Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spot lit young Leopard

This young female which we dont see often was lying up on a mound in the more remote northern area of the reserve as the sun popped down. She isn't very used to vehicles but was remarkably relaxed in the gloomy light and gave us a great view before she moved off.

A little spotlight illuminated her and kept the scene looking very natural.
A beanbag was essential as I wanted to shoot on ISO 400 so there was no grain. A low colour temperature is important to keep the light looking natural when spotlight is used.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Show of Horns!

This pack of 7 Wild Dogs tried their luck at some newly born wildebeest calves which were shielded in the middle of the herd. A stand off ensued for a few minutes while the dogs tried rather clumsily to work out a way to get to the calves and past the horns!

They were firmly put in their place by a confident show of horns by the males and decided to head off and find something smaller to hunt!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tail up attack!

Hlaba Nkunzi's cubs are now 11 months old and on a drizzling overcast morning were more active, stalking each other and practicing their hunting skills.

I like this tail up shot which captures the perfect balance as she launches her attack.

Heavily overcast conditions are difficult and I had to shoot on ISO 1000 to achieve a fast enough shutter speed of 1/800 sec to freeze most of the action and still show movement with the blurred left paw.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Time for reflection

This is the young Xinzele male who has a territory along the Sand River.

These images were taken just after a fight with a young male encroaching on his territory, the expression on his face sums up his sombre mood.

The low angle created the shot in late afternoon light as he briefly rested on a mound contemplating his predicament before disappearing into the river.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stalking practice

Mambirri's sub adult cub seems to have moved off on her own for good, we saw her on her kill the other day which she expertly hoisted up a tree to keep 2 spotted hyaena's at bay, her mother was nowhere to be seen. After feeding she ignored the hyaenas and then proceed to wander down to a nearby waterhole for a drink...only to find some Water Thicknees reluctant to leave their eggs.

The playfulness of youth kicked in and she stalked them without success, she was never really going to catch one out in the open, it was good practice though!

The light was very harsh but I managed to get a high enough shutter speed at full 400mm focal length to at least keep her sharp enough as she charged.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cub up a dead tree

Hlaba nkunzi and her cubs were chased off yet another kill by a lioness yesterday, the poor cubs spending most of their day perched safely up a tree.

One of the cubs was clearly bored up there for so long and was very curious towards us gazing up from underneath, providing some great photo opportunities.

The day was overcast and the light very harsh so my 580 EX II flash was used to full effect in brightening up the cubs face and adding detail to the expressions. What was also nice was that the tree they chose was dead so no leaf and branch clutter in the images!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Painted Wolves

We managed to catch the wild dogs while they were relaxing. We usually find them on the move at quite a pace so it was a refreshing change not to be chasing and trying to keep up with them on the hunt!

A backdrop of recently burnt grass, a few green shoots and some winter brown combined with the painted coat and some late afternoon light. This created a wonderful composition for this one.

The glowing orange eyes and cocked ears in this image capture the essence of my favourite animal to spend time with in Africa!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mapogo Fury!

Yesterday we were treated to the ultimate display of raw power in Africa, 2 male lions in an intense battle over a female!

This all unfolded in front of the camp after the males had been seriously tracking a buffalo herd. A female lion turned up and suddenly the buffalo were gone and all attention was focused on the female in oestrus! Brothers hunting together quickly turned into brothers fighting over the female.

Everything happened so fast as these things tend to do but I managed to get a high enough shutter speed to freeze the action. None of the males were clearly dominant and the fight ended abruptly with both licking their wounds.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cubs First Kill

Lots of long grass in the image but it is more the interaction and expression on the cubs face that captures the story here... This is most likely the first proper kill for the two 8 month old cubs.

What happened was that the mother (Hlaba Nkunzi) managed to subdue the young Bushbuck and left it for her cubs to practice their hunting skills with.

An emotional sight for some but what a priveledge to watch the young cubs development. In this image is the young female cub who dominated the male cub and didn't let him very close to "her catch".

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Last Cub...

I returned from leave to find out that all the cubs have now been killed by the Mapogo male lion who has come back to the West after an abscence of a few years. He has rejoined the coalition of 5 males and knowing that he is not the father of any of these cubs, he has snuck around knocking the poor youngsters off 1 by 1.

