Tuesday, 13 October 2009

09th & 10th October – Leopards Return!

The hot weather peaked on Friday, but cooled somewhat on Saturday, and our sightings did pick up, especially on the leopard front; and this pleased me as I have some guests that have come to Motswari almost exclusively to photograph our leopards!

I headed out towards Vyboom dam to see if there was possibly any sign of any leopards around, but instead I found the three Mahlathini male lions resting just off the road, not far from the dam wall. We spent a fair bit of time with them as they lazed in the early morning sun before they eventually got up and moved off to some shade a bit further east. They were once again pleasingly relaxed, and allowed us to get to a comfortable distance without bothering too much about us.
The only other notable sighting of the morning was the large breeding herd of buffalo that were feeding to the west away from Java camp, and ended up at Makulu dam later in the morning where Andrew got to watch them drink.

The general game was well represented with giraffe, kudu, waterbuck, impala and some nice baboons along the banks of the Nhlarulumi riverbed.

In the afternoon, I managed to see the Big 5 without much effort! I had headed south in the hope that Rockfig or Nkateko would be found, but I was making my way towards Makulu dam to see if the large breeding herd of buffalo would return there to drink. Unfortunately they were heading north away from the area, and we just bypassed them as they grazed along the western bank of the riverbed. There were also a couple of male elephants in the area of the buffalo enjoying the greenery of the Nhlarulumi.

Back up north, the three Mahlathini male lions had been found resting in the same spot, and after viewing them, Palence found Kuhanya female leopard resting on the Vyboom dam wall, not 200m away! She got up and went down to the waters edge where she managed to catch a fish and proceeded to eat it before heading to the west where she ascended a large marula tree to go and relax.
When I heard that she had been found, I decided to head back north, and in doing so got lucky and found two white rhinos along the way! It was the female and her large sub-adult offspring, and they seemed reasonably relaxed and didn’t run off. After a few minutes they wandered further into the bush, but I didn’t pursue them and carried on towards Kuhanya. When we arrived she was still resting in the tree as the sun set. Later she moved towards Buffalo pan and back to the south.
The Mahlathini males had just gotten active, but they walked through some thick bush, and we left them to it and headed back to camp.

On Saturday I headed down south, again catching a bit of the large breeding herd of buffalo near Confluence crossing. The other Motswari guides that went to see them also saw a herd of elephants in the middle of the herd of buffalo – both being drawn to the greenery along the riverbed.

There were a couple of elephant bulls scattered around, but the game viewing was not overly productive. I checked up on the hyena den, but only saw one of the adult hyenas outside the den. Some other good news was that Johannes found the den site of the northern hyena clan a few hundred meters from his Sharalumi camp, and not too far north of Motswari. There appear to be four cubs, but all are over 5 months old.

Late in the morning, one of the stations found Rockfig female leopard resting on a termite mound just off Western cut line, and I immediately headed over there, seeing some kudu, zebra and giraffe on the way. We pulled into the sighting as Rockfig had become active again and seemed to be interested in hunting, and she needed it – she was looking quite thin, and it appears that her severely wounded ear may be affecting her hunting. The wound is looking terrible, and I am almost sure that she will loose her ear soon. She doesn’t appear to be in any discomfort, but as she walks through the thick undergrowth, every stick and branch that she goes by must aggravate the wound. Occasionally she would roll about and rub the ear on the ground, but together with her scratching, it is just keeping the wound open. I was feeling a lot less optimistic about her future after that sighting – but it was still a good, and we can only hope she pulls through in the near future.

In the afternoon, we got to spend some nice time watching the cats of the north. I managed to relocate on the three Mahlathini male lions just north of Madash dam. They were their usual sleepy selves and only got up and moved into some shade.

Just down the road, Kuhanya female leopard had been found sleeping up a weeping-boer-bean tree, just north of Concrete crossing. She spent most of the afternoon resting peacefully in the shady bows of the tree, but as the sun started sinking, she got up and headed down into the riverbed for a welcome drink of water on a hot day. She then headed back to the east and provided for a great sighting, especially when she decided that she wanted to come and climb a marula tree that I was parked next to! She literally sprung up the tree less than 3m away from us and peered around for a potential meal. It proved to much for her and she then sought out a more comfortable spot to rest in the tree. After a few minutes something caught her eye and she was down in a flash and stalked after her invisible quarry. I left her to it as it was getting dark, and with the Mahlathini male lions resting not 300m away, I didn’t want to interfere with her activities!

Those sightings occupied most of my afternoon, but there were reports of some buffalo bulls, two groups of elephant bulls as well as a breeding herd of elephants in the north.

During boma, an alarm calling bush baby alerted us to a 2m long African rock python up a knobthorn tree behind the boma area. Daniel managed to gently get the python out of the tree and this then gave all of the guests a chance to have a closer look at this amazing beautiful and extremely docile snake. It was one of the calmest snakes I have seen, and didn’t mind any of the attention before we returned it to the same tree!

So that was the last two days – some good leopard sightings that we hope continue for the next while!

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