Wednesday, 15 July 2009

14th & 15th July – Getting Over Our Loss…

Despite the morning’s tragic revelations, the guides quickly came to terms with yet another loss of one of our special animals; but I suppose we have been getting enough practice lately! Luckily, the other animals of the Timbavati brought some joy to us over the last two days.

Tuesday afternoon started off with four bull elephants wanting to come on game drive with; or at least that is what it looked like as they were standing in the parking area! The three Timbavati males were found with their buffalo kill, but luckily the five remaining Sohebele lions were no where to be seen, and had moved out of the area before any further tragedies unfolded. Herald went south to see these lions feeding and scraping over the carcass which they had almost finished! Herald also had two separate breeding herds of elephant at Hide dam and at Entrance dam.

I stayed up north as I was looking for some leopard, and it didn’t take us too long to find one in the current leopard ‘hot-spot’ near Vyboom dam. While driving along the riverbed north of the dam, we spotted a leopard lying on one of the rocks in the riverbed, just as I always dream of finding one! We went closer and identified the leopard as the young Shongile female leopard, and again she proved to be extremely relaxed and lay on the rock watching the water below her when a fish surfaced. After some time she spotted something that got her attention and she stalked towards the water’s edge, but lost interest and lay down again.

There were two bull elephants not far from the leopard, as well as hippos in Vyboom dam, and another submerged in Buffalo pan! My tracker and I followed a drag mark for a leopard kill, but it was a few days old, and there was no sign of any carcass at the end of the drag mark, so we left the area and went to have a look at the three Mahlathini male lions that had been found east of Lily pan. They were extremely relaxed this afternoon, and didn’t even pay much attention to us as we drove off road to get closer. Elliot even went as far as saying that the lions were not the Mahlathini males as they were far too relaxed! Let us just hope that it is a sign of things to come, but they have been known to have their moments, and such a sighting doesn’t mean that it is the end of their nervousness, but it is encouraging, and with a bit more ‘work’, they will be up to ‘standard’ in no time!

After drinks I heard that the Argyle male leopard had been spotted on Concrete crossing, so I headed into the area to see if we could get lucky, but Giyani got there first and found this impressively large male wandering around following the scent of something. I arrived a bit later and the leopard was still walking around in circles sniffing all over the area, then doing some scent marking of his own. I have a sneaking suspicion that Mbali might be coming back into estrus, and perhaps Argyle male has picked up on this and was searching for her to mate with? We didn’t spend an awfully long time with him as it was getting late, but it was a really nice sighting, and what made it better was the leopards nonchalant attitude, and he seemed to pay no attention to us and was extremely relaxed around the vehicles, which is also good news for us!

Wednesday morning started off warm and clear, but soon turned a bit cloudy, although the wind held off for most of the morning. Driving on Argyle again to follow up on a report of roaring lions, we came across an African fish eagle sitting on a dead tree near her nest and calling continuously, but not in usual fish eagle fashion. I wandered if perhaps the lions were close by, as it did sound like an alarm call of sorts, but I had never heard an eagle alarm call before, so I ignored it. It was only when we drove 50m further on and past her nest that we realized why the eagle was calling so much; Shongile female leopard was sleeping in her nest! It was a first for all of the guides and guests that saw this, and it was a unique scene indeed, although I did feel a bit sorry for the mother fish eagle who was helpless, and could do nothing to have saved her chicks life and the white feathers scattered in the nearby bushes told the story. Shongile had killed and eaten the chick, and was just resting in what looked like a comfortable spot while the mother fish eagle looked on.

Later in the morning I also had a very nice sighting of Nthombi female leopard as she was walking around east of Elephant dam, and soon spotted some impalas that she started stalking, and after some time was left still stalking them far more patiently than I though possible for her, especially considering her normal energetic hunting style.

Godfrey went to see the two Timbavati male lions that were still sleeping near their buffalo kill, and he also had a very large herd of elephant moving north towards Vielmetter property. There were a good number of giraffe this morning, including a herd with a young calf near Elephant dam. Surprisingly, I also saw three herds of zebra, and Herald also spotted another herd elsewhere in the west, so hopefully they are starting to move back into the area. I had further luck late in the morning on the way home when we came across the Sohebele lions near Machaton cottage, but they were heading straight down into the Machaton riverbed and towards the cottage, so we couldn’t follow them any further.
Unfortunately the Sohebele pride were not relocated in the afternoon, their daytime wanderings took them some distance away from the mornings sighting and it got too dark to track them any further. Shongile female leopard was found in the same position as this morning, still up the large knobthorn tree in the fish eagles nest, and she was seen feeding on the last remaining pieces of the chick. I arrived shortly after she descended the tree and followed her for about half an hour through some thick bush, but even with that, she proved to be very relaxed and didn’t run away from the vehicle. I am now certain that we have a star in the making and she will provide us with excellent sightings over the coming years. I left her as it got dark, and made an attempt to respond to the three Mahlathini male lions that had been found west of Buffalo pan, but they left the road before I got to the area, and the Mopane thicket was too dense to follow. I sat with my land rover turned off and listened to them roaring, but I had no luck in actually finding them again. I guess that we will just have to try again tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. The leopard in the nest made me laugh heartily
    Thanks for the pic