Sunday, 10 May 2009

08th & 09th May – Great Leopards, but Lions Still a Struggle!

The last two days have made us miss our forgotten Sohebele pride even more - they have failed to return after leaving the area a week and a half ago. Luckily our leopard sightings have been pretty good, and that has kept everyone happy!

Friday morning started of wet! Yip, we had a fair amount of rain, 27mm up north, and a reported 20mm further south; quite a bit for this time of the year. Some of the guests braved a bit of drizzle first thing in the morning, but it soon passed, and by 7h30, the weather was actually cool, calm and dry!

The morning was full of smaller creatures, a good number of reptiles, including some young pythons, tortoises, terrapins and a monitor lizard. General game was not overly active this morning, the hippos were about at Mbali dam, some waterbuck and impala, and then back at camp, there were a few giraffe during breakfast. The large herd of buffalo was still around down south, not far from Entrance Dam. On the way to the buffalo, I swung past a sighing of Nkateko female leopard. She was found north of Hide Dam, and we watched her making a half-hearted attempt at stalking some impala, but her cover was soon blown and she moved off to the north.

After Nkateko, we headed over to the buffalo, but they were starting to settle down for the morning, so we left them resting before heading back to camp.

In the afternoon, Herald headed south and again saw the buffalo herd, and in amidst them was an ambitious/careless Nkateko! She was again stalking buffalo, and found herself in the middle of the herd of buffalo showing a keen interest in one of the babies in the Machaton riverbed! The adults soon chased her off before she got herself into too much trouble.

I went and checked up on the Argyle male leopard, and found that he had eventually taken the measly remains of his impala up a nice marula tree a 100m or so away from where he had it stashed yesterday. He was in the company of three hyenas that were waiting patiently for the scraps, but as there was almost nothing left, bar a few legs and the head, they were probably not going to get much reward. The leopard lay perched perfectly in the tree and enjoyed the setting sun before we left him still keeping an eye on the hyenas. The rest of the afternoon was rather quiet, due in part to the fact that the last part of the drive was spent racing home to get out of the rain! The sky soon cleared and allowed for a nice, dry boma dinner.

Saturday arrived, and sunny blue skies greeted us. I went on a bush walk, but it was quiet on the game front. Herald saw some giraffe, zebra, elephant and buffalo down south, and was also treated to some lions! Yes, LIONS! He had headed far south to see the Timbavati males that were busy feeding on a large warthog kill! The three Machaton females had been around earlier, but were not seen in the morning.

After breakfast, I went out with some of the trackers to follow up on a report of the three Mahlathini male lions (our new name for those three nomadic lions – Mahlathini means ‘thick bush’, an appropriate name for these lions that seem to always go to the thickest bush they can find!). Within 5 minutes we caught a glimpse of them running away from us in a Mopane thicket. We went in with a vehicle and caught another glimpse of them running away, and realized then, that in such thick bush, it was a waste of time. As a result, I also needed to make the long trip south for lions in the afternoon!

As we approached Java airstrip, I spotted Java Dam female leopard crouched right in the middle of the road, so I stopped and turned off immediately, hoping she would not run. She held her position for half a minute, then glared at us before slinking off into the bush, and straight into a thicket – we didn’t spend long trying to relocate. Carrying on our long journey south, we saw two zebras, bypassed that large herd of buffalo on the banks of the Machaton, as well as a small herd of elephants.

We arrived at the lion sighting as the three Machaton females were getting mobile and followed them a short while as they headed south. The two fat Timbavati males soon followed, examined some of the urine left behind by the females and then followed their scent trail; unfortunately that took them straight down into the Nhlarulumi riverbed, and we could no longer follow them. The long trip home, on a now chilly evening didn’t produce many nocturnal creatures, although we did see a beautiful Verraux’s eagle-owl. The nicest thing however, was seeing three different breeding herds of elephant, including a nice herd up north on Java; the first in many weeks! It would be really great if this is the start of the return of the herds to the area!

Johannes managed to find Mbali female leopard with a very fresh impala kill – he reckoned it happened no more than 30 minutes prior to finding her. I will be heading there first thing tomorrow to have a look – Mbali just has to make sure she keeps it safe from the hyenas that normally rob her of her hard-fought meals. It will also be interesting to see if she goes to look for Kuhanya and brings her back to the meal…

1 comment:

  1. Hey chad - it's a tough life, but someone has to do it.
    Love these posts.