May 2022

Singita Kruger National Park: May 2022

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Singita Kruger National Park: May 2022

We are now into our autumn months and the temperatures have started to drop in the early mornings. We have had some rain this month and there is still a fair amount of moisture in the air. These two factors have led to some beautiful misty dawns. It is really beautiful to see the sun rising over the ridges, shining through the mist and silhouetting the stunning candelabra trees.

It is also lovely to see animals such as giraffe and elephants walking in the hazy mist. It is quite mysterious (pardon the pun). Within an hour or two after daybreak the sun has usually burnt the mist away. Autumn days are stunning; the temperatures are quite comfortable after the briskness of the early hours, and, just like Goldilocks, not too hot or too cold, just comfortable.

There is still a fair amount of grass in the area (some of which is still green, although most has changed to a golden hue) and most of the trees still have leaves. The migrant birds have felt the temperature changes and have realized that the insect-life is getting less and less. These birds have now all departed on their long journeys north again. During our winter months some of the birds that live in the mountains to the east of the Kruger National Park have started to descend from the peaks, where the temperatures are much lower. We are seeing some of these altitudinal migrants in the concession now.

These include birds such as dusky flycatchers, red-capped robin-chats and African stone-chats. At the beginning of the month most of the seasonal waterholes had dried up, but with the rain that fell this month many of them have water again. The N’wanetsi and Sweni Rivers are still full and flowing.

This is very unusual for this time of the year. Gudzani Dam, in the western side of the concession is still full. This means that there will be water available for the animals throughout the dry months. The general game has been great this last month and we have had some fantastic animal viewing.

Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for May:

Lions:

  • There has been some chaos this month with the lion sightings (particularly with the males). There have been intrusions by foreign males into the area. In the south, near the lodge, we have had a few sightings of two new males (known to the Kruger Park lion communities – on social media – as the Trichardt males). We have heard them roaring around the lodge most mornings this last month. In the far north we have seen three new males pushing south, roaring and spray-marking. There is going to be trouble soon. Our dominant males are now getting old and a take-over is on the cards.
  • The Maputo and Kumana males are still around. These two males are the dominant male lions in the area nearby the lodges. They are now in danger. The two Trichardt males have moved into their area, with the hopes of taking over the territory. Towards the beginning of the month the Maputo Male was seen mating with one of the Shish lionesses, close to camp. A few days later Maputo was seen again, this time sporting some injuries on his legs, back and inner thighs. He had obviously had a confrontation with the new males. After this he seemed to have lost condition and was looking very thin and was limping badly. Fortunately, he managed to find a carcass of a young buffalo that had been killed by a crocodile when it crossed the N’wanetsi River. One of our guides was lucky enough to witness him wrestling the carcass away from the crocodile. Kumana has also been seen a few times this last month. It appears that both he and Maputo are spending more time in the hills and possibly even in Mozambique as they are trying to avoid the new males.
  • The Trichardt males used to be a coalition of five but, since they arrived on the concession, we have only seen two of them. They are both magnificent lions, with dark manes. One of the two is more impressive than the other with a full mane, while the other one’s mane is more scraggly, with less body. The Trichardt males are named after the road which borders the south-west of the concession (Trichardt Rd / S37). This road was named after a Dutch Voortrekker who was one of the first recorded Europeans in the Kruger National Park area. He supposedly crossed the Kruger National Park in 1838 (this was long before the park was officially promulgated in 1898). Unfortunately for him and his party most succumbed to malaria during their journey. Towards the end of the month these two males came across one of the Shish lionesses with three subadults. The lioness tried to draw the attention of the males away from the youngsters, who quickly escaped into the hills. The two males then proceeded to attack the lioness who sustained wounds to both of her rear thighs and one of her front feet. She managed to escape from them as they turned their attention to finding the youngsters. Fortunately, they were unable to locate them. The lioness was seen again a few days later hiding in the sticky thorn thickets. Her wounds seem to be healing.
  • Xihamham and the other Shish male have been seen regularly in the western half of the concession (often in the company of the Mananga Pride). On the 8th of May both of these males were found feeding on a zebra, with the Mananga Pride, in the basalt grasslands. The males hogged the carcass and the pride got very little of it, but the next morning the pride was seen and the members had full bellies which means that they had managed to kill something else during the night. On the 10th of May the males and the pride were once again seen feeding. They had killed a buffalo in the central area of the concession.
  • We have seen some of the Shish lionesses a few times this last month. Towards the beginning of May two of these lionesses were seen in the company of the Maputo Male. He was mating with one of the lionesses. The Shish lionesses seem to have been divided and we have been seeing two lionesses together and then another group of four. During the early half of March the two Shish lionesses had six cubs. By the end of March only two remained (we believe that the other four cubs could have been killed by the Trichardt males). Towards the beginning of May we did see one of the Shish lionesses with the two remaining cubs. They looked healthy and were playing with each other and jumping on their mom. Towards the end of the month one of the Shish lionesses was involved in an altercation with the Trichardt males and sustained some injuries. We believe that these injuries will heal.
  • Mananga Pride have been seen on numerous occasions this last month. They have generally been seen on the western side of the concession, near Gudzani Dam. This pride is becoming very large now. There are approximately 26 members in the pride, including six young cubs. They are sometimes seen with the Shish males. The members of this pride were seen feeding on a zebra and on a buffalo this month.
  • Mountain Pride were seen on two occasions this month. It appears that they have been spending most of their time inside Mozambique. Both times that we saw these lions there were only eight members. On one of these occasions, they were seen feeding on a buffalo near the Mozambique border.
  • Two unknown, young, shy male lions were seen close to the camp on the 2nd. They obviously do not know cars and ran away as soon as they saw the game-drive vehicle. On the 4th two young males (possibly the same males) were seen heading out of the concession to the west. On the afternoon of the 4th, two more unknown male lions were seen near the granophyre ridge.

