Saturday, 30 June 2012

28th June – Leap of Leopards

Photo of the Day

Argyle Jnr's cub
Morning Drive

(Herold, Shadrack, Godfrey, Grant and Chad)

3 x leopards (Argyle Jnr female and 2 cubs on impala kill) – Peru, Sohebele Dam

2 x rhinos (mother and calf)

1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Karans, Mananga Cutline

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Nyosi River Rd

4 x elephant bulls – Karans, Old Closed Rd

1 x elephant bull – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam Rd

Afternoon Drive

(Grant and Chad)

2 x leopards (Argyle Jnr’s Cubs) – Peru, Sohebele Dam

2 x rhino (Mother and calf)

1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Vielmetter, Bluewaxbill

Daily Synopsis

Well hello again!  Im back on the blog for the next three days or so before I head off on leave, so hope to share some good moments with you all!

The last few days I have been back on drive, and the game has been alright – I am lucky that I have some familiar faces with me on drive, Andres, Monika, Kieron and Celina, who are regular visitors to Motswari, so we can just take it easy and enjoy being in the bush, and over the first three drives we did just that!

Zebra, impala, giraffe and sunset at Argyle Dam
The first drive was spent with a herd of elephants near the camp, a lovely sundowner at Argyle Dam and then a quick sighting of Argyle Jnr’s one leopard cub, but as she was there too with both cubs and a fresh impala kill on the ground, we couldn’t spend time with her and decided to try the next day.  The interesting thing was that I had seen their tracks right there in the morning whilst doing a bushwalk, but a buffalo that ran off in the area and the sound of what sounded like an elephant in some thick mopane led me to walk around the thicket – had I not heard that, I may just have walked into the leopard and cubs on the kill!

Argyle Jnr's young cub - quiet relaxed for a change!
Sadly she lost the kill to hyenas, but we got to see all three of them on the kill yesterday afternoon, as well as finding Makepisi male leopard all the way up at Concrete Crossing in the late evening – surprising for two reasons; firstly we had glimpsed him briefly while watching a herd of buffalo on Java in the morning (several kilometres south of where he was now!); secondly, he had reportedly been found in that same area in the afternoon; and lastly, Kieron, my young guest, was the one that found him when he “heard something in the riverbed while we were sitting watching the stars – so we turned on the lights to find this gorgeous leopard walking along the rocky riverbed and up onto the eastern bank!

Makepisi male following behind a herd of buffalo, but then finding him several kilometres north later in the day
Still, the highlight of my afternoon was tracking a black rhino – sadly it went into the Kruger, but still amazing to see the tracks and droppings around – the first time I have had the chance to examine the droppings and tracks in the Timbavati (despite having seen one myself in 2008 near the lodge)!  Chatting to Herold and Shaddy, they say that they have seen his tracks a number of times coming into our eastern sections, and with some territorial scrapings going on, it would be wonderful to see him here one sure it is just a matter of time!

The lack of lions has been frustrating, and despite tracking lions literally across the length of the property yesterday, they crossed from Kruger in the north-east to Klaserie in the south-west!!!

Back to today, and I went out with just Andreas, and took it easy really , heading straight south to check up on the hyena den, but in the very windy weather, the game was not out and about, and we saw nothing but impala on the way down, and sadly found that even the hyenas were not keen on playing along and didn’t emerge from their hole.

Curious hyena cubs at the den from a few days ago - sadly no luck today
Carrying on, I went to follow up on some buffalo tracks that had crossed off the property; luckily I found the large herd slowly making their way back into our area, but the lion tracks that had also been nearby were not as cooperative and the lions that made them did not bother returning. 

I left the area and carried on seeing some nice giraffes and zebras with a lot of impala scattered around Vielmetter, but none of the elephants I had been hoping for.  Earlier on in the drive, Godfrey had found the mother rhino and calf in the east and commented on how relaxed the young one was this morning, so we took a chance, and then found Herold who had just walked in to view them on foot, so off we went to try for ourselves, and with Petros tracking and Andreas and I following behind, we eventually found the two rhinos in a relatively good area (well, for a mopane belt anyway!) and stood and watched them for about 15 minutes as they grazed about 40m from us.  We tried to get a bit of a better view, but the wind changed slightly and the mother picked up our scent and became a bit more alert, so we left them in peace and headed back to the lodge.

