Monday, 30 May 2011

29th May – Machaton Pride Still Following Buffalo Herd

Photo of the Day
Kuhanya - Supermodel of the North
Morning Drive
(Chad and Marka)
1 x leopard (Kuhanya female) – Motswari, Sean’s Clearing
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Argyle, Motswari Airstrip Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Motswari, Bush Braai Rd

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Marka and Herald)
12 x lions (Machaton Pride – 3 x lionesses and 9 x cubs) – Vielmetter, Vielmetter Access
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Argyle, Argyle Dam
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Vielmetter, Back Nine’s East
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Argyle Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Motswari, Airstrip
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Crossing Below Entrance Dam
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Sohebele Plains
1 x elephant bull – Vielmetter, Vielmetter Access

Daily Synopsis
Sunday was another good day in the Timbavati.  Getting out in the fresh morning chill to watch the sun rising in the east was special enough, but having Marka radio to tell me that he had a leopard within the first 10-minutes of drive was even better, and was enough to draw me away from the beautiful herd of kudus I was watching.
Male Kudu
I made my way towards Xinatsi Dam area, stumbling across impalas and a breeding herd of elephants that I also had to temporarily neglect.  I arrived to join Marka and found our supermodel leopard, Kuhanya, standing posing on the road, with the early morning light catching her from behind.  She then came ambling down the road towards us, and right underneath the back seat of the Land Rover.  What a special treat!

Kuhanya giving us a "walk-by"
We then followed her as she went into a Mopane thicket, and after a short grooming session, she began stalking something.  We patiently waited as she edged closer to her invisible quarry.  It was a patient wait for us, as for most of the time we could see very little of her besides the odd spot as she slid silently through the undergrowth.

Cleaning and stalking...all in a morning's work for Kuhanya
Eventually we ran out of patience, and seemingly so did Kuhanya as she got up and walked off, with none of us actually ever seeing what it was that she was stalking!
Excellent camouflage
We headed over towards Argyle Dam to try locate a breeding herd of buffalo that had come past the lodge in the middle of the night.  There were a few impala and a waterbuck around, but the most interesting thing was finding a dead impala next to the road.  It was a hear-and-a-half old female, and no sign of any predator having touched her.  There was one wound on her left flank, and all we can surmise is that she was jabbed by the horn of a male impala in the rut, and it punctured her lung perhaps?  Sad for her, but will be a treat for the next predator that wanders past there!
After coffee at the dam, we heard our herd of elephants trumpet nearby and went and found them just near the southern side of Argyle Dam and spent some good time watching them feeding around the vehicle, at total ease with our presence.

Breeding herd of elephants
One interesting thing was when a mother elephant defecated, and her baby wandered over to investigate the fresh pile of droppings, and then began to eat a few pieces.  This is done to help introduce the microbial organisms into its digestive system, in the same way that a zebra foal will eat its mothers droppings too.

Elephant calf eating mom's dung
After the elephants, we searched again for the buffalo, and realising that they hadn’t come out of the block east of Argyle Dam, we went inside following their tracks and soon found he small herd of about 60 or 70 buffalo slowly waking up from their morning’s rest.  When we realised that they weren’t heading straight to Argyle Dam, we headed back to the lodge for some breakfast.

Breeding herd of buffalo near Argyle Dam
In the afternoon, I took out some Ingwelala guests, and it was a drive I was dead keen to get out on for I knew what was waiting on our southern traversing area. 
The drive started out with impala, warthogs and kudu on the airstrip.  Making our way over to check the dead impala near Argyle Dam, we found both the breeding herd of elephants and breeding herd of buffalo feeding on the grassy areas surrounding Argyle Dam.  Not a bad scene; elephants on the right, buffalo on the left!

Breeding herds of elephants and buffalos arounf Argyle Dam
Nothing had touched the impala, and after a quick scan of the area where Kuhanya had last been in the morning, I headed south.  We did find a beautiful African Hawk Eagle along the way and snapped some nice shots as he took off.

African Hawk Eagle taking-off
Along the way, we also found some waterbuck, more impalas and kudus.

Waterbuck and kudu
Arriving down on Vielmetter, we got to see the very large breeding herd of buffalos that have been having around in the south.  It was only after driving through the herd that we really appreciated how large the group was – easily 400-500 buffalo!  We also found our special Spotted Buffalo!  Not the spots we were after, but still an interesting animal to see!

Massive breeding herd of buffalo - including our "spotted friend"
Leaving the buffalo, we didn’t travel far before finding an exceptionally vocal herd of elephants near Entrance Dam.  The most impressive aspect was the large musthe bull that was following them, with quite an impressive set of ivory on him!

Breeding herd of elephants with one large bull in attendance
We followed him as we made our way to the drive’s main event.  He came upon a small mudwallow and put on a fantastic display as he dug his large tusks into the ground and ripped up the earth to loosen the sand!  We literally only had to drive 30m to see what we came to see...

What an impressive display from an even more impressive bull!
For the first time since they were born, the Machaton lionesses had brought their cubs onto our property!  The 12 lions were resting in the open south of Entrance Dam, no doubt drawn into the area, still in pursuit of the buffalo herd that they were following yesterday.

Machaton Pride near Entrance Dam
The cubs were their usual active selves, playing around with one another, fighting, attacking bushes and being as cute as they always are.  The light was fading quickly, so after a few minutes, I offered my spot to one of the southern stations, and temporarily pulled back while he enjoyed the sighting, but rejoined Herald after Scotch had left.

Playful Machaton Cubs
We then sat with the pride until darkness had taken away any chance of seeing them without the light.  The lionesses were listening to the buffalo nearby, as well as the eery trumpeting and screaming of the elephants!  It reminded me so much of the screeching Tyrannosaurus Rex from Jurassic Park!  Sadly though, the buffalo were not alluring enough to get them active while we were watching, and we left them still in the same spot.
Heading back to the camp produced nothing but a sore arm (shining a spotlight and driving isn’t easy!).  We again checked on the dead impala, but only the elephants had moved it a few metres.  We also found a breeding herd of elephants at the back of the camp. 
John, our night watchman, did see a leopard walk past the reception and up to the staff village, where some of the staff saw her too.  I am pretty sure it was Shongile female. 
So tomorrow could be potentially interesting; a dead impala begging to be eaten, and some hungry lions following a herd of buffalos...let’s just wait and see what happens!  Im not on drive, but will keep you all informed of what happens J


  1. Well and truly a day to remember.. Through your extreme close-ups I am seeing things about the animals I would never have noticed with the naked eye and they actually, for me, quite educational. So, thank you. Surely Kuhanya would win a leopard beauty contest hands down.... She is beyond beautiful.

  2. Hi Chad, great capture of Kuhanya, she trule is beautiful! Lovely pictures alround... Buffalo's, Elephants (That is a very impressive bull), and off course the cute cubs playing around is always fine to watch!!

    Love the African Hawk Eagle. VWD getting the take-off like that!


  3. :-)
    Few spelling mistakes there.
    The cubs are fun to watch!!!


  4. As all ways, you have captured beautiful animal behavior and I am envious of your photography skills, not to mention sightings!

  5. The attitude of the elephant bull is fantastic with dust
    Wow Photo of the Day – Kuhanya in the golden light!

    Lucky day

    Gene & JP

  6. Great photo of the day !

    Beautiful sightings...