Monday, 7 February 2011

6th February – Interesting Birds...and the Big 5

Photo of the Day
Red-crested Korhaan's courtship display

Morning Drive
1 x leopard (Thumbela female) – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam
1 x white rhino (Mtenga-tenga male) – Kings, Cheetah Plains
6 x lions (Jacaranda Pride – 2 females, 4 cubs) – De Luca, De Luca Access

Afternoon Drive
1 x leopard (Shongile’s Brother) – Argyle, Argyle Dam
7 x lions (Jacaranda Pride – 2 females, 1 male, 4 cubs) – De Luca, De Luca Access
3 x buffalo – Argyle, Lover’s Leap
2 x elephant bulls – Peru, Sohebele Dam

Daily Synopsis
The week ended on a fairly good note at Motswari, although it did appear that most of the animals had other arrangements on Sunday morning!
The drive started off with the usual hippos in the big dams as I checked the north for some leopards and the Jacaranda lions.  The Jacaranda pride’s tracks headed north-east, and away from the Mahlathini males (who themselves crossed to the north-west and into Ingwelala), but went into the very dense mopane woodlands on De Luca.  Not wanting to spend my morning looking at mopane tree’s, I asked Elliot, Patrick and Tiyani to go and track them down, which they did do successfully late in the morning (I went out to see them after breakfast, just to make sure I knew where to go in the afternoon!).
Despite the presence of lions in the north, I was quite interested in responding to a sighting of Rockfig Jnr and Thumbela down near Entrance Dam in the south.  Sadly their kill was all but finished and by the time I arrived, there was nothing left; Rockfig Jnr had disappeared into the thickets along the Machaton River and did not emerge – luckily Thumbela was a bit more obliging and lay around in the thickish vegetation near Entrance Dam, but it did allow us to have a nice sighting of her as she slept off her full belly.

While in the south, we were kindly invited to go and see a long-lost friend – dear old Mtenaga-tenga, one of the most relaxed white rhinos in the reserve.  He was found on Cheetah Plains (after having come past Hide Dam during the night), but in typical Mtenga-tenga fashion, he was content to just sleep off the heat of the morning in the shade.
Mtenga-tenga male white rhino
Besides those sightings, there was not a great deal else on the animal front – just warthogs and impala (it took 3 hours to see our first impala!!!).  Yet despite that, I enjoyed the morning, if for nothing other than two bird sightings; one of a rare pale morph of the common Wahlberg’s Eagle, and secondly, a red-crested korhaan with his red crest out and on display!  I had only seen both of these things on one prior occasion, so it was wonderful to see them again!

Pale form Wahlberg's Eagle

The afternoon was a very chilled and relaxed affair.  It started off heading towards the Jacaranda Pride and the adventure of trying to get into the sighting, but it was worth it.  Since seeing them at midday, they had been joined by the shy pride male, and all the pride rested in the long grass on the western bank of the drainage line.  There was some nice interaction with the male lion and the cubs biting his tail, and one or two of the cubs annoying mom!

Jacaranda Cubs
I then spent time in the quieter eastern section, seeing nice impala, a wildebeest and just enjoying the scenery.  We found tracks for other lions coming from the Kruger towards Karan’s airstrip, but didn’t succeed in finding them.  As that little search occupied a part of our afternoon, I decided to not respond to Thumbela leopardess in the south, but rather just stay in the north and follow my feeling that I could find my own leopard there.

Passing Sohebele Dam there were two bull elephants feeding on the opposite bank, a waterbuck and some hippos.  We enjoyed a magic sundowner at Lover’s Leap with three buffalo bulls resting in the water below us, and then headed towards camp.  Within a few minutes we spotted a leopard on Argyle Dam Wall!

Oopsy - not 'Argyle male', but rather his son!
At first glance we could see it was a male, so naturally assumed it was Argyle male, especially as he had reportedly walked through camp in the morning.  On looking at the leopard on the dam wall, he looked like Argyle male, and seemed relaxed, but soon crossed to the west.  I went around and relocated as he went down onto the grassy plains, but he suddenly didn’t look as big, but I thought it was just the angle of view.  In the grass, he didn’t let us get too close, and moved around a fair bit, but did eventually walk past the vehicle, and in the long grass, I was not confident it was him, but still went with my initial instinct.
We eventually lost him, or he lost us, in the long grass and we returned to camp, seeing tracks for Shongile or Kuhanya having just walked through the reception entrance!  After a great dinner under the stars, I went back to my room, reviewed my photos and immediately saw that this leopard was not Argyle male, but none other than Shongile’s brother – the leopard who did change his spots; and that is no joke!  He went from a 2:1 whisker spot pattern to a 2:0 pattern!  Either way, it was great to positively identify this male in the area, and it’s great to know he is still hanging around – that officially makes it 8 different leopards that utilise the immediate area around the lodge (Argyle male, Argyle Jnr female – and 2 cubs, Kuhanya, Shongile, Vyeboom Dam male and now Shongile’s brother!).
Let us hope that this number continues to remain so high and keeps confusing us because we have so many different leopards in the area!


  1. Thanks for the update Chad,
    Leopards in camp, must be awesome (Even though you only saw the tracks this time).

    Can you please explain the spot pattern for the leopards, I have heard a lot about it, but am not sure how exactly it works.

    You can maybe do a post with photos to make it easier if you don't mind.



  2. lourens, thanks! yeah, always great to see signs of animals in camp!

    the spots of the leopards refer to the number of spots above the whiskers, and while not unique, are an easy aide for identifying leopards, based on the spots above each whisker line on the left and right side of the nose...if you click on the leopard pics on the right of the blog, it opens a page with a pic of their face and the spot pattern....although shingile's brother was 2:1, he is now 2:0! very strange!!!

    hope that makes sense :)

  3. Fantastic Chad!! So many leopards is amazing; AND in the camp - unreal! Reading the blog every day and planning our return...

  4. Thanks Chad,
    Saw that now, thanks for the explanation.
    It is strange that he "lost his spot"!


  5. hey ya lee-ann! hope you guys are well nd not being affected by all the natural disasters at home at the mo! Port Douglas actually came up in conversation last night and thought of you guys!

    glad you enjoying the blog...and the rhino photos =P

    will chat soon! regards to peter!

    @lourens....its a pleasure!