November Ranger’s Report

Big Cats, Lightning Shows, and a Baby Boom

There is no question that a visit from one of the Big Five animals is a wish that sits on everyone’s list. In the last week of November, the two Tswalu lionesses and our two dominant male lions ventured onto the lodge grounds. They walked up the access road, through the central thicket, down to the spa and eventually settled on the walkway that leads down to the new dam. The experience was amazing, for guests and staff alike. Now that they know where our dam is, we are hoping that they will one day be spotted relaxing on the dam wall as they survey the land and its bounty.

The spring storms have rolled in over the last few days and produced some spectacular lightning shows. Guests enjoyed the ‘fireworks’ from the deck which is all the more impressive from its elevated position overlooking the rolling hills of the south.

The baby boom continues to roll through the reserve. Warthog piglets stole the hearts of many this month as they were spotted around the lodge and out on game drives. It is almost impossible not to coo at the sight of the ‘pork pops’ scurrying around behind the sows. It is a dangerous time for all of the newborns and their survival depends largely on maternal protection and their own instincts. Our Blue wildebeest cows have also started dropping their calves which has filled the air around them with the sound of their ‘gnus’. They are much easier to spot with their lighter coloration against the newly sprouting green grass, but when they stand alongside their mothers there is an element of counter-shading that helps to conceal them.

The two sub-adult male lions from the southern pride have stepped up their game and are proving that they are a force that will one day be reckoned with. They brought down a male kudu and defended the carcass from a few sneaky scavengers that were moving in to grab some scraps while they slept off their meat coma. It was a mature bull and he would likely have put up quite a fight before being silenced. While male lions are considered by many to be lazy and poor hunters, they are in fact very capable of taking down their own quarry and will do so when there are no lionesses to do the work or they are away from the pride on patrol. The kudu fell in an area close to the road which gave us excellent views but also overwhelming smells.

The three elephant calves are growing bigger every day and are learning to use their trunks by watching the adults and practising. We have enjoyed some awesome moments with the entire herd ‘swimming’ across the dam behind Umzolozolo Lodge, or moving around the river bed below the lodge. With temperatures soaring above 35 degrees, they have visited most of the dams in the south in the late afternoon to swim and cool down. It is evident that they look forward to it by the way that they approach the dams with energy and excitement in their step.

On the feathered side of life, we have two new Blue Crane chicks that hatched in the last week of November. The other two breeding pairs are still sitting on their eggs, but they are sure to hatch any day now! The lapwings have been particularly aggressive in mobbing bigger bird species that get too close to their eggs. We watched them fend off a hungry Secretarybird with impressive accuracy. They are not the only species to display this kind of defensive technique to protect eggs and hatchlings. The Fork-tailed Drongos have also been performing aerial acrobatics to mob Pied Crows and Common Buzzards that threaten to discover their nest sites.

Spring in the bush is a busy, savage, beautiful time. There is action around every corner. Let’s see what the Summer months have is store for us out on game drive!

Head Guide Noleen Turner