Having exceeded our seasonal average rainfall already, the landscape would now be unrecognisable for someone who visited a few months ago. The Sand River has continued to rise with consistently good rains falling in the catchment areas to the point where we have not been able to explore our northern regions for fear of being washed down the river!
With fewer vehicles traversing the reserve than usual, the challenge of tracking and finding animals in the long grass and dense vegetation has been rather entertaining. While there has been a fairly regular presence of the Nstevu pride and Birmingham males spread out across the reserve, it has been the leopard that seem to have remained even more elusive than what we’re used to. The marula trees are now in full fruit, drawing in several elephants from far and wide who pleasantly divide their time between gorging themselves on the sweet fruits and bathing in the many wallows that continue to be topped up by daily showers. The bird life has also been rather special, particularly around these small bodies of water with a few brief glimpses of lesser moorhen and most notably an African crake on three occasions.
The conditions have made photography that much more challenging, which forces us to improvise and try new methods and techniques wherever we can.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A tree squirrel pokes its head out of a shallow cavity. They use these holes, known as ‘dreys’ to sleep in and nest. This one happened to join us while we were sitting with a sleeping Birmingham male lion. Needless to say, it thought twice before scurrying down the trunk of the tree.
The Finfoot female was found with an impala lamb hoisted in a Marula tree. Soon after we arrived she decided to take the kill down and proceeded to drag it under a bush. With the vegetation being so thick after the recent rains, it seems as though the leopards are quite content to leave their kills hidden in the thick undergrowth for a while, as it is harder for hyaenas to find them and steal the kill.
A summer scene. Despite not actually feeding on fish, this woodland kingfisher was perched on a dead branch that overhung a waterhole. Interestingly, kingfishers can’t perch on the ground and therefore dive from perches like this one in order to get a drink.
A giraffe bull crosses an open crest allowing us appreciate his true size.
The Senegal Bush male has been making clear advances further north, into what has been the Flat Rock male’s territory for quite some time. However, the Maxim’s male has now also been seen moving into the area. This behaviour could be as a result of the Flat Rock male being stuck on the northern side of the flooded Sand River for the better part of two weeks, leaving the southern stretches of his domain unattended.
Sunny afternoons provide a great opportunity to work on some other forms of photography, such as landscape photography. As we were setting up our shot this inquisitive hyaena came to investigate what we were up to – turning a landscape shot back into a wildlife one.
This one got the team quite excited! One of the very few times an African crake has been seen at Londolozi in recent years. These rare birds favour marshy areas and long grass which makes finding them rather difficult. Given all the rain we have had one can only hope that we see a few more in the coming weeks.
The recent rains turned many of the roads at Londolozi into temporary miniature rivers. Once the flow of water subsided the thick mud was the perfect canvas to capture the tracks left behind by a young male leopard.
This large elephant bull had one of the thickest tusks I have ever seen. But just one. He was missing his left tusk and so I felt it would only do him justice to frame the portrait of him to reflect his ‘good side’.
A massive cumulonimbus cloud towers over the grasslands. The name for the cloud is derived from the Latin words; Cumulus meaning heaped and nimbus meaning rainstorm.
We get two species of terrapin at Londolozi; the serrated-hinged and marsh terrapins. The latter is known for making cross country voyages from one body of water to the next, meaning that we often encounter them on game trails and dirt tracks – out of their preferred aquatic environment. I decided to hop out the vehicle and get eye-level with one. He was completely relaxed with my presence and seemed to feel the same way towards the fly that landed on his head as I took this photo.
One of the Birmingham males scans the plains. We found him in an open clearing, following the scent of two lionesses. Upon finding the females he scanned the surroundings and when satisfied with the lay of the land, he promptly fell asleep.
A quartet of beautiful violet-backed starlings. The distinction between male and female can easily be made here with the males possessing the glossy purple plumage. They are a migratory species that breed here in the summer, making use of small cavities in dead trees like the one they’re on.
