Wednesday, 13 July 2011

10th July – Mafikizolo Pride Slowly Relaxing!

Photo of the Day
Vyeboom Dam male
Morning Drive
(Chad, Godfrey, Grant, and Colbert)
2 x rhino
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Straight Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Western Cutline
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Long Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Motswari, Airstrip Rd
1 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Airstrip
2 x elephant bulls – Peru, Mfene Loop
2 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Trough Rd (on bush walk)

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Godfrey, Grant, and Colbert)
1 x Leopard (Vyeboom Dam male) – Argyle, Vyeboom Dam
7 x lions (Mafikizolo Pride – 2 young males, 3 lionesses and 2 cubs) – Peru, Peru Entrance Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Peru, Tawny Eagle Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Peru, Sohebele Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Peru, Xikari Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Peru, Xinzele Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Karans, Northern Access
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Voel Dam Southern Access
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Camp
3 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Camp
1 x buffalo bull – Peru, Bunyan Rd

Daily Synopsis
I was back on drive after a day without guests, and while we woke up to sunshine, it lasted about as long as chocolate in my house, and before the day even had a chance to warm up, the clouds had blanketed the sky in a grey dullness that took away some of the magic of winter; the wind didn’t help either!
Despite this, we ended up having a great day, and my guests got to see all of the Big 5 and many more other species of animals and birds.
My new guests enjoyed birding and the smaller things in the bush, so we could take it easy, and we did just that.  It was the children’s first time in the bush, so everything was new to them, and we did well ticking off a good number of species.
It started off with a bushbuck ewe and her baby north of camp, and a bit further along the riverbed, a nice family of nyala with a few impalas around.

bushbuck fawn and oxpeckers on an impala
Heading to the airstrip, we found a large elephant bull that came and fed on a shrub about 5m from us, and while he was totally chilled and a hundred percent at ease with our presence, his mere presence gave the guests a bit of an adrenaline rush, but they all enjoyed being so close to these gentle giants.
relaxed elephant bull
Also on the airstrip, we found a lone hyena and some impala.

Spotted hyena
Moving to Argyle Dam, we spent a lot of time identifying all the birds around there, and I even got to see a rather rare bird in the Timbavati – a glossy ibis!  There was also a hippo, or at least his nostrils, at the dam.
We found a breeding herd of elephants near Sohebele Dam, and watched the young males remonstrating and fighting, which is always fun.  From there we went to Sohebele Dam for a drink.

Fighting elephant bulls
After coffee, a herd of elephants pitched up at the dam wall, but we left them as I wanted to head off west to go and see some rhinos.  As usual though, as we needed to get somewhere in a hurry, all of the animals came out of hiding!
We saw many impalas and some kudus, as well as a troop of baboons with them.

Kudus and impalas
Further along the road, we found a small herd of zebras, some of which were standing on a termite mound surveying the surrounds for potential danger. 

A little bit further, and we had a wonderful sighting of a nice herd of zebras that were together with an even larger herd of giraffes.

Journey of giraffes and a dazzle of zebras
More impalas and even more zebra and giraffes together showed themselves before we eventually arrived in the area where the rhinos were.

More zebras!!!
The rhinos were quite relaxed, and I am sure it was the two males that we saw the other day – it was only the wind that disturbed them from time to time.

White rhinos
After that, we headed home and passed giraffes, zebra, impala, some crocodiles at Concrete Crossing, a large herd of elephants near the airstrip, as well as even more zebras on the airstrip!  So although we didn’t see any cats, we got spoilt with 13 species of large mammals, and some great birds.
The afternoon saw us needing cats, and Grant had worked hard in the morning tracking the Mafikizolo Pride near Sohebele Dam, but with no luck.  I checked some leopard areas, and headed to the current leopard hotspot – Argyle area around Vyeboom Dam...and while we hadn’t seen much besides impala and steenbuck before then, arriving at the Nhlaralumi we suddenly started seeing some nice birds, a herd of waterbuck, and then a leopard!
One of my guests spotted Vyeboom Dam male leopard crouched to the ground as we were coming up the bank; he was watching some guineafowls that had walked about 6m past him! 

Vyeboom Dam male lying low watching guineafowl
After lying there for some time, he got up and headed north along the western bank, and broke into a trot when he heard the sound of rutting impalas up ahead.  We relocated him as he began stalking the impalas, but as they were right on the boundary of the property, and we wanted to give the other guides and guests a chance, I made space for them and bumbled down towards Voel Dam for a windy sundowner...or, whatever you call it when you cant see the sun!

Great camouflague as the leopard uses cover to stalk some impalas
There was not a great deal around after dark, and it was no doubt due to the wind and cold, but we did find the one animal we wanted, and it was quite a shock, as they were not where I was planning to go and look for them! 
It was the Mafikizolo Pride!  We found one lioness crouched in a stalking position on the clearing west of Concrete Crossing, and realised that the hunt was on.  She didn’t seem all that perturbed by us, and we gave her space, and put our red filter on the light as she began stalking closer.
The impalas soon started alarm calling, clearly having seen the other lions that now started chasing the impalas.  We turned off the lights and just sat and listened to the panicked alarm calls and trampling hooves as the herd ran in all directions.  Lucky for them, and unlucky for us, there was no kill, and the lions soon regrouped, allowing us to count seven of them (seemingly having lost one of the cubs?).  They didn’t seem all that fussed by us, and we respected their space and it was a very positive sighting for them and us!
I headed home and let a few of the other guides see them before they were left hunting in the area.  Making our way back to camp, we found an elephant bull, as well as a breeding herd of elephants.
We were “missing” buffalo, but fortunately when I was walking my guests back to their room, we found three buffalo bulls just outside!  We also had a large elephant bull visiting us during dinner, and the guests got to see him drinking in front of the lodge!
So, despite the poor weather, we had a good day of game viewing!  Let’s hope the weather improves, and the game viewing stays the same!

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