Wow the grass is long!
Although that might sound as if it’s tricky to spot things (it certainly can be), we actually find that animals tend to be funnelled into the more open areas, pathways and roads by the thicker vegetation. It’s far less energy-consuming for a leopard to march down a dirt track than to wade his or her way through extensive two-feet-high stands of Themeda triandra.
It’s been a tricky week for leopards; whereas for most of the year their hoisted kills will keep them anchored in the same spot for a day or two, at the moment they are snacking predominantly on impala lambs, which are such small morsels that invariably the leopard will have consumed the carcass and moved off within a few hours.
Elephants galore are encountered on every drive, as has been the norm for the last six weeks or so.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Flat Rock male is encountered far less often these days. Having expanded territory into the north, where there are fewer roads, sightings of him are infrequent, so we take full advantage of them when they come along. On this morning he had been scent-marking extensively, probably in response to rain from two nights before, which would have washed some of his previous scent away…
Elephants are taking full advantage of the full pans and waterholes, swimming on the hot days and seemingly having the most enormous amount of fun while doing so…
There is a pair of Spotted Eagle Owls seen regularly near the Mashaba Drainage to the east of the Londolozi camps. This is the same watercourse that gave the Mashaba female leopard her name. Although it’s possible that a different pair has moved in to where a former one used to reside, the consistency with which I’ve seen them at the same spot over the past decade and the fact that owls are reported to live for 10 years in the wild with bigger species living longer, leads me to suspect that at least the bulk of the sightings have been of exactly the same pair in residence.
Impalas are like sheep – in the metaphorical sense – in that when one starts running, the whole herd generally follows suit. The contrasting white and black rump patterning is supposedly a means through which individual herd members follow each other.
Summer and mud are two constant bedfellows in elephant terms.
The Ntsevu pride is still splitting, with the sub-adults going one way with one or two adults, and the other big females being found in a different part of the reserve. Recently however, we have seen one sub-adult female with the split of four adults, and can’t shake the feeling that a couple of the younger lions might not end up splitting altogether.
Not everyone’s favourite, but bats play a vital role in the ecosystem. This is a Mauritian Tomb bat, suspended under the eaves of the staff gym roof. We tend to only think of impalas, wildebeest and warthogs when we think of the seasonal breeders amongst the mammals, but insectivorous bats – like this species – only breed in the spring and summer too, which makes sense given that that’s when their insect prey is most abundant.
It’s not only rhinos, elephants and warthogs that spend time in the mud. Hyenas like this one are often found in small pans to keep cool, although it’s generally the water they prefer and not the pure mud.
Ranger Nick Sims and co. watch the Ntsevu pride filter across the Londolozi airstrip at dusk.
Given that the Ntsevu pride had been on the hunt through these very clearings the night before, this young wildebeest calf can count itself lucky to be alive.
A very unusual sighting of a Dwarf Bittern out in the open. Usually only seen skulking through the grassy and reed-covered fringes of small waterbodies – and rarely at that – this one had been flushed by some elephants coming down to drink at a pan, and flew up to briefly perch in this open fork of a Knobthorn tree.
It’s been said that a large mammal like a buffalo or rhino can carry away 25kg of mud with it from a wallow at a time. After seeing a bull covered from head to toe like this, it’s a statement I can easily believe.
If you look closely, you’ll see the Styx young male in the background, watching the elephant herd pass by (it might have been the Nkuhuma young male, I tend to forget which is which).
Lone elephant bulls, open clearings and big cloudy skies are a fantastic combination in summer. This bull was heading for the marula tree in front of him, which he shook a couple of times to dislodge the fruits.
The Londolozi airstrip is a popular place for herbivores; with open grassy verges and excellent line of sight, it’s a safe place to feed in the day and sleep at night. Photographically it also makes for open, uncluttered backgrounds.