Temperatures haven‘t quite reached the usual chilly June evening and early morning depths and wildlife has revelled in the extra warmth. Surface water is evaporating fast, drying up remaining mud pans and increasing species and interspecies competition around waterholes.
Dust and the occasional bushfire create dramatic sunsets and we have been lucky enough to share a few such sunsets and sundowners with many bushveld inhabitants who have joined us.
Sometimes an unexpected visitor arrives for sundowners, this is the female Hyaena that has the 2 sub adult cubs we viewed at their den site almost a year ago now! We saw the 2 youngsters looking very healthy!
A wonderful month spent viewing our favourite elegant leopardess on many eventful occasions. What always impresses is the vast amount of distance that she covers while patrolling! In one day we discovered that she purposefully covered the perimeter of her whole territory…probably walking around 15km which kept her on the move the whole day!
She was still very busy mating with Dayone in the first 2 weeks of June (See video) but has since parted from him and concentrated on securing her own territory! A few brief sojourns brought her through the lodge area, one memorable morning she strolled through reception before morning tea and paused at room 1 where our repeat guests Len and Sue were patiently waiting to come through to the deck. She paid them a visit to their room over 3 years ago when they were last here and it was almost like she was just checking in just to say hi and welcome back!
Most likely she is now pregnant and we should see a new and hopefully successful litter in the beginning of the summer.
Amazing how things can change so quickly in the bush…our most consistently viewed leopard for the last year and now we are lucky to see her once a week! She has moved to a far denser area up by the western section of the Sand river. Feeling pressure from Metsi in the south, she has possibly found some vacant space up there to claim as her own.
Not seen much this month other than when she was mating with Dayone male for a few days (See video of the mating). We had presumed last month that she had cubs hidden in a nearby koppie but can‘t be sure. Has she lost the cubs or is she just making sure that Dayone accepts them by enticing him again? Time will tell…
She has revealed herself a few times from her dense habitat along the Sand river, she always manages to slink away so every moment we have her in view is cherished!
Shangwa & her young male
She is coming into heat again now that the young sub adult is independent! She was interestingly seen way out of her territory south of the Sand river following Dayone male around.
She has been seen a few times this month, on one occasion even following Dayone to the front of our camp to mate…deep into Hlaba Nkunzi’s territory.
Not seen as frequently as the previous month, most likely due to Hlaba Nkunzi possibly being pregnant now and no mating opportunities for him here in the west of his territory. He has just been breezing through while patrolling and not sticking around too long!
An extremely busy boy this month dealing with female’s throwing themselves at him from every direction. One morning we awoke to a leopard vocal cacophony east of our camp and went to investigate!
A flick of Hlaba Nkunzi.s tail enticing him…
We had left Dayone mating with Metsi the previous afternoon in her territory just west of the lodge and expected to see them still together! On arrival we discovered that an irate Hlaba Nkunzi was the source of the uproar and had chased Metsi a few hundred metres west and then circled back to mate with Dayone straight away. Must be nice to have female’s fighting over you!!! See video of Dayone vocalising impressively and the mating!
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Selati Coalition video highlights
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They have managed to keep the sub adults away the Selati Coalition for most of the month, the short tail lioness (Mother of the 17month old cubs) has even been off away from the pride, enticing the boys to mate with her! Interestingly their behaviour has changed a little in that they seem to get active much later in the evening than usual! Sitting tight patiently, waiting for the coalition to vocalise so they can establish their position and then moving off to hunt!
No time to rest, sleep with one eye open…
We experienced an extraordinary sighting with them one dark moonless evening. We remained with them until quite late and were watching them greet and allogroom each other!
A Nyala bull’s alarm call suddenly echoed through the bushwillows after picking up their scent in some thick bush nearby. Ears all immediately cocked in this direction and they transformed into stealth mode, the lionesses forming a pincer movement in the direction of the sound. We turned lights and vehicles off and sat under the stars and listened…within 2 minutes we heard the bushes crashing, a frightened bark and then the growls of success! Half an hour was then spent watching the frantic feeding!
What was so unusual is that if the Nyala had not alarm called at the scent he would still be alive, talk about instinctual anti predator behaviour backfiring on the poor Nyala. See video of the feeding, turn up the volume.
Such healthy looking young lionesses, they are full of confidence after mating with the Selati boys (See video of some mating). They did venture a little further west of their usual territory and actually paid Leopard Hills a brief visit for the first time while looking for the Selati Coalition (See Flehmen grimace on video). We could see they were as little nervy of the Ximhungwe pride and they didn‘t stay long before crossing north over the Sand river into their comfort zone (See amusing video of a river crossing)
Video of Othawa and Ximhungwe pride
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Painted Dog Pack
The pack is denning far in the east, let’s hope they have some more success with their current litter this year. We may see them if they venture west on the hunt…
We seem to have experienced their whole life cycle from mating hippos, fighting bulls to a calf (only a few weeks old) venturing onto dry land with the protection of it’s mother (See the video footage).
Interesting sightings in June
Enjoy the video footage below of the above mentioned Hippo behaviour as well as an extremely rare sighting of a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl finishing off it’s Spotted Eagle Owl kill and demonstrating it’s prowess. A rather clumsy little baby baboon also fell out of a tree after being bullied by an older family member, much to the disgust of one of the wise old males! Classic!
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Quite common along the Sand river and riverine drainage systems but not often seen in the open! This colourful individual decided to have a drink and was fairly relaxed with our presence…a Purple Crested Turaco!
Cool winter evenings bring out the owls a little earlier, here is the second largest owl on earth (Verreaux’s Eagle Owl) looking out for an early dusk meal! Amazing to think that they also feed on other large owls such as the Spotted Eagle Owl as seen in the video!