Climate and Landscape
April was a good month in general with comfortable temperatures indicating we are heading towards our winter season. Our lowest recorded temperature was 13° Celsius and our maximum 26° C.
The area is still lush and green with the tall grasses that flourished after the terrific rains we had in January, February and March. There were also many beautiful flowers on display, which made this time of year even more spectacular. The tall grasses provided great photographic opportunities at sunset and sundown. Most of our cat sightings involved catching up with them as they walked along the roads, avoiding the early morning and evening dew on the grass.
Another advantage of the tall grasses is that the leopards and cheetahs were seen perched on top of logs and termite mounds, using them as vantage points to scout for their prey animals. After locating their prey they would then sneak through the tall grasses to approach them. They also stuck to dry patches on the land, so somehow the tall grasses did not affect our game viewing as much as some may have thought; in fact, they improved it to an extent.
Without any announcement, an unknown pride of nine, consisting of females and their sub-adult cubs, took the Chitabe Pride by surprise when they entered its territory and settled in for almost three weeks. Because the Chitabe Pride has smaller cubs, they chose not to confront the intruders; in fact, they fled their own prime territory and moved further east. We did not see them for some time but we knew where they were because they called constantly at night and in the early hours of the morning.
It did, however, end there for this pride of nine. While they started behaving like the dominant pride in the area, it only took one morning to realise that they were the interlopers. The two dominant males were on their routine patrol when they sniffed the scent of unknown males in their area. This inspired them to launch a serious search as to who the foreigners could be. They roamed the area, roaring alternately and continuously. The new pride could tell that these were dominant males in action. In most cases, intruding females are always accepted by males in a new area, but these females’ fear now was that their sub-adult males would displease the resident males, so their best option was to vacate the area as quickly as they could.
The Chitabe Pride is now being seen again although in different places, with two of the females being seen around the camp area recently.
We visited the active hyaena den frequently this month and the cubs are already relaxed around the vehicles. Their sub-adults pups amused us with their interesting behaviour, especially following leopard hunting under cover, which take advantage of the tall grasses. However, they were wary to fight our female leopard when she made a kill, especially the big impala which she cannot carry up into a tree immediately, so they came up with a strategy to make a continuous whooping sound as if fighting with other predators, knowing that it would attract the adults to the scene where the mature hyaena would take over the carcass. This mostly worked in their favour, except for one day when things did not go as expected; instead of their mothers arriving, this time it was two adult lionesses that showed up. Quickly the young hyaenas tucked in their tails and withdrew quietly, showing their submission as they are still too young to initiate a fight with lionesses.
One species that enjoys the wet season are the elephants as they have a huge variety of food to eat, unlike in the dry season when they are restricted to de-barking trees and digging tubers out of the ground. They also enjoy the abundance of water and were often seen playing in the water, swimming and mud-bathing.
Throughout the month, we had amazing sightings of our wild dog pack and our guests were treated to some spectacular views of them hunting and feeding. We are happy to see they are still in our area now as they approach their denning time; hopefully they will use a previous den that lies within our prime game drive areas.
Birds and Birding
This time of year is amazing for birds – our morning drives along the Gomoti River provided spectacular sightings of reed cormorants and African darters fishing, and ducks and geese enjoying the pretty waterlily flowers.
News by TL Moalosi @ Chitabe