My Spotted Friends

Their thundering calls were already booming across the bushveld when the first hint of dawn was on the horizon. I was about to record the Ground Hornbills when a jackal’s mobbing calls had me change plans. Heading east in the open savannah was easy going with the only cover being little Sida bushes. It was only just getting light, visibility was poor when I saw something running across my path ahead. For some reason my brain imagined it to be a kangaroo like animal. Very embarrassed and not having seen one of my special friends for so long, it was a hyaena! She ran off but when I switched Joanie off she stopped, looked around, then got back to sniffing around. As it was getting light I thought she might bolt if I followed, her but not. She was happy to have me follow. We were on the edge of the mopane as she stared north into it. I got out the car wanting to film her silhouette against the dawn light. At first she didn’t see I was out the car, but when she did her curiosity go the better of her and she approached. Yay… I was back in the land of my most special friends. She didn’t come too close and walked by happy I wasn’t a threat. Jackals were going crazy mobbing something to the north-east. She was keen and back in Joanie, I followed her. But she didn’t go straight to the calls, she did a wide circle and then into a thicket of Sickle bush. The worst for punctures. Deep in the thicket was another hyaena tucking into an impala carcass. They both fed frantically as only hyaenas can, swallowing chunks of meat at a time. The jackals were still going crazy but further into the thicket. They weren’t shouting at the hyaenas.
The hyaenas took the carcass deeper into the thicket. I just couldn’t follow. The jackals stopped shouting and came to feed on the scraps left by the hyaenas. There was some intense growling coming from where the hyaenas had gone. They must have stolen the kill from a leopard, which was now trying to retrieve its prize but the hyaenas would no doubt have held tight. Soon it was all over. Well what I could see was all over. It was quiet. The hyaenas had taken the kill and would no doubt have finished it between them. The leopard and jackals would be picking up the scraps. And that’s life. Never easy…

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Lion manners

20th August 2019
I spent a long night with the girls. The same 2 lionesses from last night. They crossed the track in front of me. The 2nd lioness didn’t follow her friend, she came straight towards me. As if that wasn’t enough, she came round to my door a hands reach away staring up at me. I watched her in the light of the moon. We stared at each other. I puzzled as to her motive but was confident she wasn’t about to leap into Joanie. Then as if having approved that I looked just fine and was just another male, she headed off to join her friend. I caught up with them just as they entered the donga where the leopard and her cub had the kill a week ago. Now there were 3 lionesses. Strangely for the rest of the night I never saw 3 lionesses again until about 4am. Having crossed the donga the girls continued south into dense Croton. Usually I’d turn away at this point but tonight I decided to bite the bullet and put Joanie through her paces. The Croton didn’t last and soon we were on a small floodplain. It was sandy and fairly open. We dropped into the river and crossed. That was easy. On the southern bank I took the only gap and came out in some open big tree country. I’d lost a lioness, but the one I was with rested up. I was parked under a Raintree. It was busy shedding its leaves, the ground below carpeted and crunchy to walk on. As usual it was a quiet night. So quiet I could here the odd leaf fall from its perch, tumble over others on its way down and then float to the floor where dry leaf falling on dry leaf might the slightest sound. We were soon on the move again as the 2nd lioness joined us. Eyes ahead. The girls tried a tactical manoeuvre, both of them moving to opposite flanks. But it was of little use as they went charging after the impala at a 100m. We changed direction now circling west. The riverine was dense. I was in the thick of it now, no turning back. The lions were taking the only gaps there were and I had to get Joanie to squeeze through them too. Which wasn’t took bad, except when there’s a huge log across the opening. The girls of course jump over but I haven’t managed to get Joanie jumping yet. I ended up going the long way round and then having to find the lions again. Not easy in this country where the leaf litter is so dense it’s hard to follow any tracks. Each time I had to rely on either baboons alarming, impala alarms, jackal shouting and trying to maintain the direction I last had them going. We turned back north and crossed the river again. We had now done a complete circle from where I’d found them. There was no sign of the males from last night. The girls must have sent them off to do something constructive, like patrol the territory. We were still travelling north, now in open Acacia savannah country. Impala were everywhere and out of the blue the third lioness had reappeared. Where she’d been all this time I can’t work out. The team again approached the impala with what seemed like another tactical manoeuvre. One on each flank and one down the middle. It didn’t last and the lioness on the west charged in long before any of them were in position. There was chaos, impala running everywhere. A male turned back on himself straight towards the lioness. The moon was casting lots of light and seeing the lioness the impala went into overdrive and jumped high over the lioness, but not high enough. She jumped high her front paw outstretched she ankle tapped the impala. He tumbled to the ground and I was sure he’d get away, but she had gathered herself faster than I could see and was onto him. His death cries brought the others charging in and the bunfight began. 3 lionesses who only minutes ago were all loving and playing with each other were now literally at war with each other, all that mattered being getting their slice of the pie. The aggression was intense and so different to the caring manner of other predators, especially wild dogs. When wild dogs kill, the adults stand back and let the puppies feed first. If there were lion cubs here they too would have been caught in the middle of the rumble with no preference. It was only a few minutes and the carcass was ripped into 3 as the girls went to feed alone. Dawn was just creeping in when one of the male lions arrived, but too late my boy. Jackals were already finishing off the last scraps as the lionesses retreated north into the mopane…

