Monday, 7 November 2011

06th November – Overly Optimistic?

Photo of the Day
Optimistic wild dogs pestering a buffalo bull
Morning Drive
(Grant and Chad)
13 x wild dogs (with steenbuck kill) – Karans, Timbavati-Umbabat Cutline
1 x leopard (Machaton Male) – Argyle, Argyle Dams
10 x buffalo bulls – Karans, Timbavati-Umbabat Cutline

Afternoon Drive
(Shadrack, Marka, Grant and Chad)
13 x wild dogs – Karans, Airstrip
2 x leopards (unidentified nervous female and Machaton male) – Motswari, Xinatsi Dam Rd West
2 x lions (Mafikizolo youngsters – one male and one female) – Peru, No Name Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Mbali, Java-Mbali Rd
2 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Argyle Dam Link
8 x buffalo bulls – Karans, Twin Peaks
2 x buffalo bulls – Karans, Twin Peaks Pan
2 x buffalo bulls – Karans, Old Closed Rd

Daily Synopsis
Well hello hello!  Hope all you folks out there are doing well and have been enjoying Grant’s wonderful blog posts over the last week and a bit – as usual, looks like I missed out on some good game-viewing, although the quiet days did sound dreadfully quiet – let’s hope that that poor run is over and that the good viewing returns!
I got back to work on Friday, and the first thing to hit me was just how green it was in the northern areas of our traversing!  Wow, being away for a week really allowed me to see the changes with fresh eyes – gone are the drab browns and greys of winter, and a fresh flush of green growth has swept through the areas north of Motswari – even the mopanes have taken to shooting new leaves – will make our job more difficult, but it is just so lovely to see the abundance of life about at the moment!
Further south, things are still dry, and the southern half of our traversing area has very few bushwillows and mopanes growing leaves, so maybe the viewing down there will be a bit easier.
In fact, after my first little drive on Friday night, I was wishing that it hadn’t rained – I saw literally nothing in the hour that I was out – a bit depressing I thought.  Then yesterday morning, while out on a little bush work and hearing that the staff had seen wild dogs running through the camp, I went out to try and relocate them for the game drives; in the little loop road that goes around the camp, I saw a herd of buffalo bulls, a leopard sleeping in a tree and a pack of wild dogs less than 100m from my house!  So much for having no animals!
Anyway, today started off as an overcast and cool morning – welcome relief I might add – and I headed north to check to see if there was any sign of the lions that had been roaring north of us on Ingwelala.  Sadly, they had not crossed onto our property, and in fact, it looked like everything had left!
We did see a few impalas and some nice baboons on Ingwelala airstrip and at their staff village.
Baboons at a staff village

I had to turn to the smaller animals, and ticked off some of the “small five” – buffalo weavers and an ant lion to go with yesterday’s leopard tortoise.  While looking at the ant lion, Johannes radioed to tell me he had a problem: the wild dogs were trying to catch a buffalo bull, and he couldn’t explain it to his guests!  After having a little chuckle at this, and needing to show my guests buffalos, I made my way down the road to join Johannes!
The pack of a dozen or so dogs was running around chasing a gang of an equal number of buffalo bulls – more for fun than anything serious, but it was still interesting to watch!

Wild dogs annoying some buffalo
The dogs would slowly get closer before a buffalo would get irritated and run after them!
The buffalo would then settled down, clearly not actually worried about the dogs, but obviously not enjoying their attention, especially as the dogs kept sneaking up on them!

Cat and mouse or dog and bull?
The adult dogs had moved off, and eventually the pups followed, leaving the buffalos in peace; as they were the main reason for our visit, we spent time with them as a few of the males sparred and fought while others tried to “mate”...a pity they were all males!
Buffalo bull
Carrying on towards Kudu Pan Clearing to look for some zebras, we bumped into the wild dogs as they ran on the road before moving off and we left them to it.
Bumping into the dogs again
They clearly didn’t want to be left, as we once again bumped into them while checking near Karan’s Airstrip, but this time they had killed and already eaten most of a steenbuck!

Wild dogs with a steenbuck kill
We watched them for a short while as they ran around playing a game of chase with the poor antelopes head in their mouths!

Playing with their steenbuck meal
Trying to leave them again to go for coffee, we passed a few more of the pack that had gone to rest on the airstrip itself.
After coffee, the drive was very quiet – we picked up tracks for a male lion, but as it was likely the Mafikizolo male, we had the usual struggle trying to track them down, and eventually ran out of time, seeing only fish eagle and some other nice birds in our search. 
Fish eagle at Sohebele Dam
At Argyle Dam, I stopped to talk about a spider’s web when Wanda, one of my guests, said that she could see something bigger than a monkey on the dam wall, almost like a lion – I looked up and it took me a few seconds before I spotted the Machaton male leopard sitting on the dam wall!

Machaton male leopard on Argyle dam wall
Sadly we couldn’t get close before he disappeared into the rocks below the wall, but interesting to see him this far north – I wonder if he wasn't the male mating with Kuhanya last week?
The afternoon was set up nicely for the new guests arriving – how lucky can you be to see wild dog’s on your very first safari!!!  I had a slightly more difficult afternoon ahead of me, and needed good lions and leopard...
I set off to go and see if the Machaton male leopard might still be around – and the drive began well, a few herds of impala, warthogs and a herd of giraffes all busy on the airstrip that occupied the first part of my drive.

Warthogs and giraffe
A bit further along towards Argyle Dam we found two elephant bulls and spent a bit of time with them before deciding to go and see a breeding herd of elephants near Mbali Dam.
Elephant bull
Grant had relocate the wild dogs, still resting on Karans airstrip, and commented that they looked like they might get active, so I headed over to see them before they did, as I had some new guests with me too.  Along the way, we found a couple of buffalo bulls and more impala, duiker and a steenbuck.
Buffalo bull
Arriving at the wild dogs, they hadn’t actually moved far, and had settled down again and we didn’t spend a great deal of time with them as they really were not looking in the mood to do anything as the wind picked up.

Wild dog pack resting
At the same time, Johannes had found two leopards near Lover’s Leap that I thought deserved my attention!  Sadly though, the female was even less relaxed than the male and it didn’t take long before both leopards were lost, and despite searching the area, we came up empty handed!
I then went to view some hippos at Peru Dam, always nice to see this pod on foot, but the darkness was falling in the cloudy weather, and we went for a drink along the riverbed, bumping into more impalas and a big herd of waterbuck on the way.
Let's hope tomorrow is less frustrating!
I went to follow up in the area where the leopards had been, and found something you would expect to be more difficult to find – a green chameleon in a green night.  The leopards sadly eluded us, but I wasn't too fussed, as I got word that two lions had been found near Mbali Dam...unfortunately, as was to prove to be the story of my afternoon, the two Mafikizolo youngsters were lost in a thicket before I got there!
It thus proved to be a frustrating afternoon, as the animals I wanted were both found, just not very obliging...I guess I was being as overly optimistic as those wild dogs this morning J

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back Chad. Not too bad a day, with wild dogs and leopard seen at least :-)

    Love the wild dogs and buffalo shots.