Wednesday, 20 June 2012

19th June – Border Patrols

Photo of the Day
First breeding herd of buffalo in the area in over a week - and what a herd; 500-plus members!

Morning Drive

(Grant and Chad)

5 x rhinos

1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Scholtz, Mananga Cutline

Afternoon Drive

(Grant and Chad)

1 x leopard (Makepisi male) – Peru, Mvubu Crossing

1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Scholtz, Long Rd

1 x elephant bull – Scholtz, Big Dam

Daily Synopsis
One should always look for the positives in life, so reflecting back on this morning’s drive, the biggest positive is that at least it won’t take me long to write up a report on it!
Sunrise over Motswari

Yeah, not for the first time since I got back on drive, we had a dreadfully quiet morning.  I had no real plans, so just drove around Motswari for the first part of the morning, checking along the Sohebele River for any signs of life, but barring a gorgeous sunrise and a male nyala, there was not much to see.  I then headed towards Argyle Dam where I knew we would be able to enjoy some hippos and baboons, but a call letting us know that our rhinos had come back in from the Kruger pulled me away from this scenic area after a while.

Impala, baboons and crocodile at Argyle Dam
It was a bit of a surprise to hear, as Grant had intentionally gone along the Kruger National Park boundary hoping to find signs of the rhinos, and more importantly, the lions.  He found nothing on the rhinos, but did find tracks for the lions walking a couple of kilometres down the road, across our very southern boundary and then turning east back into Kruger – I wonder if they are going “home”, where ever home might be???

When the rhinos were found, it became clear that they had walked after Grant, and I tried my best to respond as they slowly headed back to the Kruger, and I was going to make it until the wind picked up and they got a bit spooked and ran straight east.  Not wanting to chase them off, Rudi left them unattended, and it took me a short while to relocate before I found them on the Kruger boundary itself.  As I approached, they began running, but sadly back into the Kruger, leaving me looking at their dust.  Again.  I’m starting to get a complex about this habit of animals always going back to the Kruger when I approach!

Again, on the positive side, at least I don’t need to drive in the east for the next few days as both my reasons for visiting there over the last week have seemingly moved off!  It is frustrating to have animals leave our reserve, but it is still magical to know that tomorrow, you just never know what will cross back in – wonderful to work in an unfenced and natural reserve!

The rest of my drive can be summarised as, well, “quiet”.  Impalas were out in numbers around Sohebele Plains and Argyle Dam, as were a few waterbuck groups, but that was it.  Grant found himself in the south-eastern corner, and he got lucky finding a massive buffalo herd crossing across our southern boundary, but for a change, they were crossing onto our land towards Scholtz Big Dam; it’s the first buffalo herd to move into the area for about a week – let’s hope they hang around for a bit!

Dwarf mongooses and waterbuck
I got a new group of guests, so my slate was wiped clean and I had to begin again, and as they are here for three and four nights respectively, it does take some of the pressure off, as there is a good amount of time to find animals in six drives, so it lessens the need to do drives like I had to last night!  As a result, this afternoon, I went back to.........The East!!!!

Really, it is like there is some invisible force that keeps drawing me there!!!  And well, I guess there is; the unknown, the feeling that you are going to go around the corner and find something magic...although driving the straight boundary roads again did sort of limit the number of corners I went around!

There was method in my madness; firstly, there was a massive herd of about 500-odd buffalo walking around in the east, and based on their movements from the morning, they would end up in the region of Gravel Pits in the afternoon, but from there, if they were to move south, they would be gone, and as buffalos have been puzzlingly absent of late, I couldn’t guarantee that I would see a herd again over the next few days.  Secondly, it had again been a warm day, and I though that maybe, just maybe, the crash of rhinos would come back our side for some water...and so, off I headed to the east, via our airstrip to begin, where we found a several herds of impalas and spent some nice time watching and discussing them.

Grant enjoying some impalas
I then decided to head past Majavi Dam, but the east was up to its old tricks and was very quiet; lots of impalas that kept us occupied, a few steenbucks too, and a bit of time discussing the various ways to eat mopane worms!

There were the usual hippos at the dam, but carrying on south along the Kruger National Park boundary, we found plenty of rhino tracks, but no rhinos, and besides impalas, not much at all.  Luckily, Rudi from Karans is as bad as me in enjoying the solitude of the east, and he too was out here looking for the buffalos, and located them moving north away from Gravel Pits, so I moved into the area to join him.

It was a big herd, very spread out in some combretum woodland, and while we couldn’t see nearly the whole herd, the 500-member guestimate from Grant was not far off I suspect!

Breeding herd of buffalo
Leaving them, we went to Gravel Pits for drinks before hanging around the south-east hoping to find some lions coming across our southern boundary after the buffalos, but neither Rudi nor ourselves found anything; well, I did find the muddy bum of one elephant, but it was dark already, so I carried on.
It was hard to resist the temptation to go racing back to the central areas where a guide bumped into a male lion and Makepisi male leopard together in one scene as both sat on the road watchin one another before parting and moving off in different directions.  Grant was luckily in a more central position and moved towards the area and had a good sighting of the leopard resting up in an apple-leaf tree.  But I resisted and slowly bumbled back to camp after a quiet, but still enjoyable day...i guess that is the beauty of the east, and at least we know where to go and begin looking for some cats tomorrow!

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