Autumn is in full swing now, and with the end of the rainy season and the cooler temperatures creeping in, we are often met with misty bands overlaying the basalt plains of the N’wanetsi Concession as the sun rises over the Lebombo Mountains. The lush tall grasses are slowly starting to die back and lie flat, and the scorching summer temperatures are giving way to balmier and cooler midday temperatures. The nights are becoming longer, and the familiar southern hemisphere winter constellation of Scorpius is slowly creeping across the starry horizons.
With these subtle seasonal changes taking place, the majority of migratory birds have departed on their journeys back towards warmer climates, and the red-billed queleas are no longer nesting and fending for their young, but they are still found in large flocks where they are feeding on the remaining grass seeds. Truly a mesmerising sight to behold.
The impala’s rutting season is also now in full swing, and it’s rather comical to watch the rams roar and chase each other over the open plains. The sounds of their horns clashing against each other can be heard from far away, and this too attracts the attention of various predators, and once again, during this month we’ve experienced brilliant sightings of both predator and prey.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for April:
On the 1st of April, five young Shishangaan males, including the white lion, were seen harassing three leopards that had an impala carcass hoisted in a large leadwood tree. This was indeed not an April Fool’s joke, but a very special and rare sighting.
The Mountain Pride and their cubs were seen on 23 occasions this month. They killed a zebra and two of the Shishangaan males joined them on their kill.
The Shishangaan males were seen 18 times during April. During most of these sightings the grumpy male with the hip injury was found on his own. On the last day of the month the same male was found with seven lionesses of the Shishangaan Breakaway Pride.
The three Kumana Males were found in close proximity to the lodge after they were heard roaring throughout the night. One of the males was with female members of the Shishangaan pride. Some of the females still seem reluctant and unsure of the male’s presence, but others were highly flirtatious around the males. (See full story below.)
The young Xhirombe male was seen alone on a few occasions. We believe his mother has passed away, as no sign of her has been found for several weeks now. She most likely died of old age.
Ten members Northern Pride were located near Quelea Nest. They were hunting wildebeest as darkness descended. The scene was even more spectacular as millions of fireflies and a distant thunderstorm’s lighting lit up the dark starry skies.
An unknown leopardess was found with two small cubs, as she crossed east towards the Sticky Thorn Thickets. Hopefully we will see more of her and her cubs.
A pair of leopards was found close to the Singita Borehole, where a female had killed an impala. She could do nothing but look on in disgust as her hard-earned meal got stolen by the greedy and much larger male. Revenge was sweet though, as several hyenas ganged up on the male, and they ended up devouring the kill in mere minutes.
A mating pair of leopards were heard close to Ndlovu Lookout. The female is very shy, and moved into a valley where the courting pair had some privacy from prying human eyes.
No cheetah sightings were recorded for this month, but tracks and signs of these endangered big cats were found close to the staff camp.
The majority of hyena sightings were of solitary animals that had set off on nocturnal patrol.
The Granophyre Clan has moved their den-site to an unknown location but several members were seen close to the old granophyre den-site.
The Burnt Car Clan has returned to their former den-site, and young cubs are visible to lucky guests on their way to and from the Satara airstrip.
Several sightings of musth bulls were had. These bulls become highly unpredictable and irritable as they experience a major surge in testosterone levels, and they are often found trailing breeding herds in search of females in oestrus that might be ready to mate.
With sufficient grass cover still around, a total of 45 sightings of buffalo were recorded. Some herds had up to 200 animals in them.
Sightings of solitary bulls were also recorded along the banks of the N’wanetsi.
Large aggregations of zebra were seen on the basalt plains.
Large journeys of giraffe were found throughout the Lebombo ridges and knob-thorn plains. Two big bulls were also found chasing each other across the plains – a comical sight to see such large animals running after each other.
Mating elephants were found close to Nyala Road.
African stonechats have returned. These little birds are altitudinal migrants that spend the warm summer months in the South African highveld, but with the onset of winter they return to the milder and much warmer lowveld.