Chitabe: We photograph A Bird Feeding Frenzy before joining a Hunting Leopard


From Brendon:

Our aim this morning was twofold. The lions were not far away and the males looked ready for a meal yesterday. And those tantalising paw prints belonging to the wild-dogs were also nearby.

While searching for the wild-dogs we photographed giraffe, elephant, zebra, different buck, and different birds – but no signs anywhere of the dogs. 

Then, finding some lion tracks we followed these and found seven lions again lying out in a wide open space giving us marvellous photographs to add to our already large collections. Three young males were playing vigorously, mock- fighting each other, stalking each other and the resting adults, and racing at speed around the area, behaving like young children everywhere.

Several pools have appeared in the Chitabe area as the waters recede, and the pools are filled with trapped fish. The fish have less and less space as the pools shrink in size, and each pool therefore has a dense concentration of bream, catfish and others. This is a great attraction for different bird species and the feeding frenzies are quite mind boggling.

We stopped at one of the pools and watched in amazement as Marabou Storks, Yellow-billed Storks, Sacred Ibis and even Wattled Cranes jostled for position in the limited area.

Numerous fights broke out, and each time a bird successfully caught a fish the others would attack and try to wrest the meal from him. Then an argument would follow about who could claim another few inches of the precious water. Then, just as all seemed to settle again, another fish would be caught and the disputes erupted again … and again …

We were still photographing and enjoying this incredible spectacle when we heard that a female leopard was in the move not far away.

We found her easily and then spent more than an hour with this most amazing leopard. She posed for us on tree branches, at eye level, on the ground, up on termite mounds, stretching, yawning, jumping in and out of trees and generally ensuring that we captured images of her in a large variety of different poses and actions.

Then she climbed a tree and looking around intently she spotted something. With amazing speed she jumped down and first loped in the direction she had looked, then she flattened, belly to the ground and started to inch forward slowly, – slowly. What had she seen?

Slowly she slithered slightly closer – and then we saw what had attracted her – a few kudu with a youngster. She fixed her eyes in the young kudu and stealthily moved across the ground. 

Finally she was close enough and she broke cover. The startled kudu leaped away and sprinted as fast as he could to get away. She was hot on his heels .. just another moment, one more spring and …

… the kudu veered, and by now now the leopard had used all her available energy reserves. She collapsed panting heavily under some shrubs while we decided, as our pulse rates started to settle, that this would be a good time to return to the Lodge for our meal.

This afternoon we returned to the lions but as they were all fast asleep we went in search of the leopard. 

On the way we we sidetracked by a delightful herd of elephant with a few really tiny babies.

 

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We stopped to watch the babies and their attempts to control their trunks. The trunks seemed to have a mind of their own and would wave this way and that and then startle the little one as it crept up and appeared out of nowhere.

We chose to spend sunset with the lions. They were just getting up and we got some great images of them in the last rays of the setting sun and in the early darkness.

They stood up, greeted one another and then strolled slowly toward us with the last light directly behind them. Then a few spotlight shots – 

 

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Tonight we sit around the fire, with the brilliant sky above we discuss whether our best photos today were the squabbling, fishing birds, or maybe the posing then hunting leopard, or the lions in the sunset, or the little elephants bemused by their uncooperative trunks. Each is a special memory …

We hope to find the wild-dogs tomorrow ..