Friday, August 10, 2012

Ranger diaries August 2012

Until now, we had a very mild and pleasant winter with just a few cold patches here and there.  Even though the vegetation is very dry our game drives have still been rewarding and the animals enjoyed the warm winter sun during the day. Today (7th August) was a very special day though, as it has been snowing in the Reserve!  The ground on the Northern side of the Reserve got completely covered with snow, which is a first. The change in temperature must surely have come as a shock for the animals as yesterday was a very warm day.  Whoever can, will surely be cuddling up tonight to stay warm!!

The Reserve has done some of their block burns and we can see vast black patches of burned grassland and bush areas.  This might not look great, but burning is very important for the re-growth of the vegetation in our savannah area.  Burning gets rid of old vegetable matter (moribund) that builds up in layers thus preventing new plants from penetrating.  It also eradicates ticks, which carry a lot of dreadful diseases, and plants that are not indigenous to the area.

The ash that goes back into the ground after a fire contains of a lot of minerals and nutrients and is an excellent fertilizer which in turn strengthens the new growth into nutritious and healthy plants.  

A lot of the animals come into the burnt areas right after the fire and lick the burned trees and ground to get extra minerals.  For the naked eye as well as through the camera lens - the black background really brings out the intense colours of the animals which make for stunning photos.

After the rain and snow we experienced today, the green grass shoots will push through in no time across these burnt areas and will provide nutritious grazing for animals like Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Rhino, Steenbuck, Impala and Buffalo.  We also find a lot of the ground scraping and insect eating birds in the burnt areas as it is much easier for them to spot food like insects, lizards and earth-worms.
We already welcomed the first migratory birds back from their trip to the North.  So far we have spotted the White Stork, Stepp Buzzard and some Barn Swallows.  This is a clear indication that Spring is approaching fast.

“Baby” season has already started - last week our rangers spotted the first Eland calves playing and running after mothers.  Eland and Red Hartebeest are normally the first antelope to have their young. This is a very exciting time of the year and we cannot wait for all the cute, fluffy and big eyed babies all over the Reserve.

We recently had a very exciting game drive – our own Olympic Games … well almost - there was a winner and a loser …. We witnessed the interaction between the Lion pride and the Buffalo herd.  The male Lion, our Lioness with their 4 cubs (about 7 months old) were on a Giraffe kill, filling up their stomachs when the three sub-adult lions (just over 2 years old) approached the kill to get their share of the meal.  ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ would not have it and chased the three youngsters (their own offspring) off the kill.  Then the Buffalo herd arrived and immediately chased these hungry sub-adult lions even further away from the carcass.  Then the whole Buffalo herd turned around and chased the Lion and Lioness including their cubs for about 400m through the bushes.  The sub adults lions couldn’t believe their luck and swiftly came back to feed.  The Buffalo herd were not happy with their ‘enemies’ around and the herd came back to chase the three young lions off.   This game carried on for about 2 hours and we just sat there with them, watched and enjoyed the scene.

We hope we can soon share some amazing game-drives with you too in the not too distant future!

Till we meet on the plains of Nambiti…
The Springbok Lodge Rangers ~  Lee, Ruan, Stephanie and Nicole