Saturday, 17 October 2009

13th & 14th October – Lions 2-0 Buffalo!!!

The two male lion coalitions in northern Timbavati proved that they can indeed hunt without lioness as both the three Timbavati males and the three Mahlathini males managed to kill their own buffalos during the last two days, and provided for some special game viewing.

Tuesday was a warm and partly cloudy day, and started off when we found three adult hyenas resting on our soccer field. From there, I went to check on the den site a bit further north and saw three of the cubs resting outside of the termite mound, but after a few minutes they ran inside and we decided to carry on with the drive. Johannes found the three Mahlathini male lions on the eastern side of Vyboom dam wall, and they moved to the east and went static in the shade. I slowly made my way into the area, and came across two large bull elephants having a dust bath in the early morning light. At Vyboom dam, besides some good birds, there were also six elephant bulls that had waded through the water and were on the eastern bank grazing on some of the greenery, as well as rubbing against some of the dead trees lining the dam.

As I was about to go into the sighting of the Mahlathini male lions, we were invited to a sighting down south; the three Timbavati male lions had just killed a baby buffalo from one of the herds and were busy feeding on their fresh kill. It sounded good, and despite being on the northern boundary, we decided it was worth heading down south to see this sighting, and we were right!

The buffalo that the lions had caught was a youngster of about a year old, so it wasn’t the biggest meal, and as a result they were all trying to feed on as much of it as they could before it was all consumed. From the accounts of the guides that witnessed the kill, the buffalo herd had returned to try and rescue the buffalo calf, but it was too late, and the herd soon moved off north towards Entrance dam. The lions fed quickly and were guzzling down the buffalo mouthful by mouthful, and when one male encroached on the others feeding area, there was a lot of growling! One male pulled the carcass under a small tree, and it was quite humorous watching him drag the carcass as his brother hung on and got dragged along with it!

One of the males found the unopened stomach and decided that it looked good to eat, so he ripped it open and removed all of the undigested grass and slurped up the stomach lining in no time at all! After watching them for about an hour, they were starting to fill up and as the day heated up quickly, they became less and less active and slowly moved into the shade, taking longer pauses between mouthfuls, and we left them to it and headed back to camp.

The afternoon drive was a good one too; the only disappointment was that the promise of growing rain clouds was blown away when the wind picked up – the relief it brought from the heat was most welcome though!
The three Mahlathini male lions were found resting in the same area as they had been left in the morning, and were inactive in the early part of the afternoon.

I was keen to go and see if I could find Nkateko leopardess down south, as my repeat guests were very interested in seeing her having seen her during their last visit. I checked her usual haunts but came up empty handed. Her mother, Rockfig female leopard, had been found sleeping north of Vielmetter trough early in the afternoon, but she was lying in some thick grass under a fallen tree, so didn’t provide for a great sighting. I was hanging around in the area and had just pulled into the Rockfig hyena clan’s den site (where there was one adult hyena and the ear of a youngster poking out of the hole) when I was informed that Rockfig was now up and about, so I headed over to see her. As I pulled into the sighting, she was in the middle of a stalk, so I hung back at about 70m and watched as she moved closer to a steenbok. The steenbok then disappeared down into the riverbed and emerged on the opposite bank, so I went and repositioned closer to the leopard. Soon Rockfig moved down into the riverbed and used the sedge as cover until the steenbok put its head down, and after a long and patient wait she stalked quickly to the opposite bank and edged silently through a fallen tree and was poised for the chase on the unsuspecting steenbok. Eventually Rockfig charged out at the steenbok, but she just wasn’t close enough and the steenbok got away. Her lack of hunting success was starting to become a worry, as she clearly hadn’t eaten for a long time. It was great to watch her trying though, and also to have been able to do so in a manner that didn’t influence either her or the prey – the way it should be!

Herald was on his way to the sighting when he found a young male lion, the Machaton young male, resting on Elephant dam wall. I went and had a sundowner as the thunderstorm approached, and with it the wind that promptly blew any chance of rain away. After drinks I went to see if I could find the male lion, and did, just as he was having a drink at the dam. He finished and moved a bit further north before going to sleep.

It didn’t bother me, as Johannes had found Nkateko leopardess! Or she had found him to be more correct! While he was having a sundowner at Hide dam, she arrived at the waterhole to have a drink. Johannes and his guests climbed back into the vehicle and she then came and lay near his cooler box and drinks table that he hadn’t had time to clear! I arrived a while later and followed her as she moved quickly through the bush, possibly looking to use the wind to hunt, but she soon went and lay on a small termite mound and after posing for the camera for some time we left her there and headed back to the camp.

