“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” – William Shakespeare
No, William, you shouldn’t. Pick winter instead. Yes, summer in the bush comes with its own wonderment, but it’s winter for me that takes the victory. I know it’s cliched to talk about the weather, but the combination of soft light, steam on your breath, the chill, lion roars travelling kilometres, leopards walking around at midday, and almost never a cloud in the sky, really makes me think that had Shakespeare visited Londolozi during Autumn/Winter a few hundred years ago – or at least that land it’s on as wouldn’t have existed for a while yet – he might have written quite a different sonnet.
The Birmingham males have been in full voice this week, accompanying some of the older Ntsevu lionesses. The sub-adults have been widely scattered, some ending up right down in the south-west of Londolozi as they begin to embrace a more nomadic lifestyle.
Elephants have been everywhere, particularly around water. We returned to camp this morning to find a herd feeding directly below Varty Deck, tucking into the wild date palms, Phoenix reclinata, that grow there.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
Despite all our talk of the Birmingham males ageing (fact), when push came to shove they still managed to corner and kill the Othawa male. To be fair, we don’t know exactly what happened that night (post coming soon with some theories), but the bottom line is they are still here while he is gone. With five young cubs in the Ntsevu Pride and another lioness looking pregnant, let’s hope this coalition can make it through another year at least…
Despite regularly seeing elephant bulls investigating the reproductive status of cows, actually witnessing them mating is a rare event. This was a rather dramatic sighting as the bull pursued the cow for some time until she eventually relented.
The onset of winter is a time for block burning as part of our fire-management regime. A breeze that picked up late in the day put things on hold for awhile, pushing the burn back by half an hour into sunset, creating fantastic colour matches between the fire and the sunset.
The last of the flames sink down as night settles.
The Mashaba female is still alive and well. Although Londolozi’s most senior leopard (she was born in 2008), she should still have some good years in her yet, as females have been recorded living to 18 or even 19 years.
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the camps and vehicles.
Hairy caterpillars beautifully backlit by the rising sun. This time of year is when we start seeing the processionary lines of the reticulate bagnest moth caterpillars (which these were) forming. The caterpillars walk end to end in long lines, very slowly, the theory being that to an avian predator they will resemble a stick or a snake, and be left alone.
A hyena drools as it looks up from gnawing on an impala skull. We don’t know if it had killed the impala itself (quite possible as many males are still distracted by the late stages of the rut), or if it robbed the kill off a leopard. This second scenario is more likely, but it’s impossible to say for sure.
A wattled lapwing stoops for a drink. Ten years ago these birds were rare on Londolozi, but for whatever reason their population has increased to the point where we may see as many as a pair every couple of drives, although specific pairs do tend to be resident in specific areas.
A sub-adult of the Ntsevu pride. With these lions splitting up all over the shop, we are finding splinter groups of them spread far and wide across the reserve. This one was part of a group of four that killed a young impala an hour later, but it was purely through the impala’s mistake, not in any way due to their hunting prowess, which is lacking!
The same lion in a slightly different position.
Tracker Dorrance Khosa fords the Sand River on his way to delivering a breakfast basket to guests out in the bush.
This was actually from a little over a week ago but I felt like including the picture anyway. A pack of twelve wild dogs had just had their kill stolen by marauding hyenas, and these two came down for a drink before joining the others and trotting off into the thickets.
On this morning a Birmingham male and a female from the Ntsevu Pride just got up and started running. Ranger Nick Sims had thought he’d heard a buffalo distress call, and the lions were clearly responding to it. We searched the area and then just stuck with the lions, but neither us nor them managed to find anything. There were tracks of another coalition close by, and we presume it was one of the young pairs of males that are currently roaming southern Londolozi. Maybe they’d made an attempt on a buffalo but been unlucky..
The Ndzanzeni female stalks one of her own cubs (the tail can be seen just disappearing into the grass). A bad limp means the mother can’t engage with her offspring like she normally would, but she gives it her best nonetheless.
This female is a success story all in herself, being born as a single cub to the Dudley Riverbank female in early 2012.
Elephants at a waterhole; one of the greatest joys to be around.