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26/08/2019

July 2019

Chris Mayes reports:

I was recently scrolling through the various social media sites I follow, and, as is the norm I tend to be drawn towards any wildlife photography from the various reserves, I was quite concerned with the amount of night time photography that is been shared by various individuals, both professional guides and members of the public, as in a lot of cases the target of the cameras was a strictly diurnal species. I couldn’t help but feel the necessity to share personal thoughts on this practice.

- A spotlighted diurnal animals’ behaviour is manipulated by the presence of spotlights
- Diurnal game uses the darkness as a form of protection at night
- Economy of movement is another form of protection
- Both the above are compromised by the prolonged shining of spotlights on them.
- In some cases the artificial light will be utilized by predators in their hunting technique and behaviour, this creates a manipulated situation firmly in favour of the predator

Although no formal regulations exist for the use of spotlights on game drive, I would firmly advocate for each vehicle to carry a red filter for the particularly close up sightings of game after dark, this ‘warm’ light has proven to be highly effective in not disturbing natural behaviour (predator\prey excluded) while allowing the user fair game viewing observation.

The Ingwelala Bush & Game Drive Etiquette states:
“ Do not shine spotlights in animals' eyes; shine on the ground in the front of or on the back of the animal. The use of coloured filters on spotlights is encouraged as this is less disruptive to the night vision of the animals and their activities.

When following predators which appear to be hunting, limit your intrusion so as not to interfere with the animals' hunt. This implies keeping a good distance, avoid shining unfiltered spotlights directly onto the scene and keep all noise including that of the engine, to a minimum. There should be no jockeying for better positions. Once the kill is made, spotlights may be used.”

In terms of Big Five sightings, leopard have been active and seen most days, a number of these sightings included leopards with their kills. Lion sightings were also good, seven lionesses with three cubs seen quite frequently, they don’t seem to be moving too far with the cubs around. It is good to note that buffalo activity has increased with more regular sightings of different bachelor groups. This is good news that the buffalos are making a comeback after the hardships they suffered during the drought. Elephant sightings were frequent.

There are two elephants that deserve special mention. The first is a bull who took to habitually entering the camp through our Entrance Gate, hence the installation of the electrical strands at ground level. Initially he mustered up the courage to “sprint” across the strands, but then the addition of an overhead strand outwitted him, and for now he is ranging outside the camp area.


Modified fence strands on the ground to prevent elephant from entering the camp

The second elephant is a young bull who picked up a wire snare on a hind leg. The bull was immobilised by a Vet so the snare could be removed. Fortunately the snare had not yet caused a serious injury.

A pack of eight wild dogs were seen together on three occasions.
Spotted hyenas were active, their numbers seem to be on the increase. There were reports of successful hunting on at least four occasions and one altercation with the eight dogs over an impala kill that the dogs had brought down. At Goedehoop Dam a hyena was seen swimming and it caught a fish!
Other game sightings were giraffe, zebra, blue wildebeest, kudu, warthog, spring hare, porcupine and civet.
Birds noted in the sightings register were Pearl-spotted Owlet, Openbilled Stork (feeding on fresh-water muscles at the main causeway), Kori Bustard and Ground Hornbill.

 


June 2019

It was very special to learn that there was a cheetah sighted on Buffelsbed on at least three occasions, once with an impala kill, it’s been several years since cheetah were spotted on Ingwelala.

There was a mix of elephant breeding herds and bachelor groups seen. A group of five bulls drink at Elephant Pan Hide on a regular basis, always nice to see these gentle giants so close-up. The lions were active, there are two lionesses with three cubs apiece. Lions were heard most nights, calling from varying distances. Leopard sightings were fewer than previous months, as were buffalo sightings.

Only two bird species were noted in the sightings register which were Woodlands Kingfisher (staying over for the winter?) and Woolly-necked Stork.

Wild dog sightings were excellent, between 10 -12 dogs seen each time, and with a few kills.


Sharpe’s Grysbok pictured at Bird Hide

Mysterious patterns in the causeway crossing, any suggestions?
 

