Clear skies all night meant a really chilly dawn. And I was wrong in thinking it would be warmer higher up as it normally is. Today the cold seemed to extend all the way up in the atmosphere and flying for a couple of hours proved a really chilly affair.
Flying was productive but no sign of the big elephant herds. There were a couple of herds scattered in the mopanie south of Chinzwini dam, an area that is somewhat inaccessible.
A group of 4 white rhino were grazing south of Banyini and another group of 3 north east of Nduna.
The big big buffalo herds also seem to have split up. There was a herd of about 200 near Chivi and another in the north near Lojaan dam.
Manyari, Magwaza and one of the males had also chosen the mopanie thickets to lie up in south of Banyini. These lions never budge when I fly over them, no matter how low. But we surprised the Nduna pride youngsters to the north east and the cubs (about a year old), just bolted for cover leaving their mother standing around wondering what had got into them.
I also flew over the wild dog den. That caused pandemonium too as the pups, out playing, took cover back to the den. Although I’m not sure they actually got to the den as I pulled away as soon as I saw them panicking.
I think the pups probably aren’t using the den any more as they’re now too big, but they hang around the area and it’s used as a rendezvous area for them and the adults to get together when the adults get back from hunting.
Flying was great! But back on the ground things weren’t that great with my main subjects either being inaccessible in the hills (wild dogs) or stuck in mopanie thickets (elephants, lions)
But having a quiet time at Hwata pan, Snorkel my friendly elephant moved in after dark. We didn’t hear him coming and next he was at the pan drinking. And then we heard his blocked nasal passage. Snorkel got his name for the sound he makes when breathing. Much like the sound when breathing through a snorkel.
So it was a day when my camera didn’t make it out the box and the video clip today is that cutest little rhino calf I mentioned seeing about a week ago on Banyini.
The weather didn’t play game today and definitely wasn’t up to the forecast of a bright sunny day.
Heavy clouds were already hanging low across the bushveld at dawn and with them came a very slight drizzle. I suppose more like a mist. Of course in this weather the animals vaporise never to be seen again. Well so it seems as they just disappear.
But with a little technology on my side Manyari wasn’t so lucky. I picked up Manyari and Magwaza resting up to the west of Banyini. They were both well fed and Manyari was sporting a shiner on her left eye. Probably taken while chasing after prey.
The girls looked well but there was no sign of the 2 males.
The rest of the day proved fairly quiet and I’d hoped to go flying but the weather wasn’t playing ball.
The white rhino cow and calf came out to graze in the open in the lovely golden light minute before sunset.
The hyaenas and vultures from yesterday were nowhere to be found, only a few bones and some skin remained from the eland carcass.
At first light I was at the wild dog den for a change. It was quiet. Not a peep from inside the den. I was hopeful that at last they had moved.
I waited around the entrance for a while then wondered over to the back and there mingling around the bushes were the pups. So no den move just yet!
They saw me and ducked off.
I went back to the den entrance and waited there some time. Then a growl, the adults were back and had picked up my scent. The pups came scooting back to the den but there was this dude now standing right there. What must they do? They stopped puzzled as to their next move, now only a meter from me. Realising their dilemma they ducked back behind the rocks. Then I saw them disappearing over the next ridge as they followed mom. I tried to follow but soon lost them.
Skirting around the hills I looked for tracks. No sign so I went back to the den and on the way surprised the whole family chilling out in some shade.
Mom barked her warning to the pups of imminent danger and then moved with them south.
I wonder now if they really will move the den. Tomorrow will tell.
I had checked on the eland carcass in mid afternoon and it was still untouched. But when I arrived in the evening it was obvious vultures had been on the carcass eating from the inside out but in the little daylight hours they had, they’d only managed to each part of the rump. A hyaena had obviously been round too having eaten into the chest.
One, then two, four and eventually 6 hyaenas arrived at the carcass soon after we arrived but with us there they were initially nervous of coming in to feed.
