Friday, 28 September 2012

27th & 28th September – Lest We Forget About the North!

Photo of the Day

Giyani and his Java guests enjoying a relaxed crash of rhinos grazing nearby

27th September Morning Drive

(Chad, Grant, Herold, Peter and Marka)

5 x lions (Mafikizolo Pride) – Peru, No Name Rd

13 x buffalo bulls – Borneo, Airstrip

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam Rd

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Bushwillow Way

4 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Camp Dam

1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Camp Dam

27th September Afternoon Drive

(Chad, Andrea, Herold and Marka)

3 x lions (Mafikizolo females) – Peru, Giraffe Kill Rd

1 x leopard (Nthombi female) – Vielmetter, Sweetwater Pan

3 x rhinos (male, female and calf)

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Giraffe Kill Rd

1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Camp Dam

1 x elephant bull – Mbali, Buffalo Kill Rd

3 x elephant bulls – Argyle, Crossing Below Argyle

28th September Morning Drive

(Chad, Andrea, Herold and Marka)

1 x leopard (Mbali female) – Peru, Pan Rd

2 x rhinos (male and female)

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Western Sharalumi

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Mangawaan Rd

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Buffalo Kill Rd

6 x elephant bulls – Peru, Western Cutline

1 x elephant bull – Mbali, Java-Mbali Rd

28th September Afternoon Drive

(Chad, Grant, Andrea, Herold and Marka)

5 x lions (Mafikizolo pride) – Argyle, Gina’s Rd

2 x leopards (Argyle Jnr and Machaton male) – Argyle, Argyle Dam

1 x leopard (unidentified male) – Argyle, Mfene Crossing

1 x rhino

2 x rhinos (skittish mother and calf)

2 x buffalo bulls – Argyle, Great North Rd

7 x elephant bulls – Argyle, Argyle Dam

2 x elephant bulls – Jaydee, Vielmetter-Alberts Cutline

Daily Synopsis

Sorry for merging the posts, but as I didn’t take many pics on the morning of the 28th, and none in the afternoon, I thought it would be a pretty boring blog, so this one is hopefully a bit more exciting!

After a great but slightly rushed afternoon yesterday, I just decided to chill a bit this morning, so we went out to the east; it wasn't overly productive, but we still had a good time seeing some zebras, impalas, hippo, a baker’s dozen of buffalo bulls and a giraffe before stopping for some coffee.

Impala and an irratated buffalo bull witha yellow-billed oxpecker

Earlier Marka had found the five Mafikizolo lions reunited, so after our coffee, we headed in that general direction, not seeing much along the way; the lions themselves were not too bad – they had their heads up from time to time, and considering it was late in the morning, that was more than expected from most lions – the young lioness was her usual grumpy self and mock charged as I was trying to reposition, but we gave hr her space and she soon settled down, so we left them to it and carried on.

Mafikizolo pride reunited and resting

At Argyle Dam there were several crocodiles around, the hippos, some waterbuck and a host of birds that finished off our morning before we went on a bushwalk and got to walk into four large elephant bulls and viewed them on foot as they drank at the camp dam.

The afternoon’s mercury had risen quite high, so we headed out and went to check along the riverbed, hoping to get lucky with some of the animals moving to the cooling shade and water it provided. A bull elephant had spent the whole day in front of camp, and was sporadically joined by nyala, impala and warthog, but the first half hour of the drive produced almost nothing!

We then came across a lovely, and very relaxed martial eagle posing in a tree right next to the road, so spent some time with it.

Martial eagle

A leopard had been seen on the banks of the Nhlaralumi not far from us, so we moved into the area to see if we could find him again, but saw no sign, so I left Petros on foot and carried on for a few hundred metres to where we found a lone elephant bull in the riverbed. While with him, Petros radioed to say that while he had not located the leopard, he had spotted three lions! The Mafikizolo lionesses had moved some distance from this morning’s position, but had run off when they saw Petros, so we raced around to the opposite bank and managed to relocate them together with Herold. They were not all that relaxed, so we kept a distance, but ended with a fair sighting; eventually they walked off and we made space for some other vehicles.

Mafikizolo lionesses

I had no sooner gotten back on a road when my vehicle died!!! Luckily, Petros and Difference arrived, and being a man of many talents, Petros found where I had bent the diesel pipe, fixed it and off we went. While they had still been on the tracks for the male leopard, they could see where it had been running – no doubt after having seen them, so we decided to cut our losses and head south to where Nthombi was near Sweetwater Pan.

We arrived in the area, but there was a bit of a line up, so we drove around a bit, and got lucky when Giyani called in three rhinos just ahead of where we were, so we popped in to see them very briefly before going to join Herold with the leopard.