Tower of giraffes and a male impala at Hide Dam
In the afternoon, the whole family was back on board, but sadly, the animals were not. We went to follow up on the rhinos and dropped Petros to track them down as their tracks did not come out of the block, but it took him a while to locate the tracks in the middle of the massive block, but as I drove around enjoying the masses of mopane trees, two squirrels, one steenbuck and one herd f impalas, Petros let me know that he had found them. It took a while to find Petros, but then the rhinos had moved, so tracking them some more led to a relocation, but sadly the calf was not having any of it and ran off as we approached, leaving us seeing no more than the bum of a rhino as it disappeared in front of mom!

Cutting our losses, we went to try the leap of leopards that had all but finished their kill; we only saw the two cubs, one of which was lying on a rocky outcrop and soon came and climbed down about 7m from us! That is extremely relaxed for these cubs, and encouraging to see! It was dark and we could hear one cub chewing on some bones, so decided to leave them in peace and head for a drink at Argyle Dam in the dark with one hippo out the water before making our way back to camp.

Argyle Jnr's cub climbing off some rocks after finihsing the family's kill
Shongile leopardess had been seen at Motswari Private Camp, but she sadly moved straight into Ingwelala, but wonderful to have her back – maybe next time we shall get to see this beautiful leopard!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

27th June: Gentle Giants.

Pic Of The Day.
Morning Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack, Chad, Herold & Godfrey.)

Elephant ( Kambaku's) / Motswari – Xinatsi Dam Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Peru – Western Cutline.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Hide Dam.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Java – Terminalia Rd.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boy) / JayDee – Den Rd.
Leopard ( Makipi's Male) / Java – Terminalia Rd.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack, Chad, Herold & Godfrey.)

Elephant ( Kambaku) / Buchner.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Motswari – Reception Rd.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Hide Dam.
Leopard ( Argyle Jnr & 2 x Cubs) / Peru – Xintzele Rd
Leopard ( Makipi's Male) / Peru – Concrete Crossing.

Daily Synopsis.

Having been spoilt over the last couple of weeks with the weather this morning was the first sign of winter with the temperature dropping to a frosty 10C, not bad considering we are nearing the end of June. The cooler temperature did not bode well for game-viewing as we find that the animals only become active once things warm up, kinda like us. Being the first one's out Jacky and I headed straight to were Argyle Jnr and her two cubs had their kill but even before reaching the site we started to pick up on a number of Hyena tracks, not having put the kill up into a tree when the guys had left her could have proved costly. We continued on to make sure our suspicions were correct and finding where she had the kill we now found patches of hair and shards of bone, definitely not the eating habits of a Leopard, with the tracks to confirm we could confidently say that it had been stolen by Hyena during the night. The tracks also told us that the Hyena's dragged the carcass some distance and that the Leopard had actually continued to follow them but eventually she chose to head back South fetch her cubs and then move off to the West. Knowing that without meat we would struggle to get a good view of her and her shy cubs we decided instead to respond to a small herd of Elephant Bulls that Chad had found very near camp. These were also on our ever expanding Christmas list and it was good to get one in the bag so early in the morning. Spending considerable time with them, as not only were they impressive but also it was warmer to sit in the sun, we eventually roused ourselves from hibernation wanting to head back down to the Hyena Den and try our luck once again. While we headed South, Herold and Chad had picked up on Lion tracks that was to keep them busy for the majority of the morning. These tracks were found by Shadrack on our far Eastern boundary and reports of them heading West were called in by various stations. They then turned to the South and zig-zagged their way down the Tsharalumi River before turning once again to the West and walked straight out our traversing area on the Western boundary, an incredible distance to have walked in so short a time. It also leads me to believe it was those two males we saw the other day as only they seem to cover such a distance regardless of territory. More interesting than the Lion tracks that Shadrack picked up on the Eastern Boundary was the Black Rhino tracks that he also picked up on coming in from Kruger. These were later tracked for the entire morning as it first headed West and then turned to the North were the last tracks were seen over half way through our traversing area, clearly following the example set by the Lions.

