Sunshine and showers

21 03 2012

After the much-awaited sighting on the 18th the 19th continued to compensate for the last few weeks. To start with the pride was relaxing in Chisamu when we first arrived. As they chilled out beneath one of Dambwa’s notorious thickets we managed to find a spot that gave us a reasonable view of them.

A rustling in the tall grass on the other side of the bushes woke everyone up. We couldn’t see what it was, but Kwandi almost certainly could as she got up and began stalking. The “hunt” (if you can call stalking for about 2m a hunt) didn’t last long though and whatever it was either wasn’t of sufficient interest or soon vanished from sight as she sat back down.

After several minutes to recover themselves, the pride then moved out from the thicket and onto the road where we trailed them into Sahara. Coming to yet another thicket they stopped for a drink at a natural water pan which has been created from the rains before settling down once more. Just as the late afternoon sun began to cast a golden glow on them, most of the pride began to tilt their heads skywards, sniffing the air. At first it looked like they may have caught scent of an animal – but shortly after when the skies opened, it seemed more likely they’d got a whiff of the incoming downpour.

Yesterday (20th) was a much more sedate affair with the group resting up in Kariba. For most of the morning we were only able to see Kela, Loma and Zulu clearly, with the others slumped in the grass nearby. Rusha initiated a short move for the group just before breakfast and for a few glorious minutes we watched as all seven ambled along the road before settling down to a bit of a social… before vanishing back into the grass.





Hiya!

18 03 2012

We’re very aware that this blog talks more about grass than it does the actual Dambwa pride these days. However, it has become the key element that dictates the success of our sessions with the pride. The last few weeks have been, for want of a better word, testing. Even when the lions have been found walking along the roads in the site, many of these are so overgrown now that it doesn’t afford much better viewing.

Happily today (18th) they were on one of the roads which still allows a relatively clear view. The first visual of the morning came when we found Kwandi, Kela, Temi and Zulu slap bang in the middle of the road – our view completely unobstructed, a rare treat. Leya, Loma and Rusha were just off the road and the ferocious grinding of teeth against bone punctuated with the odd scraping of tongues to remove every last shred of their latest meal gave a hint as to what the trio were up to.

By 8am the temperature was already soaring, and with everyone having nice full bellies there wasn’t much to do except enjoy being able to see them for a while. One by one they rose and began milling along the road a short distance before stopping to drink from a puddle before settling down in the grass.

By mid-morning they were roughly in the same spot but had moved to the side of the road so we were just about able to make them out. It did however take some considerable time to pick out who was who in the heap of lions as the seven performed their usual trick of contorting and piling every single last one of themselves into one tiny patch of shade.





A pain in the grass…

6 03 2012

Wednesay (29th) we joined the pride on the border of Tsavo and Kulibe in what is probably the only clearing left in the site. It was a quiet day – apart from one rather inappropriate move Loma pulled on Leya.

Later in the week they were in Kariba. We spent an entertaining two hours with the only visible part of any of the lions being Kela’s bottom. After breakfast however, things livened up a bit. As we arrived we found them all sitting under a bush watching a guinea fowl in the tree above them that was screeching its head off. After several minutes, the lions had lost interest and the bird eventually seemed to calm down (no doubt its being up a tree had something to do with the seven lions) and flew to the ground about 30 metres past the lions.

The bird then proceeded to continue its calling whilst walking back in the direction of the lions. Rusha finally roused herself from the bush and peered around a tree to watch as it waddled closer. As it then turned off in a different direction still advertising its position louder than was wise, Rusha began to follow. She seemed to get to within 10 metres of it before losing it in the grass and returning to the pride.

Monday (5th) and after stopping by one of the lions’ recent feeding sites, we tracked their signals down to a bush on the edges of Bwizu and Chobe. No matter which side we came from the lions couldn’t be seen, so we decided to check water levels at the three pans. Returning to the bush on the off-chance the lions had moved out of it we found that now their signals weren’t even emitting from the area. But we were able to follow some rather fresh prints to their new location at pan 2. But they were no more visible here either.

