There is a buzz in the air. A buzz of life and growth. Winter has now left with a sigh, brushing through the trees in a sweeping momentous moment with spring hot on its heels. Spring stayed with us for about a week, injecting life through the bushveld, preparing the land for summer’s arrival. Tiny buffalo thorn leaves sprouted from their crooked branches and a silvery glean littered the landscape as terminalias filled the empty woodland spaces. With determination, summer made its dramatic entrance, arriving shortly after a few days of continuous rain. With over 100 mm of rainfall in one week, winter was long forgotten. One can almost hear the brand-new grass stems fighting their way through the wet soil, wild flowers injecting the green carpet with indigos, bright oranges and yellows. The familiar dung beetle makes his appearance, pushing his circular ball through the obstacle course of the undergrowth. Surrounding him, a loud symphony of bird songs and frog calls fill the air. In an animation of sound, fragrance and colour, the bushveld has once again come alive.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for October:
The Mhangene Pride have continued to be our most viewed lion pride. The two older cubs have now reached five months in age and are doing very well, moving everywhere with the pride.
We were offered an unexpected but incredible opportunity to view the two newest Mhangene cubs when their mother brought them to a hippo carcass at Castleton Dam. One of the other lionesses in the pride also seems to be lactating (potentially pregnant or denning).
The Othawa Pride and Matimba male lion have been found in the western parts of the property hunting buffalo. Although unsuccessful, this pride is always exciting to see.
Having had a fair amount of rain this month, the pressure has been taken off the Sand River and on most days we’ve been lucky to see elephants all over the reserve. Bachelor groups and breeding herds as well as solitary bulls roam the land, plucking at the nutritious new shoots and leaves on their journey.
Mud baths and dust baths are an entertaining show to watch as these huge mammals cool down in the heat. An important part of every elephant’s day is keeping cool. Having no sebaceous or sweat glands, elephants rely on bathing, ear-flapping and mud-wallowing to keep cool. Following this, water and mud are retained in the cracks of their skin, spreading through the interconnecting channels of wrinkles on their body. Through evaporative cooling these spectacular mammals are able to stay cool even hours after their muddy affair.
The wild dogs incredible ability to travel and hunt over far distances has made for some energising sightings this months. Never staying in the same place for long, the puppies in the Othawa Pack are now able to keep up with the adults. We’ve seen the dogs explore the rocky areas of the Sand River, up to the northern combretum areas, all the way to the southern end of the property. We count seven puppies and 12 adults in the Othawa Pack.
On a number of occasions, we’ve seen an unknown wild dog pack consisting of nine adults, which we believe to have come from Kruger National Park.
In October the Tavangumi male has been seen exploring the Sand River both east and west of the lodges.
The Shangwa male leopard continues to stay within his natal area and is seen sporadically to the west of the lodges.
The Schotia female is still providing well for her cub who is now approaching 11 months old. She’s been viewed with multiple kills which include steenbok, impala and duiker.
The Nyeleti male leopard’s territory seems to have shrunk as this older male appears to be feeling the pressure from younger males.
The large skittish male leopard who is found in the southern regions of the reserve has been seen a few times this month. He has been named Xipuku meaning Ghost/Phantom. One particularly memorable sighting of him was when he was located with an impala carcass with the Mobeni female.
Sightings of cheetah have been few and far between this month, although when spotted these precious moments have made for some excellent game viewing.
Buffalo are not only one of the Big 5, but an important part of the ecosystem. Buffalo dung fertilises the land, whilst their trampling feet stir up the soil and flush insects for birds and reptiles to eat. This month a large herd of buffalo (about 700) was sighted in the south. This herd has now fractured into segments which are all still a sight to see.
The bird list for October includes four new bird species, bringing our yearly total to 280 so far. Special bird species include: grey-headed kingfisher and African openbill.