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Hunting with lions

It’s hazy, almost misty, the grass still green on the flat ground where the pan used to be but has now dried up. Herds of Eland and Waterbuck are making the most of the only greenery in this dry dusty landscape. I’ve stopped to type here, the morning still cold and fresh, in the hope that a badger might too decide to hunt frogs and other little things left behind from the wet days of the pan.

It was dark already last night, the moon not up yet and I was cruising my usual areas. A couple of impala alarmed to my right. I was away from the river on higher country. Savannah country with medium sized Acacias dense enough to obstruct my view into the distance, but easy enough to drive through. I left the track heading west and ducking between the Acacias was a female leopard. She had obviously been hunting but was now more concerned with my presence. She avoided me using every bush as cover, but after a while settled down and then lay down in a thicket of Acacia. I could only see the top of her head. This was yet another leopard in the same small area I’ve been concentrating on. There’s a density of these cats here that I’ve never witnessed before. A White-tailed Mongoose came foraging by. The leopard ducked low. The mongoose carried on north and I never saw the leopard again. I don’t know if she followed after the mongoose or disappeared while I was distracted.
I slowly headed north across the river. A jackal was frantically mobbing something not too far away. Arriving in the area the jackal went quiet but then I found what all the consternation was about. A lioness lying next to some Thilacium bushes. She stared at me for a second or two and then relaxed looking around. The bush was quite thick here. Small bush country with a few big Acacias. She yawned. A little while later a 2nd yawn. But before the proverbial 3rd yawn, she was up half walking towards me and past. I turned to follow her and scanning the area picked 2 more pairs of eyes. 2 male lions. They were keeping their distance from her and of course from me. I could see eyes to the south, impala scattered through the bushes. The lioness was now focused advancing at a fast walk. The ground here was bare and hard allowing her to move freely with little sound. She was using the bush as cover moving behind each one until its cover ran out and then behind the next one. She disappeared behind a bush and when I saw her again she was barreling towards the impala, but she was too far to launch an attack and with the moon already peering over the tree tops her cover was quickly blown and the impala took off. The bewilderment on her face at not having caught anything was priceless. But for someone who’s seen this time and again, I wasn’t surprised she’d missed. She obviously wasn’t relying on stealth or an ambush attack. She was running in to cause confusion and have impala running in all directions hoping one would run over her. While standing around in her bewildered state another lioness joined her, rubbing her face along her body as if to say “Don’t worry my dear, there will be another time”.
These girls took me south in the deep riverine. It was fairly open here. A bushbaby jumped easily out the way, bouncing from branch to branch into the higher canopy of an Acacia galpinii. The lions reached the river and walked northwest in the sandy riverbed. I followed up on the bank. A long way behind us the males followed. They would no doubt come rushing in if the girls killed and steal their kill from them. A lion roared several times to the south. The lions I was with kept quiet. Were they on hallowed ground? They crossed the river. I now had to rely on Joanie. The bank I was on was steep, but going down is never really a problem. Would I be able to get out the other side? Joanie worked hard crossing the soft sandy river using her lowest gears to grind her way across. I found an area on the far bank that wasn’t sheer and had a slight slope. Joanie worked her magic, her front wheels instantly grabbing the firmer ground and hoisting us up the bank. On top there was more sand, from the cyclone, where the girls were now resting. I couldn’t see the boys, but they were no doubt fully in control of the whereabouts of the girls. We slept here a couple of hours. Every now and then a baboon coughed from high up in its roost north of us. Was the cooler weather getting the better of him? I dosed off and must have missed the yawns but saw the girls heading north. They crossed back over the river. This time beyond Joanie’s capabilities, the banks sheer on my side and dense Croton on the far bank. We tried going round, but it was a long way and I never did pick up the girls again.
The sun is now high and the waterbuck have returned to graze. And……. no sign of any badgers… ☹

