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January 2013

January 2013

Find out what has been happening on our wonderful reserve, and read about the special sightings and encounters with our wildlife on last month's walks and game drives... from our rangers, Chase, Andrew, Adam, Kelwan & Donald...

Summer in South Africa brings its changes throughout the country; the fluctuating weather for us means warm days normally ending in a fantastic thunderstorm.

Unstable conditions like this can make for some exciting tracking as the animals shift location to counteract the differences in weather, and some great photo opportunities. In the heat a fresh water source or mud wallow has proved irresistible to our elephants, making for some lovely sightings. Black Rhino sightings have gone through the roof with adults and calves being spotted, ensuring hope for one of our critically endangered species. White rhino and buffalo have also been accompanying each other and some of the bigger waterholes along with an array of plains game and bird life.

Our cats have been co-operative – with cheetah, lion and leopard joining us on various occasions. And as always it's the little things that bring a smile to our face when we least expect it.

It's no surprise to us that our walking safaris have become more and more popular. The opportunity to leave the roads and walk through the bush with an experienced trails guide is not one to be missed. Whether it is big game, birding, insects, botany or a chance to soak in the scenery from a lookout point, the walks are unforgettable. Recently we came across a relaxed Elephant bull feeding, with nothing but 15m of lush green vegetation between us. Shortly after some Vervet Monkeys alarm calls enabled us to track down the whereabouts of a young female Leopard marking the absolute highlight of the walk. Taking into consideration elements such as wind direction, vegetation growth, terrain and time of day our trails guides have found Buffalo and White Rhino much to the guests' excitement. Big animals aside, the walking safaris are no doubt the best way to gain an understanding of the environment and add some rare species to your birding lists.

A breeding herd of Elephants has been venturing south again, stopping at dams, reservoirs and mud wallows along the way. Never far behind, a massive bull has entertained us by spraying himself, kicking and splashing as much muddy water as possible in an effort to cool down. And trust me, a 4 ½ ton Elephant makes quite a splash! The reserve is currently building two new dams. This will ensure that we can once again support the birdlife that used to flit these parts when rain was plentiful. Our Hippos and Crocodiles will definitely be taking advantage of this, along with an array of wading birds and Fish Eagles.

Cats have been top of the list lately and a few drives have been dedicated to watching the Lions or following the Cheetah. A wonderful sighting of a coalition of 3 male Lions lying in the riverbed made for some perfect photographs. To see these powerful cats in the open is quite special given the length of the grass at the moment, and everyone watched as they casually rolled around in the sand and swatted the occasional biting fly. With the leopards still giving us the run around amongst the dense summer vegetation, it was great for one of our guides to spot a beautiful male within a kilometer from the lodge, showing you just never know when the elusive cats will surprise you next. One Cheetah has taken the cooler evenings as a time to move from dam to dam and mark territory along the way, before gently disappearing into the open plains next to the vehicle, almost oblivious to the presence of the vehicle.

As far as the smaller critters are concerned, it's been a productive month. From mammals to reptiles to birds we have been astounded with the abundance of life lately. The rare sighting of a Bushbaby running down the road only to sit and eat a grasshopper right in front of the vehicle was a highlight. A breeding pair of Whitetailed Mongoose was spotted scouring for food under the night sky, followed by a completely relaxed Genet moving through a tree just above the vehicle. A Vine Snake eating a smaller snake intrigued guest, and on separate occasions Puff Adders and African Rock Pythons have been seen. The 'eagle eyes' of one of our rangers found a baby Chameleon no bigger than your thumb nail amazing guests with its size and camouflage, and Leopard Tortoises and Natal Hinged Tortoises have stopped many a drive as they slowly cross the road. Narina Trogons, Eastern Nicators, Broadbilled Rollers and Woodland Kingfishers have been just a few of the birds spotted. Marsh, Verraux's and Spotted Eagle Owls have been some of the bigger avian species seen, but top of the birding sightings at the moment are the eagles. African Crowned, Bateleur and Martial have all being sighted but it's the Lesser Spotted Eagles taking the limelight. They have gathered in flocks of 25 plus over the nesting site of thousands of Redbilled Queleas and can be seen swooping through the thickets picking off birds as they go. This was truly an amazing sight!

Allow yourself an indulgent pampering while you unwind in the tranquil setting that is Leopard Mountain Lodge.

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