What a month of awesome game sightings! Loads of elephants everywhere, the buffalo herds are returning, and certainly love in the air for mating lions and mating leopards. Several kills were viewing highlights, sported by lions, leopards and wild dogs. A cheetah was spotted along the main Argyle Road. An extremely rare sighting of an aardwolf occurred near Buffelsbed Boma.
General sightings included giraffe, klipspringer, spotted hyena, impala, blue wildebeest and zebra.
The “Birders” were active listing an impressive inventory of Fish Eagle (catching a fish), Martial Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Amur Falcon, Malachite Kingfisher, Woodland Kingfisher, Rufouscheeked Nightjar, Ground Hornbill, Black Stork, Saddle-billed Stork, African Paradise Flycatcher, Water Thick-knee, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Kori Bustard, Openbilled Stork, Dwarf Bittern and Woolly-necked Stork.
Amongst the Big Five, it was definitely the month for elephant and leopard sightings, plenty of elephant breeding herds encountered and leopards seen almost daily. On one evening drive, three different leopards were seen. There was a pair of mating leopards at Timbavati Crossing. Month on month there were fewer buffalo sightings, the early rains and greening up of the veld perhaps contributing to their wider dispersal? Lion sightings were also fewer month on month.
Eight wild dogs were seen on one occasion, their activities should increase with the new recruit impalas on their way.
General sightings included giraffe, kudu, warthog, spotted hyena, hippo and crocodile.
Thank you for all the bird species noted in the sightings register for the reporting period, Tawny Eagle, Amur Falcon, Pied Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Woodland Kingfisher, Jacobin Cuckoo, Diederick Cuckoo, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Green Woodhoopoe, Little Grebe, Sabota Lark, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, Black-backed Puffback Shrike, Lesser striped Swallow, Three-banded Plover, Common Sandpiper, Red-crested Korhaan, Black-headed Oriole, Southern Black Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, Magpie Shrike, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Square-tailed Nightjar, Ground Hornbill, Black Stork, Marabou Stork, Yellow-billed Kite and Dusky Lark.
Throughout the reporting period there was considerable lion activity, for a while two different mating pairs were seen regularly. This provides fantastic viewing opportunities as they don’t wonder too far when courting and mating.
Leopard sightings were close to a daily occurrence, at least three sightings were with kills in trees. Mating leopards were seen on the broken dam wall at Timbavati Crossing with some noteworthy video footage taken. A leopard was caught resting in the shade on the timber deck at Argyle Picnic Site, and another leopard resting on the landing of the Argyle Boma Toilet, strangely, nobody needed to use the loo!
Elephant breeding herds have returned in numbers for the summer season, and tried hard to drink Elephant Pan Hide dry, demand almost exceeding the supply. Buffalo herds have also noticeably started to return. Several herds of 50 plus and 100 plus animals were seen throughout the month. This is encouraging to see.
The wild dogs were less active on Ingwelala, only one sighting of a pack of 15, recorded at Mermaid Crossing. Further sightings recorded in the sightings register included kudu, warthog, honey badger, bush baby and African wild cat.
Bird species noted in the sightings register totalled three! Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Ground Hornbill and Yellow-billed Stork.
There have been numerous and amazing leopard sightings in the preceding month.
Most notable was the viewing of 3 leopard at the Farmhouse Crossing on Argyle. A large male leopard continues to be seen and very active between the Camp area and the Goedehoop Dam. Further sighting were recorded on Buffelsbed, Sibon and mostly on Argyle. There have been regular sightings of three lionesses and two cubs, especially around Aloe Ridge.
In other lion sighting a conflict was witnessed between 4 male Lion on the Manzimvula cutline in early September. This may have resulted in the injured male lion that has been frequenting the northern areas of Sibon and Buffelsbed in recent weeks.
The frequency of elephant sightings remains consistent, even in camp, and likely to continue with this trend until the first rains fall and the surrounding veld greens up. It is good to see more buffalo activity on Ingwelala. There have been several sightings of a large herd both on Ingwelala and off during the past month.
The wild dogs have been very active on all four properties. A different pack with at least 12 pups have been seen often along the tar road near Ndlopfu.
General game sightings recorded in the sightings register included giraffe, zebra, blue wildebeest, kudu, warthog, porcupine and honey badger.
Birds noted in the sightings register were Tawny Eagle, Fish Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Pearl-Spotted Owlet, African Scops Owl, African Barred Owlet, Ground Hornbill, Yellow-Billed Stork, Saddle-Billed Stork, Kurrichane Buttonquail and Stierling’s Wren-Warbler.
There have been amazing leopard sightings, and lots of leopard sightings at that. A large male leopard has been very active between camp and Goedehoop, where he is seen drinking at the dam.
A large portion of a leopard’s diet is guineafowl, the guineafowl numbers are notably abundant, and this could be the reason the leopards are more visible, eyeing the fowls out when they flock together early morning and late afternoons.
A Member reported a leopard sighting at the Timbavati Crossing Picnic Site, the leopard passed by the group very closely, after the people climbed back on their vehicle, seemingly unperturbed by human presence, just to be aware and vigilant when alighting from vehicles please, especially if there are young ones around.
There have been regular sightings of three lionesses and two cubs, especially around Aloe Ridge. The ridges are good places to keep cubs out of sight from other predators.
The frequency of elephant sightings remains consistent, even in camp, and likely to continue with this trend until the first rains fall and the surrounding veld greens up. It is good to see more buffalo activity on Ingwelala, several sightings of a large herd ranging on and off during the past month.
The wild dogs have been very active, on all four properties, and then a different pack with at least 12 pups have been seen often along the tar road near Ndlopfu.
General game sightings recorded in the sightings register included giraffe, zebra, blue wildebeest, kudu, warthog, porcupine and honey badger.
Birds noted in the sightings register were Tawny Eagle, Fish Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Dark chanting Goshawk, Pearl-spotted Owlet, African Scops Owl, African Barred Owlet, Ground Hornbill, Yellow-billed Stork, Saddle-billed Stork, Kurrichane Buttonquail and Stierling’s Wren-Warbler.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.