May 2019

All the Big Five were seen during the past weeks. Leopard sightings were excellent with a mating pair seen at Aloe Ridge on two occasions. Another leopard sighting witnessed two leopards fighting, and then several leopard sightings with kills, so plenty of action coming from leopards. Elephant sightings have also been plentiful with a balance between breeding herds and bachelor groups.

Wild dogs were seen on four occasions, numbers ranging from 5 – 10, one sighting on the KNP boundary was of the dogs running down a Sharpe’s grysbok.

General game recorded included spotted hyena, giraffe, waterbuck, blue wildebeest, zebra, kudu, impala, bushbuck, Sharpe’s grysbok and porcupine. There was an unusually high number of zebra sightings.

Of special interest were separate sightings of a caracal and cheetah along the tar road.

Birds mentioned in the sightings register were Booted Eagle, Ground Hornbill, Kori Bustard and Saddle-billed Stork.


April 2019

Through the reporting period lion and elephant sightings were plentiful, two younger male lions been seen frequently. Buffalo sightings, especially the larger herds, remain infrequent, no doubt an effect from the recent drought cycle. Leopards were seen most days, the main causeway providing a favourate drinking hole for the two leopards that frequent the camp.

Wild dogs were active on Argyle and Goedehoop.

Other animals listed in the sightings register included spotted hyena, giraffe, waterbuck, Sharpe’s grysbok, African wild cat, genet, honey badger, porcupine and crocodile.

Birds recorded were Wahlberg’s Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, African Barred Owlet, White-backed Vulture, Dark-chanting Goshawk, Ground Hornbill, Kori Bustard, Water Thick-knee, Dwarf Bittern (Zebra Pan), Black Stork, Saddle-billed Stork, Yellow-billed Stork, Marabou Stork, Grey Heron, Hammerkop, Dusky Lark, Jacobin Cuckoo and Bronze-winged Courser.


March 2019

Despite a long weekend and higher occupancies during March, ordinary game sightings were conservative. The general veld condition is vastly improved after the Jan/Feb rains. The grasses are tall, and shrubs & trees are well leafed which makes animal spotting more challenging. The general veld condition and availability of surface water favour game dispersal, rather than congregating.

Big Five species were seen, elephant herd sizes have been impressive with numerous sightings exceeding 50 individuals at a time. Lionesses, in groupings of two to six were seen regularly. Buffalo sightings are on the increase (post drought) and good to see a breeding herd of approximately 100 buffalo briefly ranging on Ingwelala. Leopards were recorded in the sightings register on 10 occasions.

Birds noted were Ground Hornbill, African Openbill, Grey Heron, Yellow-billed Stork, Saddle-billed Stork and an Osprey was seen at Hippo Pan.

A pack of 15 -20 wild dogs were seen at Hippo Pan.


February 2019

The low camp occupancy during February was certainly reflected in the Reception sightings register with very few entries! Other than the Big Five sightings and three bird species recorded, a crocodile at Old Farmhouse was the only animal that earned special mention. An extremely quiet month, so there is not a whole lot of information to share.

The bird species recorded were Ground Hornbill, African golden Oriole and African Cuckoo. The flow of the Nhlaralumi River attracted Saddle-billed Stork, Giant and Pied Kingfisher, Hammerkop and Grey Heron to the water pool immediately downstream of the causeway. It is always interesting to watch the fish trying to migrate upstream when they reach the causeway. The recent structural repairs to the causeway have certainly helped their cause.

Big Four sightings represented a full house with plenty of elephant sightings, especially breeding herds. Buffalo sightings increased month on month so good to see the buffalo are returning to range on Ingwelala. Lion sightings were sparse and vocally very few calls heard at night. Leopard sightings were also less than expected, but with the long grass and lush bush, the leopards are difficult to spot.

There was a radio report of wild dogs on an impala kill on Argyle, the kill promptly robbed by hyenas!

On my own travels around the Reserve I recall general game sightings of giraffe, zebra, blue wildebeest, impala, klipspringer (with a juvenile), nyala, kudu, hippo, warthog and steenbok.

