Sunday, 23 August 2009

22nd & 23rd August – Nthombi and Java Dam Female Leopards Sighted

I am sitting typing this blog update marveling at technology. I am sitting in the bush watching out camp waterhole with three buffalo in front of me, an bull elephant has just moved off and is braking down some big trees, and a side-striped jackal is incessantly yelping behind camp, no doubt at the young Shongile female leopard that was walking around camp less than an hour ago; yet still I can share all of this with you folks scattered all over the world!

The last two days have been a bit quiet yet again – perhaps the animals had the weekend off??? - but we are still seeing some good things. Saturday morning was not overly productive, (an elephant has just arrived to drink at the waterhole, and a spotted hyena is whooping in the background…just another day at the office!), the cool weather at the start of the drive (sorry, the monkeys have just started alarm calling in the middle of camp, I am sure Shongile is still walking around here somewhere!) meant that most of the animals were slow to wake up, but once the clouds moved off, and the sun shone through, the animals started showing themselves. The usual kudu, giraffe, impala, bushbuck and even some zebra were about, which was nice, but there was little sign of our lions, bar some tracks for the lone, small Sohebele lioness, but she was not found.

There was a large breeding herd of 300-odd buffalo near Makulu dam, but they were starting to settle down for the morning, and they were joined by a small breeding herd of elephants too.

The highlight of the morning was no doubt seeing the beautiful Nthombi female leopard who has been notably absent from our sightings for the last month or so. She managed to keep her duiker kill safe during the night, and didn’t appear to have fed a great deal, as there was still a lot of meat on the small antelope carcass, safely hung up a lone jackalberry tree east of Elephant dam. Despite not having eat a large amount, Nthombi was still full bellied and not in any mood to do too much, and she spent most of the morning resting at the base of the tree, posing for photographs for all our guests!

Another interesting sighting was watching a gathering of vultures finishing off the remains of an impala carcass at Elephant dam. There were no clear signs of what had killed the impala, but whatever it was had left it half eaten, and it didn’t take long for nature’s undertakers to move in and finish it off. A large lappet-faced vulture sat waiting patiently for the squabbling white-backed vultures to move off, but then grew impatient and flew down to assert his dominance and went to feed on the little that remained; his large beak easily ripping apart the skin an sinew that remained.

In the afternoon, Nthombi female leopard was still around, but she had eaten some more of the duiker, and decided to move the carcass to another tree; this time she hung it in a marula tree not 80m from the original perch. I went to see her late in the evening, but again she was sleeping. She did however spring up and move over to the marula tree as a hyena passed by, but once the menacing scavenger moved on, she went back to sleep and didn’t go and feed as I had hoped.

Besides that, the afternoon produced another sighting of that large herd of buffalos that had now moved down into the Nhlarulumi riverbed just south of Makulu dam, and they enjoyed the green vegetation to be found on its banks. Palence and Herald also saw a small breeding herd of elephant west of Sweetwater, and there were two different groups of buffalo bulls found, but sadly, no lions were recorded. Heading back to camp, Palence came across two rhinos after dark, but as is reserve policy, he didn’t view them after dark, and in any case, they seemed very nervous and moved off quite quickly. Some nice general game included waterbuck, kudu, and a nice herd of seldom seen nyala antelope.

Sunday morning was also a bit chilly, and produced a sighting of Nthombi female leopard, in the same spot, still with a bit of meat left on her duiker kill. She was still quite inactive, and slept most of the morning near the bush under which she had moved her kill. The three buffalo bulls that have been hanging around Motswari over the last few days were seen again near our airstrip, as was a large bull elephant. There were five elephant bulls seen right on our western boundary too, feeding in the Mopane thickets there, but other than that, the morning was a bit quiet. Giraffe, kudu, waterbuck, impala, a lone buffalo bull, a large male elephant, bushbuck, and the other small creatures, but no lions (only tracks going from our airstrip to the east, but no luck in tracking him), and no rhino; the closest we got was finding a large hippo heading back towards the waterhole late in the morning.

We had a new group of guests arrive for the afternoon drive, and it was a good start for them. There were two large bull elephants found feeding just off our airstrip, as well as three buffalo bulls. Nthombi was seen still down south, but Giyani found Java Dam female leopard moving east away from Java dam, and the Motswari guides responded to see her instead. Now that is a bit of an unusual thing to do, as she is not a very relaxed leopard, but we kept our distance, and managed to get a fair sighting of a very beautiful female leopard. Last year she used to run at the sight of a vehicle in daylight hours, but she is slowly getting better; although still a long way to go until she is as relaxed as our other leopards. Still, it was special to see this leopard, and it was my first sighting of her in over 3 months!

Palence headed down south to see the Nhlangula male rhino as he fed south of Double highway on our southern boundary, but with some luck he will still be around tomorrow morning. Palence and Johannes also saw a small breeding herd of elephants near Mbali dam, and Johannes also had a brief sighting of the young male leopard we have been seeing around Mbali dam lately. This time he was walking along the riverbed below Giraffe Kill lookout. Johannes also went to go and have a look at a large breeding herd of buffalo near Jaydee pan in the late evening. General game was good; giraffe, kudu, impala, zebra and the like were out on a pleasant afternoon drive.

Back in camp, there were three buffalo and two elephants drinking at our waterhole during the course of the evening, and our night watchman saw a leopard walk past reception when he was waiting for us to arrive back from drive. He said it was a large leopard, and possibly not the same leopard that Johannes saw behind my house, and next to our workshop (Shongile female leopard), just as we were getting ready for dinner. The jackals and monkeys have been alarm calling all night, so the leopards are still around! Hopefully they show themselves to the guest’s tomorrow morning too!

In addition, we just need our lions to start showing themselves like they were doing during the first half of the month!

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