Tuesday, 1 March 2011

28th February: Close, but no Cigar!

Pic of the Day.

Morning Drive.

( Herald, Elliot, Johannes & Grant)

Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Sohobele Plains.
Lions ( Mahlatini Males) / Scholtz – Scholtz River Rd.
Leopard ( Ntombi) / Kings – Double Highway.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Wild West.

Afternoon Drive.

( Herald, Elliot, Johannes, Chad & Grant)

Buffalo ( Dagha Boy) / Motswari – Xinatsi Dam.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Peru – Mbali River Rd.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Motswari – Xinatsi Dam Rd. North.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Giraffe Kill Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Giraffe Kill Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Motswari – Motswari Airstrip Link.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Motswari – Motswari Camp.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Scholtz – Kudu Pan.
Lion ( Mahlatini Males) / Scholtz – Kudu Pan Rd. South.
Leopard ( Argyle Male) / Motswari – Xinatsi Dam Rd. Link
Leopard ( Shongile's Brother) / Motswari – Xinatsi Dam.

Daily Synopsis.

Needing to find Rhino we would be heading out West for the morning. Herald had been there the previous two days with no success, so he decided to try in the South as he to still needed the giant grey juggernaut. Elliot headed to the East, in search of the Buffalo herd and hopefully the Mahlatini's, while Johannes stayed in the North looking for Leopard. Having all points of the compass covered, we headed our separate ways.

It was not long before I received a message that tracks for two Rhino had been found very nearby where we were. Before dedicating our morning to tracking them we spent some quality time with a large breeding herd of Elephant as they slowly fed about us.

Turning our attention back to matters at hand, we joined forces with another lodge to try speed up the tracking process by leap-frogging one another in checking the roads. We finally got to a set of tracks and dung that were very fresh and we decided to send the trackers in on foot. While waiting for a third tracker, Jacky got all the guests off the vehicle and explained the tracks. He then proceeded to tell them about the dung and how you tell if it's really fresh. This is done by sticking your middle finger in to feel for warmth, which he promptly did! Declaring it steamy he encouraged everyone to feel for themselves. After extracting our middle fingers from the dung and agreeing it was in fact very warm, he posed another question. How do you tell if it is a male or female? This had us all staring at him in fear wondering, at which he stuck what appeared to be the finger he had inserted in the dung into his mouth and declared it a male, naturally! With all of us horrified, he explained you could determine it from the taste. With some now intrigued they lifted their fingers to their mouths.............................Stopping them short of their lips, Jacky quickly explained to them that they needed to watch him closely, as he had used slight of hand and actually popped his index finger and not his middle finger into his mouth! Breathing a sigh of relief at not having to go through with it, everyone had a good laugh at how they were all drawn in! Jacky played it very well and had I not heard of the prank before I too would have had my finger at my lips. Getting back to business, we headed off for coffee while Jacky and the guys followed up on foot, but not getting a kilometre away, Jacky contacted me to tell me that they had found them. Arriving back on scene, we proceeded off road, only to discover that our Rhino were extremely skittish and disappeared with our approach, leaving the trackers as the only one's to have seen them. Not wanting to frighten them off by following them through the bush, we headed off for coffee and then returned to camp coming close, but no cigar!

Herald and Elliot'stracking was more successful with them finding the breeding herd of Buffalo, the Mahlatini's and Ntombi between the two of them. Lets see what the afternoon holds in store, Giraffe would be nice!

Going for my daily midday run on the airstrip, as I find this the safest time. The animals are all taking shelter from the heat, and must watch me pass by thinking, “ told you they're crazy, what animal would be out in this heat!” It has proved beneficial on a number of occasions though, with me finding tracks for a variety of wildlife. This time I found myself a wide drag mark crossing the road that runs parallel to the airstrip. I tried to look for tracks but they had been erased by the animal being dragged, which by the looks of things was very big. I did find a small scuffed print that I thought was for a female Leopard, the size of the drag mark would point to a male, but which ever, it was definitely the MO of a Leopard. Putting Jacky's tracking training to work I followed the drag mark, as I've previously mentioned I'm quite capable of tracking Elephant, and this drag mark was the same as that. Keeping my eye's forward and being ever present of my surroundings I slowly ventured forth until I saw the drag mark enter into a thickly vegetated area below a cluster of trees next to a large grassed termite mound. Remembering Jacky's second golden rule, I chose not to approach any closer and would return in the afternoon with the vehicle, and more importantly Jacky.

It did not take long to return to the sight that afternoon and both Jacky and I retraced my path, approaching a little closer this time until we could see what looked like a dead Impala. I returned to fetch the vehicle and we drove closer to inspect our finding. There appeared to be no predator present but under the scrub lay a large male Impala with the hind quarter having been fed on. We searched the immediate vicinity but found nothing and thought that it was either Argyle Jnr. Female ,who had gone off to fetch her cubs, some other skittish Leopard, or one of our residents who had gone off for a drink of water. We decided we would return later to see if the answer would be revealed.

Still in search of Rhino we again headed to the West, but before heading there we made a quick detour to visit Argyle Male who had been found near Xinatsi Dam not far from Motswari. Waiting our turn we stood by at Xinatsi Dam with a Dagha Boy, who thinking back on it seemed a little unsettled.

While sitting there we discovered some Hyena sitting on the opposite bank which we made our way around to. The Buffalo had now moved off to our left as we passed by him. Focused on how I was about to position myself in relation to the Hyena, I heard this panicked, breathless voice utter, “ he's coming, he's coming, SHIT!” To which I turned to see the Buffalo head down running at the back left of the vehicle, five metres away. There was this sudden shift of weight to the right as I accelerated, this little propulsion forward seemed enough to convince the Buffalo that we in fact were heading away and he broke off his charge and turned and disappeared into the bush, as quickly as he had appeared!

As was with our previous visit to Argyle Male the night before, it left us a little disappointed. This time he was a awake and feeding on what appeared to be the remains of an old Buffalo calf carcass, chewing on the bones, trying to get at the sinew. His positioning was perfect for a Leopard but extremely poor for game-viewing, well at least while we were there. He did later move and provide perfect views after an encounter with the Xinatsi Clan of Hyena who had moved from the dam to harass him.

The rest of our drive was to be relatively quite as we searched the South West for our Rhino, this time not even coming up with tracks. We did however find our elusive Giraffe, and spent a fair amount of time with them in the prefect light of sunset.

Running out of time and light, as we do not view Leopard kills on the ground after dark, we did not make it back to check on our dead Impala. We did however find Shongile's skittish brother drinking at Xinatsi dam before beating a hasty retreat into the bushes on our arrival. Being not that far from the kill, we thought it is most probably his and that would explain everything.

Between the rest of the Motswari guides, they appeared to all have had a busy afternoon with the majority of their sightings being tracked and established themselves. These would include a number of Elephant sightings of varying combinations, Buffalo, individually and as a herd, the three Mahlatini Males and two different Leopard. This is not to mention all the general game and birds.

Looks like things in the North are once again picking up, lets see what tomorrow brings!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the enjoyable update, Grant! Exciting with the buffalo, first time I was glad not being on the vehicle at that moment... Looking forward on the following updates and entertaining stories!
    Regards, Claudia