Monday, 4 July 2011

01st July – Big Bellied Sohebele Brothers

Photo of the Day

Morning Drive
(Chad, Godfrey, Colbert and Herald)
2 x lions (Sohebele males) – Argyle, Mfene Crossing
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Great North
2 x elephant bull – Motswari, Xinatsi Dam Rd North

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Godfrey, Colbert, Johannes  and Herald)
2 x lions (Sohebele males) – Argyle, Argyle Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Motswari, Wedge Northern Boundary
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam
3 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Ingwelala Crossing
3 x elephant bulls – Argyle, Argyle Dam
1 x buffalo bull – Vielmetter, Sweetwater Pan

Daily Synopsis
The start of a new month in the bush, and it was a morning that I was keen to get an early start on, especially after hearing that the Sohebele male lions had killed a baby buffalo not far from the camp during the night.  While I suspected that they would have finished it and moved off already, I still wanted to see them for myself.

The morning started out blanketed in mist, and from the highpoint on the Wedge, we could overlook the valley’s of the Sohebele and Nhlaralumi riverbeds either side of us as the sun rose over the glorious bushveld.

Misty Morning
Sadly though, the lions had indeed finished the kill and moved off, so we set off to search the area around where they had been, but came up with nothing.  Fortunately though, another station heading into the area bumped into them sleeping in the Sohebele Riverbed not far from our airstrip, and I slowly moved into the area to find the two well fed males resting off their fat bellies!

Blood-stained Sohebele Brothers
While sitting with Godfrey in the sighting, a hyena came down into the riverbed and promptly wandered up to Godfrey’s vehicle to sniff at his cooler box looking for a snack!  Godfrey started the engine to scare him off, and he soon carried on south along the riverbed, and had walked about 4-5m from Godfrey’s Land Rover before he looked to his left and spotted the two lions sleeping not 10m away!

Hyena, Godfrey and the lions!
The hyena saw them and just yelped and ran off at speed, waking the lions and at least getting them to sit up nicely for us!
It was great to see them looking so good, and as the steam blew away as they breathed deeply, I found it hard to believe that these troubled-youngsters were still alive and breathing, and eventually turning into real lions!  I almost felt like a proud dad; I guess that is how close I came to know them having watched them grow up over the last almost 5-years!

Sohebele lions and Herold in the Sohebele Riverbed
We eventually left them, but later in the morning they got up and slowly made their way towards Argyle Dam where they settled for the morning.

Carrying on, we spent some time photographing the scenery around Argyle Dam.

Sylvie, Agnes (holding up her book on the leopards of the Timbavati) and Petros at Argyle Dam
After that, the morning didn’t really pick up, and we had a reasonably quiet drive that featured some nice birds, squirrels, impalas, zebra, warthogs, crocodiles, hippos, waterbuck and the tail end of an elephant herd that left the property to the north.

Black-winged stilt, tree squirrel, zebra and warthogs
Not having found leopard in the morning, it became my goal for the afternoon, and I spent it driving around the areas north of the lodge, as well as the north-eastern corner.  Sadly though, it turned out to be a frustrating exercise!
We saw the odd impala, some distant kudus, a bushbuck ram and steenbok, but the major highlight was a wonderfully relaxed family of nyalas that were feeding in a tamboti thicket.

Herd of nyala
While watching them, the impalas on the opposite side of the river joined in the guineafowl’s alarm calls, so we made the long way around to try and look for the leopard that was no doubt causing the mayhem, but the bush east of the Sohebele is very thick, and yet again, we ran out of luck. 
I did persist and tried once again on the wedge, and did find some lovely large elephant bulls feeding on the banks of the Sohebele Riverbed, and yet more impalas!

Elephant bull, impalas, magic sunset and a giraffe
After drinks, we continued our search but came across nothing!  The Sohebele male lions had moved to the south-east, and we found them on the Umbabat cutline, but they were just sleeping, and only a passing hyena got some life into them when it ran off, but they merely stood up and scent-marked before flopping over back to sleep again!

Sohebele male lions
We took that as our cue to head back to the lodge, and ended off the day as our first leopardless day for some time!  We did however find a herd of elephants as well as a family of porcupines on the road home!
Let us hope that our leopard luck changes tomorrow!

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