Within the space of about ten days, the landscape at Londolozi transformed from dust and yellow grass to a myriad of mud wallows and bright green leaves and vibrance. Along with this transformation, the animal life has begun to shift too. Nick Sims recently wrote about the impala lambs appearing while Chris Taylor spoke of some of the migratory birds to look out for, as two examples of how dynamics have shifted with the rains.
The bush is coming alive!
No longer will animals have to battle for nutrition as the sweltering sun beats down on bare soil. No longer will animals congregate desperately in the Sand River in search of lush grass and pools of water in holes dug by elephants. Herbivores will spread out right across the reserve now with ample food and water supplies.
However, there are plenty of creatures or behavioural traits that now become prevalent that are worth stopping to observe. I am referring to subjects that are in addition to the spectacular leopards and lions. I have compiled a list of eight smaller, often-overlooked things to watch out for during the Summer months to keep your safari well balanced and enjoyable.
Use this as a checklist of subjects to photograph to keep each drive as varied and interesting as possible. Your cellphone or your fixed 300mm f2.8 will do – these are for everyone!
1. A Dung Beetle Rolling Its Brood Ball
One of the essential creatures of our landscape – the dung beetle. Able to sniff out fresh dung within seconds, male beetles will roll a perfectly cylindrical ball of dung atop which the female will sit. This duo is then pushed with the hind legs towards a burrow or an area suitable for a burrow. The weight to power ratio is immense – they can push 50 times their own weight and pull over 1000 times their weight. Step out the vehicle, get down on your stomach and get that low angle shot to really portray the close up story of the dung beetle from its own level. It will be way more worth it than simply getting a shot from above from the vehicle.
2. Emergence Of Termite Alates
Prior to the first summer rains, termite colonies start to produce individuals with wings called alates. These alates will emerge in their hundreds and thousands, usually around dusk or dawn. The aim is for males and females to meet up, starting potential new colonies. When they emerge, there is the opportunity to get some great shots of them flying around lights, or even backlit by the sun if you get the opportunity. A whole array of species from genets to eagles to frogs (to name but a few) are attracted to this phenomenon, providing some interesting sightings.
3. Spot A Chameleon
Chameleons feed during the day and are generally inconspicuous unless found walking from one bush to another. However, at night you may be lucky enough to find one in the beam of the spotlight clinging on to the edge of a bush. They stand out as a slightly different shade of green – almost like a strange, larger leaf within a bush. You’ll be amazed at how good the trackers are at finding them!
4. Fireflies (glowworms) in the Sand River
Sitting silently while listening to the sound of the Sand River flowing, the frogs croaking, hyenas calling in the background and owls hooting in the foreground is something quite moving. If you have the opportunity, a long exposure photograph of fireflies can produce a memorable and very different shot.
Young warthogs are quite possibly one of the most entertaining of all the young animals to watch. They sprint in all directions, skidding and tumbling as they try change direction to keep up with each other! If one is able to get a low angle picture of an adult with her youngsters to give some perspective, that would be a winner.
6. Rain Drops In The Early Morning
“a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather”
Rainstorms may at first seem like a dampener on the spirits, but getting out on a game drive after a storm is quite possibly the best time to be out in the bush. The dust is settled, the leaves and grass are a vibrant green and the smell of the wet land (known as petrichor) is enchanting. When the light catches all the drops of water on the tips of leaves, grass and spider webs, a sparkle is created across the landscape.
Rain can also provide wonderful photographic opportunities such as an animal shaking rain off itself (a dream picture I am still trying to capture) or backlit rain drops falling past an animal.
7. New Life
Young animals and birds are abundant at this time of the year… Impalas, wildebeest and warthogs are the three animals who have specific breeding seasons that result in births in our summer period. Who doesn’t love seeing the jovial spirit of young life out in the bush!
8. Dramatic Skies
After the warm days of summer, moisture evaporates and massive cumulonimbus clouds can form in the late afternoons. The lowering sun can produce amazing shades of purples, oranges and greys on the faces of these clouds. The clouds themselves are quite a sight to see, but capture a subject in the foreground to give some perspective for a great shot.
See how many of these you are able to witness or capture on camera during your stay at Londolozi!