This past week has been filled with plenty of excitement. Two leopard den sites were discovered on Monday afternoon! The Nhlanguleni female’s den was found just west of our camps in a cluster of boulders that she has used several times before when raising previous litters. We are yet to actually see her cubs but we have heard them and the fact that she is consistently returning there and has suckle marks on her belly confirms our discovery.
A previous cub of the Nhlanguleni female. She has used this den site multiple times before.
The Ximungwe female’s den was also rediscovered in a densely vegetated drainage line. We have known for a couple of weeks that she had given birth and after discovering her previous den about three weeks ago, she seemed to have disappeared until now. We have had a very brief view of one cub at this den site but it isn’t easy to get a clear look. As if that wasn’t enough, the den site of an Ntsevu lioness was also found with five cubs which are still very young.
Going forward, we are going to be exercising a great deal of sensitivity around these dens and it’s quite likely that we won’t be getting any spectacular views of any of the cubs for the next little while. So, if you do happen to be coming to Londolozi in the next coming weeks, please be understanding if you don’t manage to see these young cats, but it will be better for them in the long run. However these discoveries and the knowledge that the Nkoveni female and Ndzanzeni female have also given birth, along with the Makomsava and Piccadilly females raising their youngsters in the north, could mean that this winter will be filled with some fantastic cub viewing. For now we just need to be patient and show the due respect to these mothers who will be going through a challenging few months raising their young.
Although sightings have been very inconsistent, we know the Piccadilly cub is still alive and well in the north of the reserve.
In other news, the leopard viewing which has been relatively tough over the last little while has seemed to have improved. The Mashaba female had a hoisted impala ewe in the central parts of the reserve which afforded us some consistent leopard viewing while the Nweti male was seen again for the first time in weeks in the southern reaches of the reserve. The lion dynamics continue to keep us on the edge of our seat. The Styx and Nkuhuma young males were found at sunrise one morning being chased over several kilometres by an aggressive Birmingham male. Then, the following morning, the Othawa male was found in the exact same area.
We are just starting to feel the changes in the seasons too. While there have been a few overcast days, the rain seems to have all but left us and the early mornings are just starting to feel crisp and cold.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
As we were setting out from camp early one morning we heard plenty of hyena calls coming from north of the river. When we eventually got into that area they seemed to have settled down. We still can’t be sure exactly what got them excited – maybe it was just a couple of clan members meeting up and greeting each other like these two.
Tracker Euce Madonsela managed to spot this chameleon as were were arriving back at camp one evening. The flap-necked chameleon is the only species of chameleon that we find here. This one was simply perched, motionless, on the end of a bushwillow branch which allowed us to play around with some camera settings and get this image.
Oxpeckers are one of my favourite birds to watch. They are always so busy. This one was perched on a buffalo cow’s back just a few metres from our vehicle.
The Mashaba female gazes over towards a herd of impala which were peacefully grazing a short distance away. She already had an impala ewe stashed away in this saffron tree and had been feeding for the last little while. After this photo was taken she descended the tree and walked over towards a small puddle for a drink, all the while still remaining undetected by the herd of impala.
A lappet-faced vulture takes to the skies. These massive birds are the largest vulture species in southern Africa, standing over a meter tall, weighing nearly seven kilograms and having a wingspan of just under three meters (10 feet).
A herd of elephants enjoy a swim and drink on the northern banks of the Sand River.
A pair of red groundling dragonflies perched on the leaflet of some common river grass in the Sand River. The male is the vivid red one on the right and the female is the slightly more drab one.
A mother rhino and her calf stick close together as they watch a much larger rhino bull approach them from a distance. Shortly after I took this photo I discovered a hairy caterpillar inside my shirt which caused a large part of my back to welt up in an itchy rash… needless to say I can’t quite remember much more of the sighting.
We had an action-packed morning following this Birmingham male as he aggressively chased down the Styx and Nkuhuma young males. Eventually the young males were separated and the Birmingham male lost sight of them near the river in the long grass. He hung around the area for a short while before making an about turn and marching off in the direction he had come from; all the while he was scent marking, reasserting his dominance, after spending the morning defending his territory.
An image from the same morning as the previous photo. He was visibly tired after chasing down the young males but was clearly determined to get back to wherever he had come from earlier that morning. We eventually lost sight of him as he headed down into an impenetrable drainage line after following him for close to two hours.
A hippo bull makes his presence known by displaying his impressive tusks to us as we arrived alongside the waterhole. This bull has consistently occupied the same small body of water for close to two years and can easily be identified by a notch that is missing from his left ear.
A large elephant bull slowly makes his way through an open clearing late one afternoon. There was a breeding herd about 500 meters in front of him which he seemed to be following.
An Amur falcon sits perched on a dead knobthorn tree. These diminutive raptors will shortly be making the tremendous journey back to north east Asia where they will spend the middle months of the year. They are one of the furthest migrating raptors in the world and travel a distance of roughly 22 000km (13 500 miles) each year. Rather impressive for a bird that weighs 140 grams.
Buffalo bulls can have the most entertaining but at the same time intimidating facial expressions. This particular one was giving as a stare down as if we owed him something.
The delicate tip of an elephant’s trunk complements the raw power of the appendage as a whole. Large bulls have been seen lifting and moving logs weighing close to 300kg (660 pounds) using their trunk but at the same time can carefully pick up small marula fruits with great precision using these dextrous tips. The elephant’s trunk really is one of the greatest adaptations that we see here.
We were slowly making our way back to camp one evening when this southern white-faced scops-owl appeared in the spotlight. They are very seldom seen during the daylight hours and spend this time hiding in dense trees. Its only in the cover of darkness that they emerge and often perch on an open branch or stump scanning the ground below for any prey.