Can you believe it? 2021 is pretty much over. And what an amazing way to end off the year with a Week in Pictures.
The sightings this week have been incredible allowing anyone with a camera to take full advantage. The large cats have featured strongly with a number of leopards poised in the most amazing places.
Some unique images fill the gaps with a pair of Red-headed Weavers constructing their nest together, a leopard tortoise on the move from a low angle, elephant reflections as they drink, and wildebeest silhouettes.
As well as we have another amazing sighting of the last remaining Birmingham Male, and I say that now as it has been a series of months now with any sign of his brother. Although we have no evidence of his passing to go with, it is in fact this lack of evidence that we believe even stronger that he is no longer around.
Enjoy this Week in Pictures…
The Plaque Rock Female lying up in a dead Knobthorn tree. This is one of those trees you drive past on a daily basis and dream of seeing a leopard draped over one of the branches. On our way back to camp we decided to drive back along the Sand River. We came around a bend in the road to this magnificent scene. The texture of the dead tree and the open background provided some amazing photographic opportunities.
A pretty young playful female found along the river to the east of camp
Just after sunset, one of the Ntsevu Sub-adult Males perched himself upon a termite mound, allowing for incredible backlit shots. Here the mane is illuminated creating stunning contrasts with the fading colours in the background.
Poised on a fallen log, one of the Nkoveni Cubs is beginning to look like an adult leopard, rather than a fluffy young cub. The Nkoveni Female has done so well in raising these cubs so far.
A young hyena cub patiently awaits the return of its mother in the morning after an evening where she would have been out roaming around for any opportunity to scavenge.
The distinctive striking headdress of the Red-headed Weaver helps tell males and females apart. Most of the nest construction is done by the male, however, on rare occasions, the females will lend a helping hand. The nests usually have a rough, messy appearance made of twigs and leaf midribs.
Knowing its mother and sibling are nearby one of the Nkoveni Cubs conceals itself in the depths of a large rhino midden, just peaking the top of its head out waiting for the perfect opportunity to launch an attack.
A male leopard that always seems to be on edge, the Mawelawela Male stares back towards the vehicle while resting in the branches of a fallen marula tree.
Began as a fairly unrelaxed leopard in the southwestern parts of the reserve. Now providing great viewing in the open grasslands
Shortly after finding three of the Ntsevu Sub-adults resting in a clearing, we heard wildebeest and impala alarm calling a few hundred meters away. Upon investigating what was causing the ruckus, we found the Tsalala Female chasing after a herd of wildebeest in the hopes of catching straggling calf. This Ntsevu Sub-adult Female didn’t quite like the presence of another lioness in the area and took it upon herself to teach her a lesson (more on this on Sunday).
After feeding on a hoisted carcass in the upper limbs of a marula tree, the Ximungwe Female makes her descent down the gentle gradient of the branch.
Having been viewed by vehicles from an early age, this leopard is supremely relaxed around Land Rovers.
Very much dependent on available surface water Leopard tortoise’s are thriving after the abundant rainfall we have had. The lush grass setting the perfect bouquet beyond this tortoise as it moved around feeding.
Three Rivers Female slowly moves through an area of lush green grass. It is incredible how well the rosette on the coat of a leopard perfectly blend into the dappled light in the dense undergrowth.
Forced into early independence as her mother was killed by the Southern Avoca Males.
Still, as impressive as ever, the last Birmingham Male gazes on into the distance at a herd of impala chasing one another around. No sign of his brother can almost conclusively lead us to believe that he is no longer around.
Not necessarily concealed by any vegetation, the Nkoveni Female stalks along a fallen log. This is ideal as she is able to stalk ever so quietly, without the threat of making noise by stepping on a dry leaf or twig.
A gorgeous female who is found to the east of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
A herd of Wildebeest preparing to settle down for the evening on an elevated crest, the open terrain provides the best opportunities to spot any danger approaching from a distance away. While also providing stunning silhouette shots.
The perfectly still water in the foreground provided the most ideal opportunity for a reflection as this small herd of elephants came down to drink, the only downside was I was using a fixed 300mm lens that did not allow me to fit the whole elephant and reflection into one shot.
Speckled with water droplets after spraying themselves with trunk-fulls of water created an interesting texture and detail to this image with the crystal clear reflection in the foreground.
While moving around with her cubs Nkoveni Female makes use of a few termite mounds in order to scan for any prey as well as any danger. The long grass framed her face in the process.
The Ximungwe Young Male is looking more and more impressive with each sighting we have of him. It is going to be interesting to see where he goes from here. Still very much dependent on his mother, for now, he is gaining confidence and attempting to stalk and hunt himself, however is not too successful with these attempts.
The Tsalala Female seems to be handling the solitary life pretty well. Every time she has been seen of late her belly has been full. This image was the day before a run-in with the Ntsevu Sub-adults.
A delicate moment between a mother elephant and her young one as they both take quench their thirst.