The rainy season is upon us and as I sit here today, the last day of my cycle, we have just received 56mm in the past 8 hours. The sounds are incredible, insects that you never knew existed are making appearances, the frog species just amaze me and then of course, all these beautiful and spectacular birds, migratory or not. All of this combined, is the best mixture or recipe for an African Lowveld summer.
There is no summer rainfall season without the presence of all the antelope, Plains Zebra, Blue Wildebeest and other species’ offspring. As the rain falls down on the Lowveld area, most ungulate species will be giving birth to their offspring due to the flourish of new vegetation and nutrients which in turn can be used to lactate for the calves/lambs that we see.
With all this rain that we have received and are still receiving, elephant herds have been plentiful. Breeding herds with many small calves, adolescences and sub-adults have been moving through our reserve in their daily search for vegetation and availability of water.
Cape Buffalo breeding herds have not been as active as what we usually get during the drier winter months, and this is not unusual in this area as they tend to occupy the Sand River or the Sabie River more at these times, especially because of our late rainfall that we received well into the season.
Other large herbivores that have made good use of the wet conditions, the dense stands of palatable grass, overcast and cloudy days that were seen very frequently in my cycle.
An increase in Spotted Hyena has been recorded during my last six-week spell as we witnessed many kills from all predators, mostly the new born impala lambs but also other species such as Cape Buffalo, Kudu and Blue Wildebeest. Here in one of my photos below, I saw the largest female Spotted Hyena charging her way into a scuffle between the rest of the clan on the outskirts of a lion kill.
Some of my best sightings are not just the high-profile species, but in this case the rarer ones. Getting to spend an entire 10 minutes watching a Serval hunting field mice on an open area and then giving up to feed on some termites, made my night while searching for nocturnal creatures. Then during the day – A Common (Southern) Reedbuck male and two females that I came across in our Southern property really got my head turning.
Like I said in the beginning of this blog, the summer season isn’t the summer season without its migratory birds – and there has to be a photograph of one of the most beautiful Kingfishers, the Woodlands Kingfisher. Also, during my cycle, I was privileged to come across a beautiful White-headed Vulture feeding on some carrion after an African Wild Dog kill. An exceptionally amazing sighting.
The little guys matter too. Most people come to these reserves desperately looking for that “Big 5” experience, well we can give you that but much more too. Getting to see a business of Dwarf Mongoose with small pups like I did is worth it and makes you understand every small ecosystem is just as important as a larger one.
For me, I must say this was probably the star of the show for my cycle. Having two different packs of African Wild Dog run madness and chaos through the reserve while hunting really gets my heart pumping, making us feel how exciting and crucial it is to have such a species in these areas. Almost daily these two packs would be found at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve and during my cycle, I must have witnessed them successful hunt more than ten times. By far the most successful predator of them all. Getting to see all the newest additions to the packs, up and in action as they follow the adults in their quest to secure food.
A female that I first saw on my very first drive seems to have followed me in my move down to Earth Lodge. Kigelia has been see regularly in the Southern part of our reserve. During my cycle she was seen mating with the White Dam male. After her unsuccessful previous litter, let’s hope that litter number two will result in some beautiful cubs.
As he gets older and older, the territory size starts to get smaller and smaller. Maxabeni however doesn’t go by the text book for leopard behaviour and even though his territory is under threat, he will carry on as usual.
Interesting times for the Msuthlu female. The main question is… Is she heavily pregnant or has she given birth? Guess we will have to wait until next cycle to find out what is happening with this leopardess.
The Ntsumi female still reigns dominant in the North-Eastern side of the reserve close to Selati Camp. She has been in estrus at least three times in the last 4 months and has been mating with her father’s rival, the competitor for his territory, the N’weti male.
Xovonekela has also been seen regularly in the South, around Earth Lodge. With the rain, this means he must come around more often through his territory to scent mark due to most of it being washed away. I also witnessed him showing submissive behavior to the White Dam male, mostly due to his age and not wanting to sustain any injury which could affect his ability to hunt and ultimately, his survival.
Things are looking up for the Southern Pride. They have been extremely successful lately and have been seen on a variety of kills from Nyala, Cape Buffalo to Kudu and Blue Wildebeest. They have been confident in entering back into the North and all the way up towards Little Bush Camp. Hopefully they will remain like this and we will get the numbers back up to what they use to be.
And that’s a wrap all – it has been an interesting, wet and spectacular cycle. Keep following to see what happens next cycle and in the New Year of 2019. Lastly, I leave you with this beautiful scene below of a Giraffe, a sunset and an incoming thunderstorm.