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A Week of More Rain and the First Baby Impalas in Photos

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Although it is a Monday, there are a few positives out there – firstly, there are not many Mondays left before the holiday season, and secondly, it means that it’s that time of the week to sit back with a cup of coffee and enjoy an update straight from the heart of the Timbavati.

Once again, I had some time off (which makes my case that I do occasionally work all the more difficult to believe), but as it was only a short break, I was around for the beginning and end of the week, with the usual abundance of sightings taking place during my four days off. We received another 12-27mm across the reserve, most of which was courtesy of a downpour one afternoon just as it seemed that the weatherman was retracting from his week-long prediction that we would get very wet last Sunday afternoon. Just before the afternoon drive, the forecasts on most models had gone from 20-40mm of rain down to 2-3mm. In the end, the 24mm that fell at Tanda Tula Plains Camp was the highest record in the reserve, with the rest of the concession receiving around 10-12mm. Still, it was welcomed rain and added to the speed with which the bush is transforming into its luscious summer coat.

Last weekend the usual lions were not playing along as they had of late; the Giraffe Pride remained south of us and although there were tracks for the Mayambula Pride in the east, they too crossed out of the concession to the east. Fortunately, despite their absence, we still had some good lion viewing with the Sark Breakaway Pride and the Vuyela males spending a couple of days on the periphery of our concession when they were spotted two nights in a row on our access road. It was the first time I have seen the majority of the pride together, and we had 12 of the 14 members present, with only one male and a single female absent from the group. The fact that a mating pair was found a few days later on Nkhari suggests that this may have accounted for their absence.  Speaking of Nkhari, four of the six Birmingham Breakaway males (and yes, we do need to do something about all the “breakaways” in the names of these prides) spent a few days of the week on the property after they were found with a buffalo kill just as the storm rolled in. A couple of days later they were found resting on the big open area at the heart of the property before their tracks headed south.

As the week moved on, the Giraffe Pride did make a return to the area around Plains Camp. First, they spent a day at Sunset Dam, and then they returned a few days later onto the plains below the camp. It is the first time I have seen the pride spending time on the plains in a few months, but with the amount of wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, and impala on the plains, it is no real surprise that they visited it. The single Sark breakaway lioness was also seen in the west this week.

The leopards were a little more prevalent this week, but I still got frustrated by finding a couple of skittish leopards amongst the more relaxed individuals. With the guests I had last weekend, we had five leopard sightings, but only one of them lasted for a prolonged period; one of Nyeleti female who was on the prowl one rainy morning before she ascended a large acacia tree and settled there for the morning. That night Savannah and her son were found with an impala kill a few hundred meters from Plains Camp, but when we popped in on the way back to camp the hyenas had stolen most of the kill and all the leopards could salvage was the head of the poor antelope; we only had a sighting of the son in the thickets, but sadly couldn’t relocate on Savannah… luckily Scotch and his guests had enjoyed a good sighting of the pair earlier in the day. The next morning we found a young male leopard up a tree, seemingly ignoring us. After a minute or so he descended the tree and trotted after something; we followed up at a distance but lost him before he (or possibly even another leopard) went dashing across an open clearing after a baby impala; although we are sure the leopard caught the impala, we couldn’t relocate and left the area.
Later in the week things improved with more sightings of Nyeleti and an impala kill, as well as Savannah female close to Plains Camp.

The wild dogs showed in two packs this past week; the small pack of four in the east, as well as a pack of sixteen members that came into the area around Plains from the south. They spent a few days in the area, and although they were still around upon my return from leave, I didn’t manage to get to see them before the end of the week.

With so much food around, both the buffalo and elephant herds have been enjoying the areas in both the west and the east. I saw a couple of buffalo herds ranging in size from 100 to some 600-plus members in the east and west respectively. Despite the number of buffalo around at the moment, we only recorded the Birmingham Breakaway male lions on a buffalo kill this week.

There is a load of great plains game around at the moment, and although one or two baby impalas are joining the herds already, we are starting to see an increase in single mothers with their newborn calves moving around (i.e. sprinting off at our approach). We are still waiting patiently for our wildebeest herds on the plains to start giving birth, and keeping my fingers crossed that I will eventually get to see a birth in the wild. I will be on the drive for the next couple of weeks, so will be trying my best to spot any expectant mothers acting like they are about to drop and see if I can get lucky…but until then, have a great week.

Until next time, Cheers.
Chad

 

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