Thursday, 10 September 2009

08th & 09th September – Tale of Two Seasons!

Wow, what a turn around in weather! Tuesday was a scorching hot day, temperatures settling in the upper thirties, and the suddenly during the early hours of Wednesday morning, the wind came up and brought in some much cooler weather, probably not reaching more than 23 degrees Celsius. It was a nice respite from the heat, but the wind was not very pleasant.

I was back on drive on Tuesday afternoon, and it was a nice return to the bush. The heat started to die down and a few of the animals shed the listlessness that had been blanketing them during the midday heat. We saw a few general game species, including waterbuck, impala, steenbok, and then made our way to Mbali dam where a large breeding herd of buffalo were quenching their thirst. The Mahlathini male lion’s tracks had been in the area in the morning, and at times the buffalo herd was acting a bit nervously, but despite checking the area, no lions were found.

After a sundowner, I made my way towards Makulu dam where three of the Sohebele lions had been found resting on the bank near the waters edge. The pride that had spent much of their time together over the last week were now apart, and we saw two young males and the young female. They were not looking too well fed; their kudu meal from a few days back was now just a distant memory, but overall, they were looking in a fair condition, although they were largely inactive, only moving a few meters before settling down again.

A few of the Motswari guides headed towards Sweetwater pan where the Nhlangula male rhino had been found grazing to the south of the Nyosi riverbed. He was feeding in a southerly direction and left as darkness fell. John, our night watchman spotted a young leopard walking around the reception area shortly before the game drives returned back to camp. During the night, John had an adventure of his own when he was trying to chase the most fearless of animals off the verandah and it bit his boot! There was a tenacious little honey badger trying to get into the rubbish bin, so John promptly tried to get the badger away, and after a brief ‘tussle’ succeeded…until the honey badger returned with a partner!

The windy conditions on Wednesday kept many of the animals hidden, but we still had a pleasing day. We saw quite a few male waterbuck throughout the reserve, a few male kudus, impala, some buffalo bulls, a herd of zebra, a large herd of waterbuck, an elephant bull and a few other smaller antelope. On the big game front, two of the Motswari trackers spent some of the morning tracking the three Mahlathini male lions that had been trailing the buffalo herd from yesterday, and found where they had killed and eaten a baby buffalo during the night. They continued to track them for much of the morning. In the mean time, the three Sohebele lions had been found near Leopard Rock hide, and were followed as they moved down to the Machaton riverbed. I skipped on the Sohebele lions and went to check the hyena den, but only found one of the adults outside the termite mound; I am sure that the wind was keeping the cubs hidden inside.

Johannes and I had headed south to go and see Nkateko female leopard, just south of Double Highway. She was resting in a knobthorn tree when I arrived, but she soon descended and went off in the direction that she had been eyeing out from the tree. We only saw a herd of impala in the area, but she was moving in the opposite direction, perhaps trying to circle down wind?

I left the leopard and was heading back to pick up the trackers who were still following the tracks for the Mahlathini male lions near Makulu dam, and soon found them, but they ran off. Johannes and I arrived a few minutes later, and the trackers once again set off on foot and found the lions again. We were making our way in with a vehicle when a helicopter doing some game counts flew over and set the lions running again! It was getting late, so we decided not to pursue them any further.

In the afternoon, I stuck up north, and after some more waterbuck and kudu, we saw a large herd of buffalo (different from yesterday’s herd) drinking at Peru dam before heading to the east. There was also a large bull elephant feeding in some of the reeds just below Mbali dam wall, as the resident troop of baboons kept out of the wind by sitting on the concrete dam wall itself; the young baboons seemed to be enjoying the cool weather and were chasing each other all over the show.

Mbali female leopard was located with a rather fresh impala kill not far west of Mangwa clearing. Andrew and I managed to get a look before it got too dark, and as her kill was still on the ground, we didn’t view her after it got too dark. It was a large male impala that she ahd killed, and she had fed well on most of the internal organs and the rump, and lightened the load somewhat, so she should be able to take it up a tree during the night if the hyenas don’t get to it first! As she had fed well already, she was rather inactive and only once lifted her head to see what all the attention was about, but didn’t feed while we were watching her.

Heading back to camp, we did find a distant breeding herd of elephants feeding near Flooded crossing, and Johannes saw a few buffalo bulls.

So all in all, despite the windy conditions, we didn’t do too badly today! And we will have to see how long this cooler weather lasts for!

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