Tuesday, 28 June 2011

27th June – Leopard Mystery Solved!!!

Photo of the Day
Mbali female - so good to have her around again!
Morning Drive
(Chad, Colbert, Marka and Herald)
1 x leopard (Mbali female) – Peru, Xikari Rd
1 x leopard (Argyle Jnr female with impala kill) – Argyle, Boerbean Rd
1 x leopard (Argyle Jnr’s male cub) – Argyle, Boerbean Rd
2 x rhino (2 female white rhinos)
4 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Giraffe Pan
2 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Wedge Rd East
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Trough Rd

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Colbert, Marka and Herald)
1 x leopard (Mbali female) – Argyle, Piva Plains
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Western Sharalumi
4 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Wedge River Rd
5 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Sharalumi Access
2 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Wedge River Rd
1 x buffalo bull – Motswari, Sharalumi Access

Daily Synopsis
We once again woke to a chilly morning, and perhaps it was just the fact that we were slowly adjusting to the winter conditions, but it did feel a touch warmer than the morning before.
Our trackers, Petros and Tiyani, all wrapped up for the morning drive...which despite what it might look like, does not include robbing a bank!
I once again had the mission to find leopard.  Considering that Kuhanya (most likely) had walked past the camp last night, and the fact that Argyle male leopard had spent the night calling in and around camp, and was seen in the riverbed in front of the verandah shortly before the guests arrived for coffee, we all thought that we had a great chance of finding leopard near the camp.  Herold soon picked up tracks for a male and female leopard 300m from the camp, and our trackers began tracking.  Sadly though, as the morning went on, and tracks for a third leopard were found in the area, it all got too confusing and they were unable to find any of the leopards. 
Fortunately though, the same could not be said for the rest of the reserve, and four different leopards were found during the course of the morning – the only one that none of us saw was Rockfig Jnr down on King’s property. 
I headed west to see what was happening with Voel Dam female and her kill.  There wasn't a great deal about in the chill of the morning, but we saw the usual impala and some nice birds, including one of the ubiquitous flocks of guineafowls that arrived at Buffalo Pan for a drink.

Guineafowl and Burchell's starling
Carrying on to the see what was happening with the leopard, I stopped to watch some giraffe and was overtaken by another guide who had the same idea.  He was just in front of me and said that he could see the leopard in the tree, but as I pulled in behind him, all I saw was the kill, the leopard had run away!  Surely such a nervous leopard could not be Argyle Jnr.  I decided to wait at the kill, then heard this other guide’s guests say they could see the leopard, and he called to tell me the leopard had been chased up a tree by a hyena, but then ran down and was chased up another tree!  I was almost ready to leave and rather go to see Mbali female that had been found near Francolin Pan, but I saw this leopard in the tree in the distance and sat about 70m away and looked with binoculars.  It looked like it could indeed be the Voel Dam female, a similar face, but a lot more bulk.  The leopard soon jumped down the tree and disappeared, and I didn’t bother even trying to follow up.

I left the area, and went back along the road past the kill, only to see another leopard now up the tree feeding on the kill!  This was Argyle Jnr, and I recognised her instantly.  While at first I thought that she had indeed just stolen the kill from Voel Dam female, but it was only when reviewing my photos after drive that I saw the more male-like face of the unknown leopard, and a few frames later, some other rather male like apparatus under the tail that I realised what was going on. 

Argyle Jnr's male offspring and Argyle Jnr feeding on her kill - mystery solved!
It had been Argyle Jnr’s kill all along, as I initially suspected, but her male cub was in the area still trying to get some last free meals before he becomes independent!  So, mystery solved, there never was any Voel Dam female in the area, and after the sighting, I was quite chuffed, as we had a great viewing of Argyle Jnr.

One of my guests, Sylvie, filming the feeding leopard
We spent much of the morning watching as she was up in the small marula tree feeding on the carcass.

Argyle Jnr feeding on the impala kill
There was also one patient hyena waiting below that got several large scraps as what little remained of the impala was eaten my Argyle Jnr.

