As the temperatures begin to soar and the strong Lowveld winds howl through the trees, the last of the dried-out leaves tumble to the ground. A mirage hangs over the bush and the Sand River dwindles to its lowest course. We are at the peak of harshness in the bush, the time of year when each and every species lingers for the first drop of rain. Yet in all the severity, there is beauty. Remaining water sources are abundant with life, the last of the winter sunsets burn across the sky like a wildfire, and the cloudless still evenings shine bright with the magical twinkles of the stars.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for August:
What a month it has been with regards to our lion prides. With highs and lows, they continue to amaze us with how dynamic these species are. The Mhangene Pride have been traversing over large areas in search of prey species. With the perennial pans being dry, the larger prey species like buffalo, zebra and wildebeest continue to move closer to permanent water sources and they too have a long distance to travel to reach suitable water and grazing areas.
The Styx Pride who are six lions strong are doing extremely well for themselves on the property. In one week, we witnessed them hunt and take down a male wildebeest, an impala ewe and a buffalo bull. Considering this pride is made up of mainly sub-adults who have come from a difficult upbringing, they are displaying an incredible amount of strength and resilience. We look forward to viewing them more regularly over the next month.
This month also saw an unfortunate end to one of the Matimba male lions. Before his passing we viewed him sharing a scavenged buffalo carcass with the Othawa male lion, this was potentially his last meal and one which was shared with great respect. A great loss to the lion population, however an incredible service to life as a male lion who dominated a large territory and attributed to the success of ongoing generations.
Herds of elephants gather along the river throughout the day bypassing the lodges and working in search of any form of moist, nutritious vegetation. They continue to move across the property and in doing so allow the disturbed vegetation to regenerate.
Excitement is not a great enough word to explain what we all feel in regards to the dogs denning north of the river. It’s been not stop action at the den-site. The site has been moved three times and this is most likely the last time before the puppies venture off with the adults. They will not hunt yet with the older dogs, but they will be moving far more with the pack over time.
These beautiful, mysterious spotted cats never disappoint us. With large numbers of game moving toward the river, the leopards are amidst a haven of activity and potential for food.
With the time progressing, a few of the sub-adult leopards have or are becoming independent and, with that, means it is once again time for females to mate. This has been the case for both the Schotia Female and the Hukumuri Female who have been mating once again with the Nyelethi Male.
In the central/southern parts of the property we have continued to see the Mobeni Female and Thamba Male mating on a number of occasions. The Thamba Male appears to now have established himself in the central parts of the property, an area which was previously held by the Torchwood Male who has not been seen since early July. While it is still early days, he is showing all signs of becoming the dominant male in our area.
We have enjoyed some exceptional cheetah viewing this month with a male cheetah moving across our southern end of the property. A surprise came when two sub-adult cheetahs who had been seen a number of months ago, returned to the area. They have given us some brilliant, regular cheetah sightings.
We added a purple heron, fulvous ducks, African scops-owl, greater honeyguide and golden-tailed woodpecker to the list this month, bringing our total number for the year to 267.