Winter has certainly taken over as temperatures continue to drop gradually. Early mornings have been a little chilly, ranging from between 13-15° C. Nevertheless it warms up during the day to a comfortable 25-27° C and drops as soon as the sun sets.
As the landscape is drying out and water is becoming sparse, more and more wildlife have started to come down to the floodplain for the lush vegetation along the river. Elephants in camp are also a constant reminder that we are very much a wilderness camp as they stroll through unannounced and oblivious to our time schedules. It has not been uncommon for lunch to be delayed as the elephant take a snooze by the kitchen door.
Buffalo herds have been growing as they join together in search for water. A herd of an estimated 200 buffalo have been seen in front of camp and around the concession.
Apart from the abundant buffalo and elephant, we have also had some awesome sightings of a herd of eland, zebra, waterbuck, and bushbuck, amongst other species. A constant bellow of hippo and a distant lion roar frequently wake us up in the night and lull us back to sleep again.
On the carnivore side, wild dog sightings have been regular and are a highlight. We also experienced our first cheetah sighting this season: an adult female and her sub-adult young, bringing much joy to a group of guests.
Lion sightings have been popular with the glory of their presence that comes with them. Two young cubs put on a fabulous display when they tried their level best to keep the remainder of a warthog which they were feeding on from being stolen by another older cub. They soon succumbed to his strength and size. The younger cubs were consoled by being allowed to suckle. The challenging part was in finding these lioness and cubs on the kill as they were in the centre of a stand of Jimson weed plants and only the occasional growls directed us closer to eventually witnessing the sight.
A small area study revealed that the Indigofera tinctoria (purple dye plant), although prolific on the floodplains is declining at an alarming rate. It is falling prey mostly to impala and elephant which are stripping the woody nitrogen-fixers of their leaves resulting in the stalks drying up.
A juvenile martial eagle was witnessed attempting to hunt a white-faced duck gosling at the Eastern Crocodile Pools. The goslings are very alert, not surprising as they are high on the prey menu of many raptors. Being non-flyers, they are very vulnerable but utilise a well-timed dive beneath the water surface to evade capture.
Near the beginning of the month, grey-headed kingfishers were still present on the concession.Dusky larks are being seen along the dry riverbeds of the old Ruckomechi River course. Many small raptors such as little sparrowhawks and shikras are seen frequently hunting red-billed quelea.