Hello everybody, again apologies for the lack of a blog last week due to internet problems, this week we have for you the newsletter for the month of September:
As we move into October the temperature rises and the chance of rain increases, with this we should see an increase in the numbers of migratory birds as the insect life increases in accordance with the warm moist conditions. The rain should bring welcome relief to the landscape that is showing the first flushes of spring but needs some water to sustain this new growth. The impala lambing season is fast approaching, but this is also dependant on the rainfall – good rains mean that we may see the first few lambs as early as the end of this month, dry conditions could delay the season until as late as December.
The warmer conditions mean we have already changed to our summertime schedule – morning drive departing at 5:30AM and afternoon drive at 4:30PM, this means that our guests can relax during the heat of the day.
The past month has provided plenty of excitement during the game activities – both during drives and the walks.
The morning nature walks usually involve a leisurely stroll in the wilderness learning about tracks, droppings, plants and insects but recently they have been characterized by encounters with more substantial creatures. The warmer days mean animals are coming to water more often and Scotia dam is a focal point for the fauna around the lodge, this means that walks to the dam have come across:
Elephants bathing and swimming on a regular basis
Sparring bull elephants
Lions relaxing on more than one occasion
Giraffe coming down to drink
Hippo in the dam, often giving warning displays
Large numbers of general game – waterbuck, impala, wildebeest, nyala etc
One morning there was a big male lion from the Mapogo coalition that caused a herd of swimming elephants to panic and stampede from the water (luckily away from the walking party)
Predator activity around the lodge seems to have increased, with regular sightings of large carnivores – Lion, leopard and African hunting dog were all seen in the lodge grounds and Hyena tracks were spotted on an almost daily basis. The dogs caught a duiker in front of the lodge one morning before chasing impala through the premises, Hyena caught a nyala in the staff area one night and just this morning the lions caught a Nyala outside room 4 whilst the guests were out on drive, none of this is a worry as the predators mostly use the lodge during times of little human activity - they do their best to avoid us.
Out on drive there was also plenty of excitement, starting right at the beginning of the month when the Ottawa lion pride brought down a buffalo north of the river. The buffalo did note take kindly to being attacked and fought back fiercely, mortally wounding the old half ear lioness in the process. The rest of the pride continued the fight ignoring their fallen relative, eventually killing the buffalo. The wounded female retired to the cover of a nearby bush and later died. The rest of the pride fed well and moved on, a week later they showed that the loss of the old lioness had not affected them badly as the brought down another big buffalo south of the river. Later in the month we received a report from our neighbours that they had made another buffalo kill, hopefully the pride can continue to be this successful and stay strong.
Buffalo did not fare so well as the Mapogo male lions also were hungry this month! The older male brought down a young buffalo where he fad until one of the other coalition members came and replaced him, later in the month 2 of the males brought down a huge old bull buffalo which evidently stumbled upon the pair sleeping. Eventually the 2 males were joined by a lioness from the Tsalala pride 9the one with no tail) and one of the sub adult females of the same pride also arrived some time later. Reportedly the Tsalalas had come across the Ottawa pride and a fight had erupted, scattering the Tsalalas, which is probably the reason that only two of the pride members were present.
The Ximunghwe pride was also regularly seen, some of the lionesses were mating with individual males from the Mapogo coalition but two of them were often seen alone, it was hoped the two single lionesses had split to give birth. This turned out to be the case as both den sites were located and there at least 4 new cubs between the two females.
The leopard population has also been providing great sightings –
Mabirri’s youngster caught and at a guinea fowl next to the vehicle early in the month and she was seen with her mother on other kills quite regularly. At one point it seemed that she was going to be pushed away by Mabirri after thy had been seen being aggressive towards one another, Mabirri was also seen following the trail of the Kashane male one morning and we thought that perhaps she was ready to mate, all this turned out to be wrong and mother and daughter were seen together frequently after all this occurred.
Metsi female has been bringing her cubs out more frequently and we are finally getting to see the two of them quite closely, before long they will be as relaxed as Hlab’nkunzi’s youngsters.
The two Hlab’nkunzi youngsters were seen regularly both with the mother and without, they ate well throughout the month and we were lucky enough to be able to watch them attempting their first kill – a young bushbuck. Hlab’nkunzi herself caught the bushbuck but let it go, still alive in front of the youngsters. The inexperienced young leopards tried hard but could not get it right and I think the poor bushbuck just gave up and died of shock in the end. We also saw some attempts to stalk by the young leopards, the most successful attempt was on a nyala bull – one cub got very close before being seen. Less successful, but more amusing, were the attempts to stalk rhino and giraffe!
Also seen were the regular male leopards – Kashane, Tegwaan, Mashiabanj, Xinzele and surprisingly a sighting of a relaxed Xindlevhana, other females seen included Ravenscourt, Xikavi, Dam 3 (pregnant), Hippo Dam and daughter and Shangwa’s daughter.
The African wild dogs were seen regularly, unfortunately one of the pups was abandoned during the month bringing the total number down to 9, we did see them hunting and feeding regularly, apart from the hunts around the lodge mentioned earlier, averaging a kill per day. During the time that the pack was in the area they also managed to harass the male lion known as Makulu Mapogo, chase 2 leopards up a tree (Hippo dam and daughter) and chase rhino around!
2 different male cheetah were seen regularly and they also fed well and were seen mostly sleeping off big meals, one of them did complete a successful chase in front of us a couple of mornings ago, catching a young steenbok.
Rhino have been plentiful all over the traversing area with a large concentration around Ebony dam, just to the north of the lodge.
Elephants were plentiful as usual and some quite big herds were seen along the Sand River during the month. There have also been some massive bulls around the area but no big tuskers at the moment.
Hippo have been seen out of the water frequently recently - not a surprise at night but more unusual in the day. The hippo with the battle scars is still healing well and it is he who has been seen out of the water in daylight most often.
Large-spotted genets have been found often in the evenings on the burned areas as well as the white-tailed mongoose. Lesser bushbaby have also been spotted regularly, including one which seemed to be teasing a leopard (Mabirri’s daughter) by leaping from tree to tree above her and calling, just out of reach!
There was much more than this going on, as usual these are just a few of the many wonderful sightings that we have had here.
Until next time,
Rob The Ranger