February 2019

By 17th Mar 2019 Oct 17th, 2019 Ranger Diaries

GAME SIGHTINGS

Lion (Panthera Leo)

We had amazing lion sightings this month and even though sightings are not guaranteed on any safari, this month it felt like we could. Our Lion population on the reserve has split into three groups. The Western Pride has moved further up west weaning off three sub-adult male lions leaving them on the central part of the reserve.  The three sub-adults have formed a new coalition and they seem to be happy, hunting and hanging around the western airstrip a lot.  They might establish this central part of the reserve as their territory and we can foresee these three brothers ruling Welgevonden in the next few coming years. The Southern Pride is still consisting of Dinokeng male and two females with a potential of pregnancy on the young female as we saw them mating on several occasions. The highlight of our lion sighting for this month occurred at the beginning of the month when we watched the Southern Pride hunting and successfully killing a female wildebeest. The female wildebeest had a young calf which was smart enough to survive the lion attack by running through the elephants which were close by feeding.

Leopard (Panthera Leo)

Leopard sightings were great this month as compared to other months. Most of our sightings were in Sterkstroom valley even though there were other sightings reported on the reserve which were just too far from our lodge. The mother with 2 sub-adults was sighted close to Gearbox and 3 days later they were seen resting on Jan Stamakie. There is a male leopard which was sighted at site 44 picnic spot and this leopard seems to be following the mother with 2 sub-adults as she is starting weaning off her young ones and getting into oestrus. There is another leopard den we discovered in Sterkstroom, we can only see this leopard on our way back from our sunset drive in the dark with a spotlight as he spent the rest of the day sleeping in the curve between the rocks.

Buffalo (Syncerus Caffer)

Buffalo sightings have been better this month as we struggled to find the breeding herd in previous months. The breeding herd was sighted a few times feeding on Eddie young plains and drinking at site 20 waterhole. Buffalo by nature are diurnal animals which prefer to feed on short green grass, but looks like our breeding herd at Welgevonden have turned to be more nocturnal. We always see lots of tracks of them in the morning, showing us that they are moving through Jackal road valley at night to their feeding grounds. Good buffalo sightings are still individual bulls we encounter mainly in grassland patches along Sterkstroom River.

Elephant (Loxodonta Africana)

Elephants were just all-over the reserve this months and these gentle giants as always give us great unique experiences month after month. The highlight sighting of this month was watching the breeding herd chasing the lions off Rhino dam. Elephants are family orientated animals which are led by an old, big and wise female (the matriarch). She is always over protective to every member in the herd including young ones which aren’t hers. When the lions were successfully chased away, the elephants started swimming and having good time in the water as a family. Hippos were also in the water but when elephants arrived, they just moved to the edge of the dam. We just can’t get enough of these magnificent creatures as every time we watch them, it’s just another unique and completely different experience from all other sightings we have had before, no matter how many time we have watched them.

Cheetah (Ancinonyx jubatus)

As cheetahs are day active, solitary and territorial, we did not struggle much to find them on the reserve this month. We had great sightings all over the reserve as our cheetah population is evenly distributed on the entire Welgevonden game reserve. We saw the mother with four cubs a couple of times with impala kill around Kolobe and Nkokoni plains. The young cheetah cubs have already lost the white mane on their back which they use to disguise other predators when they are young by mimicking the colours of the mighty Honey Badger. Honey badgers are notoriously known to be formidable powerful creatures and most of the times other predators will avoid confrontations with them. The other female cheetah which weaned off her two cubs in the southern section of the reserve is still hanging around Clifftop lodge. She is hunting mainly impala on the old eastern airstrip field. This same field is also utilised by a leopard which also roams between Clifftop lodge and site 33, interspecific competition between these two different predators is avoided by the activity times, cheetah will avoid other predators by hunting during daylight whereas leopard will come hunt in the dark at night.

Birds

For bird enthusiasts, we had some beautiful birds we encountering during our safaris which include: African Fish Eagles, Steppe Buzzards, Lilac-breasted and European rollers, Cinnamon breasted buntings, Paradise flycatchers, and a variety of Bee-eater and Kingfisher species.

Other interesting sightings this month:

There is a lot of other fascinating species on Welgevonden reserve which are not Big-Five with attributes and behaviours more interesting than the Big-Five. We had many exciting sightings of dwarf chameleons during the day and as well as night times. Honey badgers were also sighted mating in the southern section of the reserve. Brown hyena, Giraffe, Hippo, Aardvark, Spotted genets, Cape clawless otter and Long-tailed widow birds where amongst other sighting we enjoyed watching with our guests on safaris.

Other news on the reserve and around the lodge:

We had a lot of rain this month and we experienced flash floods in Sterkstroom River that we could not cross the river for three days. During this river floods time, our safaris were confined to the southern section of the reserve which was the only place we could go. Luckily, the elephants, southern pride and other species were also trapped with us in the south. Our guests still enjoyed that unique experience which lasted for three days. The river still has plenty of water running through, the fun part is that it is crossable and it is a joy to drive our safari jeeps through the water when crossing the river. There is a lot of food for the animals, lush green vegetation, milk plums and water berries are amongst the food animals are enjoying on the reserve. Baby animals are just all-over the reserve with a lot of activities which include: mothers nursing and protecting their young ones, predators coming hunting and scavengers trailing breeding herds looking for carcasses, sick and weak individuals.

From around the lodge:

With Sterkstroom River running next to Clifftop lodge and plenty of lush green vegetation around the lodge, animals always find it irresistible not to come and spend some time with us at the lodge. For three days, we had a relaxed elephant bull in the camp, he was later joined by his old elephant buddies which spent a couple of hours with him at the lodge and before they left him there. There was no need to go look for elephants as they were just around the camp. Other species which frequent Clifftop lodge with include: Zebra, Nyala, Kudu, Waterbuck and Bushbuck.

Till next month
Elias, Dan & Jean
The Clifftop Field Guides.

From around the lodge:

With Sterkstroom River running next to Clifftop lodge and plenty of lush green vegetation around the lodge, animals always find it irresistible not to come and spend some time with us at the lodge. For three days, we had a relaxed elephant bull in the camp, he was later joined by his old elephant buddies which spent a couple of hours with him at the lodge and before they left him there. There was no need to go look for elephants as they were just around the camp. Other species which frequent Clifftop lodge with include: Zebra, Nyala, Kudu, Waterbuck and Bushbuck.

Till next month
Elias, Dan & Jean
The Clifftop Field Guides.