A Week in the Bush Vol. 451on Mar 15, 2023
We are extremely lucky to watch Ntsumi's cub grow into a beautiful male leopard. Keeping himself busy by chasing around ground birds and small antelope, this is crucial for developing his hunting skill. Although most of these small hunts are unsuccessful, he will one day be able to perfect the skill.
With beautiful rays of sunshine coming over the horizon and the cool morning air brushing through the leaves, we set out hoping to see something amazing. We managed to track down Ntsumi’s cub as he slowly moved through the tall grass. Following him for a while, we watched as he would sniff his way through the tall grass and finally settled on next to a big fallen over tree on a termite mound.
An unexpected Dwarf Mongoose made an appearance out of the termite mound, and the young leopard saw an opportunity to practise his hunting skills. The Dwarf Mongoose didn’t make it easy on the still inexperienced young leopard, as it ran up and down the big tree. Ntsumi’s cub would leap from one branch to another, trying to catch the mongoose, but soon gave up on this difficult task. He sat quietly on the termite mound and after a while moved off into a thicket where we left him to go about on his own for the day.
The bush is filled with the eery whoop contact call of hyenas, informing everyone that they got scent of something. With our eyes peeled, we slowly made our way down the road, and luckily for us, we found a leopard before the hyenas did. Soon after, the hyenas came plundering in, and the leopard took to the branches of a small tree, leaving the hyenas at the base. They patiently waited around hoping that she will move off to hunt, and they might get a meal out of the hunt.
With the sun just peeking out behind the clouds on a very fresh and cool morning we set out with high hopes to try and find some animals to photograph in the beautiful morning light. We made our way from one open area to the next looking for any signs of movement when Tracker Donald spotted an odd shape in a tree far across the big open area.
We moved closer and realised it was the magnificent Kigelia female sitting in a big Leadwood tree warming up in the sun and looking out across the open area for any opportunity to hunt. We watched as she re-positioned herself occasionally, and then finally as she jumped down off the tree with the elegance that only a leopard has.
As we were about to stop for our sundowner drinks, we noticed Golonyi close to Selati Camp. We watched as she tried to hunt a Nyala bull, but soon realised that this antelope might be too big for her to bring down.
During the morning drive, she was seen again. She was lying in long grass when she caught sight of an impala and began stalking it. She got extremely close when suddenly the wind changed direction, and her scent moved in the direction of the impala sending it running. The failed hunting attempt spooked some giraffe who were nearby and Golonyi immediately began to chase these giants down the old railway line. She kept moving along, scent marking and rubbing against some fallen trees, until she eventually moved out of sight.
A few days later, she managed to bring down an impala and hoisted it safely in a tree. Although she has a good meal safely stashed, this did not stop her from using optimal hunting conditions to try for another. With rain and strong winds to assist in hiding her scent and sound, Golonyi actively searched the immediate area for an opportunity to hunt again.
N’weti spent all day in thick vegetation, panting profusely, working off what must have been a large meal the night before. Later in the evening he had a warthog kill which he quickly finished off. Although he was certainly not hungry, predators are opportunistic and will never let an easy meal pass them by.
After yet another day of unsuccessful hunting, the young Kambula Breakaways tried once more to track down a big herd of buffalo that was seen too far from them. This morning luck was on their side as they came across a buffalo that has passed on. Having to fight off hyenas for the free meal, they successfully secured the meat under their watchful eye, with the hyenas waiting for any scraps that they can get.
The Kambula Breakaways were still around the deceased buffalo that they had found the day before. We braved the awful smell and watched as the lioness fed on the carcass. Being very selective over which part of the now rotting buffalo she wanted to eat, she carefully moved around the kill, finding the last bit of edible meat. Being the only female in the pride, she got the last scraps after her 4 big male companions had already eaten.
In the morning, they surprised us with their choice of resting place… Our Private Airstrip terminal building!! The cool floor was the perfect place for them to digest their meal and stay out of the blazing hot sun. Guests arriving at our Airstrip today will have the best welcoming party they could have wished for!
The Styx Pride has been split up for the past few days. One adult female together with two sub-adult females stayed together, in the hopes that they will soon reconnect with the rest of their pride. This morning we located the 6 other members, not far from where the three lionesses where resting. As they steadily made their way to reunite with them, they walked towards an open area filled with impala, wildebeest and zebra, a good opportunity for a meal.
A quick decision was made, and they split up surrounding the potential prey, until a single impala spotted them and sounded the alarm. We could only hope that the separated pride, being not too far away from one another now, will reunite with one another soon.
The Styx Pride was yet again successful in taking down a large wildebeest during the night. The pride spent the heat of the day in the shade of a Tamboti thicket, rolling from one side to the other to find a comfortable spot with their big bellies in the air. After sunset, the pride moved off for a drink and lazed around in the long grass of the open plains allowing for some unique photographic opportunities.
When we found them again the next morning, the youngsters were in a playful mood, playing around in the drainage line, chasing baboons around for fun; all until suddenly an opportunity presented itself, and these ever-opportunistic cats took full advantage in the early morning heat. A young male bushbuck was the unfortunate victim providing the Styx Pride with a morning snack.
The Styx Pride was once again successful and managed to hunt and kill a kudu. All the members are now contributing to the hunts, and they are thriving more than ever. The young sub-adult females are almost ready to start mating, and we can’t help but to wonder who the pride will opt for - the Gijima males who are starting to establish territory in our area, or the still dominant N’waswishaka males.
Under the watchful eye of its mother, this baby Nyala tried to stay as close to its mom as possible. Curiosity did get the better of it as the youngster wandered off into the bushes, taste testing all the trees around.
Many birds have been making the most of this summer season, including this Bateleur and numerous other large predatory birds who took the opportunity to munch on some termites emerging from the colony.
Thousands of termites will emerge and set out on a journey to establish a new colony, of which many will not complete their journey but rather provide an essential food source for plenty larger animals.
The European Bee-eater is a highly gregarious species and occurs in flocks ranging from 20 to over 100 individuals. These birds hunt insects in flight and feed mostly on wasps, bees, flying ants, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, and other flying insects.
You often find the Burchell's Coucal in dense vegetation and thickets. They are ferocious predators and can be seen stalking mice in the way cats do. They also feed on insects, snails, reptiles and occasionally fruit.
The ossicones of giraffe are so called because they have ossified from cartilage. Ossicones in males are much thicker than in females.
It is common to see different animal species near one another as they will alert each another when danger is close by. This was the case for these baboons and a sounder of warthog. Baboons have a big advantage over warthogs where they can quickly escape into the trees when danger is close by, so by warning the rest of the troop, the warthogs will pick up on this alert and make their way out of the area.
Until next time
Blog by Wendy Claase
Images by Coenraad Stapelberg, Daniel Greyvenstein, Dieter Lategan, Jason Street, Macs Toich and Ronald Mutero
Videos by Jason Street and Zwa Nkloto