Monday, 27 June 2011

26th June – Lovely Leopards!!!

Photo of the Day
Mbali up a tree with a scrub hare kill
Morning Drive
(Chad and Herald)
1 x leopard (Thumbela female) – Vielmetter, Lucky’s Rd
1 x leopard (unidentified leopard with Impala Kill) – Argyle, Boerbean Rd
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Peru, Sohebele Dam
2 x buffalo bulls – Karans, Western Cutline
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Wilkins’ Way
3 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Bush Braai Rd
2 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Trade Entrance Pan
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Xinatsi Dam Link
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Xinatsi Dam Link
1 x elephant bull – Argyle, Umbabat Cutline
1 x elephant bull – Mbali, Garage Rd

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Colbert, Marka and Herald)
1 x leopard (Thumbela female) – Vielmetter, Mananga Cutline
1 x leopard (Mbali female killed scrub hare) – Peru, Xikari Rd
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Vielmetter, Piva Rd
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Airstrip
3 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Camp
2 x elephant bulls – Argyle, Mfene Crossing
2 x buffalo bulls – Argyle, Long Rd

Daily Synopsis
After Mbali’s below par performance yesterday, at least from a photographic point of view, I needed our leopards to come to the party today.  As usual, the morning started with us looking around for the resident leopards that frequent the camp, but came up empty handed.
What we did not struggle with though, was elephants, and we found four separate sightings of elephant bulls around the lodge, including the impressive one-tusked Classic.

Classic and other elephant bulls
Fortunately though, on the leopard front, the sighting of the supposed Voel Dam female and her kill was established and she had climbed up the tree to feed on the kill.  As there were a few vehicles already going there, I was taking my time getting to her, knowing that she wasn't going anywhere...that was until she decided to take the kill out of the tree and started to drag it to the north-west towards Ingwelala.  Oh $#!%.  Disappointed with that news, I took some solace in the fact that I found a nice breeding herd of buffalo moving away from Sohebele Dam.

Buffalo herd at Sohebele Dam
 We spent some nice time photographing them, particularly two bulls that were sparring and one of the males got his leg caught in the horn of his opponent. 

Sparring buffalo bulls
 While sitting with the buffalo, Giyani radioed to inform us that he had found Thumbela female west of Hide Dam, so suddenly my leopard luck was back.  As it turned out though, the jury was still out on that one.  It dawned on me that most of the southern stations would go and see this leopard, and as the northern stations had all but finished with the phantom leopard and her kill in the north, I thought that I would get a better sighting of her, and could spend my morning with her in peace – and I still believed that the leopard had been incorrectly identified, and would in fact turn out to be Argyle Jnr. 

Sitting with some waterbuck at Madash Dam, I was still in two minds as to which leopard I should visit.  The guide in charge of Voel Dam female said it was a 5 out of 5 sighting, so I continued to her...only to arrive and see her tail disappear into the drainage line, kill and all.  Oh bugger!  It was not an easy area to drive with the donga there, but we managed, and eventually found where she had dropped the kill, but vanished herself.  So maybe this really was Voel Dam female, and not Argyle Jnr as I had suspected.

Waterbuck and giraffe
I admitted I had made the wrong choice, and then tried to make up for it by heading south to see Thumbela.  We bypassed giraffes, impalas, waterbuck, kudu, elephant bulls and a breeding herd of elephants on the way to see Thumbela.  Herold, magic Herold, had clearly lost his magic wand, and was having a torrid time with his leopard sightings!  He would always arrive at the wrong times, and while he got to spend a long time with Thumbela, she was “flat cat” the whole time, and didn’t move once.  He had no sooner left to give space to some of the other stations that had eventually arrived, when Thumbela got up and went and climbed up a marula tree!

Thumbela resting up in a marula tree
I later pulled into the sighting to find her in this same spot as she posed wonderfully in the late morning light. 

Eventually she turned out of the good light and into the shade and fell asleep for the morning, and we left her and returned to camp.

Thumbela dozing off as the morning wore on
In the evening, I headed straight south, hoping to go to Umlani to see the Machaton Pride, or that the fresh tracks for Rockfig Jnr leopardess would materialise into something.  Marka and Colbert (a free-lance guide helping us out for the next two weeks as the camp is full) stayed in the north for the start of the drive looking for leopard, but found only buffalo and elephant bulls.
In the south, we saw several herds of kudu, impala, warthog, giraffe and zebra.  Tracks for Rockfig Jnr joined tracks for Thumbela (her seemingly independent daughter), and the trackers tried their best to follow up, but Colbert came into the area and beat them to it when he found Thumbela walking along Mananga cutline, but sadly she soon disappeared off our traversable area into no-man’s land.

Kudus, grey heron and zebras
As I had already seen her today, I went in search of Nthombi, but didn’t have much luck with anything besides impalas, giraffe and kudu.  After my sundowner drink at Sweetwater, I was informed that the leopard in the north had returned to her kill, almost lost it to hyenas, but managed to get it up a marula tree, so I planned to go and visit her to see just who it was.
Sunset at Sweetwater
I came across a breeding herd of buffalos just before it got totally dark, and then headed back to the north seeing a hippo out of the water too.  Marka’s persistence paid off and her found Mbali leopardess near Francolin Pan, and offered to hold her until I got to the area – the other leopard had not returned to her kill, so I decided to rather leave that until tomorrow.
As I was about to join Marka, I head his guests squeal with excitement; he then told me that Mbali had just caught a scrub hare in front of him...although it was almost underneath him!  Mbali had started chasing the scrub hare around, and it ran underneath Marka’s Land Rover, and without even hesitating, Mbali dashed right underneath his vehicle after her quarry, and seconds later grabbed it on the other side of his vehicle!
I arrived and Marka pulled out, and I almost wish he hadn’t have, as seconds later I somehow managed to lose Mbali.  Today really wasn't going to be my day, was it!  I drove in the block, which had fairly long grassy patches, and many bushes, so many, many places for Mbali to hide.  I was getting more frustrated the more I drove and found nothing.  Then Petros picked up some eyes, and we went to investigate, but were disappointed to see it was a hyena.  I turned off as she lay down, and hoped that if Mbali was close by, the hyenas acute senses would either smell the blood or hear the bones crunching and lead us straight to the leopard.  A few minutes later, the sound of ripping flesh was so loud that I could hear it through my beanie...I got Petros to shine behind us, and there was Mbali sitting in a tree 15m away eating her scrub hare!  The hyena had already found her long time ago...and I am sure both she and Mbali were wondering what on earth I was doing watching the hyena instead of the leopard!

Mbali feeding on her scrub hare with a hyena looking on
We then spent some quality time watching her feeding and finishing the kill.

Cleaning up after her light snack
She then jumped down and went and lay in the grass near the road, where we left her to enjoy her night.

Mbali leaving the safety of the tree
Back at camp, Alphios saw a leopard just opposite the camp about 10 minutes after we arrived back at the lodge!  Guess it is something to follow up on tomorrow!


  1. Nice sighting of Thumbela and Mbali. Glad you got some leopard luck back :)
    Buffalo pics are great!!


  2. Amazing pics!!! Love the buffalo pics, the eli bulls look huge, the buck are beautiful and, of course, the leopard pics.... well!!!! Great sunset to round off a great pic day.