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Hippos, Rhinos, Jackals, Birds, Lions and Tigers, OH MY!

September 16, 2011 by  

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Malachite Kingfisher

This week again I had the pleasure of spending time with several experienced and devoted photographers. Fortunately for us Mother Nature, wildlife did not disappoint.

We were treated to a variety of sightings of the Maxabene Female, the Vomba Young Female, the Dudley Riverbank Male, the Marthy Male and the Vomba Female, to name only a few! Otherwise we took some time to enjoy the remaining winter colours and light, sharing photography tips and embracing the bushveld.

Kingfishers, other birds, hippos, rhinos, jackals, lions and tigers.

And more….

Take a look!

 

 

The Vomba Young Female breathes heavily after taking down an impala. In the middle of the day, we stumbled across her with the carcass, having killed only moments before. The last thing we expected to see in the heat of the day!

 

The Vomba Young Female looks up to make sure the coast is clear while feeding on her impala kill later on that afternoon. After so many months of hunting small prey and getting it stolen by her father, the Camp Pan Male, it is wonderful to see this young leopard killing larger prey more frequently, and actually getting to enjoy it! However, on this day she faced another challenge: the kill seemed too heavy for her to hoist in the nearby marula tree. After attempting to carry it up, and falling back down several times, we left as night fell and she ravenously fed on as much as she could before the hyenas found her. Indeed, upon investigation the next morning, the hyenas had polished off the carcass – hopefully not before she could get her fill.

 

At one point, she tried to mask the evidence by burying the remnants before trying to hoist the carcass.

 

Something spooks the sunbathing hippos, causing them to crash into the water, as the oxpeckers scatter. It turned out to be only a passing nyala!

 

The Dudley Riverbank 5:5 Young Male walks in front of some wildebeest, who were clearly more interested in him than he was in them. His battle wounds from his fight with the Marthly Male seem to be getting better, and he made a territorial appearance this week in the eastern section of Londolozi, perhaps inching back in to reclaim lost ground.

 

A White rhino bull after having enjoyed a roll in the mud on one of the first hot spring days, cooling him down as well as helping with parasite control.

 

A Side-striped jackal peers back at us after having been stirred from a mid-afternoon nap. Despite their increasingly common occurrence on Londolozi, these shy creatures have proven difficult to photograph!

 

The Vomba Female hunts impala using a Marula tree as cover.

 

A Malachite kingfisher stares into the Sand River from his perch on a Phragmites reed. These striking birds are considered a rare find, and we were lucky enough this week to have one frequenting a river crossing point.

 

One of the Majingalane Males (Dark Mane/Sore Foot), and a Sparta Pride Lioness. We saw these two mating earlier in the week. His foot, with the injury to the pad of a toe previously shown in the Week in Pictures, seems to be almost healed, despite the fact that he still limps slightly.

 

The Maxabene Female walks down the road with a spring in her step. With a full belly, she had clearly eaten recently, and was patrolling her territory, scent-marking heavily. There had been another female in the area, the Tamboti Female, and Maxabene seemed to want to leave a clear message that this was her ground.

 

Some impalas stare and alarm at the Maxabene Female walking past, as she displays the white of her tail to indicate she is not interested in hunting them.

 

On a quiet afternoon in the open plains of southern Londolozi, a zebra stares at a young waterbuck bull passing by.

 

Two Little bee-eaters huddle in for warmth on a chilly morning. We are currently awaiting the return of the migratory bee-eater species for the summer, but we are lucky enough to have these colourful birds here all year round.

 

Framed by the golden reeds, the Vomba Young Female sits next to the Sand River. I included this photo this week at the risk of ‘overkill’ of this individual leopard… but sometimes it just seems that certain leopards present themselves in a good photographic opportunity more often than others! It has certainly seemed lately as though this female likes the camera!

 

Herds of buffalo and elephant blanket the landscape in the late afternoon light.

 

Flowering at the end of winter, Impala lillies provide a bright splash of colour to the dry and tawny bushveld.

 

The Vomba Female courts the Marthly Male. Female leopards are usually quite persistent in their attempts to get a male to mate, and this was no exception. She pestered the Marthly Male to the point of him actually growling and swinging his claws at her before finally giving in to her charm.

