As we rapidly approach the winter solstice, who would have thought that the year 2021 would fly by as quickly as it has? The southern hemisphere’s winter solstice is the shortest day in the year and falls over the 21 June, temperatures are definitely reflecting it as we have just had our season’s lowest of 4 degrees Celsius. This was recorded in the camp and we know very well that there are some spots on the reserve that are significantly colder than camp. However, with the cold mornings come amazing long morning game drives, with the golden hours being dragged out a while longer. Most predators are still active and moving around well after the sun has warmed everything up.
This week leopards were plentiful. The Ximungwe female secured an impala kill in a perfect marula tree and together with her young cub they spent a few days feeding on the kill and provided amazing viewing. The Mashaba female has been scarce, with her popping up every now and then when we least expect it. The Maxims male had a kill stolen by the Nweti male who wasted no time in dragging it significantly further than leopards would normally drag a kill. Most likely to avoid any confrontation after the fact. Elephant sightings have been bountiful, it would almost be unusual to go on a drive without seeing elephants. And last, but not least in any way shape or form was the Nkuhuma pride killing a large buffalo bull in the north two mornings ago out in plain sight. Expecting them to be in the area for at least two days based on the size of the buffalo, we were surprised to find two young male lions, supposedly the Plains Camp males had chased the pride off and hung around to finish off the remains, photographically this was a very tricky sighting so we never got any decent photos of them and therefore were unable to confirm if it is them.
On top of all of the incredible sightings this week there is certainly an overwhelming sense of excitement brewing with the new wild dog den. What will the next few weeks present the pack and how will they deal with it. Will there be as much drama as last year? Stay tuned as we bring you more next week, but in the meantime.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Mashaba female has become fairly sporadic recently. I feel it is not a result of her changing her ways at all but rather where she is being found. She has moved her territory to the south, central-eastern parts of the reserve and the blocks between the roads are large as well as difficult to track. But it is good to see that she is still alive and well, looking very healthy.
The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best-known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the vehicles.
In the late afternoon light, this Little Bee-eater was using an Acacia as a perch as it would hawk out and catch any nearby insects.
Having just had a very close run-in with a hyena near to where they had a hoisted impala kill, the Ximungwe female swiftly leads her cub away from the area. We thought they were potentially abandoning the last scraps of the kill. But it was in fact them heading off to have a drink. The cub is a little more hesitant to drink than the mother.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
In all the excitement of the two of them drinking with a crystal clear reflection, combined with too much lense, I completely messed up my shots but thankfully Nick managed to get this.
An idea of the quality of the reflection of what could have been an amazing shot of mother and son lined up both having a drink, while looking up at the camera. Anyways let us not dwell on what could have been.
Garden Orb-web Spiders are striking in appearance, the bright yellow aposematic or warning colouration reminds birds and predators that the spiders are not palatable. Often positioning themselves in the centre of the web with their head facing down, the spider holds its legs together in pairs creating a bold ‘X’ shape over the zig-zag pattern in the middle of the web. This is known as the stabilimentum, it is uncertain as to the exact purpose of this. One theory is the high visibility of stabilimenta can prevent birds from flying through the web.
Elephants have got to be up there with some of the best animals to watch as well as photograph. Not only are they always doing something, but there is so much texture and detail on their entire body that you can zoom in on to capture unique images.
The Senegal Bush Male on a territorial patrol through some long grass pauses for a moment as he sees a herd of impala in the distance.
Initially seen as a young male in 2016, this leopard only properly established territory on Londolozi in mid-2019
A large elephant bull in musth ambles down the road towards us. Although heavily in musth this bull showed absolutely no signs of annoyance towards us. His ears and trunk flaying around as a result of his confident strut, which we often see when they are in this state.
Often going unnoticed, are the numerous thick dark hairs that line the elephant’s mouth and chin. In the centre of the frame is the elephant’s bottom lip with the trunk coming off to the right.
As a selective grazer, zebra tend to roam further distances in the search of preferential pasture. Once they have found it they will spend some time in the area capitalising on this. This draws in large dazzles of up to 50 or 60 into the southern grassy plains of Londolozi during the winter months, especially after the above-average rainfall we had during the summer. Here we have the two zebra drinking close to each other and how the stripes match up almost making them appear as one.
Two of the dominant stallions in amongst a large dazzle take their turn to come down for a drink.
Two large males towering over a somewhat young female on the airstrip. This was only three of a journey of about fifteen that were in the area.
The Nweti male has secured what was the majority of the Inyathini males territory in the south. A strikingly handsome leopard that is becoming more of a regular feature in eastern Dudley. Size is definitely on his side as I am sure he will expand his reign over much more of southern Londolozi.
The Nweti male after having stolen an impala kill from the Maxims male.
A female Giant Kingfisher perches on a matumi branch near the causeway while on the lookout for any potential prey. The chestnut colouration of Giant Kingfishers is the distinguishing feature in telling the sexes, females have a chestnut belly whereas males have a chestnut breast.
A lioness from the Nkuhuma pride in the process of the takedown of a large buffalo. The ultimate battle for survival.