First up, the Mystery Bird answer.
It was a tough one, evidenced by the fact that only a couple of correct answers were to be found in the comments (although a few rangers from years part sent private queries, worried about getting it wrong in public).
The answer was a Black-Chested Snake Eagle:
The two species we were confused between when we first spotted it were Martial and Brown Snake Eagles; it looked like the latter from a distance because of its upright stance and large head, and it looked like the former because of its pale chest. The Black-chested snake eagle that it actually was is essentially a combination of the two. They are uncommon here, generally preferring more arid habitats.
On with the main event:
The hugely exciting news is the discovery of a den of African Wild Dog pups in the centre of the reserve. Our final count puts the number at 10, and our best guesses have them at approximately three weeks old. This is the first time a pack of wild dogs has denned here in a decade.
Elsewhere the Ntsevu pride have been on and off Londolozi over the last seven days, as have the Mhangeni and Nkuhuma prides, so it has been the leopard viewing that has been the most consistent, with the Ximungwe female and her cub and the Senegal Bush male establishing themselves even more firmly as the mainstays of our viewing in the female and male categories.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
One of the young Ntsevu lions looks ahead to where the rest of the pride were moving into a thicket of Tamboti trees to rest for the day. The pride had killed a zebra the night before, and with full bellies were quite content not to move around too much.
The Nweti male – a seldom seen individual from the southern parts of Londolozi – pauses next to the Land Rover to chew on buffalo dung. Coprophagia is the term for the eating of faeces, and in animals it can be associated with a deficiency of nutrients in the diet.
A three-banded plover gives itself a scratch. Diminutive birds such as these are often overlooked, but when viewing them from ground – or water – level, one gets a slightly better idea about how they go about their days, and just how much drama their lives can involve. This individual was involved in three different conflicts over the course of only about half an hour.
Evening is when a number of animals head down to the waterhole for a drink. At one point on this evening, elephants, white rhinos and hippo were all within thirty metres of each other at this small pan – all three biggest terrestrial mammals on earth.
Rangers James Souchon (L) and Pete Thorpe lean in to examine the web of a Garden Orb Web Spider, as well as the arachnid itself.
One of the Birmingham males exhibits the flehmen grimace, testing the reproductive status of one of the Ntsevu females. With the sub-adults approaching the age of two, it shouldn’t be long before some of the lioness come into full oestrus again and start looking to reproduce once more.
A grey go-away bird huddles up against the chill of an autumn dawn. Getting their name from their distinctive call – sounding exactly like they are saying the words “Go Away” – these birds have different calls depending on what threat they have seen, and by differentiating between them, one can get an accurate idea of both what to look for and where to look for it.
The Ximungwe young male takes advantage of the last warmth to be gleaned form the afternoon sun. Being left by his mother for longer and longer periods these days, pretty soon he will be out on his own…
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
A large elephant bull crosses the northern end of the Londolozi airstrip. It is the perfect setup to get low angle shots with a clean background. Luckily for us, it is right outside camp, so often game drives start with a great photographic opportunity like this!
The Senegal Bush male makes his way through the dry sand of the Maxabene drainage line during a territorial patrol. Leopards will often move along drainage lines as they provide great cover. On this particular morning he had been scent marking heavily, potentially covering the scent of another male.
A lioness sits staring in the direction that her fellow pride members headed off into the night. They seemed to be waiting for the last bits of ambient light to disappear as they started to look for hunting opportunities. With a brilliant night sky starting to develop, it was a great opportunity to attempt a star shot with the lion in the foreground! One can see a bit of haze on the horizon and a satellite (top right).
The Mhangeni Pride and Othawa male start to settle on a small sandbank in the Sand River. Two youngsters had a blast jumping back and forth after each other. Cats are not huge fans of crossing water but when it is shallow enough, are not averse to playing in it.
An elephant takes a break from throwing dust over its back and blows it out as a stream. The herd was closely huddled together as they felt threatened by a pack of wild dogs that had been feeding close to them minutes earlier.
The Ximungwe young male lay hidden in the long grass as the Ximungwe female walked towards him. He burst out of the grass and tackled her in mid-air. This playful behaviour from young leopards is crucial in their development and training for hunting one day.
By far the best part of the week. More on this story to come. Lots more, we hope…