 

The Vomba Female and Marthly Male post mating, in an intense moment.

Marthly Male Leopard Kills an Unlucky Female Baboon

September 12, 2011 by  

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What happens when an Africa marthly male leopard crosses over the Sand River, out of his usual domain in the north and kills an unlucky female baboon?Marthly Male with baboon kill - Talley Smith

Marthly Male with baboon kill – Talley Smith

It seem as though the Marthly Male, or Tyson as he is affectionately known, had taken it upon himself to regulate the baboon population, leaving his territory with purpose and ignoring the abundance of easier prey in camp such as bushbuck and nyala. After all, baboons are no friends of leopards: they often spot them with their unbelievable eyesight and give away their presence to potential prey with deep alarm barks. They have also been known to kill small cubs found unattended.

This particular morning, we heard the alarm calls of the baboons in the early hours, and went out to find a carcass hoisted in a prominent marula tree just south of camp, like a flag with its raiser sitting proudly beneath. Above is the footage we got as he climbed the tree, fed on the carcass, and then brought it down. He would eventually move it to a more shady and secure location, clearly having decided the message had been received.

Written, Filmed and Photographed by Talley Smith

Incredible “Bush” Photos

August 25, 2011 by  

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In the bush recently, we spotted Sparta lions and various leopards, and had the privilege of being able to sit in great birding spots to enjoy the view and hone our bird photography skills – in my mind the most difficult animals to photograph. The three days we spent on the Photographic Vehicle came to its pinnacle on the final night when we discovered a new access to the den site of the younger Tsalala cubs.

 

With a warm spell in the Lowveld this week, we started to view more reptiles who had been hiding away for the winter months. Here, a Blue-headed tree agama soaks up some sun on the side of a Leadwood tree skeleton.

Fish-eagle-pair-in-tree 

This stunning pair of African fish eagles has been frequenting the area of the Sand River close to camp. Shortly after this sighting they were seen attacking a Goliath heron! Luckily the heron got away unscathed.

Greater-blue-eared-drinking 

A Greater blue-eared starling drinks at Marthly Pools. While we were waiting for the Tsalala cubs to appear from their densite nearby, we were able to observe such birds come to the water in the Manyelethi River as Brown-headed kingfishers, Go-away birds, starlings, herons, and the rarely seen Malachite kingfisher.

 

The Maxabene 3:2 Young Male made an appearance this week, albeit with an injured eye. It seems that the injury may have been a result of a fight, most likely with another male, as this young individual is still seeking to establish a territory. Even though it looks severe, when we have seen this type of ailment in leopards, it usually heals quite quickly.

 

We had a brief sighting of the Wild dog pack this week. It was a hot morning so the pups were finally sitting still! Luckily all the numbers seem to be in tact: 6 adults and 5 pups.

Granite-rocks-at-sunset 

The rocks in front of Granite Camp sparkle at sunset.

Hamerkop-in-water 

A Hamerkop fishes at Pipeline Pan. These birds are known for their hammer-shaped heads and hammer-like motion of the neck while hunting, as well as their giant nests also utilized by other, larger birds.

 

What a week for the Sparta Pride. In total they killed three giraffe at Londolozi! The Majingalane Males have also been tailing them and reaping the rewards of their hunting, yet here one lioness was able to enjoy the marrow of a leg bone.

 

Not too far from the den site of the Tsalala cubs, another animal has been raising its young: a White-backed vulture on an old Martial eagle’s nest. We had a brief glimpse of the white fluffy chick, but for the most part it remained concealed in the sturdy safety of the nest.

Ravenscourt-cub-at-water 

We were also lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Ravenscourt cub this week. Despite the recent death of its sibling, this little guy seems to be faring well.

Ravenscourt-cub-in-tree-upright 

The Ravenscourt cub treated us to some acrobatics in the River elder while its mother slept below.

Ravenscourt-cub-on-tree-2 

Giving new meaning to ‘going out on a limb’… this flimsy branch was right above the flowing river!

 

A White-fronted bee-eater takes off from its perch in search of prey. They are incredibly agile fliers with acute eyesight, allowing them to hunt on the wing with swift manouvers.

 

When sitting still, the striking colours of this bird become apparent. Most of the bee-eaters migrate during our winter, but this particular one sticks around.