Nyalas showing good body condition

January 2019

Amongst the Big Five, elephant, leopard and lion sightings were plentiful throughout the past month. In addition there were two sightings of bachelor groups of buffalo, both on Goedehoop, numbering seven and three animals respectively. These sightings are a good indicator of the perennial grasses now present for the grazers after the rains.

Wild dogs were seen twice on Argyle, once on Sibon and once on Goedehoop.

An unusual sighting of a crocodile at Elephant Pan Hide was also recorded. There was a sighting of an African Rock Python at Camp Dam.

General game sightings mentioned were giraffe, zebra, blue wildebeest, impala, klipspringer, nyala, kudu, waterbuck, honey badger, hippo and spotted hyena.

Bird sightings recorded were Kori Bustard, Ground Hornbill, Woolly-necked Stork, Black Stork, Saddle-Billed Stork, Violet backed Starling, African Harrier Hawk, Harlequin Quail, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Green Pigeon, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Dusky Lark, Bronze-winged Courser, Gabar Goshawk, African Mourning Dove, Eurasian Golden Oriole, White-throated Robin-Chat, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Violet-eared Waxbill, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Amur Falcon and Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl.

Four lionesses and two cubs occupying the patio of Bungalow # 141

December 2018

Amongst the Big Five elephant, leopard and lion sightings were plentiful throughout the past month. There was a single sighting of three buffalo recorded in the register.

There was a single sighting of three buffalo recorded in the register. Wild dogs were seen twice on Goedehoop and once on Argyle.

General game sightings mentioned were giraffe, zebra, blue wildebeest, impala, nyala, kudu, waterbuck, honey badger, hippo and spotted hyena.

Bird sightings recorded were Kori Bustard, Ground Hornbill, Woolly-necked Stork, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Green Pigeon, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Dusky Lark, Bronze-winged Courser, Gabar Goshawk, African Mourning Dove, Eurasian Golden Oriole, White-throated Robin-Chat, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Violet-eared Waxbill, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Amur Falcon and Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl.

Be aware of snake and scorpion activity. Be sure to wear closed shoes after dark and carry a reasonable torch to spot these creatures who can inflict nasty bites and stings.


November 2018

For the reporting period in November, traditionally a month of low camp occupancy, there were very few sightings recorded in the register. Amongst the Big Five, elephant breeding herds and lions took top honours in terms of number of sightings. Leopard, buffalo and rhino sightings were few, the low number of buffalo indicative of the sparse grass cover.

Wild dogs were seen on three occasions, the packs varying from 11 to 15 individuals.

General game sightings included giraffe, zebra, blue wildebeest, impala, nyala, kudu, klipspringer, waterbuck, porcupine, spring hare and spotted hyena.

Bird sightings recorded were Kori Bustard, Ground Hornbill, Mocking Cliff Chat, Woolly-necked Stork and Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl.


October 2018

During the past period there has been significant lion activity resulting in some excellent sightings, one included 14 lions at the concrete causeway, wonderful to see! Four lions cornered a buffalo at Buffelsbed Hide that managed to escape into the Kruger with injuries.

There were some large gatherings of elephants, one entry in the sightings register reported 50-60 elephants at Elephant Pan Hide, fantastic viewing. Lots of breeding herds around. Leopard sightings were almost a daily occurrence, some with impala kills, some with mom and cubs and some with just cubs.

General game sightings included giraffe, zebra, impala, nyala, kudu, klipspringer, waterbuck, civet, genet, porcupine, spring hare and spotted hyena.

Bird sightings mentioned were Kori Bustard, Ground Hornbill, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Paradise Flycatcher and White-fronted Bee eater.

The warmer summer weather will result in an increase in snake and scorpion activity. Be sure to wear closed shoes after dark and carry a reasonable torch to spot these creatures who can inflict nasty bites and stings.


September 2018

It was unmistakably a leopard month when comparing sightings amongst the Big Five family. A leopard was seen tucking into a scrub hare after carefully plucking all the fur off the hare. This activity fascinated four elephants and a giraffe which stood in the general vicinity observing the leopard’s behaviour. Many of the leopard sightings occurred in the Old Farmhouse area. There was a fair balance of sightings of elephant breeding herds vs bulls, a little surprising the breeding herds are already ranging on Ingwelala this early in the summer. There were no herds of buffalo seen on Ingwelala, just not enough grass around to make it attractive for these larger herds. A couple of “dagga” boys were seen along the banks of the Nhlaralumi.

