Saturday, 2 July 2011

29th June – Back to Blogging!

Photo of the Day
Argyle male giving me the evil eye!

Morning Drive
(Chad, Colbert and Herald)
1 x leopard (Argyle Male) – Motswari, Trade Entrance
1 x leopard (Argyle Jnr’s male cub with kill) – Argyle, Ingwelala Crossing
2 x breeding herds of elephants – Argyle, Ingwelala Crossing
1 x elephant bull – Argyle, Old Mpisi Khaya Rd
2 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Sean’s Clearing
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Southern Access
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Argyle, Argyle Dam

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Godfrey, Colbert and Herald)
2 x leopards (Khlakisa female’s cubs) – Peru, Giraffe Kill Lookout
1 x leopard (Vyeboom Dam male) – Motswari, Trough Rd
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Argyle, Argyle Dam
1 x buffalo bull – Motswari, Camp
1 x buffalo bull – Motswari, Sharalumi Crossing
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Concrete Crossing
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Pan Rd
6 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Wisani Crossing
2 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Trough Rd
1 x elephant bull – Motswar, Trough Rd
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Sharalumi Crossing

Daily Synopsis
Hello again!  Apologies to everyone for the delay in posting the last few days’ updates, but we have been kept really busy at the lodge with a full camp as well as fitting in firs aid training for the staff!  So after two successive 18-19 hour working days, I have had a chance to sit down and put finger to keyboard!  The fact that I put “finger to shutter” so often over the last few days hasn’t made it any easier for me, as they have been some rather good days!
Rewinding back to Wednesday, I found that my memory is perhaps not as sharp as it once was!  But here is what happened, to the best of my recollection!  As happens on many mornings, John (our nightwatch) informed us that a young male leopard had been walking around in the middle of camp at about 3am, and so we set off looking for him, but as seems to be the usual trend this week, had no luck at all!  We did see the usual impalas, some non-cooperative kudus and then a lone giraffe feeding in the Sohebele Riverbed.

Giraffe at Flooded Crossing

As there was not a great deal going on, I slowly made my way towards a breeding herd of elephants east of Vyeboom dam, and saw some nice impala before relocating the large herd of elephants.

Impala herd

At first they were feeding in the combretum woodlands, but after some time they all started heading towards the Nhlaralumi, and we decided to follow them, knowing that it was a great setting to view and photograph elephants.

Elephant herd and lilac-breasted roller

We arrived just as the first individuals started making their way towards the water, and slowly the herd followed suite and moved to the water for a drink. 

Elephant herd moving down to the Nhlaralumi Riverbed

While we were watching them, Patrick, my tracker for two days, casually pointed and said “ingwe”...i thought I heard it, but had to ask again as he was so casual in his delivery.  I then looked up and that there was indeed an “ingwe” in a tree – and for those of you not all that fluent in Shangaan, that means leopard!  About 50m away, a young leopard was up in a knobthorn tree eating the remains of a small kill.  Knowing it would probably be a bit skittish (as we assumed it was one on Argyle Jnr’s youngsters), I didn’t pull closer and actually carried on photographing the elephants for a minute or two longer.

Argyle Jnr's cub with the remains of a small kill near Vyeboom Dam

Sadly though, the leopard did jump down the tree and walk off, and we tried to relocate but to no avail – all that was left of the kill were the entrails.  So it was back to the elephants!

Drinking elephant herd

We decided to actually just have a cup of coffee at the river crossing, seeing as our elephant herd had moved off to the western bank, and a second herd had arrived a few hundred metres to the north.

Coffee and elephants in the Nhlaralumi

After coffee, I was informed that someone had seen Argyle male leopard right by the camp, and headed into that area and found him stalking warthogs near the Trade Entrance Pan.  While on the way to see him, we by-passed a demonstrative elephant bull, and then a hyena on a mission.  I was pretty sure that the hyena was heading straight for the leopard, and sure enough, it didn’t take long for the hyena to arrive on the scene and mess up the leopard’s hunt!

Elephant bull showing off, and a hyena floowing Argyle Male's scent trail before becoming curious with Andries's vehicle

We relocated him, and the hyena was close by, and Argyle soon lost his nerve and ran off with two hyenas chasing after him!  I was most surprised at how quickly they covered the ground and were snapping at his backside in no time as he sluggishly made his way towards the nearest marula tree and shot up to safety as the hyenas milled around below.

Argyle male after being chased up a marula tree

They hyenas eventually ran off and after posing for photos, Argyle male jumped down and went off to carry on trying for those warthogs!

Argyle male off to hunt again
The other news of the morning was the frustration that Herald and Johannes felt after tracking the Mafikizolo Pride all the way back from Ingwelala and straight across the whole reserve and off into the Klaserie close to Sweetwater Pan!  That pride can walk!
The afternoon saw me still looking for leopard, and I tried around Argyle Dam, hoping that Argyle male would pop up.  Instead we found a small breeding herd of buffalos feeding on the southern bank.

Johannes and a buffalo herd at Argyle Dam

Also nearby, we had some male impalas still feeling the effects of the rut, and they were sparring in the clearing.

Fighting impalas

Carrying on past many more impalas and waterbuck, we found a tawny eagle and photographed it as it took to flight.

Tawny Eagle Take-off!

We then carried on towards Concrete Crossing where a herd of close to 60 elephants were all milling about.  Some of them had been to the water already and covered themselves in iron-rich red sand!

Dust covered elephants

Others arrived later and enlivened by the pleasant afternoon temperatures began play fighting and dust bathing.

Wonderful elephant sighting

Some of the herd moved towards Klipdrift Crossing for a drink, so we went and waited in the later afternoon light, and enjoyed a nearby pod of hippos as the elephants slowly filtered down into the riverbed.

Hippos and elephants at Klipdrift Crossing

Only a few of the herd members came to drink, but it was still a very cool sighting!

Elephant herd members coming to drink

I carried on towards Vyeboom Dam, hoping to find that young leopard in the area.  As I got to Buffalo Pan, both Herold and Colbert found leopards; Herold located on Vyeboom Dam male very close to the camp, while Colbert’s tracking skills paid off when he found Klakisa female’s two cubs at Giraffe Kill Lookout.  Tough choice, as I knew that the cubs wouldn’t be that relaxed, but I knew that Vyeboom Dam male was moving into a difficult area.  I decided to chance my arm and head towards the cubs.
It was not a bad choice, and while it wasn't a fantastic sighting, it was still pretty good for these “new” leopards, and they seemed very chilled!  Had it not been such a rocky area, I am sure that we would have been able to spend a long time with them, but they disappeared and we left them and headed back towards Argyle Dam to go photograph some stars!  On the way there, we did pretty well with sightings, bypassing masses of elephants, an African wild cat, a small-spotted genet, a herd of buffalos and impalas.

Klakisa female's cubs - even the female cub was very relaxed at night
After we finished without photos, we headed back to the lodge for a well deserved and scrumptious dinner...just another tough day at Motswari!

Starry, starry night at Argyle Dam


  1. Wow - what wonderfull photo's...Argyle male almost looks a bit shy up the tree..the leopards are just beautifull, as are the definetly have to think about whitewalls...cheers from Germany Eva & Michael

  2. Hi Chad,
    once again awesome pic. Incredible shots from the flying eagle.
    Txs from Switzerland