Luckily Kela saved the day by sitting just within sight, but the rest we could only listen to as they shuffled around in the grass. A brief glimpse of Temi and an even briefer one of Kwandi helped pass the afternoon, but we spent the session watching Kela as she enjoyed the afternoon breeze.





What’s going on in there?

28 02 2012

Once again, the weather has done a pretty good job of keeping us out of the site over the last week or so. This morning when we went in, we got to see just what effect the downpours have been having on the Dambwa Release Area. The entire area, including the roads, is now dwarfed by six to eight foot grass; swamping our vehicle and of course the lions. Over the last few weeks, the viewing has been difficult – now it’s practically non-existent.

Having tracked their signals to the edges of the Acacia boundary it took the better part of the two hours to pick out seven forms in the grass and then wait for each one to stand up and resettle in a new position until we were able to identify each lump confidently. A morning well spent.

A game count after breakfast proved fairly fruitless, with the game proving just as difficult to spot as the lions. Even when we did happen to catch a flash of an animal in the grass counting them was more guess work than anything else.

Back to the lions and thankfully some of them had shifted into the shade of a tree and the grass they had flattened around them gave a few glimpses of activity and behaviour.

The now obligatory tree scratch of each session came today from Loma, who then and had good old groom with Rusha.

Temi and Zulu watched the skies while Leya slept on and the Ks remained stubbornly just out of sight until we were about to leave when Kwandi finally came into view.

By all accounts, a quiet and relaxing time in Dambwa… but who knows what’s going on in that grass?!





On the move

25 01 2012

The morning of the 18th was a peaceful one for the lions with hardly an eyelid batted all morning. The only activity came when, as the morning began to heat up, one by one they moved into the shade.

Mid-morning was an entirely different matter however. We found them crossing the dry river bed in Puku Dambo and heading south. Pausing to scan the area for several minutes Temi and Kela chose to remain in place at the edge of the river bed while Rusha led the others on to the main road and into Chobe. They seemed alert in their approach as they neared the Sanga boundary but we never quite were able to work out if they were hunting or just hoping to bump into something. Mid-way across Chobe Kela and Temi showed up some quarter of an hour after we had left them and Rusha led everyone into the boundary.

We soon lost sight of most of them, except for Zulu who had sat down about 15 meters inside the treeline and began gnawing on what we can only presume was an old kill (unless he’d managed to make a kill in the 30 seconds or so it had taken for us to move the vehicle closer). We sat and listened for best part of 20 minutes as he crunched on bones and watched the top of his mane wobble around in the grass. The girls’ signals gradually grew weaker and weaker.

At just past midday he discarded whatever rotting bit of animal he’d snacked on and set off west through the boundary to track the girls. We hoped we’d be able to pick him out until he hooked up with them, but after 50 or so metres we lost sight of him too, and watched as his signal joined the girls in that place referred to as “somewhere in there”.

By the 21st they had re-emerged and were resting by waterpan 1. Their resting was punctuated by sudden bursts of mass grooming, or social interactions but they remained relatively sedate until the end of the day when Kela suddenly bolted upright  and immediately marched off with everyone following suit to the other side of Kariba.

Yesterday morning (24th) we came across them walking along the road between Kulibe and Chisamu. An abrupt turn across Chisamu led them West into Chobe. We were able to pick them out from time to time, but didn’t get a proper sighting again until we came across Kela, Leya and Temi in western Chobe as Zulu continued to lead the other four girls into Sibaka. Remaining with the trio we waited to see if they’d join the others, but they seemed quite happy where they were thank you very much.

Kwandi, Rusha, Loma and Zulu were sprawled across the road in Sibaka. With the two groups not too far away from one another, it wasn’t much of a surprise to find that later on in the morning they had all met up and were back in one of their favourite spots in Kariba.