The pack of wild dogs, with all their pups, were seen regularly, which brought great excitement to the table, including a kill in Camp. Between 12-17 pups were seen with the pack, the pack numbering up to 30 individuals at a sighting. The exact location of their den is unconfirmed.

General game sightings recorded in the register included giraffe, impala, nyala, kudu, Sharpe’s grysbok, honey badger, civet, genet, porcupine, spring hare, spotted hyena, side-striped jackal, African wild cat, and hippo. The civet sighting mentioned three civets together. Other than when breeding, civets are usually solitary. Females produce 1- 3 young, so perhaps the three civets spotted were youngsters. A special sighting.

Bird sightings recorded were Martial Eagle, Fish Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Brown-headed Parrot, Ground Hornbill, Hammerkop, Great Painted Snipe, Red-winged Starling, Kurrichane Thrush and Yellow-bellied Eromomela.


August 2018

During the previous month, leopards were seen on most days. A female and two young cubs were seen regularly along Leadwood Drive on Argyle and in the area between Timbavati Crossing and Motswari Corner.

The lions were also very active, four lionesses and two cubs seen together often. There was a pair of mating lions with a second male in the vicinity as an onlooker. This eventually turned into a serious fight between the two males, each seeking the attention of the lioness. The original suitor came out the victor and the following day the second male was seen again near the mating pair!

No large buffalo herds ranged on Ingwelala, but a group of five and seven bulls were seen at Goedehoop Dam. There was a marked increase in elephant activity, especially breeding herds. One gathering on Buffelsbed had between 50 - 70 elephants in it.

General game sightings included waterbuck, giraffe, zebra, impala, nyala, kudu, grey duiker, steenbok, Sharpe’s grysbok, baboon, monkey, honey badger, civet, genet, porcupine, spotted hyena and hippo.

Bird sightings recorded were Martial Eagle, Fish Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Brown-headed Parrot, Ground Hornbill, Hammerkop, Great Painted Snipe, Red-winged Starling, Kurrichane Thrush and Yellow-bellied Eromomela.

As the weather warms up during the spring season, snake and scorpion activity will be on the increase after their less active winter months. Be sure to wear closed shoes after dark and carry a reasonable torch to spot these creatures who can inflict nasty bites and stings.


July 2018

Through the previous month there were numerous contributions in the Reception sightings register. This is always pleasing to read through, so a big thank you to everyone taking the trouble to list what you see.

There were numerous lion and leopard sightings, both species seen with young cubs in tow. At Old Farmhouse two leopards were seen together on three different occasions, interacting at the natural water point in the Nhlaralumi River.

Breeding herds of elephant were surprisingly numerous at mid-year when traditionally these herds range far and wide along the riparian areas. It could be an influence from the late April rains that kept the trees in leaf much later than usual.

Buffalo remain scarce, the drought having taken serious toll on their numbers. Grass cover is sparse, and it is unlikely the larger herds will return before we receive good meaningful rainfall that produces a healthy grass sward.

There were several sightings of wild dogs on all four properties, including 16 pups which is simply awesome to see!

An aardvark was spotted between Zebra Pan and Deadwood Pan.

General game sightings included waterbuck, giraffe, zebra, impala, nyala, kudu, grey duiker, steenbok, klipspringer, Sharpe’s grysbok, baboon, monkey, serval, side-striped jackal, African wild cat, honey badger, genet, grey mongoose, porcupine, spring hare and hippo.

Bird sightings noted were Fish Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle- Owl, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Southern White-faced Owlet, African Barred Owlet, White-headed Vulture, Cape Vulture, White-backed Vultures, Lappet-faced Vultures, Brown-headed Parrot, Kori Bustard, Woolly-necked Stork, Black Stork, Saddle-billed Stork, Red billed Firefinch, Striped Kingfisher, Wire-tailed Swallow, Lesser striped Swallow, Yellow-bellied Eromomela and Yellow-bellied Greenbul.


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