This month of October has seen a huge rise in the temperatures. This caused the majority of the surface water to rapidly dry up, due to increased evaporation as well as having to quench the thirst of the increasing wildlife moving into the area. Along with this, we have had some of the first rains, which made a dramatic transformation to the areas in the far north east. The animal numbers up north are staggering, with massive herds of zebra, wildebeest, elephants and buffalo moving into the area.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for October:
The majority of the lion sightings this month have been of the Mananga Pride. They have mainly been seen in the Gudzane Dam area where they had a den-site for their seven cubs. Large numbers of general game were moving through the area and were forced to drink there, thus providing a hunting ground for the pride.
The three Shishangaan males have been moving between the Mananga Pride and the Mountain Pride.
The Mountain Pride have moved more into the area of the Lebombo hills, where there is plenty of food for them to hunt, as the grass and leaves are starting to show signs of new growth, attracting a lot of general game. Their two young cubs are doing well and growing day by day.
The number of Shishangaan lionesses has been fluctuating. We started off the month seeing seven of them, and now we only see five regularly, hopefully as a result of the other two lionesses denning.
The Southern Pride weren’t seen this month.
The three Kumana males have been seen a few times with the Shishangaan lionesses and can often be heard roaring at night, from the lodge.
The young nomadic Shish males also seem to have lost a member as their numbers are down from five to four. It’s great to see that the white male is growing strong and looking healthy. We had some great views of them very close to the lodge after they had successfully hunted a large buffalo bull.
We had 24 sightings of leopard this month.
The Nhlangulene female was seen on two different occasions. We managed to get great views of her resting in a large Jackalberry tree, before she spotted a herd of impala approaching, and stalked off after them.
The Dumbana male was seen near the area of Green Apple Hill hunting impala, and remained in the area for a few days.
An adult female leopard and her cub were also seen just north of the lodge playing with each other in a tree.
We had incredible cheetah viewing this month with 51 different sightings recorded.
The coalition of four young males were seen over 20 times during the month of October, and we managed to follow them hunting impala on a few occasions, including watching them set off on a high speed chase after a steenbok.
Other cheetah found in the area were a coalition of two adult males, a lone male who has the distinctive feature of having lost one eye, and an adult female with three small cubs.
Due to the surface water diminishing, the elephant sightings have been phenomenal! Multiple herds have been viewed daily moving to and from the remaining water points. There has also been great viewing of lots of playful calves, rolling around in the mud to cool off, after quenching their thirst. We have also seen a few bulls considered as large tuskers trailing after the herds of females.
Buffalo sightings have been incredible this month. Due to the long grass and a little bit of rain we received, the buffalo herds have been moving in very large numbers, of up to a thousand between the grazing areas in the north east and Gudzane Dam.
We were fortunate to have a sighting of wild dogs this month. It was after sunset, and we only saw them briefly, but exciting none the less.
The sheer numbers of plains game is astounding at the moment with barely a few minutes going past without passing a herd of zebra or wildebeest. The giraffes numbers have also been overwhelming and the excitement of the masses of impala around with all the pregnant females looking as if they are about to burst leading up the green season, is all very exciting!
We had a few unexpected sightings this month, with all three of the small cats being found, namely serval, caracal and African wild cat. One very exciting sighting of two wild dogs moving through the concession at last light one afternoon. And probably the most unexpected of all a beautiful eland bull has been sighted three times.
The bird numbers have started to rise again, as opposed to our winter months, and the migrants have started returning. The pale-morph Wahlberg’s eagle and its darker partner are back and have been seen collecting sticks for this seasons nesting. Altogether we have recorded 197 species of birds this month. Some of the special birds seen include a few sightings of the rare melanistic form of Gabar goshawk, yellow-billed oxpecker, white-backed night-heron, eastern nicator, squacco heron, red-capped robin-chat, lappet-faced vulture, white-headed vulture, Cape vulture, goliath heron, martial eagle and saddle-billed stork. The broad-billed roller, an aggressive central African migrant, arrived midway through the month, as well as the dark form Jacobin cuckoo, who too arrived unseasonable early. Small flocks of red-billed quelea have started to form in anticipation of the rain and the subsequent grass growth that follows that they so heavily rely on.