With February generally being our hottest month of the year, we have been relatively lucky to not have had many days warmer than 30 degrees Celsius.
The rain has eased up for the most part which has however led to a couple of humid days, as the all the moisture on the ground begins to evaporate. Overcast conditions have dominated the last week, which doesn’t lend itself to classical ‘golden hour’ photography but gives us some interesting chances at clean, moody and white backgrounds, a few of which feature in this post.
The headline for the week is that our primary crossing point over the Sand River has been temporarily repaired and the river has subsided enough for us to venture north – opening up a further couple of thousand hectares that we haven’t been able to explore for nearly a month! It was with much excitement that I headed up there a couple of days ago for the first time and was welcomed back with an amazing sighting of a pack of wild dogs.
The Sabi Sand Reserve isn’t all that well known for fantastic cheetah viewing but we have enjoyed having the mother cheetah and her two sub-adult cubs spending a great deal of time just east of our camps. Fellow ranger Kirst Joscelyne and I, along with our guests, in fact witnessed a successful hunt by the three of them this morning as they bought down an impala ewe which was rather thrilling to watch.
The break in the rains have brought about plenty of activity across the reserve from all creatures big and small. Many of the birds are taking full advantage of the many insects that are around before they depart on their migrations back north in the coming weeks. While I am looking forward to the cooler and drier winter months, a part of me will definitely miss the vibrant activity that we have had this summer.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
Out one evening with a group of rangers, we stopped in a beautiful open clearing to enjoy the sunset when this elephant suddenly appeared in the distance and slowly strolled over to us. He was very relaxed which gave us a great opportunity to get some low-level photos of him from alongside the vehicle. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a wider lens at the time which would have been ideal, but I managed to capture this image with my 100-400mm before putting my camera down to just enjoy the moment of being up close and personal with this giant.
On a recent morning off, ranger Pat Grealy and I headed out ourselves to see what we could find. Less than five minutes from camp we found fresh lion tracks and after following them for a couple of minutes came across a portion of the Ntsevu pride and this Birmingham male lying on the airstrip in the early morning light.
The large herd of buffalo have been enjoying the greener pastures of the south-western parts of the reserve as of late. We encountered them on a warm afternoon as they made their way towards a waterhole. The water not only offers them respite from the heat but relief from the incessant insect population that can be seen buzzing around this bulls face.
Summer means breeding time for many different animals; particularly birds. For several species, the males will develop some extravagant plumages in an effort to court the females. This Long-tailed Paradise Whydah lives up to his name as they grow these tails during the summer. For the rest of the year they appear as somewhat unrecognisable brown birds – the transformation is incredible.
This tree squirrel kept us rather entertained with its acrobatic moves as it scurried around the trunk of a marula. This particular moment got the camera shutters going!
You’ll often see pairs of zebra standing together, back to back and sometimes resting their heads on the others’ rump or back. This has three main objectives; their heavy heads are rested, they watch each others’ backs for any threats and the one’s flicking tail assists the other in avoiding flies from buzzing around its head.
We had experienced intermittent showers throughout the morning. As we arrived to view the Mashaba female who had been found by Dan Hirschowitz and Freddy Ngobeni, the heavens decided to open once again. This forced her into a dense cluster-leaf thicket as she looked for shelter. However, as the rain lifted, a beam of sunlight shone through into just the right place.
While on the search for the Plaque Rock female one afternoon, we bumped into a small dazzle of zebra walking up an open crest. The sun was directly behind them which gave us a great opportunity for some backlight photography.
An amazing spot from tracker Euce Madonsela allowed us to view this inquisitive boomslang. These tree dwelling snakes are very shy which made seeing this one all the better. They are typically known to be bright green in colour but the females can often be closer to a shade of light brown, like this one. Their large eyes are also indicative of the species.
Two young giraffes stick close to a nearby female. My guess would be that one of them belonged to her and the other to another mother that was nearby. Giraffe often form these small nursery herds comprising of several mothers and their similarly aged calves with the benefit being safety in numbers.
A Birmingham male gazes ahead towards two Ntsevu females who who were walking steadily in front of him. Male lions will often trail the lionesses of a pride with the promise of a free meal usually being on the cards at some stage.
This Woodland Kingfisher was perched on a dead tree stump alongside the road. We were en route to find a spot to enjoy an evening drink to watch the sunset but got distracted for a short while by this bird. Their long bills make them ideal candidates for silhouette photographs, just giving them more of an interesting shape.
With us not being able to explore our northern parts of the reserve due the river damaging our primary crossing point during the flood, we noticed that our wild dog sightings had declined. However, this week we were able to venture north for the first time in weeks and it didn’t take us long to see these rare carnivores again. While we do see wild dogs in the south, the north has seemed to be our most consistent area for wild dog sightings during the last six months or so.
We’ve been seeing a fair amount of Southern carmine bee-eaters recently. These birds have a rather interesting migratory pattern in that they do it in three stages. They over-winter in the equatorial parts of Africa, migrate slightly south to breed in large flocks along the Zambezi River and in the Caprivi Strip of Namibia (amongst other areas at this latitude) from August to November and then disperse further south into South Africa in December before returning back to the equator in March. This makes them one of the last migratory bird to arrive at Londolozi.
This Golden Orb Spider had her web strung up across a small stream next to the road. The early morning sun not only illuminated the web but also made the orange stripes on her legs glow quite bright. The web appeared to have taken some damage during the wind and rain the night before and seemed to be running some repairs while we watched.
We enjoyed an incredible morning following the Senegal Bush male on his patrol across the northern portion of his territory. Focused on the task, he took little interest in what was around him but did however take a moment to look up at a small group of blue waxbills that were alarm calling from a bushwillow next to the road.
We have been seeing large congregations of swallows like the one here fairly regularly over the last couple of weeks. It’s nothing unusual as these migratory birds will often flock together in larger groups than what is normally seen in anticipation of their long journey back to their winter grounds further north.
This was my first time seeing cheetah this year. We have been treated to a few amazing sightings lately of a mother cheetah and her two sub-adult cubs. Having initially spent the majority of their upbringing down in the south-west of the reserve (and south of our boundary), the trio were surprisingly seen close to our camps this week. The move may have been initiated due to the now extremely dense and long grass in their usual range.
Although looking relatively calm here, these two giraffe bulls were in fact jousting for the breeding rights of a nearby female who appeared to be coming into oestrus. The overcast conditions, coupled with the giraffes’ height often makes creates a great opportunity for a ‘high key’ photograph.