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Leopards corner

There are vultures flying overhead. Didn’t think I looked that ready to be their meal. I thought they were onto something but for now are just catching the first thermals of the day.
Driving along the river on the edge of the tall trees, the ground is bare. Grey dusty alluvial soils. A herd of impala came running from the west and across the track in front of me. A small herd of kudu were also on the run. And about 200m away from them another herd of impala were running east. What were all these guys running from. I stopped and while listening got myself ready for the night. Changed into warmer clothes. Changed tripod heads. Set up the lights for the night. Downed some smoothie. Even after all of this, I was still none the wiser as to what had these guys running. It was just getting dark now and I was already using my spotlight. About half a kilometre on chaos broke out. Ahead of me another herd of impala were roaring crazily and south of them other impala snorting frantically. That intense snorting had to mean a predator was around. I found the impala on the edge of the riverine where that donga from the cyclone runs east. The same donga I’ve found my young male leopard in several times. The impala ran from me into the riverine. Presumably if there was a predator they wouldn’t be running towards it. I drove the area between the donga and the riverine. It was small Acacia bushy country. The ground hard and bumpy with furrows from the cyclone.

Sitting up in a little open patch was a leopard. At her feet was a female impala that she’d just killed. She seemed a little apprehensive with my approach but soon settled down and we became buddies for the night. Having just killed the impala she was still on edge as lions and hyaenas would happily steal her prize from her. It was already cool, the moon was rising and crickets had started up their tunes for the night. A couple of Scops Owls were joined by a Barred Owl, it’s call more like a Scops Owl on steroids. The shadows cast by the moon were still long but being in a gap in the trees, the white stomach of the impala stood out almost iridescent. The leopard eventually settled down at the back end of the impala and fed. A jackal was shouting a few hundred meters to our east. Had something heard the kill and was approaching? The night was soon quiet again, but for the song of the owls and a Three-banded Courser. The leopard finished feeding and lay next to the carcass. Several times a leopard called some distance east of us. The moon was well into the sky, the shadows had shortened and the leopard left the carcass without moving it and headed off east. I decided to guard her trophy for her. She came back several hours later, grabbed her prize by the neck and dragged it north into the donga. At least there it was a little out of sight of other predators. Lions were roaring somewhere south of the river and another responded not far east of us. Was it on it’s way? For the next few hours lions roared all around and the leopard stayed put. Everything was quiet now, except for the lions. The air was still but a little chilly. The moon was still up when dawn crept in. I moved some distance away from the kill as I knew the leopard would be nervous of me being there. I have yet to understand this. I was with her all night parked not even 20m away and she was happy to feed and rest with me around. Come day and I was parked about 100m away and she went into hiding. She took cover behind a bush and continued to stare me down. Quite scary. I have seen this behaviour time and again with lions and leopards. It’s as if they’re blind at night and cometh the day they suddenly realise what this beast that’s been following them is. With her carcass in the open I knew she’d be wanting to get it out of sight of vultures. As I backed off several hundred meters she came in immediately, picked up the impala by the neck and dragged it somewhere into the forest…

