Firstly, yesterday’s Mystery Bird…
It was a Southern Grey-Headed Sparrow:
The chestnut shoulders and white wingbar were big clues. A possibility might have been the red-backed shrike, a migratory bird which we haven’t (or at least I haven’t) seen yet this summer, but the shrike lacks the wingbars and has a more contrasting colour change between the head and nape.
Congratulations to those who got it right!
So, the big news in the leopard population is the seemingly impending demise of the Anderson male.
He’s been viewed on a couple of occasions in the Sand River near the Causeway, looking very much the worse for wear. Skeletal and torn up, with a big gash running down his neck, it can’t be long before he goes to the happy hunting ground in the sky. Usually the decline in an ousted male leopard is an accelerating one, and given that the Anderson male is apparently spending his time down in the river, it seems almost inevitable that he’ll have run-ins with the lions that are also spending the vast majority of their time cruising the reed beds.
We’ll run a full update on him next week, but for now, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Othawa male. He has done well to work his way into the Mhangeni pride, with whom he is in pretty much constant attendance. These lions have been spending the past few weeks to the south of Londolozi, apparently hunting with quite a bit of success, but have returned to the central parts of our reserve over the last couple of days.
The Inyathini male on approach. With the Senegal Bush male having encroached seemingly overnight into the northern parts of the Inyathini male’s territory, I think it’s fair to assume that conflict is brewing… Photograph by Kevin Power
Dwarf mongooses, Londolozi’s smallest carnivores. Troops of these little creatures regularly make use of termite mounds to den in overnight, but have a number throughout their territories between which they will move. Using one den continuously would probably be a death trap, as predators would most likely learn very quickly to exploit it.
White-browed Scrub Robins are some of the best song-birds out there. Their cousins the Bearded Scrub Robins – which prefer more riparian vegetation and that we see a lot of in camp – are excellent mimics, copying the songs of a multitude of other birds, but apparently in the White-browed Scrub Robin, mimicry is rare. Interesting point of discussion.
Some of you might recognize this shot from the Londolozi Instagram story of a few days ago. The Ximungwe female had been calling her cub to no avail and was moving off to search a new area, as the cub had moved during the night. She eventually found it a few hundred metres away, but only late that afternoon. The windy day meant the cub probably wasn’t hearing her when she was calling it.
The Ximungwe female again on a hoisted impala kill. I didn’t have a wide-angle lens with me, so this shot is a composite of about 8 photos taken with a 70-200mm lens. This technique can be very useful, but if you go too wide with your field of view you start to get warping creeping in, which can be seen here.
The Anderson male on the night he was discovered not looking so well. He was actually robbed of a nyala kill by the Ntsevu pride a few minutes after this photo was taken. I suppose the fact that he is still hunting large prey is a good sign, although if we’re honest we can’t say for certain if it was him who killed the nyala in the first place.
The Ntsevu pride a day or two after robbing the Anderson male. They have been living almost exclusively in the Sand River, hunting impala with great success, as well as stealing from the local leopard population, like they were again doing here (you can see a cub up in the tree feeding from the remains of an impala kill, we think robbed from the Flat Rock male).
One of the adults of the pride. These females are still meeting with phenomenal success in their cub raising, with 15 cubs still alive and accounted for. The lionesses themselves came from a group of 9 surviving cubs out of 10 that were raised by the Mhangeni lionesses, so I guess it runs in the genes…
One of the Nhlanguleni young females sniffs where another leopard must have passed, while Dan Hirschowitz looks on from the vehicle.
A Rattling Cisticola, a very loud bird for its diminutive size. Cisticolas can be very difficult to tell apart, but if you incorporate habitat, distribution and call into their identification, things become a lot easier.
Richard Mthabine, super-tracker. Rich was the top graduate of his year at the Tracker Academy, and performed so well that he was recruited to travel to Brazil with fellow-graduate Andrea Sithole to train some of the guides in the Pantanal how to track Jaguars. Jaguars are now being seen regularly where Rich and Andrea shared their skills.
Two boisterous elephant calfs had way more energy than the dry state of the bush would suggest they should have had. Since most of their sustenance is still coming from milk from their mothers, they won’t be suffering nearly as much as animals that rely exclusively on grass cover for food.
Probably the most diversified organ in the animal kingdom in terms of its usage. Smell, touch, drinking, feeding, picking things up, communication… the list of functions of an elephant’s trunk goes on and on…
The Tatowa female and her cub. This female isn’t encountered too regularly, and her cub remains reasonably skittish as a result, but luckily on this day it wasn’t too perturbed by the vehicle. We were parked quite far away though and shooting with a long lens, so that probably helped significantly.
Hopefully he can pull through for another 6 weeks until you get here, but sad to see him not looking well.
Leopards of the south is coming out this week!