A male arrived and was being put through his paces by higher ranking youngsters. All he could do to appease them was act out his total submission. (He never got to feed until after daybreak when the others were all well fed and just before the vultures moved in.)
3 youngsters were quite happy to feed on the carcass with us there, but the others waited it out till just before dawn before moving in.
And at first light the vultures were already descending. It wasn’t long and about 50 vultures waited in the wings, waiting for the hyaenas to leave. There were mainly White-backed vultures, several Lappet-faced and a number of Hooded vultures.
The party that went on between the hyaenas and vultures is always great humour. As soon as the last hyaena leaves the carcass the vultures smother it. Not wanting the vultures to have even a titbit the hyaena rushes back sending vultures flying everywhere. This went on for about and hour before the vultures were left to finish off the carcass. And finish it off they did. Less than an hour later it was reduced to skin and bones.
I eventually got back to camp around midday and called it a day after being out for the last 36 hours.
This winter has so far been extremely mild, which makes one wonder what’s install this summer. The warmer temperatures have meant increased snake activity, which is very unusual for this time of year. I saw this puffadder was crossing road around midday.
Well I can’t have big WOW’s every day, and after yesterday, today was somewhat calmer.
I didn’t actually get to shoot anything. (This video is from a couple of days ago when the elephants came to drink at Simbiri dam.)
There was no activity at the hyaena and the wild dogs were all there. Pups underground and adults barking as normal with my approach. They really have got me puzzled in how to deal with them.
Yesterday an eland cow had to be destroyed as she was suspected of having rabies. (Her head has been sent away to be tested.) I went to check on the carcass today and nothing had fed on her. No hyaenas and no vultures. So I’m rushing right now to get out the office to spend the night at the carcass hoping hyaenas will have a party tonight.
I spent midday working on my vehicle. A couple of punctures and the normal service.
Then in the golden hour I was back out driving along the Chiredzi river where I encountered this bull. He wasn’t sure of me but as soon as I turned to drive off he charged but stopped in his tracks when I turned back towards him. These guys are always so funny and such humour.
Whereas this big dude didn’t give me the time of day. He was quite happy destroying his Acacia.
I’m rushing out now and hoping for some cool hyaena action tonight!
WOW! WOW! WOW! What an evening.
I was on Banyini in the late afternoon hoping the elephants would come to drink. I moved to the east and listened. Yes they were somewhere in there in that thick mopanie.
Moving back onto Banyini I got set up waiting for them to come out the woodlands. I was amazed at the amount of sound of all the bushes breaking. It was a lot louder than usual.
Just before the sun set the light was absolutely stunning and I was just hoping the elephants would pop out. But no such luck. And a lovely sunset too that the elephants were also missing.
But then they came and they came. And now I realised why there was so much crashing of bushes. Probably nearly 140 elephants came out onto Banyini. I have never seen so many together here. It was absolutely stunning as they came out in single file. But as the pressure mounted they came out in their droves.
It’s stunning enough to see so many elephants, but when you see them from the ground, where I was sitting filming, the experience increases ten-fold and is truly AWESOME! They passed by me less than 20m on both sides as they headed on to drink.
Even as I type this I still feel blown away by the experience and feel so hugely privileged!
Earlier today my luck was not that good. There was nobody home at the hyaena den.
With no joy there I headed west hoping to pick up on one of my spotted friends somewhere out there. And indeed I did. This same dude I’d filmed yesterday. He was just cruising around on his own. And when I switched off the vehicle he just had to come and investigate.
He was even keen to lick my lens.
I left him resting and headed up into the hills. I got my normal reception, a number of barks. But when I checked out the wild dog den I found a pup wedged in the entrance. Yes wedged! I moved in to a couple of meters and it didn’t budge. (These guys sure are getting too big for their den.) Not wanting to cause too much disturbance, I left him for a couple of hours waiting at Manyuchi pan. Impala and zebra came in to drink and a lone duiker.
Back to the wild dog den I was happy to see the pup had got itself unstuck and was in the den. Lets hope they move den soon.