Annual Easter cycle ride – March 2016

IMG_7502Owners & their guests young and old, gathered together at clubhouse on Saturday the 26th March for the Annual 15km Easter Cycle Ride.  A slightly overcast start to the day provided the cyclists with favourable riding conditions.  The riders up front were treated to lovely giraffe, zebra, waterbuck and other animals sightings.

The route took our keen riders past some beautiful scenery such as Heron Dam, Giraffe dam and the open plains with views of the mountain.

The first cyclists (Rogan Bayley & Graeme Roberts) made it back to the clubhouse in 40.55minutes, giving Garry Mitchell and Shaun some well overdue competition.

A fantastic effort was put in by all the participants,  some enjoyed the ride so much he “purposely” cycled portion of the route twice. Our youngest participants being 8 years old from Site 22 put in a valiant effort providing some of the senior riders with  a goal.

Cyclists were welcomed back and treated to a well deserved chocolate medal. Cold drinks and beers were enjoyed while recapping on the scenic ride through our beautiful Reserve.

All in all it was a great morning, thank you to those who participated keeping the spirit of the event alive!

Albino waterbuck survives the odds – November 2015

IMG_5883 copyThere has been a hive of excitement at Lissataba, as a albino waterbuck has survived the elements and resident leopards to date. Initially we were concerned the herd would reject her for looking different, instead they have accepted her as is. We were overjoyed to see she has out-lived two heat waves.  Suffering from albinism its survival is usually threatened under these conditions. The lack of predators has also contributed towards her existence.

Albinism is characterised by a complete lack of melanin, including the iris of the eye. These animals are generally light sensitive, hearing and eye-sight is also known to be effected. Their survival is usually compromised due to the lack of camouflage as seen in these photo of her in her younger days.

 

Hail storm devastation – November 2015

12247830_316954798428619_935634157646543009_oOn Sunday evening 15th November 2015,  a severe hail storm descended on Lissataba.

The almighty storm stripped the leaves off the trees and uprooted others.  The Wilderness Section and parts of the Housing section looks as though winter has arrived overnight.

Exciting python sighting

11146468_286932451430854_4946808027328930119_oA python sighting is always exciting, but seeing a python consuming a 5-month old impala on Lissataba is extra special. A reasonably large herd of impala have taken to spending the night on the plains down by site 23. Returning from a walk one evening, we heard the impalas start to alarm call. The racket continued for a unusually long time, so we decided to go down and take a look. At the base of a dense raisin bush the aggressor had pulled down an impala, twitching in its final death throws, the rest of the heard stood around, understandably distressed. Some of the ewes even pushed closer, braying at the snake; rearing and coiled ready to defend its supper.

The python proceeded to drag the impala a little way into the bush, and began the long process of disassembling its jaw to swallow the antelope. We estimated that it measured between 3 and 4 metres, which would allow for the snake to be easily 20 years old.

Interestingly the snake aided the swallowing process by wrapping two coils of itself behind the fore shoulders of the impala and forcing the animal into its massive gape. We watched as the four major segments of the jaw spread, with impossible elasticity, over the shoulders. Having overcome the initial hump of the head, and with the shoulders all but digested, it was surprising how quickly the rest of the body slipped down. What initially took an hour or so, suddenly culminated in minutes. The python retreated further into the bush with an extremely unsubtle protrusion in its midriff.

Upon inspection the following morning it appeared that they reptile had found its way into an especially sinister looking hole amongst the roots of a large jackalberry; a fitting place to spend the next couple of months digesting some prime venison. Nonetheless, the python’s stunning evolutionary capability has now set it up for a catholic diet of nothing until July. Atkins eat your heart out!

N.B. Delving into the literature on pythons since this event, we have found that, though very small antelopes and young impalas are relatively common prey for pythons, almost-fully-grown impalas are a much less recorded meal. Lissataba wins gold for bush idiosyncrasies once again!

By Mark & Liz (Site 23)

An otterly fantastic sighting

OtterThis month we had something quite unexpected on the camera. In the early morning of the 15th February,
a cape clawless otter was seen moving through a drainage line. This seemed strange to us as the Plains area in which it was caught on camera is so far from a perennial water body. After further research into the species, they can apparently inhabit still water as well as flowing water, however, they have never been documented in the dams on Lissataba but have been seen in the Olifants River. They also are crepuscular in their movements, mainly moving at dusk and dawn. The cape clawless otter is the second largest species of freshwater otter in the world. 

Cape clawless otters are one of two otter species in South Africa, along with the spotted-necked otter. The cape clawless are apparently more amphibious than their cousins and so have better cross-country mobility and can move as far as 7km between water bodies. This information is helping us understand why such a species would be seen so far from a water source.

