photos of. Phew!
Zebras provide amazing subjects that emphasize contrast allowing for easy monochrome edits.
The Senegal Bush male is pushing further and further onto Londolozi. With so many male leopards vying for territory, something is going to have to give…
Finding the entire Mhangeni pride at Finfoot crossing along with the Ottawa Male was a very welcome reward after we had tracked them all afternoon. Shortly after this photo was taken the entire pride tried to run down some giraffe in the soft sand of the riverbed, but failed.
Propped up on a boulder in the Sand River, this young female seemed to be staring intently at something in the distance. She suddenly leaped off the rock and eventually led us to this kudu bull’s remains. From tracks in the area we deduced that the kudu must have been killed by the Tsalala female.
The cub of the Tatowa female continues to be shy, and grassy images of it skulking in the bush tend to be the norm. Only having been viewed a handful of times, it will probably continue to be slightly skittish for a good few months.
The Mhangeni pride have been walking big distances across Londolozi; from the Sand River in the northern third right down to the southern grasslands where they have been hunting buffalo. No wonder they get thirsty…
Even apex predators remain vigilant whilst drinking; the natural vulnerability associated with putting your head down and exposing your vulnerable rear-end causes all animals to stop and look up occasionally.
Yellow-throated Longclaws are most common in the grasslands and river; an unusual contrast of habitats. Their song is heard more regularly in summer (their breeding season), so we expect to start hearing them more and more over the coming months.
Would anyone like to take a stab at identifying this leopard by its paws…?