So as the days shorten and we head out on drive with a slight chill in the morning air we head into my favorite time of the year in the bush, autumn. It’s been far from your typical summer with temperatures yo-yoing all over the place with one week being insufferably hot and the next somewhat cool in comparison. We have also had a fair amount of wind given this time of year and I’m sure that I don’t need to mention that we find ourselves in the midst of an extremely dry period. Waking nearly every morning to thick dark clouds the promise of rain is constantly there but as the day grows older that promise turns to despair as the sun slowly beats back the clouds, hope is not lost though as the clouds mount a fight back every evening building up on the Western horizon bringing reinforcements of lightning and thunder but as threatening as it may look, it is all bark and no bite and we head to bed once again disappointed knowing that we’ll wake on the Hamster wheel again in the morning.
What is bad for some, is good for others and nature is very quick to highlight this. Were we now have the prey struggling, the predators are quick to take advantage and are on the increase which our sightings from this month highlight. Our regular sightings of Elephant have diminished as we get fleeting visits from herds making their way through the reserve on a frantic quest for food. Crocodile and Hippo sightings have now become nearly none existent as waterholes have dried up and they have moved to more permanent sources in Kruger. General game such as Zebra, Wildebeest, Kudu, Impala, Giraffe and the smaller shyer Steenbok and Duiker are easily spotted as they have no cover and are constantly on the move in search of greenery. This brings me round to our predators that are thriving under these conditions and although their cover is compromised they are easily able to catch their preferred species of choice. Buffalo are taking the hardest hit with both Lions and now Hyenas getting in on the action. With no green feed the herds are weakened and spread out as they feed making them vulnerable to attack which the predators are taking full advantage of.
So how are all your favourites doing I hear you ask. Well, Ntombi and Rockfig Jnr are still wondering all over the place in search of a male and it is never certain where you will find them, although Rockfig Jnr is battling to sever her ties to Nyaleti and they are still often found together. Marula female is spending more time around Kings Camp and she may be the one that we actually see occasionally in camp after dark taking over Ntombi’s mantle. Yet again a month goes by without a sighting of Ntsongwaan and rumor has it that he is now to be found far South, maybe setting up a territory for himself and stepping out of the shadow of his mom.
On the Lion front, the White Lions have been very quite but were they have let us down the Machaton’s have stepped forward and we have had a number of incredible moments with them. The Ross Pride have also been in and around of late and they have had a large male join them on a few different occasions. We think he must be the old Ross Male as there is no aggression towards him and likewise he shows no aggression towards the adolescent male in the pride. The two breakaway Ross females have also been a big feature this month as they spent a lot of time recovering, in and around two waterholes, from what looks like a serious dispute.
At the moment I would say that of all our animals the Hyena’s are thriving under the dry conditions. The pups at the den are all well and they seem to now have lost their inhibitions and are venturing around the den giving their older siblings as good as they get and also including the vehicle in their play. The clans are also taking advantage of the weakened state of the Buffalo and when the herds move through they find themselves falling prey to these highly adaptable predators.
Elephants are a little harder to come by these days and they are not spending much time in an area as they continually moving through in search of food and water, so sightings are few and far between.
Wild dog sightings have been very good this month with three different packs or part there of operating in the area, the biggest being fourteen and the smallest, three. Always fun to follow while on the hunt but somewhat challenging when it comes to the smaller packs.
We were also graced by a Cheetah this month which came at the best time as it was the one thing a guest of ours at the time wanted to see and it popped up on their last drive.
It’s going to be a very long, hard winter and although on one hand it’s going to be heart breaking to witness, on the other, the animal behavior and survival instinct is going to be fascinating to watch unfold.