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A week of heating up in pictures

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Another week, another month, and there is no doubt that summer is on its way!  The days are getting longer and longer, and even with us moving to our early morning summer schedule and departing for morning game drives at 05h30, it is only a matter of days until the sun will be rising even earlier than us!

With lengthening days, comes warmer temperatures and this week was another warm one out there.  The great thing about this time of year is that the nights are still very mild and there is a refreshing chill in the early morning air.  It was a little quieter on the guest front this week which meant that I wasn’t out too much over the course of the week. That said, if I were to merely list the sightings then it would have be pretty clear that I wasn’t on drive, as the game played along fantastically!

To begin with, the Giraffe Pride spent most of the week within our concession in the west, and there was even a report of the younger cubs from what I can gather.  The pride moved in last weekend and sixteen members were found moving back towards our southern boundary, but they stopped just short of it. In the afternoon they turned around and moved back north and spent the following four days in that area.  The Sumatra and Hercules males also joined the pride for a bit.  The Mayambula and River Pride showed face in the east, and the lone Sark Breakaway lioness was also seen in her usual haunts.  However, none of these sightings were the lion sighting of the week.

Late one evening whilst I was out on a little bumble looking for Savannah and her son, who we had found that morning close to Plains Camp, I heard a radio call that I had been hoping to get for a long time. I hadn’t really thought I would hear: “stations, I have located on two male lions…one of them is white”.  There was an unusually long silence after that radio call, almost as if the guides were checking to see if the date may have been 1st April and someone was having them on.  I was miles away, but my brain immediately calculating how long it would take me to get there whilst not breaking the speed limit.  In the end, I knew that eventually the silence would be broken and that the other guides would be taking their guests there and I should leave them to enjoy it.  And enjoy it they did!

Scotch managed to get there and enjoy a wonderful sighting with two of the Birmingham males – including the white male who last visited us in July 2020 – as they rested before moving off into the darkness.  Unfortunately, there were also two large male lions in the area (the guides weren’t sure if it was the Skorro males, or Sumatra/Hercules) but the presence of dominant male lions in an area is a sure way of sending young nomadic lions running off in another direction. It appears as though this white lion moved back south a couple of days later.  We can only hope that it isn’t two years until he reappears again, after all, his other brothers did move briefly into our area in July.  The Skorro males showed up at Nkhari Homestead the next night, and after a few days absence the Mayambula Pride did return to the east to round off a rather good week of lion viewing.

The leopard sightings have been fairly good this week. Savannah and her son were around Plains Camp at the start of the week before going a little quiet – although I did have fresh tracks for them yesterday, their tracks moved back south.  Sunset female leopard was found with a kill in the east, and Ntsongwaan spent three days feasting on another large warthog kill.  Based on his rate of killing these swine, it is a surprise that there are still so many around!  In the east Nyeleti and her two cubs spent a couple of days on a nyala kill close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp, and this was the first time we had seen all of them together for some time.

Whilst out on a little bumble in the east with some staff, we also found Thumbela leopardess, but it was sad to see that the wound on her leg is not getting better.  In fact, it was looking a fair bit worse than it was last time we saw her, she has been walking around with this massive open wound for almost three months.  I am not sure it if was the leg or age that made her look old, but she was really showing her age when I saw her.  A few days later she was found some distance to the north of her territory, although not as far north as she wandered last month when she was seen in unchartered territory. The good news is that Ginger and his guests saw her catching a decent sized monitor lizard which at least gave her some sustenance.  We can only hope that she gets a few good meals and that her body can rally and heal her wound.

After many, many months absence the northern pack of wild dogs eventually made a return to our area!  They had been tantalising us by hanging out just north of our concession, but this week they moved in and spent the majority week within our central areas.  The pack apparently consisted of 18 adults and 12 pups when they moved into the area, and Tristan said he counted 28 dogs in total when he saw them for the first time, but by the end of the week I was only counting nine pups.  I am hoping that my maths is just terrible and the pack didn’t have a run in with any lions, but either way the pack clearly hasn’t had the best time of it considering they left the den site with 19 pups.  Still, it was a real treat to have them in the area again (the impalas and duikers probably disagreed) and we are keeping our fingers crossed that they continue to spend time around and that the pups can grow string and stay out of harm’s way.

Away from the major predators, we had another good week of elephant viewing with the herds spending more time close to the waterholes, and during the warm mornings and afternoons it is almost a guarantee to find some elephants bathing and drinking somewhere.

There were two large buffalo herds that visited the concession this past week, but they only spent a few days in the area leaving most of our buffalo sightings to the groups of buffalo bulls that are also enjoying the water points.  On a general game front the numbers of giraffes eased off a but, but they were still plentiful, and the areas around Plains Camp are still full of wildebeest, impalas and zebras.  The new hyena cubs have not shown themselves to us yet, but it is only a matter of days before they start emerging more confidently from their burrows. The other five cubs are getting bigger by the week and losing their dark colouring, but fortunately none of their cutenes

And that is if from us – please enjoy the week of pics, and have a great week ahead….we will catch up again next Monday!

Until next time, cheers!

Chad

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