One of the Birmingham males licks his lip as he narrowly escapes a slap from an Ntsevu lioness. The pair had been seen mating a few days prior to this particular morning and the signs of mating fatigue were clearly evident. At the peak of their mating exchanges, lions will mate every fifteen minutes throughout the day and the repetitive nature of this form of mating becomes painful over time, especially for the female.
An elephant bull give a large Marula tree an almighty shake. We are coming to the end of the Marula fruiting season and this elephant had to give this Marula a decent push before the tasty fruit started dropping from the tree.
A western cattle egret in breeding plumage. The bird life around the freshly filled water sources has been nothing short of spectacular over the last while.
This young male lion was one of two that were found by Nick and tracker Jerry Sibiya late one morning in the far south eastern corner of Londolozi. It created a bit of debate as to who the pair were. The only young males we are aware of in the area at the moment are the Styx and Nkahuma males but it was suggested that these males could be from the Sand River pride. We’re still not sure but its great to have young lions roaming around.
The Tavangumi Male gazes into the tree canopy above him. This young male leopard is in the nomadic phase of his life and is constantly on the search for a place where he can put down some roots and stake out a territory of his own.
Chris, I loved all leopard🤗
Stunning pics. Love the leopards and lions.
I was reminded of a question I have by the picture of the Giraffe. Does it really have white ears? I was watching a documentary last night and all the Giraffes had white ears. I never noticed this before, but is this true for all breeds of Giraffe?
The violet backed starling are so colourful, I have never seen them before. I hope the flat rock male and senegal bush male don’t come to blows over territory. They are both such beautiful leopards and I wish that all have their own territory. Elephants love the marulas and it is wonderful to see them shacking the trees for the fruit. Good to see the lions mating, now we can look forward to cubs. The bush is looking so lush after the rains and I am sure the animals are loving the pools of water, especialy the elephants. Rivers flowing means ample water for the crocs and hippos as well.
Wonderful pictures! I love the birds especially the starlings and the crake, the elephant bull and giraffe bull , the terrapin is too nice it made me smile… but lions and leopards take the accolade they are spectacular and expressive, you can read their emotions…the Tavangumi male deserves a prize!
Some really nice photos. I was in Londolozi towards the end of your winter, and I enjoy seeing Londolozi in all of its green splendor now that I am on the cusp of our spring.
The cumulonimbus cloud image is stunning and the perfect accompaniment to TWIP. Tavangumi male is looking strong as well as the Senegal Bush male, but the Birmingham male seems to look older and more tired…… kudos to a good week of photo sharing.
What a joy it is to see these spectacular photos – certainly brighten up the cold, icy winter days here in the UK. I look forward to my daily dose of Londolozi therapy. Thank you!
Thanks for the great gallery Chris. Many iconic images, several saved!!
Great B&W of the Birmingham male!
Thank you for the share…
This was definitely a good week of sightings, wow you guys sure had awesome sightings. I hope every one is still doing well and staying safe
Great pictures. I love apart from all the others as well especially the one of the clouds. Very impressive.
Absolutely STUNNING pics! What a treat! Thank you so much! Thoroughly enjoyed looking through these pics!
Chris and Nick, what an awesome post. We loved seeing the bird shots. We have always heard how challenging it can be with the high grasses, and appreciate your efforts to find worthy subjects!
Great pictures!! Captured so much of the spirit and wonder that surrounds us at Londolozi
So I wonder what happens when the river levels drop and Flat Rock comes back down south. Will he reclaim territory or will he permanently shift more north? Never thought of weather as influencing territories!
Considering the challenge with the long lush grass your photos are fabulous Chris. The Eli and the Tavangumi Male leopard are the winners for me but gosh, the starlings are beautiful ..never seen them ! 🙏🏻💕
Nice sighting of the African Crake!!!
Great photos. The western cattle egret is so lovely with that coral color.
Wow – loved the Finfoot and Tavangumi Leopard shots!