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River Walk


Badgers, Badgers, Badgers, where are you? I decided to take to investigating things along the Save River. This river is huge and along the Sango section is about a kilometre wide. It’s made up of several channels with islands of dense vegetation in between. A sandy river, which I love. And it’s perennial, but only with one or two channels flowing all year. I left Joanie parked under the dense shade of a Natal Mahogany. The riverine vegetation here is almost impenetrable and the only way through to the river is along a game path. Preferably an elephant one. I found a path leading into the ‘jungle’. It looked pretty closed in, but was used by elephants, so it had to be good for me. The path was overhung with Flame thorn, (Acacia ataxacantha, which is loaded with stout hooked thorns.) that seem impenetrable. But when the ellies have been through the thorns hook into their flanks and get ripped away from the main plant, leaving the branches smooth and so making access relatively painless. Those thorns don’t bother the ellies. In places I had to crouch low to get under some of the branches, branches that elephants just barge through. The path zig-zagged through the dense undergrowth eventually coming out at the river bank. It was a couple of meters high here, but the elephant traffic had gorged out a slope to the sandy river. I tumbled down the soft sand onto the river bed. The sand here was more coarse. Animal tracks littered the whole river, a lot of them not distinguishable, just depressions in the sand. Elephant and buffalo stood out. Both of these beasts would not be good to bump into in the dense vegetation, but out here on the open sands I felt safe. This channel was about a hundred meters wide. Flowing only in a narrow stream about a meter wide, the water meandered from this side to that, back and forth. The water was shallow, only a couple of inches deep, and cool and fresh on my bare feet. No chance of crocs in these shallows. I headed upstream enjoying the sand flowing between my toes. I felt totally wild and free. Sandy African rivers are an absolute delight to me and whenever I can I will walk and rest on their sandy bottoms. The island to my east had tall grasses growing up its bank, with game paths leading into the dense vegetation of figs, mahogany’s, nyala-berry’s, Acacia albidas. An elephant trumpeted not too far away. A little further north another channel came in from the east. I followed it to a little pool up against the island bank. The water was dark and deep. Who was lurking in there, although I didn’t see any croc tracks around. I climbed the steep bank with it’s creamy soft sand that felt like something you wanted to bottle. Three Mahogany trees stood together providing dense shade. The soft sand below them was disturbed by elephants that had taken advantage of the shade too.
Ant-lion tracks criss-crossed the soft sand as they moved around before burrowing their funnel-shaped traps. This sand was perfect for these guys as any insect walking along the crest of the funnel would quickly fall to the bottom where the ant-lions lay lurking with their pincers ready to grab anybody battling to escape their trap. I heard an elephant feeding close by but the foliage was too dense to see anything. There were lots of little paths leading through it but too dangerous to be caught in those thickets. I found a clearing further north and to the south saw an elephant standing under a Mahogany collecting the soft sand in his trunk and tossing it over his back. I could just imagine how cool and soothing it was. There was a gentle breeze from the north, which must have wafted in his direction, as he suddenly took off south, thankfully, crashing through the bushes as if they didn’t exist. A second elephant, that I hadn’t seen, disappeared behind him. They were gone, my moment with them ever so brief. I carried on north up the riverbed. In places in the sand, holes had been dug by elephants, always looking for the cleanest, coolest water, water that had filtered through layers and layers of sand and wasn’t exposed to the hot sun. Fresh buffalo dung patties plastered the edge of flowing water. Now my dilemma, besides not seeing any sign of badgers, the western bank was choked with fig bushes. Several game paths went through it, but the buffalo dung was fresh. Were they still lurking in the thickets? I took the path least used, watching my every step, searching the bush ahead. The path joined and crossed others. A Grey Lourie alarmed at me. Would that start a stampede? Eventually I came out into the open on the vehicle track. No buffalo. All was good…

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Lions trying to hunt with me around

