The fun way to do it

30 10 2012

Over the last few months, we have seen various ways of dealing with the hassle of crossing Africa’s rivers.  The male lions started us off by casually starting to cross the river, then hitting an absolute panic and splashing their way nervously through the rest of the crossing.  It wasn’t graceful by any means, and the slip at the end, landing the lions head in the water and his tail in the air, didn’t help.  Next to cross was a large male leopard.  Always poised, and with a certain arrogance, he went for the cool, calm, collected approach.  He moved through the river as if it were not even there.  The judges gave him a solid nine point five.  Following the leopard, we had an example of how not to do it.  The young wildebeest that was trying so desperately to cross the Mara River, got trapped in some underwater rocks, and had a less than pleasant discussion with a monster crocodile.

We now have a new method of dealing with river crossings – the fun way to do it.

We came across a troop of olive baboons early one morning on a photographic safari in Kenya.  They were slowly approaching a small river that was flowing with some real vigour after a night of solid rain.  With almost no warning, the large male leading the troop took a single step run-up, and leaped across the hazardous water, clearing the obstacle in one go.  We quickly got into position, and enjoyed the rest of the troop, nearly fifty individuals, going for gold as they jumped across the water.  A good ninety percent of the troop made it without even touching the water, and that includes mothers with babies of various sizes attached to their fronts and backs.  The remaining ten percent were youngsters that were just too old to be carried by their mothers.  It was fantastic to watch, as the little guys gave it their best shot, but fell a little short drenching themselves in the process.  The sighting lasted for about ten minutes, most of which was filled with the constant clicking of some hard worked cameras.

Two little bits of fun

9 10 2012

A young baboon’s first step out into the big bad world can be daunting, but with a sibling on hand to try it out with, it can only be fun.  I was out on an afternoon safari, and found a troop of baboons, finishing up their day.  Between all the flea picking and playful teenagers, were two fresh-out-the-oven babies, exploring their playground for the first time.

Once they had broken free from their mother’s protective grip, they headed straight for an old, dead log and began climbing it.  I use the term climbing loosely, as they battled their way to the middle.  The climbing quickly evolved to trying to push the other one off the branch, which lead to shrieks of fear and delight – all very entertaining for the photographers that were present!  At one point, the braver of the two tried his hand at a live tree, and made it all of thirty centimetres off the floor – his more timid companion stood in awe!  I spent a magic forty-five minutes clicking away at the babies, as they tried to figure it all out.

From time to time, the mothers would pop their heads into the little explorers club, just to make sure everything was still OK, only to be met with blatant rejection, as the now cool young guns continued up to the middle of the big old branch.

The time did come though when they were all played out (meaning they were hungry), and went scuttling back to their mothers for milk.  Firmly attached to their mother’s belly, they were escorted back to the troops roost for the night.


To join me on safari, click here!

Slap ‘n tickle

9 05 2011

Any sort of mammal behaviour is fun to watch, and especially photograph, so I was delighted to come across a female leopard teaching her young male cub a quick lesson. The two had been separated for a few days while the mother was out on the hunt, and reunited with a little more vigour than usual.
The cub, who is about 20 months, was in the mood to test out his stalking and pouncing skills, and surprised his mother with a claw filled welcome. She reacted immediately, and had him subdued almost instantly. Sheepishly, he went limp, submitting to his more cunning mother, and she let him go. In a flash, he was back up and stalking her again, trying his luck in an unsurprising second ambush. She knew this game well, as she has raised numerous litters of cubs over the years.
She let him give chase for a few yards, before quickly turning the tables, and again pinning him down. It was a great display of maternal care mixed with extreme athleticism. Remembering the games she used to play as a cub, and all the times she had patiently sat and been ‘hunted’ by her previous litters, gave her all the experience she needed to teach him a thing or two.
This she did, until he eventually lost interest in the games, and they moved off together to a kill that she had stashed in a tree nearby.
He continues to harass his mother on a near daily basis, and will do so until the day he finally leaves her care and assumes independence, all the while building his muscles, honing his skills, and practicing being a leopard.
I can only hope that I get the chance to see the two leopards at play again.

