Nyala are the most striking of antelopes and also exhibit the greatest sexual dimorphism (difference between the sexes) Females are red-brown in colour and characteristically striped along the ridge of the back with up to 18 white lines. These form the animal’s camouflage, breaking up their solid outline and helping them to blend into their thicket habitats. The lines are known as disruptive markings.Read More
Mabalingwe Nature reserve
The summer rains have turned the Bushveld into many shades of green. Trees are sprouting new leaves and the dams are filling up fast.The view from Warthog Lodge over the lush Bushveld never fail to impress.The Woodlands Kingfishers have returned from their winter climes, their unmistakable melodic calls heralding their arrival. Other migratory species such as the Wahlberg's Eagle will wait until later in the year to return - and return they will as they chase the summer; kites and cuckoos, swallows and bee-eaters, starlings and fly-catchers, a myriad species to delight and perplex us.
The afternoon game drive was spectacular, we came upon a tower of 15 to 20 giraffe in the road going about their business. We stopped and watched and got treated by a rare sight. Two males fighting for dominance. The two challengers in the conflict were an older bull and a young male.
In a giraffe fight, males stand side-by-side, pushing and shoving to judge which is strongest.
In evenly matched meetings, blows are sometimes exchanged - dealt by the giraffes' powerful, muscular necks.
The horn-like structures on the stop of the giraffes heads, called ossicones, can inflict injuries but, according to experts, fights rarely get this serious.
"Normally giraffes size each other up and after a bit of stand off and a few swings the fun is over," said Dr Julian Fennessy from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, based in the UK and Namibia.
"When the battles are serious then it often ends in the subservient male skulking away. However, it can end in the death of one of them," he added.
This exchange was not that severe the older bull clearly confident of his position within the herd.
As always, the sunrises and sunsets have been breathtaking in their simplicity and grandeur, and also in allowing all of us to put our lives and those of others, be they man or beast, into proper perspective.
Another sure indicator of summer is the morning and evening melody which plays around the waterholes, echoing across the bushveld. Unmistakable frog calls, chirping insects and birdsong all weave their tunes along the riverbanks, thickets and ponds. Every water source teems with these creatures all intent on feeding, nesting and breeding in an endless, ageless, ongoing cycle
The impalas have a lot of youngsters running around at the moment. In fact most animals will time the births of their young to the rainy season, which makes the most sense really. There is more than sufficient water, food and shelter at this time of the year, making their chances of survival that much greater than if they had to be born in the dry season when all those things are hard to come by.
During one evening Braai, we had an unexpected visit by a sounder of Bush pigs, that helped themselves to most of our fresh vegetables and fruit.
We got treated by displays of amazing animal behaviour. In one instance, young Impala were running around like naughty teenagers. Trying to outdo one another with their speed and jumps. Their mothers decided enough now. Making a sound between a lion's roar and a dog's bark they descended on the youngsters to sorted them out.
We came upon big herds of Zebra, Wildebeest and Buffalo. The Elephant and Rhino did not make an appearance. Curcum Dam's resident crocodile was at his favourite place on "bird" island basking in the setting sun. We did not spot the Hippos, but frequent sightings of Kudu made up for that.The Giraffe stole the show this weekend, we again came upon the two males still fighting and what a fascinating show it is. On our last night, we got treated to 2 giraffes getting it on and what a strange sight that is.
We were fortunate to observe a large group of banded mongoose as they forage for food. They forage in the morning for several hours and then rest in the shade. They will usually forage again in the late afternoon. Mongooses use their sense of smell to locate their prey and dig them out with their long claws, both in holes in the ground and holes in trees. Mongoose will also frequent near the dung of large herbivores since they attract beetles.Low grunts are produced every few seconds for communication. The group had with them this season's pups. Each pup is cared for by a single adult "escort" who helps the pup to find food and protects it from danger.
And so we say farewell to another spectacular week in the South African bushveld in the hope that there will be more amazing encounters to follow in the weeks to come.
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The yellow Hornbill has been made famous by the movie The Lion King, where it is used as a character named Zazu. As a common resident to the reserve it is not rare to see these hornbills, but every guests' reaction to this bird is one of amazement. The huge yellow bill leaves everyone fascinated and obsessed with trying to get a photo.
