HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
January lived up to ALL of summer’s expectations…
There were lots of baby animals, amazing general game, various reptiles, insects and birds. Then we also had some flooding from the 17th -20th of January. As you can imagine by now, the bush is in Very Good Condition and the animals are doing very well. Due to the floods we had camp closed from 17th -28th of January, so only Two Thirds of the month was experiences with guests.
On a smaller note… we were well entertained by the presence of many dung beetles rolling their gathered nesting balls of dung off to chosen nest sites.
Three Main groups of dung beetles are found namely Rollers, Tunnelers, and Dwellers.
TUNNELERS: These handle the dung by tunnelling underneath it. They then bury the dung underground which prolongs sustainability as food. This also aids in protection of larvae from parasite and predators.
DWELLERS: Most of these species are usually quite small. Their eggs are deposited directly into the dung where it was dropped.
ROLLERS: These are the most commonly seen by guests; they handle the dung and then roll it away to bury it some distance away from the gathering point. The dung is rolled into round balls, called brood balls, and this is the food source and brooding chamber. The male usually rolls the dung ball with the female clinging onto the side. One egg is deposited in each ball and a female can construct up to 6 Brood Balls in her life time.
We will focus on the Rollers as they are most commonly encountered in the summer. Many dung beetles feed on a variety of vegetation including Mushrooms, Decaying Leaves and even Fruit, but most feed on dung excreted by herbivores and omnivores. Dung beetles have a very strong sense of smell and can locate on dung from some distance away.
Bird sightings were Amazing!! This due to the fact that masses of Red billed Queleas decided to nest in our area again they used around 1,55 Square Miles of nesting space. See video update below!
They estimate 37 million Red Billed Queleas in the Kruger Region, occurring in nesting colonies of up to 1 million birds. Their presence attracted the attention of many raptors preying on the nesting birds.
Raptor sighings included Tawny Eagles, Whalberg‘s Eagles, Lesser Spotted Eagles, Booted Eagles, Gabar Goshawks, and African Harrier Hawks just to name a few.
I also had an amazing sighting of a Southern Yellow Billed Hornbill crushing and eating an adult chameleon!
Good news on the spotted front is the pregnancy of the M‘bali female and the confirmed births of cubs from Rockfig Jr (2 cubs) and Ntombi (Tracks for 2 cubs)
Starting in the North we had regular sightings of Hlakisa Female with her 16 month old Boys. The female and one boy, named Makeppies, are very approachable. Him and his brother entertained us for two days around an impala carcass they kept loosing and winning back from hyena. Some unbelievable interactions and tree climbing skills were observed
The old girl up north M‘bali, is pregnant again and spends a lot of time on the Java property. She has not been successful since Kuhanya was raised 4 years ago. We‘ll monitor her closely and post updates as soon as we learn more.
Kuhanya was seen a few times and still spends a lot of time in the far north around Motswari. She is now just over 4 years old and should be sexually mature during this year. Can‘t wait for her to have her first cubs!!
Moving further south we saw mainly Rockfig Jr., Umfana, and Xinope-nope. Ntombi has given birth in some difficult terrain and we haven‘t seen much of her. After the floods we have been noticing a lot of her tracks with the cubs not too far from the camp. It‘s just a matter of time before we bring you updates on her.
Rockfig Jr. Was seen hunting frequently to the east of camp and twice after making kills the vehicles followed her to where she hid the two cubs. She is still nursing them and has not started taking them to kills yet. Due to their small size and dense locations we haven‘t interfered too much in the areas and will be waiting for her to start taking the cubs to kills in the next month.
Umfana has now moved further east and explores a lot around Eagle Owl and Cheetah plains. These are perfect terrains, close to the Machaton River, for a young leopard to hunt in. The two plains run along the river and attract lots of Impala whilst the river provides good cover for him. Let‘s hope that he finds available territory within our traversing for more entertaining sightings.
The Mahlatini males (two of the three) killed a young buffalo further to the north and one of the adult females of the Xakubasa Pride joined them on the kill. We noticed that she was lactating and that she has cubs hidden just outside our traversing on Ingwelala. This female is the sister of the lioness that has the two white lionesses during 2009/2010. We were pleasantly surprised the next day when she actually brought her 3 tiny cubs to the kill. They are not that used to vehicles and moved into cover as soon as we arrived.
The Machaton pride was joined by one Timbavati Boy on some occasions during the month. One lioness seemed to be in oestrus judging by the big male grimacing to test her urine samples. This maybe a false alarm as he oldest cubs are only about 17 months old. They still thrive in the South-East following large herds of Buffalo.
ELEPHANT, CAPE BUFFALO & WHITE RHINO:
Great Elephant herds spent time in our traversing around some of the larger dams, entertaining us with amazing scenes of them playing and swimming in the water.
Cape buffalo and White Rhinos had the same ideas and we had some unbelievable sightings of them competing around mud wallows on the hot days.
Again a pack of 13 Wild Dogs steal the show with regular sightings of them hunting Impala.
They even visited the camp a few times!
AFRICAN WILD CATS:
Just a little update on our two cats Masai and Sirroccoe.
They have been fully converted to being day active and entertain guests throughout the day hunting in the long grass for insects and small snakes and the squirrels in the trees. Before nightfall they are collected and sleep indoors at night. Masai belongs to Melissa and I and Sirrocoe stays with Tristan.
Tropical depression Dando caused some large scale floods in the region and this caused us to have camp closed down for almost the last third of the month.
Please check these links for more on this: FLOODS
Photography accredited in blog above.
[FMP width=”640″ height=”360″]http://www.seasonsinafrica.com/lodges-in-south-africa/timbavati-private-nature-reserve/kings-camp-private-game-reserve/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/20120128-queleas.flv[/FMP]
Short video clip of queleas constructing nests.
Well, that is it for the month!
Report written by Morné Hamlyn
Photography and video by Morné Hamlyn unless otherwise mentioned.