Wednesday, 5 January 2011

4th January – Motswari - the new leopard capital of the northern Timbavati?

Photo of the Day
Shongile female

Morning Drive
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Motswari, Sharalumi Access East Rd
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Motswari, Airstrip
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Karans, Bottom Rd
4 x buffalo bulls – Jaydee, Vielmetter-Alberts Cutline
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Peru Entrance Rd

Afternoon Drive
5 x lions (Xakubasa Pride) – Vielmetter, Jiga-Jiga Rd
1 x leopard (Argyle Male) – Motswari, Wisani Crossing
1 x leopard (Shongile female) – Motswari, Motswari Northern Access/Ekuvukeni Rd
1 x leopard (Kuhanya female) – Motswari, Xinatsi Dam Rd North
1 x leopard (Ximungwe female/Argyle Jnr’s cub) – Motswari, Sharalumi-Ingwelala Cutline
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Argyle, Sohebele River Rd West
1 x elephant bull – Mbali, Western Cutline
1 x elephant bull – Jaydee, Nkombi Pan

Daily Synopsis
Despite the weatherman’s prediction for almost no rain, the morning drive was dampened by intermittent drizzle throughout the morning.  Yet again I was checking Motswari Wedge, hoping to find any sign of the wild dog’s in the area, but I came up empty handed on that front, only finding tracks for a female leopard and tracks for a herd of buffalo coming on to our property. The tracks for the buffalo soon led us to finding a breeding herd of about 100 buffalo east of Sharalumi Cottage, but sadly the leopard tracks led to nothing more than frustration in the morning.  Despite having tracks for Argyle Male, a female leopard, and seemingly a female and young leopard, we were struggling to find anything concrete to track and eventually gave up. 
Breeding herd of buffalo
We did however find another small herd of 40-50 buffalo on our airstrip, a small herd of giraffe and the usual impalas all over the show.  Godfrey found a large breeding herd of several hundred buffalo in the east, but generally the morning was a quiet one.  Johannes went south-east to help track 2 rhinos, but had no luck before needing to head back to camp for his guests to check out.  The white lions were also found, but as it was raining in the south, none of the guides went to see them.
Breeding herd of buffalo on the airstrip
While the morning proved frustrating for leopards, the afternoon proved anything but!  Some staff had seen a leopard on our access road while returning from their monthly leave, and a monkey was alarm calling from the lodge pool during lunch, indicating that something was about.  Surely we had to find a leopard near camp considering all the tracks and the other signs.  And boy, did we find leopards!
Marka was the first to find one, when he located Shongile female leopard sleeping up a marula tree. She later wandered around, resting on a couple of termite mounds before moving into a mopane thicket as she headed north. Almost at the same time Marka found Shongile, Johannes located Argyle Male leopard sleeping up a weeping boer-bean tree no more than 200m from camp along the Sohebele riverbed. All of our guides got to see both of these leopards before carrying on with the drive.

Argyle male
Shongile female
Elliot and I went south to see the white lions, and both of us saw lone bull elephants, and both of these weren’t too fond of the vehicles for some reason – Elliot’s moved off quickly, and mine mock charged as we got closer, so neither of us hung around.  The lions had moved a few kilometres from yesterday’s position, but slept most of the afternoon, only surfacing after dark before making off into the dark and being left to hunt in peace.
White lions playing before the hunt
Marka and Johannes stayed in the north, and Johannes found a breeding herd of buffalo north of Argyle Dam, while Marka found yet another leopard on Motswari!  This time it was one of Argyle Jnr’s cubs; an 11-month old female we will likely name Ximungwe female.  She too was resting up a marula tree and posed beautifully for pictures before climbing down and moving off.  She is not yet totally relaxed with the vehicles, but we are hoping that with more regular views she will get used to us in her world. 
As if that wasn’t enough, Giyani found a fourth leopard for the afternoon!  He located Kuhanya female heading to the south towards Xinatsi Dam to round off a rather impressive afternoon of leopard viewing around the lodge; it definitely seems like the area around the lodge is become the leopard capital of the north, with at least 7 different leopards all using the small area around camp.  But not to be outdone, there was also a sighting of the gorgeous Nthombi female leopard near the white lion sighting down south on Vielmetter, but none of our guides went to see her.

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