Here’s a highlights package of the month’s sightings:
With flecks of gold appearing on the tree tops, the month of August reveals her colourful side as the Acacia nigrescens (knobthorn) trees are in full bloom. The beautiful large trees add a sprinkle of colour – just enough to whet your appetite to know what summer will be bringing in a few short months. The middle of August was again mild in temperature in comparison to previous years and on a few occasions, we received a light rainfall, which is very early in the season. With the permanent water source of the Sand River, large groups of hippos are congregating around the crossing point west of the lodges. The congregation has not been very welcoming to new bulls in the area that are in search of alternative water sources as the driest months force them to move. The howling echoes of fighting hippo bulls fill the cool night air. The echoing sounds have all of the guests whispering around their dinner tables as other sounds of the night are heard and everyone is guessing what they could be, and the excitement builds for the following morning’s game drive.
Lions: The Mhangene pride continued to move further west during the month of August, predominantly as a result of trailing the large herds of buffalo in the western section of the Sabi Sand. On a sad note for the month, the Othawa pride have lost their last two youngest cubs. This brings the pride back to only four individuals. With the recent loss of the cubs this will result in the females coming back into oestrus and thus opportunity for mating activity to occur.
Leopards: Notably the two prominent sightings of leopard cubs are the Hlab’Nkunzi and Schotia females’ eight- month-old cubs that continue to make up the bulk of sightings in close proximity of the Singita Boulders and Ebony lodges. The Mobeni female might well have conceived, after a few sessions of mating, most recently with the Torchwood male. Some very intense mating activity was witnessed near the Makhubela drainage, involving the Nyelethi male and a young female from further west, known as the Khokovela female. A confirmed sighting of the Kashane male a few kilometres south and east of Castleton settled any doubts as to whether he was still alive. Indeed, he still seems to be in good condition, but he has definitely relinquished a very large chunk of his once vast territory.
Here the Ravenscourt male leopard finds a suitable spot on top of a termite mound to shelter himself from the midday sun. Being territorial, can be a tiring task in the wild!
Buffalo: Individual bulls, along with smaller groups of buffalo have been reported in various area of the reserve.
Elephants: Sightings of bull elephants are spread throughout the reserve. Several larger bulls, often described as ‘tuskers’ have been reported, not only to the awe of guests, but guides alike. These large giants saunter past vehicles with no attention to the occupants, many of whom have their mouths wide open, gasping at their sheer size.
Wild dogs: The wild dog pack north of the Sand River has moved their den-site once again. This is the fourth movement of the den in the last few months. The puppies are strong and will be eagerly following the adults soon on their hunts. There have been no further reports of the beta female giving birth or any sign of a second litter yet. We are all waiting with bated breath; you can never get tired of watching wild dog puppies.
Birds: The bird count for the month of August was 193 (192 in July). Specials included the return of the Walberg’s eagle, violet-eared and orange-breasted waxbills, secretary bird, kori bustard and good sightings of Shelleys francolin and an African finfoot.