Giyani and hs Java guests enjoying a crash of rhinos

She was very active walking around, and after sniffing around the area for some time, she moved to the north, and as it was getting late, we left her and made our way back towards camp. The drive was a bit uneventful, but we did see a white-faced owl and two hyenas along the way, as well as passing waterbuck, impala and steenbuck!

Nthombi leopardess and a couple of hyenas on the way home!
So while the day was filled with big game, we did struggle a bit with the sightings in between, but considering that we again saw some great things, I don’t think anyone actually minded!

The forecast is for a mild 40 degrees Celsius tomorrow, so that should be, well, hot!

And for once, the weatherman was correct! It was warm – not quite forty degrees, but the mercury rose to 37 by mid the shade!

My morning was a bit of a quiet affair, and I headed south hoping to get lucky with the hyena den, but when the sun’s rays were searing after only 15 minutes, I knew it was a bit of a pointless exercise. Still, we tried, and like the drive south, the hyena den had no life.

Carrying on around Vielmetter, Petros found two different sets of leopard tracks that he went on foot to follow up, and I carried on for a cup of coffee at Entrance Dam. Following coffee, he had yet to find anything, so I went to see two rhinos that had been left resting further west, but found a herd of elephants as I was going to the area.

Elephant herd
The rhinos were the subadult male and female, and in the heat of the morning, it was no surprise that they were just resting in the shade of a bush, so I left them and went back to Petros.

Resting rhinos

Along the route, we saw impala, warthogs, giraffes and zebras and eventually a Petros; sadly he had no luck and we had to leave as we were out of time...three hyenas resting at Hide Dam did draw our attention before we headed back north.

Giraffes, hyenas and a rock monitor up a tre

Along the way, Marka found Mbali leopardess, so he and Andrea got to see her, but it was a bit out of our reach, so we made our way to a heart breakfast at the lodge.

In the afternoon, I received a new group of guests, including one of our loyal blog followers, Dilip! From his comments on the blog, I knew how much he had been looking forward to this, so I was feeling a bit of pressure! As one of the group wished to sit up front with me, my camera sadly had to stay at the lodge...but I knew that leaving it behind would surely bring us good luck!

The Mafikizolo lions had been tracked down in the morning, so I was aiming to head there later, but I wanted to go look for leopard first, and in particular the granny, Mbali.

As it was hot, I thought it best to check a few days, so after some warthogs and waterbuck north of Argyle Dam, we arrived to find seven large elephants drinking at the dam, as well as a host of birds, hippos and crocodiles.

We drove around to the southern side of the dam to get closer to the elephants and after they moved on, we carried on; I was talking about the hippos and birds as we moved slowly along the southern side of the dam when a guest suddenly said “leopard”; not too far off, there was a gorgeous leopard tom sitting in the shade, and suddenly another leopard moved in front of him! Bonus!

It was Argyle Jnr and Machato male; having cubs, this was not a mating call, and after a short while he eventually got mobile east and she to the west – we couldn’t follow him, so went for her instead. Sadly she was walking across the river and Piva Plains, and felt very exposed in the open, so trotted off to the thickets to the west where we left her not wanting to put pressure on her.

The south was alive this afternoon; a crash of rhinos, elephants, buffalos and Nthombi leopardess...luckily, the north was even more productive, so we had no need to even leave Argyle property!

We checked the eastern side and saw many waterbuck, impala and several warthogs, then came across a male rhino that had been found earlier in the afternoon and watched as he walked across a nice open area.

Not far north, we arrive at the five Mafikizolo lions just as they were getting active and ready for their nights activities and spent the next three-quarters of an hour following them in the dark before we too had to leave and head campwards. Marka had also seen some buffalo in the area, making it a Big 5 afternoon in the north...oh, and I nearly forgot! Driving back to the lodge, we found another young male leopard standing in the road as we approached the airstrip! Amazingly he walked into the bush and disappeared, but after three leopards and great lions, none of us were complaining!

My camera will be sleeping tomorrow, so I just cant wait to see what we are going to see in the morning...

26th September – Luckless Leap of Leopards Loses Lunch to Lonely Lion

Photo of the Day
Umfana male

Morning Drive

(Chad, Grant, Herold and Peter)

3 x leopards (Argyle Jnr and two cubs with impala kill) – Argyle, Straight Rd

1 x lion (Mafikizolo Big male stole Argyle Jnr’s kill) – Argyle, Straight Rd

2 x lions (Ximpoko male and lioness) – Kings, Ridge Rd

3 x rhinos (male, female and calf)

8 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Sharalumi Access

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Kings, Mafikizolo Rd

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Kings, Ridge Rd

2 x elephants – Argyle, Oppikoppie Rd

Afternoon Drive

(Chad, Marka, Peter, Grant, and Herold)

