First up, the answer to the recent Bird ID Challenge:
The answer was a female Black Cuckooshrike. It’s a tricky ID, especially with a lot of greenery around. Also hard to see in this pic is the mottling on the breast and the prominent eye-stripe. The females of course, look nothing like the males, which are black.
Congratulations to all who got it right. Now on to the main event…
If variety is the spice of life, then summer is surely the ultimate buffet when it comes to wildlife viewing in South Africa’s Lowveld. Everything is happening at the moment, and it’s all set against the most verdant green backdrop the region has experienced in years.
Early rains have kickstarted the season the best we’ve seen since 2013/14 or thereabouts, and Rangers could literally take an entire 3-4 hour game drive within 500m, there’s so much going on.
From the big to the small, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A relative newcomer to Londolozi, the Saseka female. At only just over a year and a half old, it is still uncertain whether this leopard will remain in the area (she has been viewed right up in the northern section of Londolozi), as much of that part of the reserve is already spoken for by older, larger females. Whether she stays or goes, it’s still nice seeing a new face in the leopard population.
With the reserve suddenly covered in greenery, it’s getting fairly hard to see more than 20 metres, particularly when moving though areas covered with extensive Red Bushwillow thickets. Just as we struggle to see far, so too do the reserve’s inhabitants, and antelope like these young Kudu bulls will often seek higher ground in order to scan for danger.
The local lion prides have been dancing circles around each other. The Mhangeni pride have been all over the reserve, as have the Styx pride, and we’ve had two unidentified young lions right up in the north (although it’s suspected they are breakaways from the Styx pride). The Ntsevu pride have been traversing a lazy circle from the deep south right the way up practically to the Londolozi camps, and the Tsalala lioness and cub have been keeping a fairly low profile in the Manyelethi River. With all this lion activity, it almost seems like conflict is inevitable, but so far it seems as though they’ve all avoided each other. These lions are some the Mhangeni pride during a late-morning groom.
This is one of the Zebras from the Ximungwe and cub sighting of a few days ago. Low light in clouds meant capturing a sharp zebra running was going to be tricky without cranking the ISO way up, so it was easier to opt for an attempt at some panning shots.
Giant Land Snails are just one of the species that only poke their noses out when summer comes along. They are among the largest terrestrial gastropods in the world, and we have to play a continuous game of dodgem-cars whilst out on drive as they dot the roads on most mornings, particularly after rain.
Despite it being summer, temperatures can still be chilly around sunrise, and these two tree squirrels were taking full advantage of the heat emitted by this termite mound – and the heat emitted by each other – to stay warm.
Rain means patrolling for territorial animals, as their smell washes away quite quickly and they need to re-establish their territorial boundaries. This is one of the Birmingham males, moving early in the afternoon while watched by a nervous journey of giraffes.
Ranger Sandros Sihlangu waits with his guests by the side of the road for the lion to pass by.
Red-crested Korhaans – like many other birds – are at the height of their breeding season right now, and the males can regularly be heard uttering their shrill and repetitive whistling call, often from the same call sites. For some reason, we only tend to see this species north of the Sand River.
The Inyathini male seems to be in trouble, getting pressured by a number of other male leoaprds from the south. As a result he is being seen further and further north on the reserve, squeezed between the Maxabene River to the south and the territory of the Flat Rock male to the north. This was the first time I had ever seen him as far north as the Londolozi airstrip.
Another leopard who originated in the Kruger National Park, he has established a large territory in the south eastern areas of Londolozi.
Weavers are all-systems-go, with the abundant grass prompting frantic nesting activity. The Causeway in particular has some wildly active colonies, particularly on the northern end where these male Village Weavers are all jostling for prime nesting sites and desperately trying to attract the attentions of the females.
Lifelong friendships are made between Rangers and Trackers at Londolozi, often between people of vastly different cultures and backgrounds. Tracker Judas Ngomane and Ranger Rob Jeffery have been working as a team for almost three years now, having spent literally thousands of hours out in the bush together.
‘Tis the season of small delights. Beauty can be found in the smallest and simplest of things, like these dewdrops on a new blade of grass.
The Ximungwe young male, seeking refuge from the marauding zebras below.
Some of you will recognize this picture from the post of two days ago, when the Ximungwe female and her cub (above) were continuously chased by a dazzle of zebras in the rain. This leopard has been providing probably the most consistent leopard viewing in recent memory, confining the bulk of her activity to a small system of drainage lines close to the Londolozi camps.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
The cub contemplates one final zebra stalk in the failing light.