October 2022

Singita Kruger National Park: October 2022

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Singita Kruger National Park: October 2022

The month of October has once again proven to be a time of prime game viewing. For the majority of the month, the conditions have been dry, with clouds building, and bringing the promise of much needed rain. At the end of the month, we received the first bit of rain, that helped to settled the dust. The migratory birds that have arrived back, are advertising their presence and it is wonderful to hear their calls once again.

A Sightings Snapshot for October follows:

Lions

Lion sightings have continued to be phenomenal during October. The summer rains have not yet arrived, and as such the N’wanetsi and Sweni Rivers along with the Gudzane drainage system attract large concentrations of animals to the concession, resulting in abundant prey for the lions.

The Mananga Pride have made at least six confirmed buffalo kills, and probably a few more that we did not find. Both portions of the pride have been seen virtually daily, sometimes together, when the feeding frenzies are taking place. The two Shishangaan males are still the rulers of their domain and are regularly seen with the pride. Seeing over 25 lions lying sprawled out near their kills remains an awe-inspiring sight.

The Shishangaan Pride of seven females has also provided countless hours of viewing this month, often accompanied by the two Trichard males who are the dominant territorial males in the southern parts of the concession. For weeks the speculation as to the location of a den-site has been a talking point between the guides and, on the 24th of October, we managed to get the first view of the three new additions to the pride. This is a very vulnerable time for the survival of the cubs, and we can only hope that they become part of the 20% of lions that reach adulthood. The hope of their survival has become even greater because one cub is a white lion, and there are currently only three, wild, free-roaming white lions in Africa.

For a week during the month, two lionesses from the Mountain Pride were viewed moving around a valley that still has rocky pools of trapped water. The young Mountain Pride male was also seen alone a few times. Late in the month, the remaining six Mountain Pride females made an appearance and were found a few hundred meters from where the Mananga Pride was feeding on a freshly killed buffalo bull.

A coalition of five large males is being seen more often in the north, and this could spell some trouble for the aging Shishangaan males who, at over 15 years of age, are well past their prime.

Members from the reported coalition of seven males in the south are also frequently making their appearances in the concession. When not seen attempting to increase their territorial range into the concession, these males have been found regularly with a large pride we have been calling the Southern Pride along the H6 road leading from our airstrip to the lodge.

The Maputo male has been found a handful of times, without his coalition partner the Kumana male, who we last saw in poor condition in September. His absence may indicate that age caught up with him, and he may no longer be alive.

A big surprise was the reappearance of the Xirombe male lion who has been missing for several months. He was viewed for a few days feeding on a kudu kill, and for a good while afterward, as he rested and digested his meal.

Leopards

The Dumbana female has, for the most part, left her two, almost two-year-old, sons to a life of independence. Over the past two months, she has spent an increasing amount of time alone, only being seen twice with her sons. She has been seen on two different occasions mating with two different male leopards that have adjacent territories here in the southern parts of the concession. (The Lebombo male and a yet-to-be-named male that has been seen on many occasions marking out his territory along the N’wanetsi River close to the lodges, where he was also located with a fresh warthog kill in a weeping boer-bean tree for a couple of days.)

The two young Dumbana males have been concentrating their activity around the N’wanetsi River close to the lodge, providing us with sightings on about 95% of drives. Soon they will be nomads as they establish their territories in months and years to come. This will be important as they will need to leave their maternal territory where their mother will require space to start raising her next litter.

The Nhlanguleni female and her two cubs have also been seen regularly in the central depression, and we are glad to report that the cubs are both still strong and growing accustomed to the presence of a vehicle.

A few sightings of unknown leopards have been reported in various places on the concession, and there is currently a focus for the guiding team to use photographs of them to confirm the identities of these individuals. This will allow us to map out their territories, gaining a better understanding of the leopard population’s dynamics going forward.

Cheetahs

Cheetah sightings have been rewarding in October. We have managed to see six different individuals during the month.

The coalition of two adult males has been moving in and out of the concession and was seen feeding on a warthog carcass mid-month.

The female and her two almost full-grown male sons have spent several days in the central regions of the concession. They had an interesting encounter with a pack of nine wild dogs on a late afternoon drive recently. All ended well with no injuries reported and the cheetah family was seen the following day moving through the central depression on route to Gudzane Dam.

