The fall-out of Cyclone Eloise is nowhere as bad as we thought it might be. Apart from some minor erosion to a few of the roads, we came out pretty much unscathed.
Over 150mm of rain in 24hours certainly made itself felt (this is roughly a quarter of our expected annual average), but apart from a day or two of hunkering down and the landscape pouring water down even the slightest little depression or groove, life has continued as normal.
A couple of days of sun since then has dried up a lot of surface water again and the ground has hardened up once more (for the most part), meaning it’s far less likely we’ll be getting bogged down all over the show in the Land Rovers.
The most important environmental outcome is the rising of the water table and the continued flowing of the reserve’s seeplines.
Healthy ground water levels are like money in the bank; the herbivores will be enjoying lush grass over the whole of the reserve for the rest of the summer, grass that will last them right the way through to the end of the dry season, no matter how much rainfall we get from here on out.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Mashaba female wiles away the morning in the boughs of a leadwood tree. Although popular media regularly portrays leopards as leading a largely arboreal lifestyle, the truth is they spend by far the majority of their time on the ground, and tree-climbing is purely functional. However, in summer when the grass is long and visibility limited, we tend to see them climbing more in order to get an adequate view of what’s around them.
This impala ran away before I could get a decent shot of it. It’s not its broken horn that was interesting (this is relatively common to see in mature rams), but the leaf that was sticking out of it. Almost certainly it was simply a bit of vegetation stuck there, but the angle that it was protruding at made lit look like a seed had germinated in the horn stump.
A giraffe bull approaches an oestrus female. We had a brief moment in which the rain stopped falling (this was during the recent Cyclone Eloise; the hazy conditions in the background are sheets of rain still falling) but barely a minute later it came down again. In retrospect a slower shutter speed would have been preferable in order to allow for more streaking in the rain drops. This would have added an extra dynamic to the image.
A pair of Bennet’s woodpeckers – identified by their spotted underparts – explore the branches of a dead knobthorn tree. This woodpecker species forages mainly on the ground for their favourite prey species of ants and termites, and it’s not as common to see a pair together in a tree.
Dragonflies are excellent bioindicators; that is their presence or the health of their population can tell you a lot about the health of the overall ecosystem. This makes sense since so many ecosystems are dependent on the health and quality of the water cycle, as are dragonflies, which are generally found close to freshwater. The clouds of them we are seeing around the Causeway in particular each evening seem to suggest that the Sand River is doing quite well.
The caterpillar larvae of the bagworm moth family construct casings of silk, to which they adhere environmental materials like sticks, lichen and grass shards, depending on the species. These casings render them almost invisible to would-be predators. This one was only seen because it was slowly shuffling across the road outside the Londolozi offices…
A group of young white rhinos settle down to rest as the day warms up. The wallow they had been rolling in can just bee seen in the top right of the image.
Red-billed hornbills are easily sexed by means of their bill; the male has a black base to his lower mandible while the female has an all red bill. Now that the breeding season is well underway we are starting to see small families of these birds hopping around foraging together; a great sign that multiple clutches have fledged successfully.
The Mashaba female again, descending from the leadwood in the same sighting as the first photo. We sat with her for well over an hour before she came down. Goodness knows how long she had been up there before we arrived.
I wasn’t ready for this one! A different red-billed hornbill (but also a male) leaps up to snap a grub off a grass stalk.
The Ximungwe young male disappears into the long grass. A number of rattling cisticolas (a species of small bird) were alarming at him, and it is common practice for a leopard that is being alarmed at to raise up its white-tipped tail like a flag of surrender, showing the alarmist that it knows it has been seen and is moving off.
One of our less common weaver varieties, the Spectacled weaver. This species doesn’t nest in large colonies like some of its cousins, choosing instead to build its home in isolation, usually over a dry watercourse.
One of the Birmingham males follows the scent of an Ntsevu lioness. Since the bulk of the sub-adults of this pride are over two years old now, the adult lionesses are coming back into oestrus, and we have seen the Birmingham males mating with a couple of them.
The Flat Rock male is coming under pressure from the Maxim’s male, and in this sighting the two of them were growling at each other from a distance of about 50 metres. The Maxim’s male is fairly skittish and remained hidden in the bushes, but it was interesting to see him fairly close to the Londolozi camps (this was only about a kilometre downstream on the Sand River), which is well out of we understand to be his usual territory.