10th June – Mbali Loses Her Meal
Photo of the Day
|Mbali watching Gijima male walk off with her kill|
(Chad and Herald)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Argyle, Argyle Rd
1 x elephant bull – Jaydee, Nkombi Pan Rd
(Chad and Herald)
1 x leopard (Gijima male with impala kill) – Peru, Umbabat Cutline
1 x leopard (Mbali female) – Peru, Umbabat Cutline
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Argyle, Hennie’s Rd
4 x elephant bulls -
Firstly, my biggest apologies for the long delay between posts this weekend, but I was rather busy with the guests and just didn’t have time to sit down and to write all the blogs...and it didn’t help that it was probably my best ever three-day run with guests with loads of amazing sightings! So trust me, it will be well worth the wait!
So, rewinding back to last Friday morning and my last drive with my then four-night guests. We had seen some pretty good things, so I didn’t really have a mission that morning besides trying to find one of our beautiful northern leopards. Despite driving almost all of the areas in the north-eastern corner, we had no luck on that front; the cold and chilly wind was no doubt not assisting us in our search.
The previous three days, we had ticked off 27 different species, and were one away from getting to the “28-species target” that I had set us. Ten minutes into our drive we managed to see out twenty-eighth species in the form of two wildebeest near Ingwelala airstrip.
There were the usual impalas around in the north, but nothing much to speak of for the first hour or so. The highlight was watching as two hyenas came running across our airstrip in the early morning light, providing some wonderful photo opportunities for us.
|Hyena getting some early morning exercise!|
We carried on and checked the dams, and there we found more impala, the resident waterbuck herds and our large crocodile basking in the sun at Sohebele Dam. He then swam over from the opposite bank to come and lie on his usual island which was nice to see him walking out the water.
We carried on after coffee at Argyle Dam and saw some giraffe, zebra, steenbuck, warthogs, bushbush ewe and fawn, and then were told of a leopards impala kill sitting on the ground, but it ran off when approached.
Not knowing who it was, or if it was really a very nervous leopard or just a relaxed one that was approached too closely, we headed over to see it, but all we found was the kill lying under a terminalia bush, and that didn’t allow us to identify anything besides the fact that we now had one less impala in the reserve!
|Crocodile and waterbuck at Sohebele Dam|
|Giraffe bull feeding|
A bit upset not to see the leopard, we got more frustrating news to hear that another guide found fresh leopard tracks walking on top of our vehicle tracks from the morning! So right place, just wrong time! He tracked the leopard on foot, but it was mobile and he couldn’t relocate in a vehicle sadly.
Herald had some very good general game this morning, as well as nice big herd of buffalo on the main road. Sadly that wasn’t the only animals that had been on the main road. The white lions had too. And even more sadly, they crossed straight over it to the west and headed much deeper into Klaserie. We were all disappointed to hear this news, but the good news was that they hadn’t been chased out, so maybe it won’t be four months before they return again!
I got a new set of guests on Friday afternoon; a good mix of people – a Swedish couple, an Australian couple and a South African couple – all first time visitors to the bush, so everything was new to them, and that is what I like best – no expectations, and they just appreciate everything. What I am not too sure they fully appreciated was just how lucky they were during their stay as you will read over the next few posts – it was simply stunning, and they all loved it!
Heading out on Friday afternoon with no guaranteed sightings was not a nice feeling, but I just took it easy in the north and didn’t plan on rushing for anything; just wanted to see what the bush would throw at us.
We started off and headed towards Argyle Dam, but getting to the airstrip we found a small herd of zebras and a much larger herd of impalas to go with the squirrels and hundreds of guineafowl that are scattered all across the reserve at the moment.
At Argyle Dam and on Piva Plains, we found more impalas and herd of waterbuck all grazing out in the open in the late afternoon light.
I then decided to check up on the leopard kill, and drove in very slowly knowing that the kill was close to the road. As I edged closer Petros suddenly pointed and then I heard the bushes moving as the leopard ran off...with the kill. Damn, he really was a skittish leopard, and almost certainly Gijima male. He dragged it for about 50m and we tried to follow behind. He then stopped in a little clearing and lay flat in the grass next to the kill. I stopped maybe 30m away and sat quietly. That just made his sudden charge at us even more impressive!
|Zebra and impalas on our airstrip|
|Impala and waterbuck on Piva Plains at Argyle Dam|
It was a bit of a mock charge, but he then wandered over and lay behind a bush. We repositioned and tried to view him, but it was difficult. After giving him a few minutes to relaxed we tried another angle, but he kept moving to the other side of the bush. We then tried to circle around but lost him, only for one of my guests, Estelle, to spot him a bit further away as he was dragging the kill down towards the drainage line.
We were trying to follow at a distance when Estelle suddenly said, “look, there’s another one!”, and there in front of us was Mbali leopardess! We had been so focussed on the young male leopard that we hadn’t even noticed her!
We watched her as she watched him disappearing with the impala that was no doubt actually her kill that she had lost! Once he was out of sight, she wandered straight over to the area where the kill had been and found the stomach that had fallen out, and began to eat that before following the scent trail of the kill again!
It was getting dark, and we had had a great sighting of two leopards in our first hour of drive, so we made space for Herold and the other guides and carried on with drive. We saw more impalas, a baboon and a giraffe calf in the area of Concrete Crossing.
|Mbali eating the remains of her stolen kill|
We went to follow up on a breeding herd of buffalo that had been found at the start of the drive, and soon found them south of Buffalo Pan. We spent a bit of time with them as the sun set in the west, but chose to leave them to go and have a drink at Buffalo Pan.
As we were packing up, I went to visit a bush, and in the moonlit darkness saw the herd of buffalos approaching across the small clearing. We got everyone back into the Land Rover and finished packing up as the first buffalo approached to drink 20m from us! Then all 150 buffalos arrived at the water to quench their thirsts. In the rather bright moonlight, we sat and enjoyed a pretty special scene of being surrounded by a nice, relaxed herd of buffalos! One inquisitive female came and almost licked our bull-bars!
|Buffalo herd on the move at sunset|
We left them and heard that the male leopard had taken the kill up a tree some distance south of where we saw him, and Mbali had led the guides straight there, but didn’t climb the tree to feed. We headed back to the lodge and were serenaded by sounds of hyenas, hippos and other sounds of the night. The chilly weather probably kept the nocturnal creatures tucked up for a bit longer, and we only by-passed impalas before arrive back at the lodge for a wonderful dinner around a warm fire!We were all really happy with the start, and didn’t quite realise that it was only just the beginning of our run of wonderful viewing!