Spring has arrived and many of the trees are starting to come into flower now. The knobthorns are one of the first trees to start blooming and many of them are now covered in fluffy cream flowers. Down at the weir the weeping boerbeans are covered with bright red splashes of colour. The flowers of this tree contain lots of nectar and this is attracting many birds. The fever trees were also in flower at the beginning of the month and were all covered with yellow pom-poms.
We had a few drops of rain towards the middle of the month, although it did not register in the rain gauges, and as soon as the water hit the dry dusty earth it sank away into the soil. The water in the pools along the N’wanetsi River is still receding and the hippos are still taking strain. It is a good omen that we had a few drops and according to the weather bureau we are expecting normal rainfall this year. Hopefully, we will get some showers soon so that the grass can begin to grow. South of our area the grass has also disappeared and so we are starting to see more zebras and buffalos in the concession again as the grazers move northwards looking for something to eat. A few of the summer migrant birds have returned and we are seeing yellow-billed kites and Wahlberg’s eagles again. The reptiles are also starting to reappear and we have had a few sightings of snakes this month. One of the exciting finds was a mopane snake that was hiding in the wine cellar. It was very cold and I am sure it was quite happy to be moved out of there. The temperatures have started rising again, but towards the middle of the month a cold front passed through causing the mercury to drop and the guides to put their jackets back on. Since the area is still very dry and most of the trees are still without leaves the visibility is very good and we have had a great month of game-viewing.
Buffalos: With the grass drying up to the south of our concession we have started seeing more zebras and small groups of dagha Boys (old male buffalos that have left the larger breeding herds). We have mainly been seeing these buffalo bulls in the far north of the concession. They seem to be drinking at the Gudzani East windmill, on the public road, and then heading back into the concession to graze.
Leopards: We have had quite a few sightings of these beautiful, elusive cats this month (at least 35 recorded sightings). The two individuals who have featured the most this month were the Ndlovu Male and the Xinkelengane Female. Both are very relaxed leopards and we generally get good views of them.
Cheetahs: We have had at least ten recorded sightings of these magnificent cats this last month. It is always exciting to see these graceful, elegant predators. We are very fortunate in that we have quite a few large open areas in our concession. Cheetahs are the fastest of the land mammals and require open habitats in order to chase down their prey.
Towards the beginning of the month we had a few sightings of a single male cheetah. We have also had at least two sightings of a coalition of two male cheetahs during September. On both occasions they had killed young zebras. Unfortunately, we did not witness the kills but found them afterwards with full bellies or already feeding. These two males have been frequenting the far northern parts of the concession.
Elephants: Elephants have been seen on most drives this month. They often spend time in the hills during the morning, starting to arrive closer to the river and the last remaining pools when it starts to get warmer. Because of the lack of greenery, the elephants have been knocking over many trees in order to get to the roots and the cambium layer beneath the bark.
Lions: We have had another amazing month of lion viewing. All in all, we have recorded over 130 sightings of these cats this last month.
Spotted hyenas: We have had regular sightings of spotted hyenas this last month.
Unfortunately, right at the beginning of the month two male lions coming from the south went past the den and found one of the hyena cubs and killed it. It was quiet at the den for a few days afterwards but then we started seeing the hyenas again. The four remaining cubs are growing up rapidly and are quite curious with the vehicles now. Sometimes they come right up to the cars. We have to be very careful when deciding to leave the den and we need to make sure that they are not right behind or resting underneath the car in the shade. They also like to drink the water that leaks from the melting ice in the cooler boxes on the back of the cars.