DRB-33-lying-down 

The Dudley Riverbank 3:3 Young Male. We have been viewing this 2 year old leopard more frequently away from his mother, the Dudley Riverbank Female. Unfortunately it seems at the moment he has an injury to his back leg, limiting his movements for the time being. Luckily he was able to secure himself a kill last week, keeping him fed, but hopefully the leg will heal itself before he runs into any other predators.

 

The four older Tsalala cubs are starting to look like ‘real’ lions! They have been seen close to the Sand River this week, on both sides, frequently crossing with the females, as some of the rangers have been lucky enough to witness! On this morning, we tracked them through a riverine thicket to find them basking in the sun with their mother.

Elephant-chasing-baby-hippos 

Young boys will be boys… The hippos at Taylor’s Dam were minding their own business when a young male elephant became bored feeding with his family and decided to terrorize the youngsters, sending them back into the water! The adults looked on nonchalantly.

Tsalala-cub-portrait 

Finally, we saw the Tsalala youngsters up close and personal! After waiting patiently for the lionesses to return to the densite, they disappeared over a rocky crest and our hearts sank. Freddy wanted to try one more tactic though: try to see where they were headed from the other side of the koppie. His instinct were correct: after pushing the Land Rover to its limits through a very rocky and dense area, Freddy spotted the lionesses and shortly afterwards, the four tiny cubs wandered straight up to our vehicle!

All-4-Tsalala-cubs 

After weeks of remaining elusive, it was amazing to see these cubs so closely, nevertheless altogether!

Tsalala-cub-1 

Even though it was wonderful to finally capture photographs, the first moments spent with these little ones were unforgettable, as they seemed just as excited to see us!

More Than The Usual Leopard & Lion Spottings…

August 17, 2011 by  

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What a different, striking week at Londolozi. As you will see from the pictures below, it was not just the usual lion and leopard sightings but also the more scenic misty mornings and winter bird life. Coupled with that was an extraordinary sighting between wild dogs and elephants. The pack gave us a fantastic few sightings before disappearing into western Sabi Sands. Also of note were the males from the Southern pride who continue to survive despite the tough conditions between male lions. With a bit of luck we will continue to see more of these good looking young males. As always, enjoy this week in pictures…

 

The week started off with a smashing Wild dog sighting. The pack was located all together on the western side of Londolozi, but the adults then left the pups in order to hunt, pausing occasionally in the beautiful morning light. That afternoon, they would have a run-in with a group of angry elephants.

Check out the post of the elephant and wild dog interaction here.

 

After leaving the pups behind, the Wild dog pack half-heartedly hunted some impala, but seemed more interested in playing during the cold morning.

 

The alpha pair of the wild dog pack excitedly greet their five pups upon returning from an unsuccessful hunt. Wild dog parents regurgitate food into the mouths of their offspring when they cannot be present at kills, and these pups were lined up, apparently expecting such a meal. Unfortunately the parents’ bellies were empty as well.

 

A crash of three rhino soak up the morning sun. These incredible animals have been fighting an uphill battle as of late; poaching has been on the rise in South Africa. In fact, research suggests that the rate of poaching in the country this year is as high as one per day. At a population of about 20,000 left in the wild, and given that a rhino cow will only produce a single offspring every 4-5 years, that statistic is terrifying.

 

One of the South Pride males takes a break from hunting warthog. These males seem to be getting bigger by the day!

 

We were lucky enough to have all four males present, and posing beautifully on a termite mound.

 

Unfortunately, one of the males had a bad wound on his neck, as well as scratches on his head. We can only imagine that he had had a run-in with another male. Probably not one of the Majingalane Males, but perhaps one of the young Sparta Pride Males who have been seen in the same area lately.

 

The gateway into Varty and Tree Camps, Camp Dam always provides a striking backdrop, especially on a still winter’s morning.

 

The Short-tail Male is back! After reports of a fight with the Emsagwen Male, Shorty met up with this unfamiliar female who turned out to be the rarely seen Moodies Boundary Female. Hours before this photo was taken, they had killed an impala and hoisted it in a nearby Weeping boer bean tree. However, they were a bit too preoccupied with one another to feed.

