The summer rains have arrived! The rains have fallen earlier than previous years and the transformation of the grasslands and Lebombo Mountains has been extraordinary. The first rains fell over two days on the 11th and 12th with more storms on the 19th and 20th. The impala lambs started making an appearance almost as the rains fell and have been wonderful additions to the game drives. The new green vegetation has started to take over the previously barren winter open areas, and all the trees have a full covering of green leaves. The N’wanetsi River has not started flowing but has filled up substantially. The numerous drainage lines that run down from the mountains are holding water and therefore the game numbers have increased in the hills.
Elephant’s sightings have been excellent as they seem to be taking advantage of the new grasses. The game viewing has been excellent in general, with a few animals being seen in different areas and densities as their movements change with the growth of the vegetation, and the filling of the pans. Most of the migrant bird species had arrived at the beginning of the month, particularly after some rain that fell at the middle of the month. With the increased amount of standing water there has been a rise in frog and insect activity, which has in turn, brought locally nomadic bird species from near and far. There were even a few sightings of a rare Pel’s fishing owl at the weir in front of the Lebombo Lodge!
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot November
This month we had 94 sightings of lions.
At the beginning of the month the Mananga Pride was seen in the area around Gudzane Dam where they have spent the winter month denning with their cubs. Since the rain they have tended to move east towards the burnt areas that recovered extremely well and have attracted many prey species. The seven cubs have been doing well.
The three Shishangaan males have continued to spend most of their time patrolling territory in the northern parts of the concession. They were seen with both the Mountain and Mananga Pride.
The Mountain Pride, after having moved into the Lebombo hills, have been seen less frequently over the course of the month. Their two young cubs were not seen for some time but where seen on the 26thof November.
The Shishangaan lionesses were seen a number of times around the vicinity of the lodges. Two of the females seem to have leg injuries and the older female does seem to be approaching the end of her life.
The three Kumana males have been seen seven times this month. Most of the time they seem to be searching for the Shishangaan lionesses and have been heard roaring from the lodge.
The four young nomadic Shish males have been frequent visitors and were seen almost every week this month. They managed to steal a buffalo carcass from the Mananga Pride on the 7th and they also stole a duiker kill from a leopard on the 10th of November.
We had 22 sightings of leopard this month.
The Nhlangulene female was seen in her usual territory up in the north.
A young male was seen strolling nonchalantly near the area of Green Apple Hill while being followed by a troop of baboons.
A male was seen trailing a female and walked right past guests while they were viewing another animal sighting north of the Gudzane Dam.
A very old scarred male was seen in that same area a few times.
Excellent cheetah viewing this month with 36 different sightings recorded.
The coalition of four young males were seen on 16 occasions. The injured male is doing well and has almost recovered from his leg injury. Towards the end of the month they were seen killing impala lambs a number of times.
There have been more than 108 elephant sightings during this month. The herds have been very spread out due to the excellent grazing on the concession after the rains.
A highlight is a few impressive bull elephants in and around the burnt block.
Several sighting of very young elephant calves have delighted our guests.
Huge herds have been seen with estimates reaching over 1 000 buffalos.
Since the rains have fallen the herds have seemed to split with more grazing available to them.
The Nyokeng den-site has two cubs resident and has provided great entertainment.
There are also clans along the H6 public road seen on route to the airstrip.
Great plains game this month. Impala numbers are increasing every day with the lambing season in full swing. Herds of zebra or wildebeest are congregating around the once burnt areas. The giraffes are also dotted around the concession with many young calves.
Sharpe’s grysbok have been reordered regularly in the mountains.
A serval was seen once, hunting mice.
An African wild cat was seen a few times.
There was a total of 209 species of birds that were recorded this last month. This was an increase from 197 species that were recorded in October. This increase is mainly attributed to the arrival of migrant species. Some other species have become more obvious now as they have started to get their distinctive breeding plumages and others have started to become more vocal (in order to attract partners for the breeding season), or have started to perform more obvious breeding displays.
Some of the migrant bird species that have returned include barn swallows, yellow-billed kites, lesser-spotted eagles, common buzzards, various cuckoos (including common, African, red-chested, black, Levaillant’s, Jacobin and Diderick cuckoos), woodland kingfishers, grey-headed kingfishers, European bee-eaters, broad-billed rollers, olive-tree warblers, willow warblers, spotted flycatchers, lesser-grey shrikes, red-backed shrikes and violet-backed starlings.
Some of the specials, many of which are regulars to the concession, seen this last month (excluding the migrants listed above) include common ostrich, kori bustard, martial eagle, southern ground hornbills, dwarf bittern, yellow-billed oxpeckers, saddle-billed storks, secretarybird, lappet-faced vultures, Cape vultures, white-headed vultures and greater painted snipes.
By far the most exciting bird sighting this month was of a Pel’s fishing owl that was seen on two occasions quite close to camp.