Sunday, 13 November 2011

10th November – Chad’s Magic Potion!

Photo of the Day
Klakisa's boy - becoming a super-cool customer!

Morning Drive
(Marka, Shadrack and Chad)
13 x wild dogs – Peru, Illegal Crossing
1 x leopard (unknown skittish male with impala kill) – Mbali, Klipgat Crossing
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Rudy’s Rd
3 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Camp
2 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Airstrip
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Mvubu Crossing
1 x buffalo bull – Argyle, Argyle Dam
2 x buffalo bulls – Peru, Sohebele Dam

Afternoon Drive
(Marka, Shadrack and Chad)
13 x wild dogs – Peru, Illegal Crossing
1 x leopard (Klakisa’s boy 2:2 with terrapin kill) – Java, Long Pipe Pan
1 x leopard (Klakisa’s boy 4:4) – Java, Java-Mbali
1 x leopard (Nthombi female) – Jaydee, Vielmetter-Alberts Cutline
1 x leopard (Mbali female) – Argyle, Hyena Pan
2 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Airstrip
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Western Cutline
8 x buffalo bulls – Peru, Sohebele Dam

Daily Synopsis
There are some days in the bush where it appears that one of guides, from any of the lodges, seems to have the magic tough; where every road he drives down produces something, and he will be the one calling in all the sightings while the other guides follow behind him.  I have always been envious of those guides, as it never really happens to me...but sometimes, like today, I rack my brain to recall what magic potion I took to give me the sort of luck that I had in finding animals as today!
The morning started off like the last few, threatening to fulfil the weatherman’s promise of another scorcher.  And for once, I believed him.  We started off nicely with three large male elephants walking past the camp during morning coffee, and easily managed to locate them feeding on the airstrip; Classic, the large bull with one impressive tusk still intact, was amongst them, but sadly he wasn't playing along for any photo opportunities.

Elephants at camp, grey heron and elephants on the airstrip
Carrying on, we found fresh tracks for Kuhanya, and tried tracking as she went towards Argyle Dam, but sadly had no luck, so we continued with our other mission; rhino!
We found an interesting sighting of a fork-tailed drongo mobbing a black-breasted snake eagle, and at one point, the infinitely smaller drongo was almost perched on the eagles head – eventually the drongo gave up and flew off.
Drongo mobbing a snake eagle!
We then watched a beautiful herd of impalas on Piva Plains that all suddenly started putting on a display for us by running around the clearing stotting and jumping about like there was no tomorrow!  What a great display of their impressive athleticism!

Impala herd "playing" and showing off their amazing athleticism
Carrying on towards the Nhlaralumi and westwards to check for rhinos out there, we found a breeding herd of elephants and spent some time with them as they fed and then splashed about in a mudwallow for a little bit (after displacing the warthogs that had been there!).

Waterbuck at Argyle Dam and elephant herd
As another station had checked west, I decided to drive down the Nhlaralumi and see what I could find.  There were herds of impalas scattered about, but not a great deal until Patrick casually pointed out a pack of wild dogs resting at some natural mudwallows along the river bank! 

Wild dogs!
What a stroke of luck to find the pack of 13 again, and while they were all fat bellied and fast asleep, it was still great to see them.

Wild dogs moving around the mudwallows
We left them and carried on down the riverbed, when Patrick again casually pointed out an animal, this time it was a leopard, a biggish male on the riverbank near Klipgat, but sadly he wasn't relaxed and moved off.  We tried to see him from the other bank, but as we couldn’t drive off road in that sensitive area, we had no luck, although Patrick did amazingly spot the ribs of an impala kill some 80m away in the tree above where the leopard had been!