Our trip to the Hyena Den once again proved fruitless and we set off to Hide Dam for coffee but before reaching the dam we again picked up on a massive herd of Elephant that must have been conservatly fifty strong. It seems to be a pattern for Jacky and I as it has now happened on three occasions that when we don't find the Hyena we find Elephant at Hide Dam. With the all the Elephant approaching the dam across the open plain kicking up the dust along the way made for an extremely memorable sighting and the disappointment of the Hyena was very soon a distant memory, what Hyena! We spent the rest of our morning with them as they drank and mock fought around the dam. We were so captivated that we actually forgot that we were meant to return to the Hyena Den and try our luck once more but instead followed the Elephant as they headed of to feed. The sighting was further enhanced by the fact that while sitting with the Elephant we could also see Giraffe, Zebra, Steenbok and Warthog, not bad for a cool morning.

While we slowly wound our way back to the lodge the rest of the gang picked up on a Buffalo herd that also had a bonus sighting in store for them in the form of the young Makipi's Male following behind the herd. Not that he is big enough or strong enough to be any threat to the Buffalo, YET, he does have the potential though as already for his age he is massive. With the guys enjoying a good sighting of him it ran them all into overtime and on this occasion everybody except us was late back to the lodge for breakfast. True to form Godfrey was last and was lucky to make it back for lunch let alone brunch.

On afternoon drive we once again chose to head North to Buchner and try our luck. Having gone three days earlier in the morning we thought we would give the afternoon a bash and see if we could find anything at the waterholes spread out on the property, failing that at least we would have the best location in the Timbavati for a sundowner.

While we made our way up North quickly so that we could give ourselves time if we did find tracks to follow up, Chad chose to try his luck at tracking down the Black Rhino that had been followed heading North on morning drive. Picking up on tracks early they began the process of trying to locate their quarry which had unfortunately turned direction and was heading East back towards the Kruger boundary. Having last seen Black Rhino four years ago they persevered and found that the Rhino had actually spent a fair amount of time in our traversing area and eventually following the tracks out into Kruger they reckoned that had we had more time in the morning it would have been located as it appeared that it only crossed back late afternoon. Definitely worth a try in finding and something to look out for in the future.

Arriving on Buchner we wound our way around the pans but only came up with tracks and not a lot else. Arriving on the Eastern boundary we once again picked up on our tracks for the pride that we had tracked the last time we were here. From the tracks it looked like they had walked here in the morning, Murphy's Law! They stopped at one of the pans and then continued to the South West and promptly walked back to the exact spot that they had spent so much time at the last trip here, there must be something about the broken dam wall that they enjoy and we once again found were the cubs had played while the parents rested below in the riverbed. Running out of light we eventually had to call off our search which was a pity as we had forgone the sunset in favour of trying to find our elusive pride. We still made our way to the koppies as it sits high above the surrounding bush and provides beautiful views to the horizon in all directions. We would try our luck in bumping into the pride after dark on our way home. Resuming after drinks we headed off to the pans that lay along the Lions last known direction but we came up empty handed and they once again eluded us.

While we had ourselves a fairly quit afternoon the rest of the gang had themselves a busy drive finding two different Leopard sightings. After loosing her kill to Hyena's Argyle Jnr and her cubs had moved a little to the South West where she promptly made another Impala kill. She had positioned the kill well and the sighting did not provide the greatest views but patience paid off for Chad and Herold who got to see one of the cubs very well and the guys were pretty amased at how relaxed it was with the vehicle, at one stage it apparently was twelve metres from the vehicle and did not show any signs of stress. As the kill was still on the ground the guys had to leave once it became dark, you would have thought she would have learnt and hoisted it into a tree. Lets hope that she does not lose it overnight again as it would be nice to see them. Chad also bumped into Makipi's Male on his way home which was a bit of a surprise as they had seen him in the morning a lot further to the South. I think we all underestimate how far and quickly animals can move when they want to. So for some it was an the busy afternoon they were looking for, for others it was the quite afternoon that they were looking for. Having not seen Lions in the last three days tomorrows sole focus will be on finding these elusive cats as many of our guests check out.

Due to admin work backing up I'll be handing over the blogging duties to Chad for the next couple of days. Thanks for the support and comments and we'll catch up next week.