My brother Jerry invited Helen and I to spend a couple of days with him in Mashatu in early October. On the Friday afternoon, the first day of our sojourn, we went out for a game drive at around 16h30. It was too hot to go out any earlier.
We found this young male Leopard lying at the base of a Mashatu tree at around 17h00. The shadows were long and the light golden with gentle contrast – perfect!
This young male was very relaxed with us nearby. Leopards often come down from their aboreal resting place late in the afternoon. During the heat of the day they can be found sprawled out on a horizontal branch, legs dangling either side of it. High up in the branches, where they are safe, the shade and breeze must provide relief from the heat.
After having woken up from a day time sleep, the late afternoon is a time when Leopards often lie on the ground looking all around them taking in the surrounding sights, sounds and smells, This is the time when they are usually well rested and hungry.
Being able to get close up images of this Leopard with a decent prime lens was a real privilege. These are magnificently beautiful animals. It is hard to think that their rosette-covered coats are used as carpets, karoses and people’s adornment.
After about fifteen minutes, this male got up and started to walk away. In the late afternoon sun, the colours were saturated and the rich browns and fawns seemed to glow.
Fortunately for us, this male wandered over to a nearby anthill and promptly lay down again. He used the anthill to hide behind and often peered out from behind it directly into the westerly sun – something must have caught his attention – we could not see what.
This young male Leopard was aware of us but essentially ignored us. The light was perfect. This was one of those times in the bush when the surroundings seemed to be in exquisite harmony.
He was still in the process of waking up and yawned often showing us his perfect teeth, a sure sign of his youth, to say nothing of his unblemished face. Territorial fights will come later.
Their cat-like qualities are very evident, but don’t be fooled. This is one serious predator adapted to surviving on his own.
Confident, relaxed and ready for the evening when he has the advantage.
After a further 20 minutes or so, something caught his attention and he decided to get up and go and investigate. I particularly liked his body posture as he got up and crept out from behind the anthill.
His eyes locked in focused attention. This is always a time when a wildlife photographer gets excited thinking he or she may just be lucky enough to get mesmorising images of the stalk and kill.
It was not to be, with his attention broken, he stopped not looking at anything in particular, but his acute senses were still picking up every sight, sound and scent.
He seemed to use the anthill as a shield, all the while lifting his nose to catch scents carried on the warm evening breeze, eyes darting to every movement and his flicking ears reacting to every sound.
After a short while, now fully alert, he walked off in the direction of what had first caught his attention. When we drove off, it was in the direction he had been looking, and there was a small herd of Impala grazing about 70 metres from him.
I leave you with this last image to show his immaculate camouflage.
October is the end of the dry season in Mashatu. The storm clouds were beginning to build. The rain was not far off. The predators were thriving but the herbivores were struggling. Impala were resorting to browsing on Shepherd tree leaves and eating dry Mopani leaves which must have been much like crisps. Surprisingly, the herbivores were in better condition this year than the same time last year probably because of the floods at the beginning of the year.
The photographic opportunities on this trip were superb. I will compose another couple of posts in the following weeks which will show other predators such as Lion, Hyaena, Cheetah and Jackal in the Game Reserve, and in the ‘Land of Giants’ images of Elephants. I will also post of some of the bird images taken around the Rock Camp Lodge. This area is a birder’s paradise.
A big thank you to Jerry for a wonderful few days in a very special place with special people.
A Leopard Lay
A Leopard lay amidst the trees,
hiding in its greeny leaves,
Lazing in the noon day sun,
with no desire, none to run.
Listening to the rustling breeze,
he cautions it to, “Hush, don’t breathe.
Give no signal, that I lie
Upon this perch, up in the sky.”
His hooded eyes seem half asleep,
His body quivers, never sleeps.
For as quick as lightening, he’ll flash down,
On any prey, yet, make no sound.
So, people prowling on the ground,
Take care to more than look around.
Dangers lurking everywhere,
both on the ground and in the air.
And wildcats, well, they seldom sleep.
Dreams of theirs don’t run too deep.
Their nature makes them keen and fierce,
their teeth are sharp, they claws will pierce.
A Leopard lay amidst the trees,
suddenly he hears.
Now, he’s up and through,
its greeny leaves.
Oh! LOOK UP!
Seek to understand nature, marvel at its interconnectedness and then let it be.