Firstly, the answer to yesterday’s Mystery Bird challenge…
The answer is a Green-backed or Striated Heron.
There’s not a lot to go on, but the long legs and long crest, as well as body shape, were big pointers in the right direction. The larger herons would have had a slightly different leg length to body size ratio. It could have been a grey heron that had tucked in its neck, but the legs are still a little too short.
From there you are looking at Squacco (very rare here), Black-crowned Night Heron or Green-backed heron. The White-backed night heron doesn’t have a crest, so it is ruled out entirely.
The crest of a Squacco heron is longer than the bird in the picture, and the Night Heron only has two plumes, without the prominent shorter crest that the Green-backed Heron does, and that is just visible here.
It was a tricky one, so congratulations to those who got it right…
The amazing news out of Londolozi is the discovery of a second clutch of ostrich chicks, which boosts the total number to an unbelievable 23! I don’t have any photos of them myself, so you’re going to have to wait for Dean de la Rey’s post next week, but I’m sure you can agree that it’s a staggering number. Not because Ostriches can’t have that many, but more because it was so unexpected. There we were, thrilled to have three chicks hatch from the nest we knew about, and meanwhile there was another nest out there that we had NO idea of, with the female secretly harbouring another 20 young ostriches. Quite an amazing next chapter in the ongoing saga of Londolozi’s ostriches.
Hang on for a few more days and you’ll be able to see some photos of them, but for now, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Senegal Bush male is pushing further and further west. The ever-changing flux of male leopards across Londolozi has resulted in some of the best leopard viewing we’ve had in years, with females pairing up with new males to mate, conflict between territorial individuals, and a constant discussion going on amongst the trackers and rangers about predictions and hopes for the future population. Right now, “unstable” would be the word to best describe things…
Despite their bulk, elephants are remarkably agile, and can reach areas that one would never think possible. We regularly find their dung on top of the most seemingly inaccessible rocky outcrops, and the slopes they must clamber up leave us scratching our heads as to how they actually did it. Here a young one gets onto its knees to scramble down a steep bank to the edge of a waterhole.
With the major waterholes and pans almost dry across the reserve, fish and invertebrates are being crammed into the last remaining pools, providing a bounty for anything that might eat them, like this Marabou stork.
The den of the northern hyena clan continues to entertain, with the cubs often scuffling with each other. Before too long it is likely that the den will move to avoid a parasite build-up, but we have known clans to use some dens for months at a time, so let’s hope they stay at this one for awhile.
Ranger James Souchon listens to his guests in a discussion over the Mashaba female leopard, who was lying out of frame to the left.
An impala ram races across a clearing. Impalas are some of the best animals to try motion blur with, as in a herd, when one runs the rest will almost always follow.. If it’s a big herd, you’ll have multiple opportunities.
Two old giraffe bulls were feeding just outside the Varty Camp entrance, and were remarkably unperturbed by our vehicle driving past. Older bulls develop the extra ossification that can be seen in the middle of this one’s forehead, and just have a more weathered look about them. They are also generally darker than other individuals.
With a lot of the reserve looking barren at the end of the dry season, the grasslands in the south-west still have a decent amount of nutritious grass cover, and this is where we are finding a number of big elephant bulls who have moved down to take advantage of the fact.
The Ntsevu cubs are getting bigger, and the young males are already starting to show the first signs of their manes. Still scraggly for now, the extra fur on their chins is nevertheless noticeable.
Red-billed oxpeckers are fairly generalist, feeding off a wide range of herbivores from warthogs to rhinos. Yellow-billed oxpeckers specialize a bit more, and we generally only see them on buffalo on Londolozi, although I have seen them feeding off a rhino as well. Their population is far lower than the red-billed variety pictured here, although we are seeing more of them these days than we did a few years ago.
Ranger Alfie Mathebula discusses leopard behaviour with his guests, while tracker Terrence Mahlaba keeps scanning, still fully alert despite being in a sighting. The Mashaba female can be seen stretched out in the background, to Alfie’s right.
The Senegal Bush male again, in the same sighting as the first photo of the post. Although it looks like the vehicle here is positioned right up against the mound, there is a tremendous amount of compression in the 600mm lens I was using, which makes everything seem closer together.
Three young zebra stallions out of a bachelor herd enjoy the last of the day’s warmth in each other’s company.
The young cheetahs have been found recently, moving through the grassy crests in East Londolozi. Here Rangers Melvin Sambo and Paul Danckwerts positioned up ahead of them, next to the prominent termite mound which – knowing the animals’ behaviour – it was very likely the cheetahs would climb.
The Birmingham males continue to tag along behind the Ntsevu pride, centralising their movements in Londolozi’s south-east and across into the Sand River. In contrast to the male leopard population, the male lion dynamics are currently as stable as they come, but how long will this state of affairs last…?