3 x lions (Ximpoko males and lioness) – Kings, Ridge Rd

1 x lion (Mafikizolo Big male) – Peru, Sohebele Dam

1 x leopard (Argyle Jnr’s Boy) – Argyle, Lumphana Rd

1 x leopard (Umfana male) – Vielmetter, Bushbaby Loop

1 x leopard (Xindzuti male) – Peru, Klipgat Crossing

3 x rhinos (male, female and calf)

2 x rhinos (2 males)

2 x rhinos (2 females)

6 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Wisani Trough

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam rd

5 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Sharalumi Camp

1 x elephant bull – Vielmetter, Back Nines

1 x elephant bull – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam Rd

1 x elephant bull – Kings, Rockfig Rd

Daily Synopsis

I was going to try and use another alliteration in that title, but I got a little lazy!  Well, that was basically the only story of the morning for me – that Argyle Jnr and her cubs had their kill surprisingly stolen by a lion in the north after most of our guides went a long way south to see the Ximpoko males and an unknown lioness enjoying their honeymoon.

As lions had been heard roaring in the north and east, I checked north, and Herold checked east; as I was with Andreas, Monika, Kieran and Celina – regular visitors to Motswari – I took it very easy and we enjoyed chatting about trees, birds and the smaller things, not finding any sign of lions to the north as we did so (we did see a group of buffalos, but not much else), so instead we went east to help Herold, but we had no sooner approached the area when his tracks crossed off our traversing and I was now left looking at mopane trees!

Buffalos and squirrels

We stopped in the Sakarongonzo Riverbed for coffee so that Kieron and Celina could dig for water in the river bed, but despite their best efforts and finding moist soil, we (Petros and I gladly joined in!) were unable to find the precious liquid, so we drank our hot chocolate instead!

Petros helping Kieran and Celina digging for water!

Argyle Jnr and her cubs were relocated and the sighting seemed to have stabilised once everyone moved out the area, leaving just Herold there, so I headed towards him...i was about a kilometre away when he radioed me to tell me I had better  hurry as a big male lion was approaching the leopards and was going to steal the kill!

I raced the last bit and caught up shortly after the leopards had all scattered – we did relocate the young male cub high up in a knobthorn tree watching the nearby Mafikizolo male that was feeding on the kill.

Argyle Jnrs male cub safely up another knobthorn tree

The light and position wasn't great for photos, but the sighting was a treat – Herold said the female cub had also run west, while the mom had run north, so on leaving the area, I checked north and spotted something in a tree in the distance – I looked with my binoculars and confirmed to myself that it was a head and tail on a branch, so radioed in that I could see a leopard and made my way closer...however, as I did so, the shape started to disintegrate into a number of branches and I could barely contain my laughter as my idiocy in calling in a log over the radio!

Mafikizolo male feeding, and my "leopard"in a tree

We headed back to camp for a siesta on a hot afternoon before heading out with some new guests in the evening.

As there were likely to be sightings of lion and leopard in the north, I half contemplated staying up here, but when I told a guest I wasn't sure where to go, she said “go south”...and so I did!

The drive down Western Cutline was a bit quiet, but we had a few impala, and a nice sighting of a bateleur and tawny eagle that we suspect had been trying to get a large monitor lizard in a tree.

Monitor lizard that drew the attention of some eagles

The hyena den was inactive, but we then started picking up more game; wildebeest, a lone bull elephant, a herd of elephants with giraffe and zebras in attendance and some kudus.  Sadly, I was drawn quite quickly away from them for one of the main reasons for me coming to this area, so I excused myself and carried on...

Elephant bulls and elephant herd

We arrived at a dam as the three rhinos made their way closer and got to enjoy the large male wallowing in the mud while the mother and calf drank in stunning sunlight to make for a wonderful sighting.

Rhino bull having a drink

As usual, as the male approached the female, she began growling and he backed off, and then the sounds as the little one drank milk were just too cute.

Stunning rhino sighting!

Umfana male was found about 500m away, so we left the rhinos and went to see that stunning cat; he was lying on the banks of the Nhlaralumi, and was chilled for the most part, but at one stage growled at the other vehicle before getting up and moving in their direction with intent!  He soon lost interest and went to rest in the sand again where we viewed him before making space for the other guides.

Umfana male leopard

After a drink in the riverbed, we made our way towards the Ximpoko male lions that were still in the company of the lioness; while we spent about 20 minutes with them, there was no mating, although all three lions were awake and doing things at some point; our time had run out long ago, so we parted company with them and made the trip home.

Ximpoko males and a lioness

At one point we had to drive with our lights of so as not to disturb a nearby bush dinner, and we passed a lone elephant at that point, and it was magic to watch him in the moonlight; even more amazing was then sitting at the hyena den in the same bright moonlight as all five cubs came up to the land rover and walked around us investigating what we were – super special doesn’t even begin to describe it!

We were now very late, so we had to make a speedy trip back to the lodge and unsurprisingly didn’t see anything, but considering what else we had been privy to this afternoon, it didn’t seem to matter!