6th August 2019
The temperatures just keep climbing and I’m loving being able to drive around in shorts until late into the night. It was nearly dark, I came around a corner, bush on both sides, and a young male lion ducked out of sight behind a bush. Not 10m away was a group of impala and they too took off with my sudden arrival. I must have disturbed his hunt 🙁  Usually in areas where the animals are used to vehicles, predators will take advantage of the vehicle disturbance and go in for the kill, but sadly this young male was more scared of me than he was hungry and disappeared into the bushes, and the impala got to see another day.  Not much further on in the riverine woodland I came around another corner to find myself staring up the huge grey backside of an elephant. He didn’t seem too phased and kept on sauntering down the road, his head swaying from side to side, glancing briefly at me with each sway. When the woodland opened up he took the path west and very quickly melted away into the dense foliage, as those huge beasts somehow do. I was chilling next to this Baobab in the middle of the night when a leopard called repeatedly to my north. The calling was coming from the flat open country dotted with Mustard bushes with their crowns draping low to the ground. The cracked mud that covered the plains after the cyclone had now been trampled to a fine dust. I stopped a couple of times to listen and the leopard kept calling. I was close. It had to be somewhere amongst the bushes, but then it went quiet. They sure know how to snooker me. I continued on north following the track off the plains. The bush got quite thick. Mainly Raisin and Mustard bushes. (Golly that sounds like an interesting meal) A few Baobabs were scattered in the mix. I found myself driving in dust, as if a vehicle was ahead of me. Some impala ran off to the west. Scanning with my spotlight to the east I spotted him. He was lying as flat to the ground as he could trying so hard not to be seen. A young male lion with a slight mane. He too was probably hunting impala. I switched off to watch him. He settled down and soon lifted his head to look around. It was very dark. A haze was keeping the stars from lighting up the landscape. The air was still, and the dust I’d been following was probably impala that had run away after the lions had given chase. It was quiet. The lions hadn’t much hope of sneaking up on their prey in this stillness. The sand was soft. Trying to sneak around on it would be impossible as it squelched under each of their huge paws. Tough hunting conditions for any lion. We watched each other for ages. Then he yawned. I waited for the proverbial 3rd yawn and then he moved. He ducked behind a mustard bush. I followed and coming around the bush found him greeting his friend, another young male. They both headed south with me following to the east of them. They were happy to accommodate me and I was only too happy to be part of the team. It was easy driving but bushy country and I kept losing the lions. Keeping my direction south I would pick them up again. They surprised a small herd of impala and charged in but the impala were too quick on their feet jumping out of harms way disappearing into the darkness. I had been with them about an hour when the bush got the better of me and I lost them. I waited for ages hoping to hear alarm calls or the lions roaring, but the night was extra quiet. Just the lone call of a Dikkop whistling somewhere in the east…

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Bush-pigs join the crowds

5th August 2019
There was cloud in the sky at dawn. That thin blanket of cloud that looks like fish scales. The sun was just about to peep over the Chimanimani mountains. Golden ‘fish scales’ now filled the eastern sky. Slowly they lost their colour and were soon a brilliant white against the deep blue. I was at Mbirikiri pan.

The grasses are still deep green with a few small areas of surface water. The pan is about 150m in diameter, flanked in the east by small Acacias, a few tall Fever trees and a lone Nyala berry. The flat ground of the pan continues to the north and is fairly open with a few small Acacias. The south and west are flanked by several big Nyala berry trees. Sacred Ibis with their long bills were constantly on the move dipping them into the soft muddy shallows searching for any little wetland creature. A lone Great White Egret, far more elegant in its hunting method, stood motionless amongst them staring down potential prey that might be disturbed by the Ibis’s. Several Open-bill Storks were also hunting in the mix. I was suddenly alerted by excited chirping in the Nyala berry next to me. A Pied Kingfisher all happy with himself had caught a dragonfly larva and was busy beating its brains out on the branch, making sure it was properly dead before sending it down the hatch. As it warmed up, it was a very warm morning anyway, baboons came from the south to drink and eat nyala-berries. A herd of impala followed them in, not only to drink but also to score from the berries the baboons dropped out the tree. A small herd of kudu joined the masses for a drink, but didn’t stay long and headed back south. Two impala males, loaded with testosterone, had little interest in berries. They locked horns, pushing and shoving each other around, kicking up dust, while the baboons and other impala just carried on berry hunting seemingly oblivious to their desperate struggle to pummel each other. The wrestling was one-sided and soon the victor chased after his opponent roaring his victory cry as he did. The social in the south went on for quite some time until the baboons moved off west and the impala followed. As if waiting for them to leave, a lone wildebeest came in from the south, drank, then getting down on his knees had his own wrestling match with the mud tossing it around on his horns. There seems to be something very therapeutic about this action. While he was digging away an unexpected family of bush-pigs arrived. They’re nocturnal animals, but I think the sudden warm weather had driven them to the pan after sunrise to wallow. They were so cool to see just chilling on the waters’ edge. One of the youngsters thought he might challenge the wildebeest and approached to within a couple of meters, but when the wildebeest stopped to look at him he bolted. They all soon left disappearing into the bush to the south leaving the Ibis’s and storks to carry in their frantic pursuit of little creatures. It was already late morning and left them too…