 





A different type of prey…

17 01 2012

The pride was at water pan 3 this morning (17th) in lazy but fairly social form. Except for Rusha who wasn’t quite feeling the love when she bared her teeth at Zulu, who was looking for a new spot to sit and decided on top of Rusha would be best.

As the first hour of observation passed a steady rumbling approached from the west. As it grew louder, all the lions started awake and as a helicopter flew over the site and right over their location they all leapt to their feet. Most reacted with a mixture of panic and utter terror, as one would expect. But there was one fearless young lady who decided to take on this noisy bird. Rusha sprang to her feet as it approached, dropped to a crouching stalk as it roared over head and then gave chase for well over 100m! Bolstered by her bravery, Kwandi and Temi followed; but unsurprisingly the trio shortly returned to the others – minus a whirly bird breakfast.

By mid-morning the lions were after something a little more traditional. They were making their way through Kariba when a herd of impala caught Temi’s attention. The grass reaching above her head it’s a wonder she ever saw them. As the rest of the pride continued west she stood stock still until Zulu also became of aware that something of interest was nearby. Temi glided towards them at first closing just 30m of the original 150m gap. One by one the rest of the pride cottoned on, and moved into a line to the right of Temi.

With the trap set and the impala still oblivious Temi crept to the left of the herd. We lost visual of her pretty soon after that as she vanished in the grass. A few minutes later we caught a brief glimpse of her as she poked her head above cover to check her postion – then disappeared again. We were waiting, the rest of the pride were waiting – but we never saw Temi; until a warning snort sounded from the herd and they fled in several directions. The ambush rose from their positions and began to advance towards a thicket a number of the herd had taken refuge in; Zulu on the left the girls along the back and the right. Loma managed to single one out who’d got split off from the rest of the herd after the panic caused by Temi’s initial charge, but she couldn’t get any closer than 20m.

Despite a thrilling half hour, the lions’ efforts were in vain and the impala managed to escape. Once it was clear they weren’t getting lunch Rusha led the pride on a move to the other side of Kariba before plonking themselves in the shade of a tree – to wait for the next opportunity.





Work, rest and then… more rest

15 01 2012

The 14th was a busy afternoon for the lions – not that you would have known it at first. Originally, the entire pride was resting near pan 1, so we took the opportunity while they were sleeping to check the water levels at the other pans.

On our way back to the pride we saw a very nervous looking female waterbuck scampering into the Acacia treeline. Minutes later a handful of impala were rushing towards the main road. Of course the lions would wait until we were elsewhere to do something.

As we neared their original location we caught a brief flash of three lionesses trotting towards the boundary. Rusha, Loma and Zulu were standing, watching the trio and Leya emerged a few minutes later from the direction we had found them earlier. One by one they followed in the wake of Temi, Kela and Kwandi.

For the better part of the next hour we crept along the tree line, every once in a while catching a sighting of the procession of lions as they made their way East along the boundary. Finally, Temi led them out onto Bwizu, followed by Rusha, then Kwandi, Kela, Loma, Leya and (bringing up the rear as usual) Zulu.

But our visual of them was short lived as after having a quick drink at pan 2 Temi, Kwandi, Leya, Kela and Rusha stalked back into the tree line. We never saw whether it was impala, puku, waterbuck or the wind they were stalking but thankfully everyone regrouped towards the border of Sahara for 20 minutes before we left for the day.

By this morning (15th) we tracked them down just as they were crossing the road between Chisamu and Tsavo. The weather was cool and breezy and hopes were high for a bit of activity.

After everyone had a good scratch at a tree it looked for a moment as though Leya was going to continue the move. But after everyone had mauled the scratching post they all flopped down into the tall grass.

If anything by mid-morning the wind had picked up even more and the lions had moved the length of the site and we found them after breakfast at pan 1. They all seemed fairly alert to something with the girls scanning the area and Zulu sniffing the breeze.

But whatever it was, after a bit of milling around and a couple of head rubs it was time to recover their energy and… go back to sleep.

 








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