 

Love was definitely in the air at Londolozi this week. Here, one of the Majingalane Males (‘The One with the Scar on his Nose’) courts a Sparta Pride Lioness. They mated for a couple of days, all the while being followed by 2 other coalition members. This male’s dominance seemed clear, however: they never challenged him for the right to mate with her.

 

A family of Egyptian geese at Taylor’s Dam. Nine chicks in total is quite a brood!

 

Clearly showing signs of nursing, the mother of the four younger Tsalala cubs grooms herself while taking a break from the morning hunt.

 

The other Tsalala lioness grooms closely enough to us so that we can get a good look at her deadly claws. On this morning, they eventually killed an impala. These lionesses hunt frequently during the day, which as Freddy tells me is skill taught to them by their mother, the famous ‘Tailless Female’, seen occasionally in the north.

 

The Vomba Young Female managed to catch a guinea fowl in our midst! This young hunter has been focusing on smaller prey, such as guinea fowl and monitor lizards. My favourite photo from the week… yet I didn’t take it! The credit goes to our guest, Connor Simpson. The area was very thick and I didn’t have a clear view from where I was sitting, so I handed him my camera and told him to get creative! Thanks Connor for a beautiful shot.

The Plaque Rock

August 2, 2011 by  

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Plaque Rock Dudley 5:5 Male

The Dudley Riverbank 5:5 Male jumps down past the Howard Mackie plaques at Plaque Rock. HOWARD MACKIE described as “the good companion” was in 1971, together with John Varty, the first ever ranger/manager and guide of an embryonic dream of a safari company. John and Howard were lifelong friends and as students at Wits University set off in the April of 1971, on a holiday semester, to seek fame and fortune on the Varty family farm called Sparta in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Their dream was to start a Safari Business which would ultimately become known as Londolozi.

 

The Dudley Riverbank 5:5 Male stands next to the plaque commemorating the life of Howard Mackie – Talley Smith

The “Howard Mackie” plaque, seen in this picture, is in memory of Howard and the great contribution he made to the start up of Londolozi and also as a Founder Pioneer in creation of “Helicapture” – the original and first ever game capture company in South Africa. Howard became a leading expert in the capture and after care of wild animals. This poignant photograph demonstrates the timelessness and enduring renewable cycle of nature as yet another generation of the Leopards of Londolozi visit at “plaque rock” in the heart of Londolozi.

 

The Dudley Riverbank 5:5 Male walks in front of the plaque in memory of Howard Mackie – Talley Smith

In Howard’s time Leopards were shy, elusive and seldom seen. Today the leopards have become the iconic cat which causes guests from across the globe to travel to Londolozi to see these beautiful spotted cats free, wild and safe as they go about their daily lives in the heartlands of Londolozi Game Reserve.

The view at Plaque Rock by Francesca Grima 

The view at Plaque Rock – Francesca Grima

Lions and Lionesses in Pictures

July 8, 2011 by  

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The Week in Pictures

The Week in pictures at Londolozi Game Reserve. A fascinating beginning to July with many sightings of elephant herds, the Sparta lionesses and the Dudley 5:5 Young Male and Vomba Female together, as well as a trip back to the one of the early members of the Londolozi family…

 

The Vomba 2:3 Female shows her affections towards the Dudley Riverbank 5:5 Young Male. Having mated a few months prior after the epic battle between the Camp Pan 4:3 Male and Dudley 5:5 Young Male, this female is relentless in her approach to mating with all the males in her territory along the Sand River. A tactic that creates confusion as to who the true father of her potential cubs is and ensures their longevity.

 

A herd of elephants comes to drink at Vomba Dam. These individuals were part of a larger breeding herd of over 100. The Winter months reveal much larger breeding herds of elephants than Summer as these social animals congregate together along the Sand River and at pans throughout Londolozi.

 

A rare photograph of a Crested barbet pre-takeoff. With its splendid colours, this little bird is always beautiful to watch.

 

A buffalo calf rests its head on a neighbour. We have been treated to a herd of over 500 individuals passing through Londolozi on a regular basis. Unfortunately for them, however, many of the local lion prides have caught on and can often be seen following them.

