After a recent bout of heavy rain, the bush has rapidly transformed, the last remnants of a dry winter are but a memory. Having received about a quarter of our average rainfall so far, the waterholes are full, the river is flowing strong, and the thick green blanket of bright green grass coats the landscape in every direction. With the warm humid environment, the abundance of life is palpable.
The rains and dampening of the ground under our feet results in the bushveld putting on such a show where creatures of all shapes and sizes make an appearance. The eruption of the winged alates has drawn in a significantly high number of raptors this year, more so than I have ever seen before. Giant land snails cross the roads in search of moisture and food. Dung beetles are out in the thousands, you can almost hear a constant hum of their wings as they search for their next quarry.
An elephant in the Leadwood forest, spotted cats galore, some monochrome, others not. The small things and all things to showcase the splendour of summer.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
A young elephant bull slowly ambles through the leadwood forest in the northern reaches of Londolozi. We ended up sitting with the rest of this herd for over an hour as they feed through the forest.
Taking flight, a White-backed vulture leaps into the air as it begins to soar in search of a thermal.
Resting on a termite mound, amidst a territorial patrol, the Plaque Rock Female then spotted a herd of impala in the distance, before she could get close enough the impala caught sight of her and the element of surprise was lost.
A pretty young playful female found along the river to the east of camp
A giant land snail, recently awoken by the soaking rains, sets off on a mission to find some food. The summer periods where food and more importantly moisture is abundant allows for the snails to go through more intense periods of growth which is evident by the banding in the colouration of the shell.
In order to ensure this cheetah cub was safe from two black-backed jackals, she took off after them, chasing them away. Meanwhile, the cub sat sizing up a pair of Black-backed jackals that were alarming at her and her mother.
After spending most of the morning with the Ximungwe Female and her cub, we decided to make our way towards the river to stop for a cup of coffee. Just as we were coming down the marula crest, we spotted the Senegal Bush Male in the fork of this large tree. We can’t be certain but we think he was chased up there by something as he was looking rather agitated. Perhaps it was a herd of elephants that passed through the area.
Initially seen as a young male in 2016, this leopard only properly established territory on Londolozi in mid-2019
A Guineafowl keeps a wary eye on a passing leopard.
High-key photography is made significantly easier when the perfect subject presents itself against a brighter background. The Plaque Rock Female did exactly this while searching for any prey.
As the winged alates (flying termites) make their nuptial flight out of the mounds, numerous birds condense into the area to feast on this high calorie, never-ending supply of food. Many of the birds of prey take advantage of this too, here a Tawny Eagle rests on the mound itself as the last remnants of the sunset fade.
The Nweti Male takes a break from mating with the Mashaba Female to rest in the road between our two vehicles. This was an especially exciting sighting as we had been tracking the pair for several hours by this point.
He is a large, tall, and long male that has an incredible coat and a tuft of hair on his neck
This was one of two African Hawk Eagles that were perched in the beautiful branches of a dead leadwood tree. Both birds had rather full crops (the slight bulge in the upper chest of the bird) indicating that they likely caught a meal earlier that morning. We know that a flock of guineafowl tend to roost in this same tree so maybe one fell victim to these Hawk Eagles.
Following the Nkoveni Female one afternoon lead us to the Maxims male. He has been expanding his territory further into Londolozi for some time now but sightings of him don’t come by often. He is elusive and also arguably one of the biggest male leopards in the region at the moment.
Fairly skittish male that is presumed to have come from the Kruger National Park.
The Cleanup Crew hard at work. A male dung-beetle stands atop his prized ball of dung, performing a quick 360-degree spin around to reorientate himself with the sun overhead, before descending the ball and rolling it away with the female attached to the side.
Earlier this week we ventured up into the northern parts of the reserve in search of lions and had our expectations exceeded. We stumbled across the Nkuhuma pride as they were devouring a buffalo in the late afternoon. This sub-adult male had had his fill and walked over to lay down in the shade of our vehicle.
This was a typical Lowveld summers day. Temperatures soared to 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) during the midday while a large thunderstorm brewed to the south. The cloud formations turned out to be incredible so we stopped for a quick drink to watch the storm roll in before heading back to camp ahead of the rain.
With the setting sun, a pod of hippos begins to get antsy in preparation for leaving the sanctuary of the Sand River on an evenings mission to feed on the lush green grass that has arrived with the summer rains.
The Nzuthini Female strikes a regal pose on a termite mound. The energetic curiosity of this female kept us entertained for well over an hour. She is a new female leopard to see on Londolozi and is being seen more and more regularly as she appears to be taking up residence in the unoccupied patch of turf in the southwest; here’s hoping that she’ll stick around on Londolozi!
Young independent female that settled in the south west grasslands of the reserve.
A giant Martial Eagle, perched in the open desolate tops of a dead tree, scanning the surroundings for any potential prey.
Before launching off to assume another perch on a tree on the horizon.