How to Climb a Tree (if you are a leopard)…

Step One: Bound gracefully through the tall grass…

Climb I

Step Two: While bounding through tall grass make sure to stop and pose for the Safari Paperazzi…

Climb II copy

Step Three: Gaze up, mouth agape, in perfect leopard glory and find THE perfect climbing tree…

Climb III copy

Step Four: Go to base of THE perfect tree and make sure to pose, looking up, so the Safari Paperazzi can understand this is YOUR perfect tree…

Climb IV copy

Step Five: Start to climb tree…

Climb V copy

Step Six: Make sure to pick the most dense place to climb tree so as to confuse and upset the Safari Paperazzi who wish to capture THEIR perfect photo of you and YOUR perfect tree…

Climb VI copy

Step Seven: Keep up on climbing, eluding the photogs and their long lenses, he he he he!…

Climb VII copy

Step Eight: Think to yourself that this IS infact THE perfect tree…

Climb VIII copy

Step Nine and Ten: Find the perfect resting place in tree and make sure to give the Safari Paperazzi one last chance at THEIR perfect photo and then take a nap. You have earned it!

Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 55-300mm lens: 1/250sec, f/9.0, 300mm, ISO 400, Flash did not fire

Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 55-300mm lens: 1/250sec, f/9.0, 300mm, ISO 400, Flash did not fire

Thandi's Son IV

Climbing photos Copyright Roel van Muiden of RvM Wildlife Photography. Last two photos of Thandi’s Son Copyright Noelle van Muiden of RvM Wildlife Photography

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Life is Hard if you are a Wild Dog Pup

Usually I only post personal sightings and photos. However, my husband had a remarkable, yet difficult, sighting the other day and I wanted to share the story with you all…

Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 55-300mm lens: 1/1250sec, f/9.0, 150mm, ISO 400, Flash did not fire

Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 55-300mm lens: 1/1250sec, f/9.0, 150mm, ISO 400, Flash did not fire

A while ago now, when the large pack of Wild Dogs was still denning, a pride of lions was found in the near vicinity of the den site. Evidence around the den showed that the lions had actively tried to get into the den to get at the pups. It is believed that predators will try and kill each other to get rid of competition or with younger lions it is just a case of chasing and catching. Just like a domestic cat at home.
There were no adults around the den, they might have fled or were out hunting. Normally the pack would leave babysitters behind to take care of the pups, the arrival of the lions might have chased these baby-sitters off leaving the pups to shelter deep inside their den.
These den sites are usually old Aardvark holes and as new species (warthog, hyena, honey badger and so on) take over these holes they modify them to their needs. So the pups would have been remodeling down there creating small passages and holes they can hide in. These clearly worked as the lions eventually left and went to sleep about 150 meters from the den.
After me and my guests visited the sleeping cats we went past the den site, just to show how close the lions were. When we got there the wild dog pups had gotten over their fear and just came out of the den, and as youngsters do they started playing right away. With all the noises that go with that we were getting worried that the lions might hear them and come over to investigate. Then something unexpected happened, one of the pups got the smell of the lions and started following the scent. The rest of the group of eight followed and so did we. They went right up to the path the lions followed into the bush and kept following. At this point I asked all the vehicles in the area to stop their engines and keep quiet, we did not want our presence to influence what might happen. Unfortunately the pups never realized that the smell they followed was leading them to danger, nor did the lions make a noise that scared the pups off. We did not see the confrontation but heard it from about 50 meters and it did not sound good. We could hear the screaming of pups and the growling of the lions. Then two of the pups ran past our vehicle towards the den site, another guide in the area spotted four other pups running in another direction. When the dust settled we went forward to see what had happened.
We found the lions. Unfortunately they were standing over two of the pups. So two of the pups were definitely dead and the other six managed to escape the lions but were not out of danger yet as the only safe place would have been going into the den.
It was only the next morning that we found the adults with four of the pups as they arrived at the den site. For nearly ten minutes they were vocalizing and pawing at the edges of the den until finally the last two pups came out.
So in the end the lion’s visit cost the lives of two of the pups, but the rest of them learned a valuable lesson. They will now fear lions and will stay away from them thus allowing for a better chance of their and heir potential offspring’s survival.

Lambing Season Kill

Cheetah and Cub on Kill I

*All photos ©Noelle van Muiden and taken with Nikon D80 with a Nikkor 18-105mm lens and Nikon D7000 with a Nikkor 55-300mm lens.

On a recent trip to Cheetah Plains, (Sabi Sands), we were fortunate enough to come across a cheetah and her nine to ten month old cub. Previously in the week she had been seen with two cubs but one had since vanished, presumed dead. The female was busy zig-zagging her way through some dense scrub. We circled around into an open area where a large herd of impala were gathering at the far end. Occasionally she would stop and sit up, still as the bushes she used for cover, and check on the impala. The wind was in her favor and the cloudy skies lent to a slight summer chill. Good weather for hunting! The impala herd vanished from sight and she, and her curious and playful cub, made their way to the opposite direction.

Cheetah and Cub on Kill VII

We angled our vehicle and managed a few good shots of the two of them making their way towards our vehicle and then behind us. Their direction, if followed, would take them into contact with another herd of impala. The lambs have been dropping in the area for a couple of weeks already and the pickings of young and supple flesh are good for predators like leopard, lion, and cheetah. Her cub is of an age where she will catch a young impala and then let it go so the cub can learn to hunt. Practice makes perfect. We were hoping for such a sighting but as well all know the Bush will give us what it will.

