We started out to investigate the lion rumour yesterday, but were stopped when our neighbours returned. They had also gone out to see what and where but to no avail....... the lions had vanished. During the night, we all realised that the male hadn't gone very far as his roars could be heard periodically. Once more we were up before dawn and had coffee listening to this occasional serenade.
As the gates opened at 6, we were there and out hunting not only for this elusive beast but for Leopard as well. A quick detour down to the S52 and along it for a couple of kilometres yielded very little - a possible Whitebacked Night Heron at the causeway but it disappeared into the vegetation along the river banks so fast that neither of us were certain.
We returned to the main road and decided to head North.
The road was very quiet - a couple of distant Elephants - so we turned off onto the S53 Loop. As we crossed the dry Nkulumbeni River, a movement caught my eye and I braked somewhat sharply. In the bushes at the side, sat a Burchell's Coucal in full view. Unusually for this species, it remained there and posed for us for about 10 minutes before descending into the undergrowth and vanishing.
We re-joined the H1-7 and headed towards Babalala. From just North of the N'warihlangari waterhole up to the Boyela waterhole - a distance of about 7kms - took us over an hour! First of all, a good size herd of Buffalo coming from the East, crossed the road in front of us - probably about 150 of them. Shortly after that, we caught sight of a breeding herd of Elephants that had just crossed the road and were disappearing into the bush. 23 Adults and juveniles plus 5 calves were visible before they vanished - unfortunately, as always (
),too far away for good pics! Imagine our surprise when, 500 metres later - another herd of Buffaloes. This herd, also coming from the same direction as the first, had only just started crossing the road and was much bigger than the previous herd. We sat and watched them for some time. There was only 1 other vehicle observing this with us - overseas tourists on their way down South - who, when we stopped them to tell them about the Elephants, enquired whether it was now safe to proceed. As there had only been a couple of stragglers left when we moved, we assured them that they could continue their journey safely.
Boyela waterhole produced a lone Elephant drinking at the cement dam with his trunk over the wall and a pair of Woolly-necked Storks, one of which was standing on the dam wall silhouetted against the sky. We turned off onto the S57 to join the Mphongolo Loop en route to Babalala. This part of the Mphongolo Loop is a particularly pretty road at this time with all the green grass; bushes and trees. Previous trips along it were done in times of drought or at the end of winter so we had never seen it looking so good. A slight movement on the side of the road ahead alerted us to another, somewhat elusive bird, a Double-banded Sandgrouse.
We watched it for about 5 minutes and then it scuttled away into hiding. Just before we reached Babalala, a Little Bee-eater caught our attention - it was sitting on a dead tree but just out of range for a good pic. We enjoyed a leisurely brunch at Babalala under that magnificent tree lapa. As usual there were plenty of birds around -Hornbills; Starlings; Babblers etc.etc.
Reluctantly we left and took the main road back to camp. All the Elephants and Buffalo had left but there was a nice group of Giraffe; Zebra and Wildebeest near the
It was hot again today (over 30C) so we did no more "exploring" until about 4 this afternoon. We quickly went out along the river road - a big troop of baboons was entertaining a couple of vehicles but we pushed on and turned down the Confluence road. This road had yielded a lion and a Verreaux's Eagle-Owl last week. Sure enough, the Eagle-Owl was still there but in an even more impossible place to get a pic of any kind! On our way back to camp, we spotted a lone, old Buffalo bull at one of the small mud holes. The river road had become quite populated - 5 Elephants on the river bank near the camp gate and a solitary Waterbuck.
Time for a Sundowner and supper!