We didn’t manage to fit in a September memory lane post last month – too much content coming out of the rest of the lodge – but for the sake of continuity we felt it only right to put one in this month, before running an October post in the next few weeks.
It seems like there was a lot of big cat activity in particular in September 2014, so let’s dive right in and see what was happening…
The Nkoveni female was – I’m pretty sure – still the Mashaba young female at that time. She was born in August 2012, so would have been just over two years old and probably already getting comfortable in a section of the reserve. She took over the eastern part of her mother’s territory, and now seems to have handed that same area over to her daughter, the current Nkoveni young female…
These two Nyala bulls were on the lawn at Varty camp, doing their standard slow-graceful-step-in-circles-around-each-other that they do as a territorial display. They are generally conflict averse animals, only engaging in actual physical battles if neither backs down from a challenge like this. The bull in the foreground – as one can tell from his snapped horn, was no stranger to clashing with other males – and in fact had recently killed a rival male near the staff village; a straight stab to the chest with that single horn, and the fight was over.
The second- and third biggest land animals share the space at a small pan. White rhinos rank second on the land mammals size podium, with hippos coming in slightly behind them. Elephants of course take the top spot. This hippo was probably a young male that had been evicted from his normal pool of residence. Most likely a dominant male had taken exception to his presence, and chased him out and away from the the females.
This must have been one of the first pangolins I ever saw. I’m fairly sure it had been found in the morning by the Sparta pride, and the young male lions had had no luck chewing through its dense plating. The lions eventually lost interest and ambled off, and the pangolin walked off into a grassy thicket.
This was the Tamboti female and what looks like the Piva male mating. The Piva male died before his time (if that is even an appropriate phrase to use in the bush), killed by the Avoca male lions. It’s hard to know exactly what kind of genetic legacy he left, as it is so difficult to know which male fathered which cubs. Females will mate with multiple males to confuse the paternity, so we only track the lineages through the females.
Despite the lateness of the season, there was clearly enough mud around for this young rhino bull to have an extensive mud wallow. Although getting fully covered is a great protection against the sun and biting parasites, I doubt this male fully intended to get his face completely encased, although with rhinos, who knows?
We were watching a leopard at the time and happened to notice this scrub hare quivering behind a bush just next to where we were parked. Keeping its ears flattened helps reduce its profile, making it a lot harder to spot, and allied with the nerve to keep absolutely dead still, scrub hares are often only noticed in the bush when you are about to step on them and they leap out of the way! Thankfully, the leopard never found this one, and it lived to hide another day.
The female Ostrich was starting to become a proper story in her own right at this time. She wasn’t yet relaxed enough around the vehicles to approach them like she would in later years, but she had become habituated enough to allow us to approach relatively closely. The haze in the air on this evening was the result of a bush fire that had swept through the northern parts of the reserve, and had eventually died on the north bank of the Sand River opposite the Londolozi Camps.
A young male bushbuck on the banks of the Maxabene riverbed. Much like the scrub hare shown earlier, bushbuck rely on their camouflage to avoid detection, and camouflage is only effective when not moving. The spots on this male’s flanks help break up his outline and makes him harder to see in thicker bush. He also seems to have rather a large tick hanging off his chin.
The Marthly male had just robbed this young nyala kill from a female leopard, who I seem to remember was the Mashaba young female (now Nkoveni female). Whether related or not (the male was most likely the young female’s father), male leopards will steal kills from females; they are much bigger animals so can physically impose themselves on the females, and robbing a kill saves them from having to expend energy in a hunt.
The Sand River was still flowing well in September 2014. The next few years would change this, as worsening rains plunged the area into drought, from which we have only seen a semi-recovery as the last couple of rainy seasons haven’t delivered anything substantial. Hopefully 2019/2020 is the summer to break the cycle!
The Mashaba young female again. She featured prominently in my archives from this month so was clearly being seen quite a bit. Here she is up in a marula, watching something. Young female leopards spend quite a bit of time up in trees; they are still small enough to be vulnerable so climb as a convenient way to get to safety, and their small frames mean it isn’t particularly energy draining to head up into the branches.
If you have ever wandered what an Ostrich’s foot looks like, this is it. Maybe I was wrong earlier, and the female ostrich WAS coming close to the vehicles!
One of the more dramatic sightings I’ve ever witnessed (definitely in my top three!). The Sparta pride had killed a buffalo bull, and a huge clash developed over the carcass with the local clan of hyenas. This lioness had gone for a drink of water and become isolated, eventually fleeing from about six hyenas who had closed in to harass her.
Eventually the young male lions joined the fray to even things out, but while this was going on some of the hyenas ran off to appropriate the buffalo carcass. Another huge scrap ensued over what was left. Visit this link to watch the incredible video of the sighting…
This sighting took place on the same day as the one above. Lions vs. hyenas in the morning and a crazy wild dog chase in the afternoon. Definitely one of the more action-packed days I’ve experienced in the bush. These two dogs had split from the main pack to chase down this impala ewe, and eventually killed her in the Manyelethi Riverbed right in front of us; a scene not for the faint of heart. They ran off to join the rest of the pack after only eating a small part of the carcass, as two other impalas had been brought down by other dogs not too far away.
Five years ago was the same as it is today, in that elephant sightings along the Sand River at the end of the dry season are – and were – plentiful.