This was one of the final images I took of the last surviving youngster a few weeks ago... a tired face that captures the story. He was briefly resting on a termite mound as his mother frantically traversed her whole territory trying to avoid the rampant male who would not rest until all the cubs were out of the way. A valiant effort by the lioness but he got his wish and all the females are now back in oestrus or pregnant!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


A few Leopard shots are long overdue!

This female Leopard is called Hlabankunzi, (Shangaan word for Torchwood tree and an area she frequents alot). She has successfully raised her first litter of 2 cubs to over 7 months already, a remarkable effort for a first time mother. She is seen frequently around the lodge area which is at the core of her territory. Some pics of her hunting and resting in the dappled light with one of her cubs after a meal.

This territorial male is called Tegwaan (Shangaan for Grey Heron and an area he frequents alot) and is the father of the cubs. He is seen much less often as he roams a huge territory and is always on the move as in this pic when he was marking an calling.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Eyes on the back of his head!

We found this brownish orange coloured Flap Necked Chameleon at the lodge, he kept his eye on me while I took a few photos. This colour form is not very common, they are usually green! He was this colour the whole time, so it wasn't a colour change change because of his stressed mood with us being there. It could have been related to the surroundings, temperature, time of year.

This is a big male, you can see the big occipital flaps on the back of the neck.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rhino Reflections

These 2 White Rhino sub adults came for an evening mud wallow and drink. We watched from the far side of the pan, the calm conditions providing the perfect opportunity to reflect.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mother & cub continued

This female Leopard made another Impala killl the other day and her 17 month old sub adult cub was there again to share the spoils. Mom's growls and snarls are getting more intese every time, she is losing patience with her offspring, time to catch your own food!

Killer's eye

3 of the Mapogo male Lions spotted a Lioness and stole the leftovers of her Impala kill the other day. All that was left was the Ram's head which provided a tasty snack.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Golden Roar

The Mapogo males are back from the east and roaring in the golden morning light!!!

Side by Side

We were treated to a truly rare sighting of 2 Side Striped Jackals in the final stages of mating yesterday morning, we stumbled upon them looking rather frustrated at being stuck together!

After 5 minutes of snarling at each other they suddenly broke away and ran in opposite directions.

When the dog family mate, the male's penis base (Bulbus glandis) swells during intromission. The female vulval entrance also swells, effectively locking the animals together.

The male will cock a leg over the female's back and they stand back to back until swelling subsides (usually 1 to 2 minutes). We witnessed this for at least 5 minutes, so these 2 were locked for an unusually long time.

This apparently ensures that sperm is transferred effectively in a single mating session! The animals stand back to back to look for danger while they are in this vulnerable position.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Open Ocean birding

We headed out in a ski boat on a late July morning off the Umhlanga coast to try and catch some Pelagics following the end of the sardine run. The ocean was like glass and these 2 birds were remarkably relaxed with the boat providing us with some great photo opportunities.

This Sub Antarctic Skua was following our boat hoping for some fish while the Indian Yellow Nosed Albatross made an appearance right at the end of the boat trip and took a rest right next to us!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mother & cub interaction

This female Leopard and her 15 month old female cub have provided us with some fascinating interaction around the mother's kills lately. The cub or should I say sub-adult is nearing the time when she must move off and find a territory of her own.

It is not so easy sharing mom's kills anymore!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Avian portraits

Below are some portrait shots of some large but rather rare Southern African specials .

I was lucky enough to see a Slaty Egret on a recent trip to Moremi, Botswana and working in the lowveld provides the occasional opportunity to view Ground Hornbills and Saddle Billed Storks in one of their last habitat strongholds.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Young Guns

There have been remarkable sightings of the young guns in the Western Sabi Sands lately.

This relaxed and very confident young male Leopard is 1 of 2 cubs belonging to our resident female while these young Wild Dog pups are part of a litter of 7 that have a den in our area for the first time in many years. (These pups have endless energy and are proving very tough to photograph!)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Winter light

Winter in the bushveld provides wonderful backlight opportunities in the early mornings and evenings, a Side Striped Jackal and Zebra make great subjects.

My personal favourite is this Verraux's Eagle Owl raising his feather crest and catching the last warming rays of the evening.

Mapogo in motion, mother & cub

Lions have many different faces and are always a pleasure to watch.
One of the Mapogo coalition quenches a mighty thirst after a vicious Buffalo feeding frenzy with 2 of his brothers in the Sand river one cold morning. While just further south the next generation is gently nurtured...