Following her, no walking slowly down the road, the cub leaping up on the mother’s back from time to time and then veering off to smell the roses as it were, and then coming back once again to plague his mother with love. One can imagine humans and their youngsters having a similar interaction on the way down the street with a child running up and hugging his mum and then running off to look at an interesting bit of this and that and then coming back and asking, ‘When will we be there? I’m hungry!’

As she rounded a bend there was the herd of impala, impervious to the threat that now pricked her ears up, and then back and slunk low. The cub on high alert but careful not to bother the mother as if he knew that one wrong step from him would cost them their much desired breakfast. We stopped the vehicle and watched, breathe baited, as she weaved through the trees. Her strength and skill evident as was the enthusiastic and almost as silent rear guard of the cub. Then came the snorts and stampede of the impala as she broke her trot and broke into full speed, weaving through the short shrub after her anticipated prize.

Starting the vehicle and racing after her the impala leapt into the road and stopped, turned, and stared. There they both were, sitting straight as statues. We came closer, thinking maybe she had failed, and as we approached, just mere meters from them, she lifted her paw. Bleating and screaming the young lamb tried to get away. The cub chased after in a parody of what his mother had just so carefully achieved. Hunger and the ineptness of her offspring lead the mother to turn and chase down the lamb, now bleating for his life, and catching it by the throat next to our vehicle. The bleating stopped the cub raced to his mother and danced around her as she dragged the almost lifeless body towards the shade of a small tree some fifty meters away.

There she lay down panting and avidly looked around for any possible threat to her, her cub, and their meal. The alarm calls of the impala and the bleating of the lamb could bring any leopard, lion, spotted hyena, wild dog, or other leopard into her area to steal the kill and possibly harm her cub. The cub, glee visible in his eyes and demeanor, played with the carcass as a house cat plays with a mouse or bird. The lifeless form was flung from side to side. Picked up and dropped again and again, then dragged in his mouth from one spot to the next until he hunkered down to start to feast. The cub looking up every few seconds to scan the area. After about fifteen minutes the mother joined the cub. The two of them feasting is not the loud, snarling, hectic feed of lions try to eat side by side, but a much more calm and relaxed mother and cub sharing a well deserved meal. It took them maybe thirty minutes to finish off most of the meat.

Cheetah and Cub on Kill VI

Cheetah and Cub on Kill V

Cheetah and Cub on Kill IV

Cheetah and Cub on Kill III

We were lucky enough to be positioned for great photos and I even managed to get the kill on film, which I will download and put with this story in the near future. What a great drive and an amazing, not often witnessed, sighting and interaction of such a beautiful endangered species!

Cheetah and Cub on Kill II

Musth Bulls

Musth Bulls

Musth Bulls

We had been watching these bulls tussle for a while when they started to get really serious. The bull in the back was taking huge shots at the bull in the front as well as another smaller bull. These two came racing towards our bakkie and I was able to knock off a few shots even.

‘Musth Bulls’ – Chobe NP – Noelle van Muiden of RvM Wildlife Photography

Nikon D80 with 70-300mm lens: 1/1000 sec, f/5.6, 300mm, ISO 400, Flash did not fire

 

Action Shots – Being there are the right place at the right time and having the patience to wait

Lioness going for the male after mating

Lioness going for the male after mating

Sighting occurred in Kruger National Park May 2013

Hoping that my last drive, for quite some time, through the KNP would yield some magic we set off early. As most bush people know you can see everything or you can see nothing on any given day. After awhile you start looking for the small things, and while immersed in this, magic will happen. Our first bit of magic came in the form of the hunting Skoro Pride – unsuccessful – great to watch but at the wrong angle and light for any descent photos. After some rhino and buffalo we were pleased to come across a female spotted hyena and her two pups. The pups, around four months old, found our bakkie intriging and in their own hilarious way, gave us a good send off in some great golden-hour light.

The last bit of the dirt S36 provided the best surpirse of all. Two lions, one male and one female, in the road dozing. But this dozing was not a normal flat-cat nap. This was the type of lurid sleep between mating. The lions were very relaxed with the bakkie and with no one else around, we positioned ourselves to catch the best of what was quickly becoming harsh light and waited for the action to commence.

Waiting is the important part of any sighting, whether for photography or just to buid up excitment for your guests. My new camera was ready and after a minute or two the female decided to strut her stuff. Winding her body snake-like against his, he rose. Within seconds he finished. She turned growling and snarling and smacked him, visciously striking out at the pain that comes from the male’s barbed penis being withdrawn. I was very fortunate to catch his look of utter dismay and surprise and her bitter pain and utter madness on camera and ended up with a fabulous action shot, (‘That Loving Feeling’ shot one and ‘After the Love’ shot two.)

I was not as lucky with the shots after the first. A steady hand is needed when taking action shots, as well a huge dose of luck. The male’s head, unfortunately, got cut off in the second image, but the female’s face and the dust being kicked up by their feet is still incredible. What a great moment to catch on film! It is not everyday you get to see these magnificant cats in such an exciting display and with your camera ready to boot! It is also not everyday that you get great action, with decent light, and close enough to really try and capture a great image.

A few minutes later they were at it again but not with the same gutso as before. They had also moved into a grassier area as other vehicles had arrived pushing into their space a bit. She was not as adamant to strike out at him and he, hilariously, was very careful in pulling away from her, prompting her to turn around and make him give it another go. There was still a bit of a scuffle after, but you could see they were tiring with the heat of the day starting to seep into the veldt.

So for those who drive through KNP, or any other park for that matter, and say they never see anything, or for others who stop for mere seconds at sightings and then speed off, think twice next time. Slow down, enjoy the moment, take time to look at the small things and around the bend something magical will present itself. Oh, and make sure your trigger finger and camera are ready to catch the spectacular and unexpected.

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