Following on from Dean’s phenomenal array of images last week, news is that the Tortoise Pan Male has been seen in the far western sector of the Sabi Sand Reserve. Maybe he has finally decided to spread his wings and leave his father, the Inyathini Male, in search of a new territory.
The bush is very sparse, making game viewing and photography incredible at the moment. However, with little grass cover and very little foliage apart from that on the marula trees, herbivores are beginning to struggle. On the contrary, this means that predators are thriving. Several different leopards have been viewed feeding off kills, including the Ximungwe female who unexpectedly made a kill right in front of our vehicle as we left camp this week.
The Ntsevu pride has had to roam far and wide in search of prey on almost a daily basis in order to feed the growing youngsters. One of the females was seen mating with a Birmingham male in the Sand River too. On top of this, the Tsalala female and her surviving cub were sharing a kudu bull kill a bit further upstream in the Sand River – never ceasing to amaze us with their perseverance.
Lastly, the endangered African Wild Dogs and cheetah have been seen on more than one occasion this week, really spoiling us as we head into the summer months.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A Wahlberg’s Eagle sits perched on a dead tree at sunrise. This migratory species returns in pairs to the very same nest every year, travelling all the way from northern Africa to Londolozi and its surrounds. Although you can’t see it in the photo, this particular individual is a less common pale morph, seen in the same area south of the Londolozi airstrip at this time last year. Could it be the same individual bird? Almost certainly…
A young male cheetah lies panting next to an impala that it had killed. This particular day was about 41 degrees Celcius (106 Farenhei!) and the cheetah had made this kill in the heat of the day. It’s not surprising it lay panting heavily!
A stitched panoramic shot of a spotted hyena sleeping in a shallow waterhole. Hyenas love resting in water, particularly when it has been as hot as it has over the last week.
An African Wild Dog (Painted Wolf) stands and chews a fallen tree. A pack of ten adults and eleven pups has been seen twice over the last week. Sometimes we go weeks without seeing dogs, so it has been a real treat having them around. Interestingly, the adults were at times as or more playful than the pups!
A group of three yellow-billed storks and one African spoonbill (below) fly above the Sand River. The River is currently dry with only one or two small shallow pools. Both these species frequent shallow water in search of small fish, frogs and aquatic invertebrates, hence their association with each other around the Sand River lately.
The Ximungwe female jumps along a branch towards a hoisted impala kill. This leopard has done incredibly well to raise a single cub to one year of age so far, being her very first litter. She had three different kills consecutively all within about 100 metres of each other spanning into the beginning of this week.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
A herd of impalas line up for a drink. Being a water-dependent species, they will always be found close to fresh water. At this dry time of the year, there is little free-standing water across the reserve, so impala are accumulating along the banks of the Sand River and around some of the waterholes in the reserve. This does mean that some predators have learnt to wait in the vicinity of water and ambush prey, like impala, on their way for a drink.
The Ximungwe young male sits watching a hyena from a termite mound at sunrise. We found a whole impala carcass one evening, with leopard tracks around it, but no leopards in sight. We returned the following morning to find the Ximungwe female and her year-old cub sitting watching a young hyena eating the kill. The female leopard managed to successfully reclaim and hoist the kill but only after the third attempt! Ironically, later in the morning the youngster managed to drop the kill out of the tree again…
Two giraffe bulls fighting (necking) in the middle of the Sand River. It’s really only around this dry period that you’ll have frequent sightings of giraffes in the river. It’s risky from a lion ambush perspective but worth it for now as the only leafy trees are found along the banks. These two males were establishing dominance between themselves by swinging their heads and necks against each other in the typical “necking” manner.
A young male lion lies on a termite mound in the shade of a Saffron tree. On our way back to camp one morning, we stumbled upon this young male. He is probably around three years of age and may have been pressurised to leave his pride early by older, more dominant males. The beauty of being in a system of about 3,5 million hectares (~8,4 million acres) is that sometimes we find animals that we have never seen before whose history we do not know. This individual was very relaxed with the vehicle so no doubt dispersed from another area in which safaris operate.
The Ximungwe female with yet another hoisted kill. This one she made right in front of our vehicle about five minutes out of camp. She pulled it into a marula tree hastily, as the impala herd was alarming frantically, which would have alerted any hyena in the vicinity to the activity. Luckily she was quick enough and the first hyena only arrived about five minutes later. With a minimum of 100mm lens, I had to take four shots here and stitch them together to get the majority of the tree in the shot with the beautiful colour bands as the sun edged closer to the horizon.
The Tatowa female leopard holds an impala lamb in her jaws. We followed her and watched her jump onto this fallen tree, unaware that she had left the carcass there. This lamb was not yet born and must have come from an impala ewe carcass that was about 50 metres away. This is the harsh reality of the bush, but this female leopard did begin to contact call for her cub for whom this carcass will provide some much needed sustenance.
The Tatowa female was one of a litter of three females born in early 2012 to the Ximpalapala female of the north.
A pair of broad-billed rollers sits on a dead stump. These uncommon migratory rollers nest in natural tree cavities when they return to Londolozi each summer. Two Burchell’s starlings repeatedly chased them off this stump – possibly competing for the same nesting site.
A panning shot of an African Wild Dog. This tricky technique involves slowing one’s shutter speed down and then holding the focus point on the moving subject. The aim is to get the subject (mostly) in focus and the background blurred, conveying the movement. James Tyrrell explains in a recent blog post. This adult dog was playing with some pups and was mid turn as I took this shot. Although not quite fully focused, the arch of the body and the turned head convey the play quite nicely for me.
A giraffe stretches down for a drink in the mid day heat. The oxpeckers can be seen flying off his neck as he flicks his head back up to avoid too much of a head-rush from dropping the head below the heart for too long.