We are already in autumn/fall and the grass is still lush and thick in the concession from the summer rains. We are very fortunate to have so much grass this year and we are certain that there will be enough grazing to tide the animals through the coming winter months. The temperatures have still been fairly high during the day, although towards the end of the month we could feel a slight chill in the early mornings. March still falls within our rainfall months and we did have a little bit of rain. We were fortunate not to be seriously affected by Cyclone Idai, which battered our neighbouring countries of Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Fortunately, the rain that fell this last season did cause the rivers and streams to flow and although the water levels are starting to drop now there is still a fair amount of water at the weir and in many of the bigger pools in the N’wanetsi River. What is really exciting is that Gudzani Dam (near our western boundary) received water this year (it was completely dry the last few years) and is now full. We are expecting that this dam will attract a fair amount of game to the area as the seasonal pools elsewhere in the concession dry up. Most of the migrant birds are still in the area and we are expecting them to start gathering for their return journey north very soon. Red-billed queleas tend to be considered to be nomadic birds, as opposed to migrants, and at the moment there are huge flocks of these birds flying over the hills and grasslands of the concession. Many of these birds have started building nests in the thorn trees in at least four or five distinct colonies. The huge flocks of these birds are extremely impressive to see as they fly over the grasslands in waves and over the hills in smoke-like trails. The grass is now slowly changing colour and, although there is still a lot of green in the area, we are starting to see the golden hue that the grass gets during autumn. Soon the grasslands will change as the animals graze and trample them, and the visibility into the bush will get better. We are looking forward to the great sightings that April will bring.
Here is a Sightings Snapshot for March:
Most of the sightings this month were of the Mountain Pride. This is the only pride of lions that have their entire territory within the concession. At present they consist of three adult females, one sub-adult female and three youngsters (one male and two females) of approximately one year of age. These lions were seen twice this month feeding on zebras (once with the Shish males).
The Shish Pride were absent for the majority of the month. Towards the end of the month we did see some of the sub-adult males, including the white lion.
The Xhirombe lions were seen on three occasions. They tend to be found in the hilly area near the Mozambique border. The adult female is getting extremely old now and we are not sure how much longer she will be around. The male is looking great and is sporting an impressive mane.
The Shish males (the dominant male lions in the area) were seen on twelve occasions this month.
We have had quite a few sightings of the young Dumbana male. He is looking in very good condition and has been seen feeding on impalas a few times this month. On one occasion he was seen feeding on an impala, that was in a tree, along with the young Lebombo female. The Dumbana male is possibly the most relaxed leopard in the concession at the moment and when we see him we usually get really good views of him.
We have also had a few good sightings of a large male leopard that we refer to as the Lebombo male.
We have also had a few sightings of the young Xhikova male. He is fairly relaxed around vehicles and is mainly found in the area nearby the N’wanetsi River, not far from the lodges.
There have been quite a few sightings of shy, unknown leopards, who quickly disappear into the long grass.
The Granophyre Den is the only hyena den in the area that has been active this last month. Sadly, it has not been reliable as the hyenas from this clan also use another den-site on the other side of the ridge where we cannot get to in a vehicle.
We found the remains of a hyena near Ostrich Fly Camp which, from the evidence found, appeared to have been killed by two of the Shish males.
One morning we had an amazing sighting of approximately sixty elephants swimming and drinking at Gudzani Dam. We have had a few other sightings of large herds of elephants in excess of fifty individuals.
We have seen a particular large bull elephant with impressive tusks a few times this month. He was in musth and has been fairly grumpy with the vehicles.
Most of the sightings this month were of Dagha Boys (old male buffalos who have separated from the herds).
Towards the latter half of the month we also had a few sightings of small breeding herds (fewer than 150 individuals). These herds are usually only in the concession for a few days before moving on elsewhere in the park.
We have had fantastic sightings of general game this month including southern giraffe, plains zebra, blue wildebeest, greater kudu and impala.
The following unusual sightings were recorded this month and included a southern giraffe giving birth, a few sightings of African wild cat, a sighting of an African civet, a sighting of a Cape porcupine and a sighting of a white-tailed mongoose.
Total number of species seen: 217
Special birds seen this last month include white-backed night heron, martial eagle, corn crake, Eurasian hobby, African crake, marsh owl, dwarf bittern, long-crested eagle, lanner falcon, lesser spotted eagle, Senegal lapwing.
Massive flocks of red-billed queleas with at least four different colonies on the concession.
The following were snake species that were seen on the concession this month: olive grass snake, stiletto snake, mopani snake, eastern tiger snake, rhombic egg-eater, yellow-bellied sand-snake, Mozambique spitting-cobra, southern African python and black mamba.
On a few morning drives we were fortunate enough to watch a few Nile crocodiles as they hunted red-billed queleas that came down to drink at Gudzani Dam.