Thursday, 28 July 2011

27th July – Oh Dear, Chad is Back!!!

Photo of the Day
Ximungwe young female - not bad for a "skittish" leopard!
Morning Drive
(Chad, Robin, Marka, Herold and Grant)
1 x leopard (Ximungwe young female) – Argyle, Great North
1 x leopard (Argyle Jnr’s male cub) – Argyle, Great North
1 x leopard (Kuhanya female) – Motswari, Reception
1 x rhino (very skittish white rhino)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Mbali, Western Cutline
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Vyeboom Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Buffalo Kill Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Woza-woza Cutline
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Mbali, Woza-woza Cutline
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Scholtz
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Scholtz
1 x elephant bull – Mbali, Aardvark Rd
1 x elephant bull – Argyle, Argyle Rd

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Marka, Herold and Grant)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Mbali, Western Cutline
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Vyeboom Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Tchwala Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Makulu Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Motswari, Northern Access
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Camp

Daily Synopsis
So, after two weeks away from the Blog, and one weeks leave, I am back...and you guessed it, that means that the animals have no doubt decided to run away!
After seeing Grant’s amazing post from yesterday, I suddenly felt even worse that I had missed the afternoon drive as my guests unfortunately arrived late.  Hearing that the one Mahlathini male lion had arrived at the kill, and hearing the other two roaring near the camp in the early hours of the morning, I knew that the White Lions would no doubt have moved off.  Still, a couple of stations went into the area to see if they could get lucky.  Sadly though, tracks for both the male lions and the Xakubasa Pride crossed north-west into Ingwelala, no doubt just cutting across as they headed back to Ntsiri and the Klaserie area.  But as Grant prospected yesterday, there are many various scenarios that could play out, but what has always been our dream scenario might just come to fruition; and that would be to have the three powerful Mahlathini males take over the pride, not expel the white lionesses, and establish themselves in our area and become the first truly resident pride in the north since the demise of the Sohebele Pride back in 2009.
This speculation didn’t really help us; our lions had moved off, and I got the impression that Grant wishes I had gotten as lost driving from Johannesburg to Motswari yesterday as I did when I took him out for a walk.  In my defence, it takes a lot of skill to attempt to walk in a straight line and, an hour and a half later, end up in the same spot I started out!  Pure skill I tell you.
Anyway, back to my drive.  So, 45 minutes in, on a decidedly chilly morning, I had seen the sum total of a lot trees.  Oh, and some hippos at a distance of about 600m.  Wonderful.
Not losing faith, and knowing that my bad luck only occurs every two months, I preserved, and while being alerted to the alarm calls of some guineafowl, heard the low whooping of a hyena nearby.  I decided to see if I could get luck and find the hyena responsible.  Driving along road, I spotted a leopard running along the road, and had no sooner pointed it out to my guests when a considerably more obvious sighting of two hyenas standing beneath a marula tree with another leopard in it presented itself!  Not bad; the first proper animals my guests see are two leopards and two hyenas!
The hyenas moved off after a minute or so, following behind the first leopard, while I took time to identify the “treed” leopard as Argyle Jnr’s young male dependent.  I summised that the leopard that ran off was most likely going to be his sister, Ximungwe female.  After a short while, the young male jumped down and ran off 30m in to the bush and lay in the grass.  We watched him at a distance for a few minutes before trying to edge closer, but he didn’t like it and moved off, so we didn’t pursue him, and instead went to try and relocate the other leopard.

Argyle Jnr's young male dependent "cub" after being treed by hyenas
Not far down the road, we did find her and managed to confirm that it was indeed the new “most beautiful leopard in the Timbavati”, the gorgeous Ximungwe.  We followed her at a distance, and by keeping our space, she was actually very chilled, and will no doubt become a star in the future.

The gorgeous Ximungwe young female
We spent about 25 minutes with her as she watched guineafowl intently, looked aggravated at a magpie shrike that was alarm calling at her presence, and then finally strolled along nonchalantly as a male impala alarm called his heart out at the sight of the leopard no more than 20m from him!

Ximungwe female
We eventually lost her as she headed towards a drainage line, and carried on with our drive. 
Giyani had found the Mafikizolo Pride near Java, and commented on how much more relaxed they appeared today, and I took a chance to head into that area, and hopefully to still find them fat bellied and resting near the road.
As usual, with a place to get to, the animals started popping out as the morning warmed up.  First there were many impalas, then a male giraffe, a nice group of kudu bulls, and eventually a small breeding herd of elephants feeding on the banks of the Nhlaralumi Riverbed.

Breeding herd of elephants
En route, we found our large herd of wildebeest, and a very distant sighting of a herd of buffalo that Herold and Robin had earlier seen.  Grant was out of radio contact in the east most of the morning on Scholtz, and found two nice herds of elephants, as well as the tail of a rhino that dashed off as he approached it!
Everyone else’s morning was saved when Robin closed down and found Kuhanya leopardess 50m from reception!  All of our guides got to see her, but having seen leopards this morning; I passed on her and closed down back at the lodge for a welcome breakfast.
The afternoon sadly did not produce the game for me as the morning had done, and we had a pretty quiet one.  We looked around for Kuhanya, but had no luck, and saw only some nice impalas and kudus as well as a host of gorgeous birds.

Impalas on Piva Plains
The buffalo herd from the morning made their way from Sohebele Plains towards Karan’s Camp, and we all got to see them – I went and sat at the waterhole and watched as part of the herd came to drink before moving off.

Buffalo drinking at Karan's waterhole
Following drinks at Java Dam, I moved into the area where he Mafikizolo lions had been in the morning, and Herold had heard them roaring from that area, so we knew that they were close by, but despite having three of us looking around and listening, we were unable to find them and had to return to the camp, unrewarded for our persistence with this “ghost pride”!
I did get to see both black-backed jackal and side-striped jackal, as well as steenbok, waterbuck and bushbuck on the drive.
The other guides had slightly better drives, and they all ticked off at least some elephant sightings.
And that is that – it only took me one drive to scare off all of the animals!  But never fear when Herold is near, and we have absolute faith that he will somehow deliver the goods tomorrow.  No pressure Herold.
Until then, I hope at least some of you are happy to see me back in action!

Chat tomorrow! 

I leave you with some of Grant's photos from the morning drive - some lovely zebras and an inquisitive Kuhanya female leopard - intrigued byher own reflection!

Kuhanya pawing at her own reflection at Trade Entrance Pan

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back Chad... I missed you :)
    Great Buf shots.
    Ximungwe is beautiful, but so is Kuhanya. Man, they are gorgeous leopards!!!

    Hope you have better luck tomorrow and find some lions :)