First up, the answer to this week’s Mystery Bird Challenge: it was none other than a Crowned Eagle.
This was the first one I’ve seen at Londolozi in 10 years of living and working here, so needless to stay it caused quite a stir amongst the bird enthusiasts on the Lockdown staff. GM Duncan MacLarty even cut a meeting short to race out to see it.
We only managed a long-distance view as the bird was quite nervous in the open, but it was still thrilling. Crowned Eagles tend to favour more forested areas and are only rarely encountered in the more open savannah that dominates the Sabi Sand Reserve, although truth be told this one was along the river, which is more thickly wooded. It looked like a young(ish) bird though so had most likely dispersed from its natal area and was looking for a place to establish territory. It has not been seen on Londolozi since.
On the more recent wildlife front the end of the dry season has seen the normal hippo conflict with bulls battling for dwindling water resources and their accompanying mating opportunities. One was found dead in the north of the reserve that had presumably succumbed to wounds sustained in just such a clash, and provided a feast for the local scavengers.
The Nkuhuma pride was found on a buffalo kill much further south than we’ve seen them before, which may spell trouble for the Tsalala lioness, and a young male leopard was found on a kill about 30 metres from where I’m typing this right now…
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
What we think is the young Misava male. Bushbuck alarming outside the Londolozi offices alerted us to the presence of a predator, and this young leopard was spotted from the office windows. Closer inspection revealed a very young bushbuck carcass that he must have just killed.
White-backed vultures pick the bones of a hippo carcass clean.
And a hyena scatters the wake (the collective noun for a group of vultures on a kill) as the sun starts to set in the west.
The Mhangeni pride were seen on consecutive days in west Londolozi, giving us fantastic sightings of their two older cubs. I say older because another one of the lionesses is believed to have given birth to cubs in the last few weeks, but we are yet to lay eyes on them.
A fantastically rare sight; a half-collared kingfisher. Although relatively common in other parts of South Africa, this is probably the species we see the least on Londolozi, with only one sighting being had every couple of years if we’re lucky. This one is thought to be nesting in the banks of the Sand River (and therefore must surely have a partner).
The creepy-crawlies of the night. Closed shoes are a good idea after dark in summer as there may be scorpions scuttling around. This one was actually in the Londolozi office passageway one evening. A thick tail and narrow pincers relative to its size are a warning of the higher toxicity of its venom.
The Makomsava female has featured prominently of late, denning two very young cubs within a fifteen minute drive of camp. In this image she had been feeding on a kudu carcass for three days, and subsequent to that she is now believed to have moved dens. We are still searching for the new one.
A majestic kudu bull breaks the skyline in the early morning.
Two lionesses of the Mhangeni pride rest in the Sand River with the Othawa male just behind them. Although they’ve been around, sightings of the pride have sometimes been tricky as they have often chosen inaccessible sandbanks in the middle of the river to rest on. This one was particularly difficult to get to.
This winter has almost been defined by giraffes, with a greater number of calves than I’ve personally seen in the area for a long time. The airstrip and clearings near camp have provided prolific sightings.
A large herd of buffalo drinks from an isolated and beautiful beach in the Sand River. We don’t often see big herds of buffalo near the Londolozi camps – they are usually down in the grasslands – so it was a real treat having this one around for a couple of days.
A bull from that same herd looks up from drinking.
Bees; far more important than most people realise. Without them and their pollinating efforts, entire ecosystems would collapse. This was a fascinating sighting that took place actually in the Londolozi Staff village, of a hive massing to relocate.
One of the Avoca males stares back from the thickets. He had been stalking a hyena that had come in to investigate the Nkuhuma pride’s buffalo kill, but was spotted before he could get close enough to pounce.
A very young and nervous white rhino calf dashes across an open road to seek the relative safety of the thickets on the other side.