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Elephant comes to visit

2nd August 2019
Things are warming up fast here and I’m loving it! A warm wind came in from the east late in the afternoon. Even after dark I was still dressed in shorts and not even in my sleeping bag. Bliss. The mopane woodland consisted of tall slim trees as if planted for timber. There was very little undergrowth, so visibility was great. Compared to down on the alluvial soils around the river, there’s quite a bit of grass up here in the north. A big herd of impala were dwarfed in the woodland. As I drove past something spooked them and they ran straight towards me. I scanned around with my spotlight and not far north of them were some other eyes. I left the track heading east. It was easy going, no fallen trees stumps. The elephants haven’t got hold of these trees yet. A small drainage line ran north/south. Lining the drainage line were Raisin bushes and small sickle bushes, which provided cover for the eyes I was following, now moving south along the drainage line. A gap in the bush and I saw her, a leopard hunting the impala. Not far behind her, another pair of eyes. Her youngster nearly a year old. They both stopped in the drainage line, looking south where the impala had been. After a while the mother had a change of plan. She turned back north and her little one followed. Maybe they were going to approach the impala from another side. I followed along the edge of the drainage line, seeing them now and again. It was getting rocky. Just to our east was a huge flat topped mountain where all these rocks had come from. The cats then moved east and I was snookered. I waited a while in the woodland. What little sound there might have been was muffled by the wind and the stars had disappeared with a complete cover of clouds having moved in, keeping it extra warm.
It was late in the night when I snuggled up under a Nyala berry tree. I was woken by a rumble just to my right. An elephant. I couldn’t see it but could hear it shuffling along. That sound like someone shuffling around the house in slippers. Amazingly quiet for such a huge beast. It was coming closer. I didn’t want to use my light as that might spook it or challenge it. It was moving round the front of Joanie. As it got in front of me I saw his silhouette against the now clear starry sky. He was about 10m away. Too close for me to do anything. I decided to lie back and just enjoy the time with him. He was picking up Nyala berries in his trunk and eating them. He knew I was there but kept coming closer and closer reaching with his trunk under Joanie to get to some berries. He was right next to me and could easily have reached out and touched me. Every now and then I’d see a little flash of starlight on his tusks. They weren’t big. Slowly he carried on round the tree picking up berries and soon continued on to the next tree. How very special to be able to spend just that brief moment with this huge gentle giant!
I took a detour on my way home to see how the wild dogs are doing. When I got there the puppies were all out lying snuggled together in the sun. They’re now about 3months old, in their cute phase and will probably be leaving the den soon…

