Amidst the thunder and torrential downpours, brilliant new life bursts from the bushveld. We have had an incredible month of rain, with our 100 mm rain gauge overflowing at one point. Eruptions of yellows, bright oranges and violets splatter the ground and trees and the ever anticipated marula fruit begin their growth. It’s been an exciting month for game viewing, with many predators taking advantage of the stormy weather to hunt. A successful hunt does however draw the attention of numerous scavengers and the competition between leopards, wild dogs and spotted hyenas continues its saga.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for December:
A wonderful month viewing the Mhangene Pride. Comprising of six females, four cubs and the Othawa male, these lions have been seen throughout the property from the Sand River all the way down to the southern grassland regions.
Youngest member of the Mhangene Pride, photographed by Damin Dallas.
The Othawa sub-adults made a brief appearance on the western parts of the property, but the pride haven’t been a prominent feature in December.
One of the most unexpected and exciting finds was locating the Styx and Nkuhuma male lions on a young giraffe calf kill just to the east of the lodges. The males, now at four years old, are each looking in great health. We look forward to watching their progress as they transition from nomadic to territorial.
The Othawa male lion, photographed by Damin Dallas.
With the immense amount of rain we’ve had in December, elephant sightings have been plentiful this month. Seen throughout the varying terrain, we have enjoyed some spectacular viewings from big bulls, through to wandering breeding herds. Being water dependant, these large land mammals have lapped up the opportunity to visit new mud wallows, carving the shallow depths and reshaping the wet landscape.
The Othawa pack were seen at the very start and end of the month, with the latest sighting including an unfortunate event where a lioness killed one of the pups. The pack are now down to 13, comprising of four youngsters and nine adults.
The Schotia female’s cub is now a year old and fast approaching his mother’s size. With a very efficient and dedicated parent, this cub has been spoilt with meals this month. Taking advantage of the dramatic bushveld thunderstorms and windy weather, the Schotia female has made some spectacular kills. Unfortunately though, being lambing season, many of these kills have been impala.
The Misava male, a leopard not usually seen on a regular basis, has surprised us with fairly regular viewing throughout the month. One particular sighting saw him kill and hoist an impala at our airstrip, only to drop it minutes later to a few patiently waiting hyena.
Sightings of the Mobeni female have greatly increased this month and we have also seen her cub. The youngster is very shy and always a treat to view, even for just a few seconds.
The Nyeleti male leopard offers consistently great game viewing, patrolling his territory around the lodges. With the rain washing away much of his territorial scent, he has spent much time patrolling, calling and renewing his dominant pheromone.
The Shangwa male leopard, photographed by Gareth Poole.
This month began with a couple of sightings of a male cheetah in the south of the reserve. Much of the month has been quiet with this animal, however, in the last few days, he has remerged, as well as a female and two cubs. It is extremely exciting to find these animals and we’re looking forward to their progress in the new year.
Mother and two cubs, photographed by Gareth Poole.
The bird list for December includes seven new bird species, bringing our yearly total to 290.
Special bird species include: Dwarf bittern, Eurasian hobby, lesser moorhen and a striped crake.
Above, a dwarf bitten with a foam nest frog, photographed by Paul Josop.