Leopards have continued to take centre stage this this week. The Nkoveni, Ximungwe, Plaque Rock and Ndzanzeni females as well as the Flat Rock and Senegal Bush males were all seen more than once; the majority of them having hoisted kills around the reserve. As the long grass and thick vegetation slowly begin to thin out, we are seeing more leopards hoisting their meals, given the increasing lack of concealment on the ground. This gives us the luxury of stable leopard sightings that can last for up to three days depending on the size of the kill.
In addition to this, we are starting to view three litters of leopard cubs on a more regular basis which has been spectacular. The Ximungwe and Nkoveni females have started leading their offspring to these kills which, as mentioned, makes finding these elusive youngsters a much easier task. The Ndzanzeni female’s cubs were also viewed briefly while the Nhlanguleni female and her single cub have not been seen as frequently as the others.
The Othawa male continues to surge eastwards, making a bold statement by patrolling much further into the Birmingham males’ territory than we’ve seen before. A pair of young male lions were also viewed over two days as they trailed behind a large herd of buffalo in the south-west but unfortunately for them, their inexperience meant that they spent more time being chased by the buffalo rather than catching any.
Summer has certainly left us now and there is a definite chill in the early morning air. However, a massive downpour and thunderstorm with winds of up to 45km/h just a few days ago reminded us that we haven’t quite arrived in winter just yet. The pink supermoon was also a phenomenal feature of the evenings this past week as we all enjoyed an amazing moonrise on Monday night.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
After a decent downpour a few nights ago, the smaller wallows were replenished with fresh water – much to the joy of the elephant population. Other than a few light showers predicted for this weekend, that could be the last we see of the rains for the next few months.
The Plaque Rock female scans the horizon from the safety of a marula branch. She has had two hoisted impala kills this week, the first of which was appropriated by the Nkoveni female and her two cubs and the second which she is currently still feeding on as of this morning (subsequently robbed by an Ntsevu lioness since I typed this). After an extended period of infrequent sightings of this young female, we’ve been pleased to see her on five of the last seven days.
A vervet monkey rests in the branches of a small Brown Ivory tree on the banks of a dry river bed. We had heard this troop alarm calling from some distance away but by the time we arrived in the area they had settled down again. We never had any sign of a predator in the vicinity but who knows; maybe they saw a leopard stroll past beneath them or maybe it was just a large eagle that flew overhead.
The winter skies are something special in this area. The golden light of dawn and dusk seems to hang in the atmosphere for ages. It was full moon this week and we picked an open clearing to stop for a drink to enjoy the moment it as it rose from the horizon. This full moon is referred to as a ‘pink supermoon’ in reference to the springtime blooms of the pink phlox flowers native to North America.
We’ve recently been experiencing a few misty mornings like this. I’m not used to seeing this landscape covered in a blanket of mist; it creates quite an unusual setting especially when the rising sun begins to glow through the cloud like this, giving a gentle warmth to the frame.
The birds around my room in camp have been keeping me quite entertained over the last week. Usually around 10:00, as I get back from morning drive, there is a great deal of chatter in the trees above my front door. Photographing the smaller bird species like this bearded scrub-robin is much harder than it looks: they never stay still!
Also taken outside my room in the camp, a tiny blue waxbill peeps through a gap in the branches.
On a recent morning off, we gathered a group of staff members and headed out to watch the sunrise from Ximpalapala koppie. This was the view from the top as the sun was just beginning to rise above the thin layer of mist.
It’s always special seeing a martial eagle. Their sheer size gives them such a presence. This one had just caught a lapwing (at least that’s what I think is sitting under its talons) and was taking a moment to scan the skies around him before feeding.
The Plaque Rock female begins her grooming session after feeding on her (second) hoisted impala this week. It’s fairly predictable that a leopard will groom after feeding as it can be quite a messy affair.
As I mentioned above, the Plaque Rock female’s kill from last week was stolen by her mother, the Nkoveni female, who later that day collected her two young cubs and brought them to feed on the carcass. The cubs, which are 3-4 months old now, are already fairly comfortable in trees but still have a lot to learn. Here, one of the cubs takes a moment to rest while its sibling began to feed.
This brown snake-eagle was being incessantly mobbed by two fork-tailed drongos. Smaller birds are never comfortable with the presence of larger raptors and will often dive-bomb them in an effort to annoy them and drive them away. The expression on the snake eagle’s face suggests that it got quite a fright!
A large herd of elephant emerge from the thicket line. We sat for over half an hour as this herd wandered towards and past us, at one point surrounding the vehicle entirely. Moments like that need no explanation and are often just enjoyed in a peaceful silence but for a few rumbles emanating from the colossal creatures as they pass by.
This young rhino calf was incredibly curious. The mother was preoccupied with her feeding and paid us little attention while the calf stood staring at us. I’m quite sure that given its age (not more than a couple of months), we would be one of the first vehicles it has seen and given the mother’s relaxed demeanour, it quickly worked out that we weren’t a threat.
With the early mornings being rather cold as we approach winter, the sun is a welcome sight for not only us but several of the animals too. This giraffe was warming up and enjoying the morning sun while watching a sounder of warthogs trot through the thicket nearby.
Other than this brief visit from the Othawa male and a sighting of two young male lions close to our southern boundary, we had no other significant lion sightings for the last few days. The Othawa male continues to push further east into what is known to be the Birmingham males territory. I can’t help but think that if he were part of a larger coalition of males, how different the male lion dynamics would be right now.