Our senses tingle as the tenth month of the year commences. With the first rains for the summer season revitalising the dry dusty land, some of the smaller creatures are prompted into action. The loud raucous calls from frogs and toads accompanied by the chirping of European bee-eaters are a welcomed addition to the bushveld orchestra. With the Sand River almost completely dried up, we’ve witnessed an array of storks dominating the miniature pools, lapping up the opportunity to catch an easy meal. Predators such as leopards and lions have also been seen utilising the riverine area, hoping to catch an unsuspecting impala or nyala. The expression “keep your friends close, your enemies closer” could not be truer right now.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for October:
Many water sources have now dried up, including a large part of the Sand River. The sound of water flowing is minimal and the pools and dams of valuable water sources have become invaluable. We’ve watched predators such as lions taking full advantage of these places. The Ottawa pride in particular have used the shade of the reeds and bushwillows to lie in during the day, waiting for the inevitable arrival of water dependant antelope and buffalo to arrive. The one Matimba male has been seen with the pride on almost every occasion. A sighting on the northern bank saw one female member of the Ottawa pride stalk and kill an unsuspecting female nyala antelope.
The Mhangene pride have spent the majority of October in the south-eastern part of the Sabi Sand, opening up opportunities for other lion prides to exploit our reserve.
Scorching temperatures have driven huge numbers of elephants towards the last remaining water sources on the reserve. The sound of smacking and squelching can be heard through the bushes as these excited animals smack mud on their backs and spray water against their hot, dry skin. Excited energy exudes from these creatures as pure enjoyment and satisfaction is displayed as they cool themselves down in the water.
What a privilege to be amongst a pack of painted wolves. With the puppies now about half the size of the adults, it’s time for them to join on some of the hunts and move with the adults as they wander through the terrain. Whilst watching the dogs hunt, one can’t help but feel like one of the pack. Sprinting, changing direction, calling to one another, the energy is electric! We look forward to watching these pups develop.
Leopard sightings have been exceptional this month. We watch with great intrigue as the Khokovela female and her cub make more regular appearances. Their playful nature always a delight to see. The bond between these two captures everyone’s hearts as we seen them stalking each other, clambering over one another and playing in the dry grass.
The Hosana male leopard has made for some great game viewing recently. An elegant young male leopard, already scent marking and dominating a small portion of land north of the Sand river. We look forward to seeing his progress in the area as he establishes his territory.
A sighting that no one wants to miss, a male cheetah on a hunt! It’s been a successful month for viewing these elegant animals, with sightings of different members moving through the area. One guide and his guests were lucky enough to watch a male cheetah hunt and kill an impala!
The two sub-adult cheetah that were seen a few times in September have made a couple of appearances this month, although never spending too long in one place at a time. With an area so densely populated with hyena, leopard and lions, it’s a risky thing to linger for more than necessary.
Our yearly bird count is at 268, with a new addition of the lappet-faced vulture. Two lappet-faced vultures were seen in the southern part of the reserve, feeding on the remains of a warthog which had earlier been killed by some African wild dogs.