Monday, 30 March 2009

Impala, impala and more impala (in a tree!!!)

The day started out a bit warm and muggy, but a hot partly cloudy day with no rain was the forecast. The weather man was wrong. The clouds soon rolled in and the wind picked up, but the rain did hold off, only a bit of it falling after sunset, but it wasn’t widespread and the starry night sky once again dazzled us during boma dinner.

The game-viewing was a bit quiet on a big 5 front, but the general game seemed to, for once, not be minding the windy conditions. The drive started off with a big breeding herd of buffalo waking up from their nights slumber and moving into some woodland a few minutes from camp. We literally saw hundreds of impala throughout the morning drive, a good number of waterbuck sightings – including a young female that appeared to have survived a predator attack during the night; we instantly assumed either the young Sohebele lions, or the large Argyle male leopard – as only tracks for the latter were found, we can assume it was his work! And well leopard tracks seemed to be all that was being found, it was actually quite confusing with tracks for several leopards being picked up on our southern Vielmeter property – the leopard hotspot of the Timbavati. We saw a few hippos at Makulu dam, a lone bull buffalo still in the same spot he was yesterday in the dam – he must be ill to have spent so long in one place, over 24 hours in one spot! Heading home, we continued to see herd after herd of impala, more waterbuck, giraffe, no less than seventeen warthogs on our airstrip, and two elephants waiting for us back at camp.

Deciding that Vielmeter was the place to be if we wanted leopard, I headed down south for the afternoon. The first part of the drive produced two groups of male elephants, a good number of impala, two separate herds of zebra, warthogs and yes, more impala! Tracks for a male leopard were called in near the area I was operating, so I went to have a look, but couldn’t pick anything up, and then more male leopard tracks were found near one of Mangadjane’s favourite waterholes, Elephant dam. Assuming it was for him, I headed into the area, but we had no luck picking up any further tracks. Feeling a bit despondent with our lack of success up until sundowners, I consoled myself in the fact that on the last two night drives with my guests, we had found our own leopards. After some chameleons, we still came up empty handed on the leopard front….until of course we found a leopard in a tree, with a kill! I was overjoyed when my trackers spotlight caught the leopard perched in a large marula tree with a fresh impala kill! Assuming it was Rockfig who had been seen in the area late this morning, I headed straight towards the tree, only for the leopard to sit up with a start. It wasn’t Rockfig. It was a young male leopard that I do not think I have seen before, and was in fact seen this morning fighting with Rockfig! He seemed a bit nervous and jumped down the tree. We followed him for maybe 15 minutes as he kept moving (walking, not running – a good sign for a new leopard in the area) through the bush before he entered some rather thick stuff along a small drainage line. We didn’t follow up any further, and left the male to his own devices. We shall definitely go and have a look and see what is up tomorrow.

Heading home we managed to stay dry, and see a small breeding herd of elephant, two bull elephants, genet and a lovely sighting of a relaxed spotted-eagle owl…and of course, impala! It was quite funny that of all the impala we saw today, it was the one hanging in the tree that the guests got most excited about!

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