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Mating leopards

Driving with the orange glow of sunset was behind me, I was approaching a number of Nyala berry tree skeletons with an array of vultures. Had they come to bed here for the night, or was there more? I stopped a little further on and busied myself with getting dressed for the night. Well of course I was dressed already, but this was readying myself for the cold. For some reason it always seems to take forever, but then I do have time on my side. I had stopped near the area where I saw the leopard yesterday. A young Nyala berry tree stood guard over the track in front to my right. Further to my right, south, the bush got thicker going into the dense riverine along the river. To my left was fairly open savannah with medium sized Acacias. I was just pulling my overall on when peering from behind the Nyala berry a big male giraffe had come to watch my antics. He too obviously had time on his hands. He was a handsome dark brute, his ossicones appearing to touch the evening star way up there, while he stood absolutely motionless staring down at me. My insignificant little self down under. Just then a leopard grunted behind him. The giraffe didn’t change a beat and continued to look down at me. The grunt was slow and deep. Most likely a male. It sounded too old to be my friend. I continued to get dressed. Yes it takes time… A couple of minutes later, a much more refined grunt behind me. A female or my little friend. Finally dressed I headed back west in the direction of the ‘female’. I drove through a patch of soft sand, deposited from the cyclone, and among some small Acacias, I saw her crouched low. She wasn’t happy to see me. Keeping her body as low to the ground as possible she turned on herself and disappeared behind a bush.
Appearing the other side she shuffled quickly across the track and disappeared into the dense undergrowth. Not being able to follow her I drove on a little down the track and stopped to listen. A Scops owl was calling from a tall Acacia. Eventually, with all quiet, I decided to try and photograph the vulture silhouettes against the stars. Heading back on the track I’d come along I was shining my spotlight from side to side. It was very open to my north. To the south, young Acacias blocked my view. Then through a clearing I saw some eyes. I took the gap, the Acacias doing a good job of scratching Joanie. Ahead of me was that donga (gully) from the cyclone and on the other side were 2 leopards! The male had joined up with the female. He was chilled but she immediately ducked into the donga. He didn’t lose time, followed her into the donga, and I just had to sit there and listen to them mating. A most awesome sound! A short while later she left the donga using every little bush she could to conceal herself, sneaking across in front of me until she reached an Acacia tree.

She pulled up behind the tree trunk, then peaked around to see me. We watched each other for a while as she kept peering over to her mate. Having satisfied her curiosity and realising I wasn’t a threat she walked normally into the dense riverine following after the male. I tried to follow, keeping to the southern edge of the donga. Eyes to the west. But it wasn’t them. A civet lay close to the ground, somehow believing it was concealed. I drove closer and closer and it stayed put. Eventually I was out the car photographing it, until after some time it got up and sauntered off into the bush…

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My leopard friend

The lions were roaring to the south but I couldn’t work out how far it was, especially as they’d woken me from my nap. The riverine vegetation between me and them was no doubt cutting off their calls, so they were hopefully closer than they sounded. I crossed the river south through the dense Croton and out onto the savannah where I stopped to listen. That sexy tiny slither of a moon was just above the eastern horizon. Dawn would be here soon. It was still and chilly. A Scops owl chirped to the east and another responded to the south. Their little chirp, so repetitive and with perfect timing between each call, and yet still it adds that extra soothing peace to the night. Not to be out done, a Pearl-spotted owl started up right next to me, it’s calling rising higher and higher and finishing off with a long drawn out whistle. Such a typical sound of our bushveld. This called was answered by another 2 Pearl-spotted owls calling to the west. I felt like I was witnessing an owl sing off. The Scops’s kept going and the Pearl-spotted’s seemed to be rising their pitches higher and higher. As the orange of dawn crept in on the eastern horizon so the owls went quiet. The lions didn’t entertain me again. Ground Hornbills were now thundering their calls down the river. Just then a Jackal was mob calling north of the river, where I was earlier. I had crossed the river, through the riverine and was crossing the huge gully formed by the cyclone. That gully where I’d filmed my leopard friend some time ago. I crossed the gully and there he was again, stalking around a small acacia. It was day and he was a little nervous. I switched off. He came out from behind his bush and walked, his body slung low, almost imagining he was invisible to me. He crossed into the gully, out the other side and headed off into the forest. I presumed he was the reason for the jackal going crazy. But then the jackal started up again, still further north. It was open savannah. The jackal wasn’t far away and continued to shout as I approached. Not wanting to scare him, I moved around him to the east, as I kept looking west with the light in my favour. I was watching him intently as Joanie eased along and then… CRASH!!! Both front wheels landed smack bang into a hole and Joanie came to a grinding halt. My knees slammed into the dashboard. An old warthog burrow was the culprit. Thankfully with the work I’d done on Joanie last week, she held out strong and no damage was visible. With a bit of low range 4×4-ing I was soon out of their. The jackal not concerned with my problems continued to shout. Another jackal arrived from the east. They greeted with the first jackal rolling on its back submissively. Soon another jackal arrived. They all rummaged around the area for a few minutes, the 2 new arrivals also seemingly wondering what all the performance was about. Off they went north and didn’t return. What all the shouting was about was a mystery. I think maybe my leopard friend had slunk off without him seeing and he continued to shout anyway…

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