A small experience

11 04 2011

I have had a good bit of luck recently, with the smallest mammalian carnivore in southern Africa.
The dwarf mongoose, weighing in at a massive 260g, is not an easy animal to photograph, because of its diminutive stature. I came across a termite mound that was full of the little chaps, followed the next day by a lucky sighting of the species in an old tree stump.
Posing beautifully, they allowed me to close enough to capture some of the private family moments.
They usually scurry about, searching for any unsuspecting victims, often an invertebrate of sorts, and don’t really offer up any photographic opportunities. Both sighting were early in the morning, and with winter approaching, the mongoose are spending more time in the open, warming up in the sun.
They are one of the gregarious species of mongoose, so when one is found, it is always a good idea to sit tight and wait, because more will start to appear. Curiosity often gets the better of them, and one by one, they emerge from their termite mound lairs, and investigate what all the fuss is about.
When you are lucky enough to get a quality sighting of a family, it is very entertaining!

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!

The Cruel Reality.

27 12 2010

Africa’s wilds are run by its own rules. There is no time to relax – if you drop your guard, even for a second, it could be your end.
That is the sad story of a young male leopard cub, which, at three and a half months old, bounded with gay abandon into a deadly patch of Buffalo grass.

The female leopard; the mother of two cubs, was moving her cubs along a dry river bed late in the morning. It was a good time to move the cubs, because the sun was scorching anything and everything that moved out the relatively cool shade, nullifying most big cat movement for the rest of the day.
The two cubs scurried around their mother, taking interest in anything that moved. They stalked, pounced and mauled anything that stood still long enough, often loosing their battles to butterflies whipping away on their colourful wings and winning against blades of grass that dangled over the pathway. The female kept a watchful eye on the cubs, softly calling them back to the pathway every now and again. She would stop at regular intervals, sniffing the air, using every tool at her disposal to navigate Africa’s daily gauntlet.
The young male cub pushed on ahead, and followed his nose into the Buffalo grass. He stumbled straight into three lionesses which were resting in the shade.
It was a panicked few seconds.
It resulted in the instant death of the young male cub, which stood no chance against the 150kg lioness. The female and the other cub managed to scramble away to safety.
I had found the young trio only two days before the incident, and managed to capture some images of the young male cub.
It isn’t always easy understanding or accepting the cruel reality of nature. The system is flawless however, and left untouched, maintains the equilibrium that is the eternal struggle.

Fast and slow

12 02 2010

Every time you set out into the bush, for whatever reason, it is a very good idea to take the camera gear with you!

I was out on a road inspection, and came around a corner to find a mini battle on the go!  The family of Dwarf Mongooses had obviously surprised, and surrounded the Mozambican Spitting Cobra!

The Dwarf Mongooses are not the famed cobra killers, that title belongs to their slightly larger cousins, the Banded Mongoose, but they were certainly keen on seeing if they could find a break in the cobra’s armor!  The snake cleverly coiled itself up, keeping it’s tail tucked in, and then being able to swivel on itself, and face the miniature attackers!

It was filled quick, darting attacks by the mongoose, countered by well aimed strikes, and expertly spat venom.  The snake held it’s own, and at the first sign of defeat by the mongooses, the snake opened up, and sped off into the tall grass, leaving the mongooses looking a little confused!  Being rather busy little feeders, they moved on the opposite direction, and carried on with their day.

On the other end of the mornings mad panic, I decided to slow things down a little!  I spent about 2 hours on one of the clearest nights, photographing star trails, with a massive Tamboti tree in the foreground.  I am really pleased with the result, as there are few things more frustrating than waiting the 2 hours, and being bitterly disappointed, (the previous nights effort was more in that category!).