We have also had at least three visits from a female cheetah moving on her own in the vicinity of the lodges. The thought is that this female may be pregnant and seeking a suitable safe den-site to give birth. She managed to kill an impala after a long stalk and chase, a mere stone's throw away from the lodge's entrance a few weeks ago.

We have not seen the group of four subadults for a while now, but trust that it is only a matter of time before they again make an appearance.

Wild dogs

There have been six sightings of wild dogs this month. The most has been of a pack of nine wild dogs that have ventured east from the north western parts of the concession. The other pack of wild dogs consists of three individuals that are seen in the southern regions of the concession. The pack of nine allowed for great viewing on a warm summer morning as they chased a herd of impalas through the central depression and managed to take down two adult impalas just to the north of Pony pan. With the impala birthing season approaching in the coming weeks, we hope the pack remains on the concession during this time.

Spotted hyenas

A clan of hyenas has been seen frequently around the Xingwenyana crossing. This seems to be the clan from the central parts of the concession who have been seen frequenting the hoisted carcasses of several leopards in the area, even managing to steal an impala carcass from an unknown male leopard. They have also been seen finishing off the remains of the buffalo carcasses that the lions have left behind, most notably around Dudu’s crossing. The clans are still not at the population to truly compete with the lion prides of the area however they still make for eyrie calls into the early evening as the sound reverberates off the Lebombo mountains.

Elephants

The N’wanetsi and Sweni Rivers are still holding substantial water which allows elephants from far and wide to quench their thirst come midday as the mercury starts to climb. Several male elephants have been courting females that are in oestrus. The most notable sighting was that of a baby elephant being born just below Green Apple Hill's lookout point. We were attracted to the area due to the vultures descending. The Maputo male lion arrived on the scene shortly after having followed the vultures’ movements and found the remnants of the placenta which he proceeded to consume. Not far off in the shade of a knobthorn, the family of elephants gathered around the young one as it lay flat on the ground, exhausted from taking its first steps in search of a cooler environment aided by its mother’s gentle guidance. After several minutes we could see the tiny trunk twitch and move. This initiated the rest of the herd to begin touching the infant elephant with their trunks suggesting a welcoming behaviour to that of the herd's newest member.

Buffalos

There have been frequent sightings of a group of 13 males and a single female buffalo in the vicinity of Xinenene Port. This is probably due to the water being held by the rocks being the only surface water available for quite some distance. There was a herd of over a thousand that entered the northern parts of the concession, making their way towards Gudzane Dam to drink before heading westwards towards the open grassland plains. The herds have been trailed by various prides of lions as the buffalo seek out areas with sufficient water to drink.

Plains game

The open and burnt areas throughout the concession have been swathed with a green flush from the first rains of the summer season. This has caused an abundance of zebra and wildebeest to be attracted to the new green shoots that are on offer. Several journeys of giraffes have been seen browsing on the new leaves that are spurting on the branches of the sticky thorns. The impala females are looking heavily pregnant with the birthing season imminent.

Rare animals and other sightings

There have been several sightings of klipspringers along the Lebombo mountains. Some pairs have been seen venturing down the rocky escarpment towards the N’wanetsi River. There have been five sightings of Sharpe’s grysbok throughout the concession. An African wild cat has been seen along the western grassland plains hunting small rodents.

Birds

There was the first recorded sighting of a gorgeous bushshrike on the concession, in the Nyokene drainage line.

Due to the multiple buffalo killed by the lion prides there has been an abundance of vultures seen scavenging the remains of the carcasses. Lappet-face, white-backed, white-headed, and hooded vultures have been seen.

Migrant birds have been seen returning to the concession, to date there have been confirmed sightings of the following migratory birds: Klaas’s, Diedericks, Jacobin, and red-chested cuckoos. European bee-eaters have been seen along Ma-Four-Pounds Road. Woodland kingfishers have been heard calling along the N’wanetsi River. Wahlberg eagles have been seen returning to their annual nesting sites throughout the concession, with a pale morph individual seen.

Jenny Hishin
By Jenny Hishin
Author / Guest Guide