Leopards:

  • We have had some great leopard sightings this last month.
  • The Mbiri Mbiri male was seen on at least two occasions. He is one of the most relaxed leopards. He is just reaching adulthood and we are very happy to see that he is still frequenting the concession as we thought he would have moved out to establish his own territory by now. On the morning of the 6th he was seen hiding in a tree while a pack of African wild dogs was feeding on an impala nearby. We assume that the dogs stole the carcass from the young male leopard.
  • The Dumbana leopardess and her two male youngsters have been seen regularly this month. The youngsters are getting to an age where the female is going to start getting antagonistic towards them. They are almost the same size as her now. They have mainly been seen in the area of Euphorbia and Dave’s Crossings, although one morning we found one of the youngsters quite far north in the concession, near Name-Badge Hill. On one occasion the female and at least one of the youngsters were found feeding on an impala ram just north of the lodges. On the 16th we found the mom in a tree approximately 50 meters away from where the Kumana male lion was lying. She was staring at him. As she made her way down the tree the lion spotted her and started to follow in the direction that she had headed. He obviously did not find her as we saw her a few days afterwards much further north, stalking impalas.
  • The Nhlangulene female has been seen a few times this month. This female is a very relaxed leopardess. She presently has two young cubs that she is hiding in the hills near the Nhlangulene Valley and in the region of Three-trees. We have only seen these young cubs on two or three occasions since they were born.
  • A female leopard with an older cub has been seen a few times around Gudzani Dam. She seems to be fairly relaxed in the presence of one vehicle, but tends to hide away as soon as she sees or hears another vehicle.
  • A few unidentified males have been seen wandering around the concession.
  • A pair of leopards were seen mating near the Granophyre Ridge this last month. Unfortunately, this area is not accessible to vehicles due to the rocky topography and they soon disappeared amongst the boulders.

Spotted hyenas:

  • Spotted hyenas were seen regularly this last month. We know of at least one den-site, although it is not accessible to vehicles (it is in a very rocky area, on top of one of the ridges). A single hyena with a broken back right leg has been seen a few times this month. He is able to get around on the other three legs and seems to be, otherwise, in good condition.

Elephants:

  • We have seen elephants on most drives. There have been a few large herds of at least fifty individuals in the area. We are expecting the numbers of elephants to start increasing in the next few months as the seasonal pans dry up and more elephants come into the concession to drink water from the N’wanetsi River or at Gudzani Dam.

Buffalos:

  • For most of the month the only sightings of buffalos were of single bulls / dagha boys. Two such bulls were seen on a few occasions resting in the water near Xinkwenyana Crossing. Towards the end of the month a large herd of up to 300 individuals came onto the concession. Plains game:

  • The general game sightings have been great this last month. Zebras have been seen in fairly large numbers, particularly in the area of Rhino Skull (particularly in the late mornings as they come down to drink at Pebble Pan and Pony Pan), and near Xinenene Grasslands. There have also been quite a few wildebeest seen in the same area. Giraffes are seen on most drives. We are starting to see more Klipspringers and Sharpe’s Grysbok now that the grass is thinning out.

Rare animals and other sightings:

  • We have had three sightings of African wild dogs / painted wolves this month. All three sightings were of a pack of seven dogs. One of these sightings was of the dogs feeding on an impala that we think was expropriated from a leopard.
  • Caracals were seen on two occasions this month. One of these sightings was of a relaxed individual that was walking down the road towards the vehicle.
  • A single sighting of a serval was recorded for the month.
  • Porcupines were seen at least twice this month. One of these sightings was of a mating pair.
  • We have started seeing Sharpe’s grysbok and klipspringers again.
  • Honey badgers have been seen a few times this month.

Birds:

  • We recorded sightings of at least 176 species of bird in the concession this last month.
  • The intra-African and Palearctic migrants have now all left on their northward journeys.
  • Rare birds seen in the concession this month include saddle-billed storks, white-backed vultures, hooded vultures, lappet-faced vultures, white-headed vultures, bateleurs, martial eagles, tawny eagles, black storks, yellow-billed storks, African open-billed storks, woolly-necked storks, kori bustards and southern ground-hornbills.
  • We had a sighting of three southern pochards at Gudzani Dam this month. This was the first record of this species of duck in the concession in at least the last seven years.
  • Pink-throated twinspots have been heard in various localities in the concession this month.
  • Other unusual birds seen include eastern nicator and sombre greenbul.

Jenny Hishin
By Jenny Hishin
Author / Guest Guide