Monday, May 6, 2013

May Trip Report Mashatu - Mike Dexter

Mashatu has donned her autumn cloak. The green vistas and fields of yellow flowers have slowly yielded to the cold, the dry and the shortening daylight hours and have turned to rich yellow and golden hues. Needless to say on the recent workshop we were greeted every morning with spectacular landscapes sweeping to the horizon.
Scenery aside, Mashatu delivered exceptional game viewing as always. On our first afternoon we spent some time tracking a group of 9 lion cubs. After some perseverance we were rewarded with a great sighting of all 9 cavorting in some long grass as they waited impatiently for their mothers to return, hopefully with dinner. 
To me the sighting of the trip was with the 2 leopard cubs, now 6 months old. We found them lying in the shade of a Fever Berry tree on the banks of the Majale river. They weren’t doing much at first so we turned in our seats to photograph a saddle billed stork and some cormorants that were fishing in a pool behind us. Used to being the centre of attention the male cub was not going to be outdone by the birds so decided to put on a show. As the stork turned his back on the cub, who was 50m away, the young leopard surged forward in true feline form. Low to the pebbled river bed, shoulders hunched he advanced on the unsuspecting bird until he was a mere 5m away. This must have been a lesson in perspective because on seeing the actual size of the stork and the water between them he soon lost interest. 
3 banded plovers on the other hand were not too large to handle and he proceeded to stalk, pounce and chase the tiny birds who seemed to be mocking him, taking off at the last second and landing behind him. He was distracted by this game when an adult male impala crossed the river 100m upstream. This was just too good to be true for the young cub, the perfect opportunity to impress mom! He darted off into the thick riverine bush in the direction of the impala where the terrain prevented us from following. I look forward to seeing the future of this overly ambitious little leopard! 
 In the meantime the mothers of the 9 cubs had killed a wildebeest. By the time we saw them much of the carcass had been consumed but it was still great to watch the squabbling of the cubs under the ever present and tolerant gaze of the lionesses. All in all the workshop was a resounding success and I can’t wait to have a closer look at more of the images from these wonderful few days in one of the most spectacular corners of Africa.

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