Monday, 6 June 2011

05th June: The Art Of Tracking.

Pic of the Day.
Morning Drive.

( Grant.)

Leopard ( Argyle Male) / Argyle – Argyle Dam.
Leopard ( Unknown Male) / Peru – Giraffe Kill.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boy) / Mbali – Mvubu Crossing.
Elephant ( Kambaku's) / Java – Leopard Rock Hide.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Java – Crossing Below Java.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant.)

Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Motswari – Xinatsi Dam Rd West.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Sweetwater Pan.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / JayDee – Tchwala Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Argyle – Flooded Crossing.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Kings – Mafikizolo Rd.
Lion ( 1 x Timbavati Male, 3 x Machaton Females & 4 Cubs.) / Kings – Ridge Rd.
Buffalo (Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Sweetwater Pan.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boy) / Peru – Giraffe Kill.

Daily Synopsis.

Waking to a considerably warmer morning than the one's that went before, it held promise for an active morning. We started by following up on the baby Kudu we had found the night before in a Knobthorn tree very close to Argyle Dam. Knowing it was definitely a male Leopard we were hoping it was Argyle Male, as the other big male in the area is still a little shy of the vehicles. Nearing the location of the kill we came across a nice herd of Kudu, who obviously were still in the area trying to relocate their missing youngest member. While sitting with them they walked directly into the thicket that the kill was hoisted in the tree.  

It was not long before we heard the distinctive loud alarm bark of the Kudus, I guess the Leopard was present. We made our way around the thicket and got a brief glimpse of him but from what we saw we could not make out which male it was. Where he had placed his kill was high enough to be in the open, but beneath it was the worst possible combination of Knobthorn, Cluster Leaf and Sickle Bush thicket. We eventually found an area that we squeezed into that allowed us a visual, it didn't come without its scratches and scrapes though. From the behaviour we thought it was the shy male but on closer inspection we found it to be Argyle Male. Having found a suitable spot we sat patiently with him hoping he would move to his kill, but he must have finished feeding shortly before we arrived and was content in sitting exactly where he was. Seeing all that was on offer we decide to head off and follow up on another clue that we had also found the night before.

While travelling home the previous evening we had found a drag mark of a very large prey, we dated the mark to be from late the night before, as we had driven that same round earlier that very same evening. Not being able to do anything but check the big trees in the surrounding area we left it for this morning. Arriving at the drainage line we noticed that it had been dragged for some way and thought we may be looking for another male Leopard, it also looked like we could be tracking for some distance as well. Leaving the vehicle we started to check the drainage line following the drag mark to the East. We did not travel far before the mark disappeared over a termite mound and into another drainage line. We proceeded cautiously as this was a prime Leopard hide away spot, we had also noticed fresh dung on the termite mound and on the opposite bank of the drainage line we could see were it had rested, pushing the grass flat. We walked a large circle around the termite mound and drainage line so we could get a view from the opposite side, but once there found nothing. We followed the drainage line till it intersected a larger drainage line and found were the Leopard had once again been resting, we also found that it was not one Leopard but there were tracks for two smaller Leopards. Clearly we must be dealing with the female that has moved into the area recently and taken over the territory from Mbali, which we have seen on a number of occasions now. With the tracks heading back West along the drainage line we backtracked to the termite mound and a large Weeping Boerbean, where Jacky found the claw marks and a blood stain where they had hoisted the carcass into the tree. They had obviously been in the area a while given the numerous tracks and the depressed grass where they had rested. We then found tracks for Hyena, so we think what happened was that they had dragged the kill to the drainage line and fed off it for a while before lifting it into the tree, where they continued to feed on it before, more than likely, the cubs dislodged it and it fell to the ground where a patient Hyena consumed the remains. Off in the distance we could hear Impala alarm calling which must have been our Leopard slipping away. Although we did not see the sighting, Jacky was able to paint a very accurate picture of the events we missed, boy did we miss a great sighting. Every day I gain more and more respect for the art of tracking, and I think I may have found my new want-to-be passion!

Getting back on our way we followed the Tsharalumi South and as fate would have it, we had a brief sighting of a young male Leopard slipping off in to a Mopane thicket, this with no effort in tracking, simply being in the right place at the right time. Strange how it works!

Taking coffee late we sat up on a hill overlooking the Tsharalumi as a Kambaku Herd drank from a pool down below, ah......... another rough day in Africa and the perfect end to a great morning.

Our afternoon saw us receive new guests, so it was back to square one. If the afternoon was to follow the trend of late we were in for a quiet one but no sooner had we got out did we find a nice breeding herd of Elephant, not a bad way to start and we spent quite a fair amount of time with them as they fed out in the open.

We were actually on our way to Argyle Male our one guaranteed sighting of the afternoon, as he had a fair amount of his young Kudu still left over. Hearing that he was there but the visual was a one out of five we decided to take up an offer to follow up on one of the Timbavati Males, three Machaton Females and their older cubs, as Lions at the moment are not a guarantee and you need to take the opportunity when it presents itself.

So we turned South and moved steadily in their direction, along the way we picked up two different herds of Zebra, which seem to be plentiful at the mo, and a couple Giraffe.  

Starting our search from where they had found them this morning we did not have to look far as they were to be found in the exact same spot, sleeping in the warmth of the late afternoon sun. To say they presented typical Lion behaviour would be an understatement and they barely acknowledged us the entire time we were there. They only showed signs of semi life when a herd of Impala nearly tripped over them but even then they could only muster a head raise and a glance before dropping back unconscience. There is definitely something for timing your visit, it must either be first thing in the morning or shortly before sunset, unfortunately this does not offer you any photographic options as you loose the light.

Letting sleeping cats lie, we headed back to the North via Sweetwater Pan were a very large herd of Buffalo had been found. When we arrived they had finished at the Pan but a herd of Elephant had joined them which was an interesting interaction as you would think the Elephant would dominate but they appeared very weary of the Buffalo and eventually ran off in to the distance when some Impala skriked (scared) and ran in their direction. We proceeded to be engulfed by the entire herd which was very cool and an under rated experience.

With the light failing us we got back on the road and stopped for a sununder before intending to swing via Argyle Male on our way home. Driving along the riverbed we found a number of Hippo already out and about on their nights foraging which was an added bonus. Arriving at our guaranteed Leopard sighting we found our Knobthorn tree empty of its sleeping Kudu. Checking around the area we found nothing but having said that all he had to do was sit down in the long grass and we could have driven within metres of him and not known. Knowing he could not have finished off his meal we decided we would check first thing in the morning when we had the advantage of light.

All in all we had a great afternoon and a Leopard sighting may have been an overload, things happen for a reason after all!

1 comment:

  1. Nice sightings once again Grant, thanks for the update.