Other big game sightings for the afternoon included a breeding herd of elephant east of Vyboom dam, the large breeding herd of buffalo north of Makulu dam, a couple of buffalo bulls and then seven elephant bulls having a drink at Concrete crossing.

Wednesday morning was the last morning that my French guests were with me on their trip, and we managed to tick off another two leopard sightings for them, as well as a great sighting of some lions.

The leopards were out in force in the south, and three female leopards were found within a 2km radius on Vielmetter. It started off with the good news that Rockfig female leopard had been found with a meal; she had taken an impala up a tree just south of Vielmetter camp, but she spent the entire morning sleeping under a bush and didn’t provide for a good sighting, but it was nice to know that she was getting a meal. Herald then found Nthombi female leopard resting on a termite mound at Elephant dam. My guests had not seen this beauty, so I headed down to see her and arrived as she was resting up a marula tree. She soon spotted a duiker and jumped down from the tree and attempted to stalk the antelope, but it picked up her approach and ran off. We carried on following Nthombi as she wandered around scent marking before climbing up another marula tree and posing for pictures. We left her as she jumped down and headed off to the south.
Not 300m further east, Rockfig Jnr female leopard had also been found resting up a marula tree, but I chose to bypass her in favour of the three Mahlathini male lions. Johannes had found their tracks following behind those of a large breeding herd of buffalo as they headed towards our southern boundary with Mananga. Johannes found the herd of buffalo crossing into the neighbouring property, but left them and back-tracked until he found the lions trailing close behind the herd. He called me to tell me that he had found the lions very close to the buffalo, and he thought they might attempt to make a kill, but I was sitting with a leopard about 20 minutes away, so was in a bit of a quandary of what to do. Two minutes later Johannes radioed in that the lions had attacked and caught a female buffalo right in front of his guests! Two of the lions were already starting to feed on the buffalo before she was even dead, but she soon succumbed to the powerful trio and they began feeding. I made my way to the area and found the lions busy tucking into their meal, still in the open where they had caught her.

While we were watching them, the vultures started circling, so the one male decided to drag the carcass under a small nearby tree, and demonstrated his strength as he pulled several hundred kilograms of dead weight under cover! The lions continued to feed intermittently, but were clearly tiring from their activity of the morning and we left them to enjoy their meal in peace!

On Wednesday afternoon, the game drive was perfectly set up for my new guests – guaranteed lions and leopard, a perfect way to start! I slowly headed down south after ticking off giraffe, impala, kudu, ground hornbills, warthog and steenbok on the way. I then decided to skip on Rockfig female leopard, as she was still in a poor position near the kill. I went to check on the nearby hyena den, and found the mother hyena lying outside of the den with one of the two cubs sleeping next to her! These cubs are still very small, and probably less than 2.5 months old, and still black in colour! The youngster was extremely cute, and while he wasn’t overly active, it was just great to eventually see him!

After that I headed towards the three Mahlathini male lions on their buffalo kill as the sun was setting. At first two of the lions were resting next to the carcass, and after a short while one of them got up to go and feed on the carcass. He appeared to be drinking up the blood that had drained into the rib cage, and then licked some of the bones clean before digging into the fleshier parts! We left him to it and went and had a drink.

After drinks, Elliot called in that Rockfig female leopard was up the weeping-boer bean feeding on her impala, but she had been joined by a second leopard at the base of the tree! At first it was thought to be Nkateko, but the second leopard was later identified as Rockfig Jnr female leopard! She was soon chased up a nearby apple-leaf tree when three hyenas arrived to try and scavenge a free meal! A piece of meat had fallen and was tantalizingly close to the ground, but just not close enough for the hyenas to reach, despite their best efforts at ‘climbing’ the tree! Rockfig was high up the tree and had fallen asleep again, so we didn’t see her too well, but Rockfig Jnr was lying on a perfect branch in all her splendour!
We headed home, and during boma, the guests went outside to see one of our regular camp visitors, Floppy the floppy-eared elephant! He is an extremely chilled individual that had no qualms about coming into the camp to feed on our trees! He went down to the waterhole and then moved off to the west. Earlier in the evening, the guests had seen two buffalos grazing on the grass in front of the verandah!

There you have it, another two exciting days of game viewing at Motswari. We shall have to wait and see what the next two days bring!

No comments:

Post a Comment