Being a common resident does not mean that this bird is boring by any stretch of the imagination. It has a very wide range of diet, consisting of both invertebrates and small vertebrates. Yellow-billed hornbills will eat insects, bird chicks, frogs, chameleons, ants, termites and the list goes on.
The species is known to forage co-operatively with dwarf mongoose, catching prey items that the mongoose scratch up from the ground. In return the hornbills alert the mongoose to danger from overhead raptors. There have been records of hornbills waiting expectantly at mongoose burrows, eager for the foraging to begin.
This species nests in naturally occurring holes in trees or in abandoned woodpecker or barbet nests.
Hornbills are a sociable species, generally living in small groups. They have a very distinctive clucking call. Once one bird starts calling, the whole group will often join in, creating a cacophony of sound. In the bushveld you will often see two hornbills sitting together, clucking away with very entertaining wings open, back and forth rocking, head bowing display.
Neither graceful nor beautiful, warthogs are nonetheless remarkable animals. They are found in most of Africa south of the Sahara and are widely distributed in East Africa. They are the only pigs able to live in areas without water for several months of the year. By tolerating a higher-than-normal body temperature, the warthog is perhaps able to conserve moisture inside its body that might otherwise be used for cooling. (Camels and desert gazelles have developed a similar mechanism for survival in hot, arid environments.
Males weigh 20 to 50 pounds more than females, but both are distinguished by disproportionately large heads and the warts-thick protective-pads that appear on both sides of the head. Two large pairs of warts occur below the eyes, and between the eyes and the tusks, and a very small pair is found near the jaw (usually just in males).
The face is fairly flat and the snout elongated. Eyes set high on the head enables the warthog to keep a lookout for predators even when it lowers its head to feed on short grass. The warthog's large tusks are unusual: The two upper ones emerge from the sides of the snout to form a semicircle; the lower tusks at the base of the uppers are worn to a sharp cutting edge.
Sparse bristles cover the warthog's body, although longer bristles form a mane from the top of the head down the spine to the middle of the back. The skin is gray or black (or yellowish or reddish, if the warthog has been wallowing in mud). The long tail ends with a tuft of bristles. The warthog characteristically carries its tail upright when it runs, the tuft waving like a tiny flag. As the young run in single file, the tail position may serve as a signal to keep them all together. Warthogs trot with a springy gait but they are known to run surprisingly fast.
Warthogs are found in moist and arid savannas. They avoid rainforest, deserts and high mountains.
When water is available, warthogs drink regularly and enjoy wallowing in muddy places. As part of their grooming they also take sand baths, rub against trees and termite mounds and let tick birds pick insects off their bodies.
Warthogs live in family groups of a female and her young. Sometimes another female will join the group. Males normally live by themselves, only joining the groups to mate. Warthogs engage in ritual fights in which they charge straight on, clashing heads when they meet. Fights between males can be violent and bloody.
Warthogs sleep and rest in holes, which at times they line with grass, perhaps to make them warmer. Although they can excavate, warthogs normally do not dig holes but use those dug by other animals, preferably aardvarks.
The warthog is mainly a grazer and has adapted an interesting practice of kneeling on its calloused, hairy, padded knees to eat short grass. Using its snout and tusks, it also digs for bulbs, tubers and roots during the dry season.
Caring for the Young
Before giving birth to a new litter, the female chases away the litter she has been raising and secludes herself. These juveniles may join up with another solitary female for a short time before they go on their own.
Female warthogs only have four teats, so litter sizes usually are confined to four young. Each piglet has its "own" teat and suckles exclusively from it. Even if one piglet dies, the others do not suckle from the available teat. Although the young are suckled for about 4 months, after 2 months they get most of their nourishment from grazing.
Lions and leopards are the warthog's chief enemies. Warthogs protect themselves from predators by fleeing or sliding backwards into a hole, thus being in a position to use their formidable tusks in an attack.
Did you know?
- The warthog has poor vision (though better than most other African wild pigs), but its senses of smell and hearing are good.
- When alarmed, the warthog grunts or snorts, lowers its mane, flattens its ears and bolts for underground cover.
THE AFRICAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION