Ranger Newsletter: November & December 2012

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Leopard Tortoise

I have been a bit slow on getting this newsletter out as my friend to the left will attest to! The leopard tortoise is a common sight in the summer months with its distinctive armoured shell. It can easily be spotted moving at a sedate pass through the bush. We are now well into our summer season and with good early rains the bush is alive with a huge variety of creatures both great and small.

The bird life is also phenomenal at the moment with all our migratory birds back to share in the feasts of summer.

Tanda - Tula Woodlands

Woodlands Kingfisher

Pictured here is the wonderful Woodlands Kingfisher whose high pitched call echoes through the camp. This sound is synonymous with summer! The beautifully coloured mopane worm is also hard at work consuming huge amounts of leaves and you can actually hear them munching down if you stand quietly in a mopane thicket.

General game has been prevalent throughout our traversing area with great sightings of wildebeest, zebra, kudu and giraffe. The herd of wildebeest pictured below had a very small calf with them which could have only been a few days old. If you look carefully you can just make it out below the mother.

Tanda - Tula Leopard Climbing

Fantastic Leopard Sighting

Leopard viewing has been some of the very best I can remember, with guests having incredible sightings of these lovely cats almost on a daily basis. Both the Ntombi (pictured above and below) and Rockfig females still have their young male cubs with them and are both doing very well. At this time of year with the thick bush they can often be found in a tree surveying the terrain around them looking for potential prey. The recent lambing season of the impalas has provided them with an abundance of young prey and they are taking full advantage.

We have also been seeing more and more of a young female to the west of us who has been nicknamed the Marula female as she can often be seen on our access road lounging in a Marula tree. We hope this young female continues to settle in and we can get to see more of her as she is a real beauty.

One of the infamous nomadic males

Viewing of lions has been challenging over the last six months, with two large nomadic males coming in and really taking over. I think it is now safe to say that they are the new territorial males as no competitors have appeared to challenge their dominance. They recently successfully tackled a large buffalo bull in a riverbed which provided us with a few days of fantastic viewing. It did attract a huge wake of vultures and the interaction between the king of beasts and these wily birds was great to watch.

On a kill

The males who had gorged themselves would lie and rest a short distance from the carcass. The vultures would then take the opportunity to sneak in and grab a scrap or two before the lions would slowly get up and chase them off. The Machaton pride is seen occasionally but have been completely splintered with only one lioness and three cubs remaining. We are unsure of the whereabouts of the other pride members. The Mayanbule pride from the south has taken the opportunity to venture further to the north into the Machaton Pride’s eastern territory. The three lionesses in this pride are in magnificent condition and I am sure the two males will look favourably on their presence.

Tanda - Tula Elephants

Elephants enjoying the green bush

Elephant herds have been wide spread and are flourishing under the good conditions. You could sit with elephants for hours as they feed and interact with each other. There is never a dull moment as they try to satisfy their massive appetites by using their trunks, tusks and feet to prize out succulent vegetation.

Then there are the young males who try test there worth against the vehicles by rushing up ears outstretched, head up looking as intimidating as they possibly can. These rushes are usually met with laughter from guests and the young elephant then retreats back to the safety of Mom to reconsider his next move. There have been a number of bulls in the area looking for receptive females.

Buffalo Challenging One Another

Buffalo herds have been a little scarce after the winter months as they tend to travel far and wide for good grazing at this time of year. The older bulls have been left behind again as they just can’t keep up with the younger fitter animals. Without the protection of the herd, lions have taken advantage and have managed to bring down a number of these older bulls.

Sighting of the Month

Wild dog moving in for the kill

This would have to go the pack of wild dog we have been seeing over the last few weeks. They have provided us with endless excitement and thrilling hunts. The highlight for me personally came only last week when they attempted to take on a small family unit of zebra. The dogs rushed in and attempted to split the group. The zebra stood their ground and actually charged at the dogs barring their sharp teeth. The pack would then back off, regroup and charge back in only to be countered by flying hooves.

Standing their ground!

It was amazing to watch the dogs sheer tenacity in the face of the zebra’s defensive onslaught. Two of Africa’s most uniquely coloured animals going head to head. It really was something unique. The dogs eventually tired of this and I think slowly realized that they were not going to break the zebra up. They slowly trotted off graciously accepting defeat knowing full well that the most successful predator in Africa does not miss twice.

They did not disappoint as minutes later the pack went off after a large herd of impala. They ran down a large female and killed her swiftly and efficiently.

The entire pack managed to feed off this carcass which didn’t last long. What an incredible sighting, and all in the space of half an hour!

Dogs on a kill

There is never a dull moment with this magnificent predator and if you are ever lucky enough to see them you will not be disappointed!

A big thank you to Patrick O’ Brian who provided us with these wonderful wild dog images.

 

Compiled by Dale Jackson