Joining Kambango on a birding game drive with South African guests, we had an amazing afternoon of bird photography with great light and some great action on the avian side.
We came across a journey of giraffe as they came down to a pool to quench their thirst. The giraffe were being groomed and cleaned by a flock of red-billed oxpeckers. The oxpeckers flying from one giraffe to the next once they felt that their job was done. While we were watching the oxpeckers fluttering around, to the side of the vehicle was a red-billed spurfowl and two chicks…the mom ran past the vehicle but the chicks were not too sure about themselves or running past the vehicle so they were clucking away on the side of the vehicle giving us the opportunity to get some great photographs of them.
Continuing on, we found a very photographic troop of baboons as they were coming to drink some water at a pan close to their roosting site. There were lots of young ones running around, a little one was copying every move that the dominant male was making, from the way he sat, to what he was eating. Eventually growing tired of the game, the little one went to the pan for some water. Being very cautious of what might be hiding underneath the water he would look at his own reflection and try and figure out who was looking back at him. He was not happy with what he was seeing and would put his hand in the water, eventually grabbing a submerged leaf. He looked dissatisfied with his find and threw it to the side before having a drink of water. The entire troop was lively as all the younger members were bullying one another, and on occasion would try their luck with the adults, which were not so entertained by this. While we were enjoying this sighting, four hamerkop arrived on the scene, intent on catching some food before it was time to fly back to the nest and roost for the evening. One of the male birds was not impressed with the presence of the other male and asserted hi dominance by jumping on the back of the other male and flapping his wings whilst squawking away. This took place three times before the subordinate male flew away.
We then went on in search of some more birds. We found two pans that were almost completely covered with water lilies, giving us some more great photographic opportunities. These pans both included big mixed flocks of grey herons, comb ducks and spur-winged geese. After a good few minutes, we decided to move on…
And there she finally was – the Tubu Female in the distance lying on sand bank, but not alone, was that her cubs with her? On closer inspection we were correct; it was the Tubu Female with her two cubs (which are now about 11 months old). The shyer of the two cubs kept looking back at us, peeking around the corner as they walked away from us. We followed them at a distance, hoping that they would stop and give us the chance to take some pictures of the cubs. Coming around the corner, we couldn’t see them, until we spotted them drinking water from a drying puddle in the ditch next to us. Tubu Female and both cubs in the open, but the shy cub was not sure of us so he ran up the slope and eyed us until he felt comfortable enough to approach us and join his mother and brother drinking water. Once Tubu Female and the one cub were finished, they walked past the vehicle and disappeared into the thick shrubs. We waited for the second cub to finish drinking and he was still very skeptical about us so he took a bit of a further walk around us. Giving the cub space to walk away, we stayed at the water, talking about the amazing sighting we had just had when two honey badgers came trudging towards the water. They stopped quite a distance away from us and losing interest, they started digging around in a mole heap and running towards the water, stopping every couple of metres to see what we were doing. Loosing courage they turned away from us and ran towards the area where the shy leopard cub went to. All of a sudden we heard growling and snarling, so we started the vehicle and drove around the corner, seeing only the back end of the young leopard disappearing into the shrub. We can only assume that the honey badgers had a brief meeting with the leopard cub and both ran in different directions.
In the clearing in front of us, there were a few giraffe coming out into the open, staring towards the bushes to our left. We knew the leopards were in that area, so we just stayed there waiting for another great chance to see them. Only the mother came out of the bushes towards the giraffe, standing next to a bush and scent marking, while some giraffe were literally running out of the bushes to come and see what she was doing. Tubu Female, not bothered by the giraffe or us looking at her, crossed the road in front of us and moved off into the distance…probably to hunt.
We did not stay in the area, as we decided it was time to go back to camp and enjoy a G and T on the deck.
What an afternoon drive – giraffe, baboon, three leopards and an interaction between two honey badgers and a leopard cub…not a bad drive at all!