Ticking off a ‘lifer’

Ticker off a 'lifer'Species lists, a must for the “bush mad” among us. Whether we make them for own personal use or for the
game reserve we reside on, it is a great way to keep a check on the species diversity and a reminder of what we have seen. Many shareholders of Lissataba have made their own lists and have shared them with us. Whilst setting up the website, we thought it would be a great idea to add species lists to the new page and so we set about the gruelling task of combining, comparing and compiling species lists from a bunch that we have on record. We came up with lists of trees, birds and snakes that we were happy with and loaded them onto the new website.

As the lists were uploaded, they needed updating. The African Finfoot, an aquatic bird and an underwater specialist had escaped Lissataba’s twitchers eyes until this month. A usually secretive bird, a single African Finfoot was seen in plain view by some of our shareholders on the Olifants River. Without a care in the world, this bird was viewed for quite some time and even long enough for a photograph or two to be taken. Apparently this one didn’t read the Finfoot rule book on elusiveness. Many thanks to Bruce and Pippa Steele-Gray (site 20) for sharing your findings with us.

The great thing about species lists, they are a constant work in progress and may never be completed. Feel free to investigate and explore the lists and let us know of any additions, deletions, amendments and typo’s.

 

Brown Hyena makes a return

Brown HyenaIn 2010, the brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea) was spotted on the camera traps. This was the first recorded sighting on Lissataba for over 7 years at that time. Throughout 2010 and 2011, brown hyena popped up a few times on the cameras.

It wasn’t known whether these shy animals were resident on the property, or the sightings were of nomadic animals passing through Lissataba. Also, without the unique spot patterns, as possessed by their close relatives, the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), we were unsure if we were seeing the same individual over and over or whether we were dealing with a resident population.

During 2012 and much of this year, the camera trapping sessions did not come up with any brown hyena goods. In October however, whilst trawling through thousands of photos of vultures and jackals at a carcass, suddenly a new shape popped onto the screen. Three shots, taken repeatedly in just a split second, showed a blurry outline of a nervous and shy brown hyena. As quick as it was there, it was gone.

It is great to know that brown hyena are still roaming around on Lissataba, whether permanently or as part of a nomadic existence.

 

Caracal

Some of you may remember us mentioning in the August/September newsletter about a mystery animal that has been seen many times on main road. Well the mystery is solved. There are many creatures on Lissataba that act elusively and that continue to evade us, but almost none more so than the caracal, Felis caracal. 

Whilst coming home through the reserve after the weekly town trip, Beth was fortunate enough to see this beautiful cat in broad daylight. Just metres from a flock of alarm calling guineafowl, the caracal had been busy laying in wait for its hunting opportunity. Its stalking efforts were temporarily halted as it weighed up its options between the hunt and the vehicle. Sadly the cat chose to flee rather than focus on its prey. An incredible sighting and a very special moment.

The name caracal comes from the Turkish word ‘karakulak’ which means ‘black ear’. They are renowned for their amazing bird hunting abilities, of which their long and strong back legs are aptly designed. The well known phrase ‘to put the cat amongst the pigeons’ originates from the hunting prowess of the caracal, when they were once tamed and trained for bird hunting in Iran.

Crocodile comes out on top

CrocodileJust after sunrise of the 30th September, a nyala carcass was found on the driveway to site 45/46 by one of
our security staff as he carried out his morning rounds. After a closer inspection of the dead animal, the cause of death was quickly attributed to a leopard (Panthera pardus).

A remote trail camera was placed at the carcass to see if the culprit would return. Over the following nights, the female leopard returned to the carcass and we were fortunate to get some great photos. Using the leopard ID kits, we were able to ascertain that this female, now known as ‘Female 5’ had never previously been seen on Lissataba. If this wasn’t exciting enough, the photos that followed were incredible.

In the last hour of the day, on the evening of 2nd October, a huge crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) came to finish off the carcass. The photos show just how big this crocodile was. From our approximations, it must be around 5m in length.

 

The annual game count begins

Game CountOn the morning of the 17th September, Lissataba and Phuza Moya management joined forces to take on the task of the annual game count. Flying in transects over the combined 5000ha, each individual animal that was seen was recorded, including the sex.

The results were generally good, with an increase of most of species being seen. Impala numbers were fairly low but due to the weather conditions on the day of the game count, we were warned that impala were likely to be under-represented.

Overall, we are extremely happy with the figures and it shows that the management teams of both Lissataba and Phuza Moya must be doing something right for these animals to all be flourishing!