Ranger Diary: March 2011

The rains have slowed over the last couple of months, with temperatures reaching the mid-30s on a daily basis, and the surrounding bush having receded slightly and taken on a brownish tinge. We are still well short of our average rainfall and can only hope that we get some late rain to make it through our usually dry winter. With the dry conditions the game has tended to push towards more permanent water points. This has brought some wonderful interaction between species and made for great viewing while on game drives.

Watching a large herd of buffalo rush to a waterhole to quench their thirst is really something to see. The front runners start jogging in from a few 100m away, in an attempt to claim the prime positions. This is followed by lots of jostling and bellowing as the herd completely takes over the waterhole. Notice the dust in the background of this shot – a sure sign of the lack of rain.

Rhino viewing has also improved over the last month as bulls tighten up their territories to include prime watering points. This helps entice females to their territory, giving them an opportunity to mate with receptive cows.

Elephants are still plentiful throughout our traversing area and are still benefiting from the plentiful grazing and browsing to be found. The cows are in prime physical condition and the herds can often be found being trailed by bulls in musth. The bull, pictured here, was with a large herd, in full musth and very aroused by the females. We gave him a wide berth as he strode through the herd, scenting various cows and pushing younger immature bulls around at will. He had a lovely set of tusks on him and if he doesn’t damage them I am sure they will be very impressive in years to come. With the onset of summer elephant births peak and there were many youngsters in this particular herd.

It is not only elephant numbers that peak in summer but most herbivores make use of the good conditions. Impala, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and buffalo can all be seen nursing their young at the moment. This photo is of a kudu youngster suckling, with an impressive bull looking on.

Leopard viewing has also been exceptional over the last couple of months. Our young leopard cubs are growing up quickly and have been left to fend for themselves for longer periods of time. The young female above is Rockfig Junior’s cub. She is busy playing with an Egyptian Goose that she had successfully hunted.

The young male above is also coming into his own. Recently Paul and Civilized were busy cleaning up after a riverbed braai and discovered this young male quietly watching them not too far off. They slowly walked back to the bar deck and watched as the leopard proceeded to hunt a troop of baboons that had been roosting just off the bar deck. He was successful in his attempt and we were fortunate enough to see him the following day feeding on his prize. The Rockfig female continues to do well; below she focuses on a herd of impala.

In a recent posting we updated you on some new additions to the Machaton pride. The lioness pictured above and below gave birth to five cubs roughly six weeks ago. The makeup looks to be four males and one female; all look fit and healthy. They keep their mother very busy and are continuously trying to suckle or just playing the fool. Unfortunately, it looks like the other lioness has lost one of her four cubs; we are unsure of what transpired. Below, one of the older cubs tries to creep up and push off the younger cubs to suckle but mom was having none of it. The bearing of teeth and flattened ears is a defiant warning to stay away.

Sighting of the Month

This particular sighting took place sometime ago but was fascinating to witness. A hyena clan managed to bring down a full grown kudu bull. We are unsure whether the kudu was injured or ill in anyway but still an impressive accomplishment for five hyenas. It took a couple of days to devour the whole carcass. It was interesting to see the social bonds between clan members and the hierarchy that exists between these animals. The more dominant females fed first, followed by the larger males who would often push the smaller males off. They also pulled the carcass into a waterhole and tucked it away under a shady thicket. This is to hide it from other predators, and in particular, from the prying eyes of vultures. Above is a large female, who is already well gorged but desperately trying to fit in another tit bit or two. The vultures did eventually get their chance and finished off whatever was left. All in all, a unique sighting that lasted a couple of days and was special to witness.

Text and Photographs by Dale Jackson

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