Tuesday, 22 May 2012

21st May – Now the Leopards Show Themselves!!!

Photo of the Day
The gorgeous Makepisi male - getting big now!!!

Morning Drive

(Shadrack and Grant)

1 x leopard (Nthombi female) – Vielmetter, Western Sharalumi

1 x leopard (Rockfig Jnr female) – Vielmetter, Grasslands Rd

1 x breeding herd of elephants –Peru, Mvubu Crossing

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Sweetwater Pan

2 x elephant bulls – Peru, Piva Plains

1 x elephant bull – Jaydee, Nkombi Pan

1 x breeding herd of Buffalo – Peru, Argyle Rd

1 x buffalo bull – Argyle, Mfene Crossing

Afternoon Drive

(Chad, Peter, Shadrack and Grant)

2 x leopards (Makepisi male and Shindzuti male with impala kill) – Java, Terminalia Rd

1 x leopard (Machaton Male) – Java, Java Access

10 x lions (Machaton Pride) – Kings, Nyati Pools

1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Kings, Zebenine Confluence

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Karans, Western Cutline

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Sohebele Plains

1 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Trade Entrance Pan

1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Xinatsi Dam Rd

1 x elephant bull – Karans, Bush Braai

Daily Synopsis

I arose early to take my brother and sister-in-law out, needing to find some leopards, but I wasn't too concerned as both Rockfig Jnr and Makepisi and Shindzuti had kills that should keep them in the area; sadly though, my sister-in-law wasn't feeling too well, so they decided to skip on the drive, and it turned into a good one!  Grant spent the entire morning with Rockfig Jnr as she stalked perilously close to a herd of impalas under windy conditions, but in waiting for the right moment she fell asleep and Grant had to leave her.  Shadrack got to see Nthombi a couple kilometres west of Grant’s sightings, and no one from the lodge followed up on Makepisi.

In the afternoon, Pete and I got a new group, so we planned to take it easy, and just bumble around in the north.  We started with some impalas on the airstrip and then moved to Argyle Dam where we saw not only a goliath heron and some waterbuck (apart from the herd near the airstrip), but also a good sighting of a large crocodile and some rather active hippos.

Waterbuck, crocodile and hippos at Argyle Dam

Passing several herds of impalas on Piva Plains and Sohebele Plains, I headed towards where the leopards had been seen last night.  Going down Western Cutline, we came across a herd of elephants, but they were highly mobile into a mopane thicket, clearly being harassed by a large bull, and while we could see them between the trees, I didn’t want to push them, as their screaming was an indication that they were already a bit stressed, so we left them.

Great skyscapes, impalas and some nervous elephants

Heading into the area where the leopards had been, Goodman spotted one sleeping in a marula tree ahead of us – at first, from the large size, I thought that it was Machaton male, but a quick look with my binoculars revealed it to be the gorgeous Makepisi male, and knowing his relaxed demeanour, we could drive right up to the tree and have a wonderful sighting.

Makepisi - growing into a big boy!

After a while, he climbed down and we followed him as he headed to a clump of mopane trees, and there he picked up a small section of an impalas spinal column and began eating it.  There was clearly not much meat on it, and after a few minutes he left it; climbed up a tree, down again and went walking off.

Makepisi enjoying some left-over impala

We followed behind, and soon one of the guests spotted another leopard in a marula tree on our left; it was Shindzuti, the shy brother.  Under the spotlight, he wasn't shy, and we enjoyed a great sighting as he watched his brother walk past – always a treat having two leopards in one’s field of view – but as Makepisi didn’t stop, Shindzuti wanted to go join him.  This would have been simple if he knew how to climb down the tree he was in, but it was a tall, thin marula, and it was clearly more difficult than it looked, as he was most undecided as to how to climb down, but eventually made it and ran off to join his brother, so we left them to it and went for a drink in the dark!

Shindzuti going to join his brother, Makepisi

Heading home from Java Airstrip, we found our third leopard for the evening when the large Machaton male ambled across the road in front of us; he looked very chilled, but my guests said that they didn’t want to follow him, and so we left him disappearing into the bushes to the south and carried on (amazing, as his tracks were near our camp this morning, now he was about 10km south of the lodge!).

A chameleon and a herd of elephants later and we arrived at the camp, and miraculously, for the second night in a row, I was the first drive back at camp...and speaking of which, John’s prediction of snow wasn't far off based on the cold, cloudy weather that had suddenly arrived since my land-mark feat of arriving back at camp first last night!!!  Hate to think what the weather will be like tomorrow then!

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