A good old fashioned beat down

20 11 2011

Madness! That is the only way to describe it! Pure, sharp toothed, claw extended madness! It all started quite peacefully but ended up being a good old fashioned beat down!
I found a young male lion, moving through the bush with a purpose. At this point, I am sure his intention did not match the eventual outcome! He had picked up on a scent, and was moving quickly towards its owner. Nose to the ground, he gathered momentum, closing in.
Unknowingly, he found himself in the boxing ring. He stood still, quizzically looking at the pride of lions he had been tracking, and watched, confused, as the oldest female in the pride came barrelling towards him, teeth exposed, ready for action. It almost seemed as though he didn’t think she would follow through, because he just stood there, processing. I, however, had fully processed and lifted the camera!
The bush was quite thick, so I drove, hurriedly some would say, to get ringside seats. As luck would have it, I ended up right next to the fight (almost too close – for comfort anyway), and what followed was a blur of shutter; lions fighting; dust; shutter; lions fighting; hair; shutter; lions fighting; teeth; shutter!
The young male got taught a serious lesson in approaching unfamiliar prides! The two females got hold of him, and gave him a quick once over, while the sub adults in the pride, although keen to engage, stood in their mothers corner and took it all in!
He managed to pop out of the attack seemingly unhurt. He had some blood on his head, but I don’t think it hurt as much as the bruised ego!
Somewhere in all the madness, the shutter clicked at the right time, and I got some pretty cool images!

A morning splash about

20 06 2011

At least once, if not twice a week, I find tracks of male lions crossing the river at a particular point. It is a beautiful crossing with great photographic opportunities – except for the fact that I have never actually seen the lions crossing the river…
Riding on the back of the pangolin luck (see https://kurtjaybertels.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/the-good-luck-continues/), I managed to break the months of frustration and actually witness three male lions crossing through the river! Not only did they cross the river in front of me, but they crossed east, (for all of you not familiar with where the sun rises, it’s in the east – you should know that though…), into beautiful morning light! I was so excited, the buffer on my camera was used up before the first lion had even finished crossing! This means that while the images moved from the camera to the card, I was unable to take a photo – a breathless and painful couple of seconds. When breathing resumed, and the camera started clicking again, the lions were at the near bank, which seemed to be the end of the first round action, until, (unbeknown to the lions and myself, algae had grown on the exit point), the second lion through the river slipped, going belly up into the fresh winter water! I again have to comment on the brilliant morning light – the lion did not care about the morning light at this point.
With two through and one to go, the cameras were again raised. The third lion to come through the river, was the brave and noble individual that secured the buffalo kill a few weeks ago, see https://kurtjaybertels.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/an-age-old-battle/. While he is confident to work his way around a buffalo, he seems less sure of himself around water. It took him a while to get going, and even stopped to growl at the river. (Lions do fall victim to crocodile attacks). He moved cautiously through the first two smaller channels, and then came to the deeper third channel. He entered slowly and surely, staring into the deeper water. Three or four steps in; he lost his nerve and put the burners on! He charged through the water, in almost a panicked fashion – forgetting all about his alpha male status! The morning light needs another mention.
Absolutely fantastic to watch, and even better to photograph! Months of waiting, and years of dreaming have produced some of my favourite images! Enjoy!

An age old battle

1 06 2011

Three male lions were out on the hunt. Even though they have firmly established their territory and dominance over a number of prides, they continue to hunt for themselves.
A large herd of buffalo had moved into the area, and as soon as the sun disappeared, the lions headed straight into the herd.
It took a while for the action to start, because buffalo are not an easy target. The males darted in three times, each time unsuccessful. The herd managed to rally around quickly enough to chase the lions off, before they had a firm grip on any of the buffalo. The lions kept trying.
They set up the fourth attempt, and went for it. Again they were outsmarted and out muscled, until they stumbled upon an old male that had been severely injured in a clash with another male buffalo. The injuries he had sustained during the fight were enormous, and he was unable to use his front legs. The lions took two seconds to work out what lay before them, and then made their final assault. The buffalo, in all fairness, never had a chance, but he put up more fight than the lions, or I, expected. We watched the drama unfold for close to forty minutes, and when we left, the old buffalo was still alive, and still fighting!
Once the lions had a firm grip on the old bull, the herd began to muster up the courage to mount a counter offensive. They began to charge in from all directions, over and over. All but one of the lions turned tail and ran. The one male lion, the one with the dark scar on his nose, held on tightly to the muzzle of the buffalo, and wouldn’t let go!
The buffalo’s came within inches of making contact with him, but he stood his ground, and kept to the job at hand. Each time the buffalo retreated to regroup, the other lions would come back and help their brother, only to be chased off again seconds later. The back and forth was fascinating to watch and experience. Photographing the affair was less than easy!
I had to keep an eye on the herd of buffalo, as they were stampeding only one meter from the vehicle, and still try focus on the action, using only a spotlight!
The following morning, the drama was not over. The buffalo had succumbed to his injuries during the night, and the three males had already eaten their fill. They had left the kill for a short time to go drink from the river, and while they were away, a small pride of lions found the buffalo. They thought they had won the lottery, and began to feed. They had managed to get a good amount of meat in their bellies, before the males returned…
The male with the scar on his nose did not take lightly to his hard fought meal being stolen, and came charging in. He caught one of the females, and gave her a light working over, (nothing too serious, just a bit of “how’s your father?”), and went back to his buffalo prize. He had gorged himself the night before, so was not keen on actually eating, he simply sat at the kill, and waited for his digestion to allow him to take a few more mouthfuls!
The lions eventually moved off all together, allowing the patient vultures a chance to get their share of the spoils.

Bundles of joy

4 04 2011

After much searching and patience, the little bundles of joy I have been so desperate to photograph finally came out of the long grass, and stepped into the open!

A female lion was found about 3 weeks ago, moving her then very small cubs to a new den site.  Ever since then, I have been waiting patiently for her to really bring the cubs out into the open, and allow us a good look at her handy work.  She has finally done just that!

The result has been a few days of absolute joy, as the little cubs learn their way around their world.  The trick with trying to photograph these future kings and queens, is working through and around the grass.  There are still frequent rain storms in the area, and the grass is still much taller than the four little blighters, making it very difficult to get a clean view.

I struck it lucky two days in a row when the mother was resting up near an open patch of sand, and the cubs took to this playground in no time!  They are starting to play more freely around the vehicle, and are stalking and pouncing, running at and biting everything that moves!  It is great fun to watch as they hone the skills they will need later in life – and even more fun trying to photograph it!

I will keep following the little cubs, and hopefully bring you more images soon!  Enjoy!