Hyena waiting for scraps
Eventually she had eaten her share, and then decided to clean herself up and jump down the tree before wandering off and disappearing.

Argyle Jnr finishing her kill, cleaning up adn then leaving!
We carried on with the drive and went for coffee at Voel Dam.  There were some zebras there, but besides that, we didn’t see a great deal else; hippos, baboons, crocodiles, waterbuck and steenbuck.
The other guides got to see Mbali, and then Marka went south to go and see two female rhinos that had been found on our property.
In the afternoon, with some new guests in the lodge, we all had our own missions.  Mine was again to try and find some of the leopards whose tracks had been around the camp earlier, well, all except Argyle Male, as some of our guests saw him walking along the tar road near Ingwelala on their way to the lodge, not a bad start!
North of camp, I found two sets of groupings of elephant and buffalo bulls on the wedge, and spent some time with the one group of five elephant bulls.  Herold found tracks for a female leopard on top of all our vehicle tracks from the morning, but sadly, for the umpteenth time this week, our resident leopards eluded us!

Relaxed elephant bull...less relaxed Petros :) (okay, he wasnt fussed at all!)
I carried on to follow up on Mbali as I hadn’t seen her this morning, but got distracted when two rhinos were radioed in the beautiful setting of the Nhlaralumi Riverbed below Vyeboom Dam.  Sadly as I was on my way, they left the area and eventually crossed into Ingwelala before any of our guides could relocate them.
I carried on and enjoyed more giraffes, waterbuck, two troops of baboons, hippos and impala. 

Giraffe, waterbuck and impalas
It was while checking around for Mbali that she was located crossing below Lover’s Leap, some distance from where she had been left in the morning.  I moved into the area quickly, as the sun was setting and she was moving onto Piva Plains – only four magnificent kudu bulls on the same clearing slowed me down before I arrived at the leopard.

Kudu bulls on Piva Plains
We got there with just a few minutes of light left, and enjoyed as she walked about on the clearing, spotting a herd of impalas in the distance.

Mbali on Piva Plains
She slowly stalked in their direction, using the woodland thickets on the edge of the clearing for cover.

Mbali, a cool customer!
She eventually went static for some time, waiting for a bit more darkness to set in before once more making a move in their direction.  As it was getting dark, I let Herold come into the sighting and I went and had a nice sundowner with a hippo at Argyle Dam.

Mbali stalking some impala
After drinks, we once again tried looking for leopards around the lodge, but the only spots we found were those of a spotted hyena.

Sundowners and photo time at Argyle Dam
Some of the other guides tried to look for the Mafikizolo Pride, but they are proving to be as elusive as our northern leopards!
We can only hope that tomorrow brings some lions, because as content as my guests and I are to look at leopards all day, we desperately need some lions!


  1. Great leopard sighting once again Chad, love ALL the photos of them.

    Good luck on the lion front, although I do not mind looking at leopards the whole day :)


  2. Chad, just a quick question, when last was Thumbela seen, if recently I might have missed it, but it's been a long time since I looked into those beautiful blue eyes :)


  3. Great leopard sighting and the light is fabulous

    Great Sundown also with Agnès and Sylvie...

    Gene and JP

  4. What can I say, it's GREAT!!

  5. Chad - just another batch of gorgeous pic. Txs for sharing.

  6. thanks so much for all the great comments!

    @lourens - howzit mate! we saw her yesterday!

    first time in a while! but she seemingly joined up with her mom, which is interesting, as the southern stations are almost certain that rockfig jnr has given birth to a litter of cubs! finger's crossed :)

  7. Cool, thanks Chad, Can't believe I missed it, probably because there was no pictures :)
    new cubs will be GREAT!!! I will definately keep finger's crossed for that!!!


  8. Sorry Chad, my bad. I though it was Kuhanya, saw on the photos now the blue eyed girl...
    But it sure was a while since the last time you saw her, Kuhanya was seen a lot lately, that is why I assumed... Oops :)


  9. Great, great pics... love the guinea fowl.. brings back lovely childhood memories... Always amazed and awed at the strength of a leopard. Just love the pic of the Hyena "howling at the moon" so to speak... funny.