Saturday, 30 July 2011

29th July – The Cats Come Out

Photo of the Day
Young Mafikizolo male lion
Morning Drive
(Chad, Marka, Herold and Grant)
8 x lions (Mafikizolo Pride with buffalo kill) – Scholtz, Kudu Pan Rd South
1 x leopard (Rockfig Jnr female) – Vielmetter, Back Nine’s East
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Karans, Top Rd East
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Buffalo Pan Access
2 x elephant bulls – De Luca, Western Cutline

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Marka and Herold)
8 x lions (Mafikizolo Pride with buffalo kill) – Scholtz, Kudu Pan Rd South
1 x leopard (skittish young male) – Peru, Tawny Eagle Rd
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Motswari, Sean’s Clearing
4 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Xinatsi Dam Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Peru Entrance Rd
1 x elephant bull – Argyle, Vyeboom Dam
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Southern Access

Daily Synopsis
Following on yesterday’s quiet drive, and being my guest’s last drive, I really needed something to end off their stay on a high with.  Grant began attempting to track Kuhanya near the camp, but as usual, efforts to track this leopard on foot proved frustrating and fruitless.
In fact, that is what it appeared the whole morning’s story was going to be like!  We saw a few kudus, impalas and eventually a small breeding herd of elephants, as well as a couple of bachelor bulls before stopping for coffee.

For the second day running, the coffee stop seemed to work, as I had no sooner come back on the radio when I was informed that Rockfig Jnr leopardess had been found down on Vielmetter.  I didn’t need a moment to think about it, and I made the trip south.
Shortly after that, Johannes showed why he is our number one tracker but finding some ghosts!  Yip, he successfully managed to track down the Mafikizolo Pride of lions in the east, and better still, he found them with a fresh buffalo kill!
Knowing they weren’t going anywhere, I carried on south, spotting giraffe, impala, kudus and some nice birds on the way.  I arrived at the leopard sighting, and was so keen to see if Rockfig Jnr was indeed showing signs of having had cubs, but sadly not – her teats were not swollen, there was no matted hair on her belly, and the fact that she was actively calling to attract a male was a sure sign that she is in estrus, and not pregnant or having cubs.

Rockfig Jnr - in estrus again, so sadly no cubs
Despite this, we enjoyed our sighting of her and then made the trip back north, with a detour past the lions. 

The other guide had all had great sightings of this normally frustrating pride of lions.  I arrived and enjoyed the sight of a couple of lionesses and a cub at the kill.  One female was very vocal and growled in displeasure when we got to about 20m away, so we stopped and she calmed.  The other lions were lying in the grass a bit further away, and sat up to look at us, but none ran off – a very encouraging sign from them!
As it was already late, we left them and headed back to the lodge.  Elsewhere, Herold had found a small breeding herd of buffalo, and Marka had found some elephants.
I received some new guests, and having guaranteed lions took the pressure off!  We took it very nice and easy on the drive, and after Marka found some buffalo bulls, near the lodge, he then picked up a large breeding herd of buffalos just a bit further down the road that I went to see.

In the herd, there were also a good number of yellow-billed oxpeckers, which always excites me and are great to see!  To think that when our lodge’s bird list was made in 2007, we didn’t even include this species on the list, and now we see them almost every time we see a buffalo herd!
Yellow- and red-billed oxpeckers feeding on a buffalo's open wound
On the way to the lions, we saw some impala before pulling into the sighting.  It was almost a repeat of the morning, with one female being quite protective and growling, but she soon chilled and began feeding.

Impalas, and white-backed and hooded vultures waiting near the lion kill

We then went to locate on the young male; the most relaxed of the pride.  We had a fairly good sighting of him.  He would sit up and watch us, but then flop down and sleep again.  He got up and moved a bit before once more lying down.

Mafikizolo young male
At one point, no more than 15m from him, he didn’t even wake up when we started the engine – even more positive signs!!!  Only one female was hiding in the grass and dashed off when we accidently drove too close while trying to view the male. 

I left feeling very happy that this pride of eight lions is making some good progress in their journey to becoming comfortable with our presence in their world – but it is still so wonderful to see that there are indeed truly wild lions in our reserve – so wild that they have barely even had human contact before!
After a nice drink at Kudu Pan, I slowly bumbled back to camp, not having a great deal of luck besides some scrub hares, steenbok and a lone elephant bull near the camp, but not an issue, as we had a very good first drive!
Some other news from the afternoon was that Rockfig Jnr was found again, and this time she was mating with an unidentified, nervous male leopard!  Something to go looking for tomorrow I hope!

28th July – Wild Dogs Make an Appearance

Photo of the Day

Morning Drive
(Chad, Marka, Herold and Grant)
3 x wild dogs – Peru, Lily Pan
2 x rhinos (2 relaxed female rhinos)
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Great North
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Jaydee Access
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Vielmetter-Albert Cutline

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Marka, Herold and Grant)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Scholtz, Scholtz Access
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Motswari, Motswari Northern Access
4 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Reception
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Scholtz, Scholtz Big Dam
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Mbali River Rd
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Camp

Daily Synopsis
So afte one day back, only some of the animals had run away – not bad, but the ones that didn’t made a pretty good effort today to remain unseen!
My morning was very quiet, and besides some fair general game, the chilly morning didn’t produce many sightings.  After coffee though, things picked up a bit, and Herold had found two relaxed female rhinos in the north, so I headed over to see them.  Whilst on route, things heated up with some tracks for wild dogs that had been found, and after getting word that the wild dogs had been seen near Jaydee Camp, Herold moved into the area, and sure enough, he used his wonderful instinct and when he headed back to a waterbuck that he had seen earlier, suspecting that the dogs might go after it, he soon saw it dashing off and sure enough, the wild dogs came out of the bush after it!
The dogs failed to make a kill and later settled near Lily Pan.  The guides all got to see it, but I wasn't prepared to sit in the line up, and knowing that nobody would be going in the afternoon, took my chances and left the sighting for later in the day.
Instead I continued to the rhinos, and had an enjoyable sighting of the two female white rhinos as they casually grazed in the area and paid us no attention – wonderful to see!

After the rhinos, I carried on back towards camp, and saw some nice impala, kudu and waterbuck.

We then came across a lovely breeding herd of elephants that were amazingly relaxed, and allowed for a real up-close-and-personal sighting that really made up for the otherwise quiet morning.

In the afternoon, I had one mission – enjoy a nice wild dog sighting.  Sadly though, the drive turned out to be even quieter, and when the one guide reported that the wild dogs were no longer where they had been left, I suddenly felt very upset that I hadn’t gone to see them in the morning!
I tried finding some good general game along the Nhlaralumi in the late afternoon, and besides the usual impala and kudus, we did find a lone bull elephant close to a wonderful sighting of a group of giraffes.

The young male giraffes were engaged in fights of varying intensity, with one particular pair really having a full go at one another.  With each massive swing of the neck, the head would thump into the opponent, and the power of it could really be seen nicely!

After that, we tried our chances in the area where the wild dogs had been, but despite a search, we didn’t even come up with a single track and ended up just enjoying a sundowner at Lily Pan, even without the wild dogs.
The drive back to camp was quiet, and it seemed that only Herold had a good day, in the east of all places!  He saw himself a nice breeding herd of elephants swimming in Scholtz Big Dam, as well as a massive breeding herd of buffalo moving towards Scholtz Camp for a drink of water.
Tracks for the Mafikizolo Pride in that area were once again unsuccessful, but with the breeding herd of buffalo nearby, there could be some action tonight!

Grant's photos of a kudu bull he saw jumping from a standing position!