 

A very young giraffe runs to keep up with its mother. Judging by the shriveled umbilical cord still attached to its belly, it is probably only a few weeks old. Despite this, this young giraffe would have been standing within minutes of its birth and walking shortly there after. Spending 16 months gestating in its mother’s womb, the precocial development of this species allows it to be strong and active right from birth.

 

The Dudley Riverbank 5:5 Male jumps down past the Maidie Varty and Howard Mackie plaques at Plaque Rock. HOWARD MACKIE described as “the good companion” was in 1971, together with John Varty, the first ever ranger/manager and guide of an embryonic dream of a safari company. John and Howard were lifelong friends and as students at Wits University set off in the April of 1971, on a holiday semester, to seek fame and fortune on the Varty family farm called Sparta in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Their dream was to start a Safari Business which would ultimately become known as Londolozi

 

In Howard’s time Leopards were shy, elusive and seldom seen. Today the leopards have become the iconic cat which causes guests from across the globe to travel to Londolozi to see these beautiful spotted cats free, wild and safe as they go about their daily lives in the heartlands of Londolozi Game Reserve.

 

The “Howard Mackie” plaque, seen in this picture, is in memory of Howard and the great contribution he made to the start up of Londolozi and also as a Founder Pioneer in creation of “Helicapture” – the original and first ever game capture company in South Africa. Howard became a leading expert in the capture and after care of wild animals. This poignant photograph demonstrates the timelessness and enduring renewable cycle of nature as yet another generation of the Leopards of Londolozi visit at “plaque rock” in the heart of Londolozi

 

A young elephant plays after a drink from the river. He seemed to be trying to get a cheeky glance at us as well as irritating his neighbour.

 

The Vomba Female looks for the Dudley Riverbank 5:5 Male from a rock amongst the wild date palms in the Sand River. This lush paradise of riverine bushveld is one of the prime territories at Londolozi and belongs to a leopard who is both undeniably beautiful and intelligent.

 

The Nyeleti 4:3 Young Male. We have been having more and more sightings of all the Nyeleti youngsters from the Nyeleti Female’s 2009 litter. Now independent, the two males and one female seem to be spending much of their time on Marthly. It was a huge achievement for the female to raise all 3 cubs to independence successfully; in fact, this was the only time it has been recorded in this area.

 

The Nyeleti Young Male stares intently at some impala in the distance. His pink nose is not the only indication of his youth and inexperience. Shortly after this picture was taken, he missed out on several hunting opportunities around Ximpalampala Koppies.

 

The Nyeleti Young Male tries to slink away after once again being spotted by some impala.

 

A herd of elephants crosses the Sand River after having a morning drink. Being one of the only perennial water sources in the area, the Sand River attracts many large breeding herds this time of year.

 

One of two Sparta Breakaway lionesses drinks at Shingalana Pan. This is the only time that we saw the Sparta lionesses this last week. We are unsure why they haven’t joined up with the rest of the Sparta pride, only meeting briefly before parting. One can only suspect that the Majingilane Coalition’s influence continues to play a part in the Lion Warfare.

 

The Dudley Riverbank 5:5 Young Male and the Vomba Female mating. As we saw last week, the Marthly Male seemed impervious to Vomba’s advances; this male, however, was more than willing. Perhaps it had something to do with his ongoing bid to take over the territory formerly belonging to the Camp Pan Male. We found them along the river, in the heart of Camp Pan’s domain.

 

Hippos sunbathe next to LTA dam to escape the cold winter water. Spending most of the day in the water, these gargantuan beasts will warm themselves outside in the Winter months allowing herds of oxpeckers to feed off the insects and parasites that get caught in the heavy folds of their skin.

 

The Dudley 5:5 Male crouches behind a termite mound, stalking the unsuspecting impala. Being an older and more experienced leopard, his hunting tactics are swift and efficient compared to the youngsters we have been viewing. Even despite this, a small red bushwillow tree blocked his attack, and he walked away still hungry.

 

Dudley 5:5 has his third attempt for the morning on impala. Shortly afterwards, he gave up to take a nap, but was unaware that he was only about 50m away from a sleeping Camp Pan Male. We were keen to see what an interaction between the two competitors would bring; however, they were surprised by the two Sparta Breakaway Lionesses who sent both animals running at full tilt in either direction!