We have had quite a few interesting sightings this last month. Many of these sightings have been covered in the sections about lions or leopards. One interesting sighting was of one of the Mountain Pride lionesses and a large bull elephant. The bull elephant was on his way to a pan to drink and throw mud on himself. At the same time one of the lionesses from the Mountain Pride was also headed towards the same pan. Now, although the lion is often considered to be the “king of the jungle”, sometimes the king has to bow to others. In this case the elephant walked straight up to the water and dominated the pool while the lioness had to lie to the side, waiting for her time. The bull obviously knew that she could not approach while he was there and took his sweet time. The lioness was, however, patient and eventually the elephant had had enough and moved off.
There is a pool of water in the N’wanetsi River bed known as Puff Adder Pool. It was named after a particularly dangerous snake that was obviously seen in the area at some point. This pool is quite deep and is in a rocky area of the river. Since the water is no longer flowing (the N’wanetsi River is a non-perennial river) the pool has become stagnant and is becoming very green with algae. During the heat of the day
there have been numerous animals that have been coming to this pool to come and drink. In this pool there are at least six large crocodiles and they have realised that there may be easy pickings here. Late one morning we were watching the impalas and zebras coming down to drink and could see that the reptiles were sneaking closer and closer, with the obvious intention of catching an unsuspecting herbivore.
Unfortunately, we were not able to stay around as the guests were checking out. That afternoon we went back to the pool and found a large crocodile with the head of an impala in its mouth!
To the west of Dumbana Pool there is a large jackalberry tree growing on the bank of the N’wanetsi River. This is one of the biggest and most impressive trees in the concession. It is a stunning tree! We often see Verreaux’s eagle-owls perched in the tree. Verreaux’s eagle-owls are the largest of the owls in southern Africa. Towards the beginning of the month we noticed one of the adult birds sitting in the main fork of the tree. As we were watching it we noticed something pale and fluffy move right next to the adult – it was a chick!
Since then we have driven past the tree on many occasions and watched as the chick has grown bigger and bigger. Usually when we drive past the tree the chick quickly ducks down into the fork and disappears from view. However, now that it has grown bigger it also seems to have become slightly more confident and is showing itself more. At one point in the month we were a bit worried when we saw a whole troop of baboons in the tree and both adult birds were perched on branches much higher up. Baboons are omnivorous and the big males, if they found a baby bird, would very likely kill it and eat it. (Male baboons are even known to kill and eat impalas when they are first born.) Fortunately, the next day when we went past the tree one of the adults was again in the fork and as we slowed down to check it out the chick popped its head up as if to say to us, “Look, I am still alive and managed to avoid the nasty primates!”.
With the grass starting to be flattened by the animals and because most of the trees and bushes are leafless we are still seeing quite a few of the smaller nocturnal animals on our night drives. We have had some good sightings of amongst others small and large-spotted genets, African civets, African wild cats, honey badgers and black-backed jackals. We have been particularly lucky with sightings of black-backed
jackals this month as they have been denning, and we have found at least three different dens with young pups. The pups are very cute and are growing up quickly now. We have also seen adult jackals scavenging from the carcasses that have been left behind by the lions once they had finished feeding.
The great visibility through the bushes (due to the lack of leaves) has also allowed us to have fantastic views of the smaller antelope. We have had at least 37 recorded sightings of Sharpe’s grysbok this last month. This is the smallest of the antelope in the area and tends to occur only in rocky, bushveld areas. They tend to be shy and nocturnal and there are very few lodges where these beautiful creatures can be seen. We have also had good sightings of the other three diminutive antelope that occur in the area this month viz. common duiker, steenbok and klipspringer.
We have seen a total of 180 species of birds this last month. This is fairly high for this time of the year as spring has just started and many of the migrants are still due to return. Some of the special birds seen this month include martial eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle, southern ground hornbill, common ostrich, black heron, saddle-billed stork, African spoonbill, various vulture species, kori bustard, white-winged tern, greater painted-snipe and croaking cisticola.
We often only credit mammals with complex communication, yet reptiles, fish and even trees are capable of communicating over a fair distance.
The summer months in the lowveld have delivered wonderful rains and the bush has transformed into an amazing lush green wonderland. During recent summer evenings, the darkness has been transformed into dazzling displays of light emitted by an unusual number of fireflies.
Summer is the time that the reptiles become active and we are definitely seeing more of these fascinating creatures now that the temperatures have increased and the rains have arrived. The rains and new plant growth have increased the numbers of insects present and this has provided more food items for the lizards.
The zebra is one of the iconic animals of Africa and is one of the creatures that people on safari are keen to see. They are extremely beautiful animals, with their black and white striped patterns. Zebras belong to the family Equidae and the plains zebra, which we find in our area, falls in the genus Equus. They are diurnal, black and white, striped, plains-loving, grass-munching horses of the African savannas!