Since my last thoughts were laid bare, sunny spring skies gave way to the first hints of rain as the clouds rolled in and the few drops that fell barely dampened the soil. The rain left and the cloud stayed behind for a couple of days. This, however, in no way dampened our spirits as sightings of late have been exceptional, brightening any grey day. In fact, the last two days have been so filled with spots that the preceding days are but faded memories. At the end of drive yesterday morning, when most people were waking and thinking TGIF, our day took a decidedly positive turn with the discovery of an impala in the fork of a Knob-thorn barely a stone's throw from the door of Final Control. Subtle clues hinted at who could have left it there, immediately ruling out Karula for a number of reasons, the least of which being that she was found in the Southern part of Djuma relaxing on a termite mound like a cat that got the mouse. Of course there was the more obvious reason, looking at the carcass wedged in the fork of twin trunks, there was very little in the way of even a horizontal twig, let alone a branch on which a leopard could feed. Judgement was reserved.
Speaking of Karula, she had us guessing in the afternoon when a number of us returned to the termite mound where she had been. In eliminating places where she neither wasn't nor hadn't been, I was drawn back there in the late afternoon and, with darkness falling, found the remains of a young male Impala tucked into the dense dry grasses. It had been hidden from sight in a recessed hollow that looked like a caved in burrow of the past and it was only by accident and proximity that I found it.
To digress, as I often do, Alex had set up one of the HD cameras on a tripod next to the tree that held the somewhat gruesome remains of a no doubt pregnant impala in order to plug the lead into the live stream so that we could broadcast any activity there, no matter how long it took. For those who waited the whole day with the patience of a cat, WE were all rewarded when the cat himself returned to the kill. Sebastien and I were sitting with Karula when Pat radioed to say that the Ingwe was back and it is only through an email from Fred in Florida a day later that I learned that he kinda fell out of the tree. For us, drive was over and I assumed the Ingwe had dragged its prey beyond camp into the drainage line so we were stunned to find Induna eating right next to the tripod and camera when we returned to camp. I think he realized how vulnerable he was and how much he needed to tree it elsewhere because he picked it up and hastily dragged the remains in the only direction he could, towards the dense gully. Seb and Pat sat in the Jigga where he had crossed the road and heard him crunch bones and eventually tree the carcass again. The end to this little saga is that we could see the kill in a large Tambotie tree North of Graham's house from the car park, from FC, from the road coming in to camp, from all angles, albeit not exactly unobstructed views. Despite this, between end of drive in the morning and lunchtime, he managed to come back to take it down and no doubt feed, a neat little trick he has learned from his mother. Feed in comfort on the ground when the Hyena are sleeping. It doesn't matter what the fork looks like, put your food out of reach. Of course it is not foolproof for Hyena are no fools.
By my reckoning, we saw 5 different leopard in less than 5 hours of game drive between the Pm drive yesterday and Today's AM and hence the title of this endless dribble. Numbers 3 and 4 were no exception. Yambilu Jordaan with a very attentive and might i say slinky Ntima ( or so I am told ) doing a kinda hand in hand or paw in paw love dance on the way back to "Her Place". It was adorable. He wanted to get there, she wanted a roll in the dry grasses and when she did, his resolve dropped and he too lay down to wait for her. As soon as she was up he was walking, making a beeline for her boundary with her catching up and flirting. We were very lucky to witness their nuptials, this is perhaps the first for a live broadcast in daylight.
Hearing that there had been other leopard where Karula had her kill and where the two lovebirds had heralded from, We came across Mixo taking a nap in morning sunshine. He must have heard something, first raising his head and then climbing a dense Gardenia using height as a vantage point and clearly concentrating on the same area. Deep in a very dense Knob-thorn thicket, almost invisible by its diminutive size, the shine from the rising sun on a glistening coat is what helped me to see it, as shafts of sunlight battled with shadows in a forest of saplings. It was a very young Duiker and Mixo had his eyes locked on target. WE watched him flow down the tree and glide beside us as he effortlessly made his way around the thicket before exploding into feline perfection in hot pursuit. The little thing evaded him as the chase took them away from us, but managing to somehow turn around and run back in our direction. Bursting from the tall dry grasses and scrub besides the thicket, the duiker ran for its life, a leopard in full flight on its tail heading straight towards us, they veered, there was another dense stand of bush, they disappeared behind it and a cry rang out that stirred memories of many such a sad moment that I have witnessed with the death of a duiker. I couldn't see them, I couldn't find them, I could only hear that cry and could only acknowledge the balance, the emotion instilled for both the little antelope and the young male leopard now well on his way to adulthood. Perhaps Yambilu Jordaan gave him a bit of a man to man on his way through with his new mate.
I don't want to make light of the other special moments we have had of late by not penning paragraphs, one of which was a very special time with a pair of Rhino, then there were these; Spiritual moments with a family of Zebra, Taking time to talk with impala, the finesse of a Heron filleting a frog, Hyena drag marks that seem to have been Karulas kill, dragged across half the property further flaunting the fact that they have a den somewhere I suspect it to be. Today, Pat had some wonderful moments with a lioness that may or may not be one of the Styx as she lay on the dam wall at Twin Dams and drooled over a group of old buffalo bulls. I found a new specimen of a tree orchid. These were all wonderful in their own way but this piece was about the cats we spotted, those inimitable spotted cats.