It’s been a fairly heavy leopard week, with a couple of Londolozi’s better known individuals taking centre stage.
As spectacular as isolated sightings can be, seeing the same leopard on consecutive days is usually the best way to enhance one’s appreciation of these creatures. By following its life as it hunts, scent-marks, calls, fetches its cub, feeds, escapes from danger, or performs any of a hundred and one things they do during their day-today, one is able to gain a far better understanding of their place in their environment.
This was the scenario for a couple of leopards over the last seven days, with the Ximungwe female in particular giving us some wonderful insights into her life.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Ximungwe female on an evening that she didn’t go back to her cub. When a mother leopard is on the move there is always the hope that she is going to lead you to a den, but on this afternoon we were out of luck. Not to complain about a leopard sighting, but if I’m being completely honest we were just the tiniest bit disappointed…
A grey heron stands vigil at a hippo pool. These tall piscivores can sometimes be seen standing on the backs of the hippos themselves, using them as convenient perches from which to fish.
Head Tracker Jerry Hambana, waiting patiently for a very rare bird to emerge from the grassy fringe of a small pan.
The bird in question. I’m cheating a bit as this was actually from last week, but is worth a mention. This is a Striped Crake, and extremely rare bird species in these parts that was a lifer (a bird species seen for the very first time) for everyone who saw it. It was around for only a couple of days (that we know of) before the pan was dry and elephants had walked the area flat. Intra-African migrants, Striped Crakes head back to Central and West Africa during the South African winter.
On the subject of birds, some of the migrants have been hanging around longer than we would have thought. This was the last Woodland Kingfisher of the season – at least for me – and it, like all its counterparts, are also no on their way back towards the Equator and further north.
The Ximungwe female again, on a day in which she gave us a proper run-around for about an hour before she was found. Impalas alarming brought us into the area, then a combination of tracks, monkeys chattering, squirrels alarming, excellent work by trackers Advice Ngwenya and Joy Mathebula, and a lot of patience resulted in her being found as she walked briefly on a road before diving into a thicket once more.
Eventually though, she emerged onto a different road, and we were able to enjoy spectacular views of her before she headed into the bushes once more, and we left her to her own morning.
There’s no better way to enjoy a misty Autumn morning in the bush than on foot…
Elephant calfs start learning the ins and outs of trunk control by playing with small objects like sticks and leaves; anything light enough to not cause them too much bother.
A hadeda ibis – one of South Africa’s louder and more ubiquitous bird species – has its iridescent wing plumage on display in the golden afternoon light.
A pied kingfisher hovers above the Sand River, waiting for a fish to drift unwittingly close to the surface. Water refracts light, so fish under the surface look like they’re in a different spot to where they actually are. Kingfishers are able to compensate for this, recalibrating their dive to make sure they spear the fish accurately.
The Ximungwe female did eventually allow us a view of her cub. She had made two impala kills and hoisted them in separate marula trees, and brought the cub to the site. It is till young and nervous of vehicles, and we had to wait quite a while for it to pluck up the nerve to emerge from the thicket after its mother had called insistently for quite a while.
This purple-crested turaco hopped onto a branch outside the Londolozi offices, and thankfully stayed put long enough for us to slowly squeeze a window open and snap a photo.
The Plaque Rock female was discovered on a hoisted impala kill. She was sleeping peacefully here, but by the next morning she had been robbed by her own mother the Nkoveni female.
The Nkoveni female brought her cubs to feed on the hoisted impala (one cub is in the higher branches here but can’t be distinguished), and we left them at last light, one cub in the marula, the mother resting in the main fork, and the second cub about 100 metres off, sheltering in a small Apple Leaf Tree.