Our luck was doing us good, but a pity it didn’t extent to the rhinos, and we slowly made our way back to the camp after coffee without any sign of these large beasts.  We did see many impalas and a lone waterbuck bull, but not much else as the day warmed up...even nicer that seeing all this game, was not seeing another vehicle the whole drive!
Another interesting development was a repost of a young leopard inside one of the private camps in the east; Shadrack went to check it out, and was also surprised at what he found when the camp attendant showed him where to look; two tiny leopard cubs, no more than two-weeks old, sleeping in the camp’s pump house!  Being of such a young and sensitive age, and not knowing where (or even who!) the mother was, we closed the area and told the camp attendant to just avoid that part of the camp for a while until the mother leopard moves them to a new den – interesting to hear about none-the-less!
The afternoon saw me receiving a new guest, Peter, that had come to visit the lodge while on a break from a Field Guide course that he was taking, and when asked what he would like to see, he replied “leopard”.  The Timbavati obliged, thankfully!
Starting off slowly with some elephant bulls near the airstrip, we carried on towards Argyle Dam and ticked off some lovely kudu bulls, impalas, as well as a herd of waterbuck in the company of a lone zebra.

Elephant bull
Marka then called us for a herd of buffalo bulls bathing in Sohebele Dam, so I headed over to see them as the afternoon sun gave lit up the greenery that is now abounding in the north!

Buffalo bulls at Sohebele Dam
Nthombi leopardess had been found in the south, and I was heading in her direction until Giyani found Klakisa’s relaxed son, and I decided to travel a shorter distance to see him instead – never thought I would see the day I opted for him over Nthombi (who Shadrack and Marka went to see).
While on route, we didn’t see an awful lot, but we forgot about it when we almost road over a leopard!  Okay, it wasn't that bad, but we were lucky enough to go around a bend and find Klakisa’s other son sleeping on the road!  Not sure who got more of a fright, but he jumped up and stood watching us for a while before starting to move off west.  I went west to a gap, but he then ran off east into a mopane thicket – not because of us, but as his twitching tail attested to, something he had seen.  Not wanting to disturb him, and having his brother nearby, we left him and went to join the sighting.
That sighting was alright – a bit frustrating from a photographic point of view, as the even-more-relaxed-than-last-time young male leopard lay in a mopane thicket eating a terrapin! 

Klakisa's boy
We repositioned several times to no avail, but pleasingly, the leopard paid little attention to us, and at one point, I was as close as I would manoeuvre for Kuhanya or Mbali!
Eventually he got up and moved off after finishing his snack, but just found a shady spot and lay and groomed – we got to see him nicely, although he never chose great spots to rest before we left him!

Klakisa young male - definitely got his mother's good looks!
We then didn’t have far to travel to go and see the wild dogs for Peter, something I don’t think he even bothered to ask to see!
Sadly though, despite a bit of play and movement, the pack didn’t do all that much – still full from the morning’s feast and we left them slowly waking up and looking to move north-west as the full moon rose over the bush.

Wild dogs still resting in the same area
After a lovely drinks break, and hearing that two lionesses had been seen in the north earlier in the afternoon before being lost, I headed over to check that area.

Rising full moon
As a vehicle had come from the road I wanted to check, I took a slightly longer route to check for the lions – while I didn’t succeed in finding them, we did find our beloved Mbali leopardess near Hyena Pan!
She was sitting watching a herd of impalas in the open, and we had to use a red filter to not attract attention to her.  As she is old and needs all the help she can get, we only spent a few minutes with her before leaving her to hunt in peace – still, it was wonderful to be surprised with our third leopard of the afternoon!

Mbali female leopard watching impalas (red filter used)
Heading back to camp, we saw a genet, well, Patrick did at least, and I regained some faith in my spotting abilities by finding a strip-bellied sand snake in a tree before closing down at the camp!
So it turned out to be a pretty good day; let’s hope my magic doesn’t run out any time soon!


  1. What a great day. The bush sure looks lush and green. Great photos of the rising moon and leopards. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great day Chad... I hope when I visit some day you have this kind of luck :-)

    Can't wait for the postings of all the white lions :-). All 3 of them now.