HI, and welcome to my blog! I am a field guide in a private game reserve in South Africa and below you will find stories and pictures of my amazing job!

January 25, 2011

I thought I Saw a Puddy Cat….I Did, I Did!!

After a late start we headed out on afternoon game drive full of hope and expectation.  With the latest drought of leopard on the property, I was apprehensive though.  My fears were swiftly expelled however, as within 20mins of departure, we bumped into a beautiful male leopard plodding down the road towards us.  Our ‘official’ dominant leopard loomed in front of us and his recent run ins with the young pretender look to have taken their toll.  His right eye looked opaque in colour and he has almost certainly lost sight in it.  His coat still looked glossy and his belly full, so evidently he has learned to adapt to this new disability and was boldly scent making as he went.  However, the next meeting between these two feline warriors may well end in a more serious outcome.  After following him for a long time, we left him relaxing in the shade of an acacia tree.

Male Leopard Owning the Road

The Stare....

We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the smaller things on offer in the African bush, including a busy group of dwarf mongooses foraging next to road.  Gregarious omnivores, living in large groups, it is only the alpha pair that reproduce.  Such a strategy ensures there are ample helpers to enhance the prospects of a successful litter, and there is always no shortage of keen eyed sentries to keep watch for danger. 

The Ever Watchful Dwarf Mongoose

Sunset brought with it the opportunity to watch a monogamous pair of yellow billed hornbills basking in the last of the heat of the day.  Some beautiful light allowed me to get this great photo!
A Pair of Yellow Billed Hornbills in Perfect Light

We spent the last part of the evening with a lioness bathed in the lights of the spotlight.  Although she refused to give us much in the way of action, it’s always great to watch these massive cats at night.  Somehow their demeanor changes and you become very much aware that we are guests in their world.  20/20 vision and stealthy precision makes them perfectly adapted for nocturnal activity and with the removal of sunlight, an open vehicle suddenly feels very exposed!
Lioness Bathed in the Spotlight

The next morning started well with some wonderful light bathing a European roller, quite content to model for us next to the road. 
The Beautiful European Roller

But this was just a precursor to the treat that awaited us around the next corner.  Finally I managed to combine bringing my camera on drive and finding our lion cubs!  The same female we saw last night had made her way back to her den and was enjoying a rest while her cubs frolicked around her.  Now about 8 weeks old, they seem in great condition and gave us a great show chasing each other around, and some wonderfully tender moments as they checked in with their mother regularly.  At last I managed to get some photos of our latest additions and hopefully they will be just the first of many!
The next generation
Easy to be Bold when Mum's Around!
Flexing the Jaws!

The morning ended with a grumpy buffalo bull, lounging in the cool soft sand of the drainage line close to the lodge.  Obviously enjoying the break from the now baking hot sun, he was oblivious to our presence.
Dagga Boy Enjoying the Cool Sand in the Midday Heat

After that, we successfully tracked breakfast back to the lodge and reminisced on another amazing 12 hours in the bush.