Rangers Report May 2011
Rare birds and rare bird sightings
It was a month for some great birding, which was quite pleasant as the sky was a little quieter and emptier with our summer visitors having now left just before the cold really got stuck in. One morning on our way back from a great elephant sighting we came across a fairly large herd of buffalo that had just finished a morning drink and was moving on for a bit a grazing before their mid day "siesta". As we maneuvered through the herd we were pleasantly surprised to find no less than 5 yellow billed ox peckers on one of the buffalo with one of them being a juvenile, great news that they are breeding! This species is quite rare to find and is very infrequently spotted. We only had brief sighting before they fluttered off to find another buffalo to comb over.
Another fantastic avian sighting was of an African Harrier Hawk trying to pull what could presumably a squirrel from its hole. We sat and watched for around 15 minutes as the raptor tried unsuccessfully from many different angles to dislodge its chosen morsel. Balancing with one of his feet grappled onto the side of the tree and using his wings to try and maintain his position he used his free talons and beak to try and pull apart the hole. Eventually all the commotion and flapping drew the attention of some Fork Tailed Drongos and White Crowned Helmet Shrikes that mobbed and pestered him into breaking off his siege and leaving the area empty handed. It was a most fascinating sighting to be able to sit and watch him meticulously move around the tree and try different approaches.
We were showered with Leopard this month with a great spread of different sightings. On of the most interesting ones was when we had responded to our dominant male leopard, the same one that had a while ago been feeding on the giraffe, on a wonderfully wet morning. He was moving really quickly and was heading for a drainage line that runs North South in the reserve. I decided instead of trying to follow him through the thick bush and soon loose him into the drainage line to drive up the drainage line itself. It paid off because shortly after turning into the narrow river bed visual was lost for him was lost. I was hoping that he would not carry on through it up onto the opposite bank but instead turn into the drainage line and walk along it. A long while passed as we drove along the sand and I was beginning to think we had once again been out played buy one of the bushes ghosts when we picked up some spoor for him heading straight down the river bed, and then a hundred or so meters further we found hum busy moving quickly down the drainage line stopping intermittently to scent mark where the rain had washed previous markings away. It was a brilliant and rewarding sighting as we followed him on his patrol with steep earth and rock banks on either side of us. Occasionally we would catch the tell tail whiff of leopard urine which smells like buttered popcorn while driving behind him. Eventually he did loose us in the bush but not before giving us a fantastic show.
A prickly solution
One of our young male leopards, that is rapidly approaching maturity, managed to catch and kill a porcupine one evening. A pretty tricky one regardless of experience with hunting. One of the Land rovers was fortunate enough to see the whole kill play out. And followed him up onto the bank of the Monwana where we were able to watch him start eating it. He carefully plucked the quills out occasionally getting a few stuck in his mouth and tongue that he really battled to remove. After much patience and plucking he was ready and settled down to enjoy his hard earned meal.
We were following our dominant male lion in the north one evening when he came across an area on the side of the road and really got into it in more than one sense of the phrase. He started rolling around on the ground all over the area that the scent was on. He would go over on his back and then rub his head and chin it. After a while that wasn't even enough and he stated eating the dirt. It was fascinating to sit and watch him in an almost trancelike state with the smell. All the while he was making these winy groaning sounds. Afterwards he stood up and scent marked the area thoroughly before roaring and moving along.
A short while later he and the 3 lionesses in the north managed to bring down a fully grown male waterbuck which after all 4 of them were done with it had only lasted a day and a half. Even after all the meat was done he still stayed behind to defend his prize from the growing masses of vultures. The females, who are a always well fed, didn't bother, they moved off to drink some water before settling down in the inflow of a dam for the day.