Tau Pan, March – July 2020

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Even though guests were unable to stay due to the Covid19 pandemic, the Tau Pan pride were constant visitors. Their daily routine included drinking at the waterhole in front of camp, roaring loudly throughout the night and occasionally turning up in unexpected places, such as the camp workshop or the staff village just to make sure that no one was napping. This pride comprised ten lions in total, five big males, four females and one male cub. In early July we saw that one of the males was limping and on the northern side of the waterhole found a blue wildebeest carcass that the lions had been feeding on. He seemed to recover well over the following weeks but didn’t re-join the rest of the pride.

Two male lions from San Pan were seen heading towards Phukwi Pan and looking in great condition.

A male cheetah appeared to have picked up the scent of the resident female who we suspected was in oestrus.
The Tau Pan area has a good general game including blue wildebeest, gemsbok, steenbok, kudu, springbok and giraffe, although numbers were reduced compared to the rainy season. Red Hartebeest were seen near to Phukwi Pan.

As the weather turned cooler and dryer during May, the tsamma melons started to ripen, providing nutrients and water for many species of mammal. During the winter in Botswana the silky bushmen grasses in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve turn a beautiful golden yellow. Most of the leaves on the trees and bushes lost their colour before falling.

The nights were incredibly cold during June and July, but those venturing to stand by the fire at night were rewarded with the most spectacular clear night sky with thousands and thousands of stars and four planets visible.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Nxai Pan, March – July 2020

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Big herds of elephants continued to show up at the camp waterhole where they could be seen from the lodge as they drank and mud-bathed. Other animals, such as warthogs, tried to sneak in for a drink, but the elephants were quick to chase them off. Buffalo were also seen drinking from the waterhole, sometimes in herds as large as 200.

Spotted hyenas were also thirsty visitors to the camp waterhole, especially early in the morning, and also ventured inside camp to lap at water dripping from the water tanks.

One night we saw a leopard in camp. Lions could often be heard calling from camp and in April we noticed that one of the Nxai Pan lionesses was lactating, so suspected that she had cubs nearby. Finally, in June, we were delighted to have a sighting of the new cubs for the first time.

One time we found a male cheetah feeding on an ostrich carcass.

Honey badgers were located foraging. Black-backed jackals were spotted trying to catch guinea fowl and also scattering elephant dung to look for beetles. A family of four bat-eared foxes were digging and looking for termites near to the camp.

A very relaxed herd of gemsbok were seen grazing along the road to Baines Baobabs. Giraffe were browsing the thorn trees with young bulls engaged in play-fighting. Springbok were located in the pan area where up to 300 individuals could be viewed pronking and running around in the open space. The majority of the zebra and wildebeest herds left the Nxai Pan area from March onwards as the annual migration departed, although a few remained behind. In June many zebra were seen heading towards the Boteti River to meet the arriving flood waters.

During April there were many butterflies such as acreas and scarlet tips feeding on the flowers of the pincushion veronica.

Relaxed prides of ostrich were located along Middle Road, feeding on the short nutritious pan grasses and we also saw them drinking from the camp waterhole. One time we were lucky enough to witness a male dancing in a mating ritual. A pied avocet was an unusual sighting for Nxai Pan. More commonly viewed species included pale chanting-goshawks, kori bustards, marabou storks, tawny eagles and secretary birds. White-backed and lappet-faced vultures were both in the area. We had an interesting sighting of the male yellow-billed hornbill feeding the female whilst she was nesting inside a tree cavity. During the brooding time the female hornbill loses all her feathers, so is completely reliant on her mate for survival.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lebala, March – July 2020

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As yet, Lebala camp has not received guests post-lockdown, so sightings have been restricted to the animals coming to visit camp.

On a daily basis there was a good amount of general game passing through. A herd of wildebeest often congregated in front of camp. Impala were a constant daily sighting and the loud barking of the rams echoed throughout the rutting season. Warthogs frequented the river banks and flood plains where they foraged on the roots of new green grasses. Giraffe were often observed browsing on the acacia bushes and trees.

As the dry season progressed, the natural waterholes in the woodland areas to the west of camp started to dry up. This meant that elephants were now forced to head to the northern and eastern sides of Lebala to drink from the river which became the only source of water for them. We saw breeding herds with small calves feeding between the swimming pool and Room 1.

The Wapuka pride continued to visit camp throughout lockdown and in June two lionesses with two sub adults made a kill of a wildebeest around 4am, just about 50 metres away from the main area. After 20 minutes a group of spotted hyenas came and managed to overpower the lions and took over the kill, but the drama had not yet finished. About 30 minutes later, two male lions came and chased the hyenas away although by this stage there was not much of the carcass remaining. By 6am the lions were done, but now scavenging vultures and jackals finished the remains. The lions were often heard roaring at night. The two resident male lions, Old Gun and Sebastian, passed through camp on a regular basis as they patrolled their territory to the north.  We recently saw them eyeing up a herd of red lechwe.

A male leopard was spotted majestically walking past the hide heading to room 9. It was calling and at the same time, we could hear a response call from the marshes which our guide believed was from a female.

Different birds were also common around the camp, including wattled cranes in front of room 6 & 7. Swamp boubous were always calling in camp. A pearl-spotted owlet was still hanging around, and seen on the cold winter mornings basking in the sun to try and warm up.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lagoon, March – July 2020

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As the dry season got under way elephants moved out of the thick woodlands inland and were drawn towards the river system. They came to browse in camp quite often, including breeding herds with small calves.

Lions also came to visit, one day moving through the staff village. A male and female lion were located feeding on a hippo on the route to Lebala camp. The guides suspected that the lioness had cubs nearby. A different lioness with her two sub-adult cubs were observed hunting warthogs, but unfortunately for them they didn’t make a kill.

A beautiful female leopard created the perfect photo opportunity as she draped herself across a branch. As this was during Botwana’s lockdown we felt sad that we were only able to share this magnificent sighting via social media and not with real guests, but it was a moment that lifted the spirits of the camp team as they pretended to be on safari again.

On one occasion, the resident pack of five wild dogs came to check out the camp workshop. In July we were lucky enough to come across them denning near to camp and six puppies emerged into view. Sadly, a week or two later the tracks indicated that the den had been raided by spotted hyenas and two of the puppies were missing.

Herds of sable antelope and roan antelopes could be seen near to Muddy Waters. Impala, waterbuck and kudu grazed on the banks opposite camp. Once our first post-lockdown guests arrived, we were able to venture further and found big herds of buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and eland.

Crocodiles could be seen sunning themselves on the bank opposite camp and the hippos continued to congregate in the river that flows past the rooms. A 1 metre python was resting near the welcome spot.

A goliath heron could often be seen on the lagoon in front of camp. White-fronted and little bee-eaters were both resident. Other species making themselves at home included robin-chats, swamp boubous, starlings and green pigeons. Further from camp, we found wattled cranes and ground hornbills – both species are endangered so it is great to see them thriving in the Kwando Reserve.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Pom Pom, March – July 2020

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After a terrible year of drought, we all breathed a heavy sigh of relief as an abundant flood arrived in mid-April. There was so much water coming in that it filled up the flood plains and pools around camp very quickly. This water forced the Pom Pom pride to move closer, to the extent that the sixteen lions started coming into camp on a daily basis to hunt impala and bushbuck. The pride consisted of four adult lionesses, eight sub-adult cubs and four younger cubs of about nine months. One time, the pride left the four young cubs in camp near the pilot tent for three days while they went out hunting; they only came back for them on the third day at night. On another occasion, the pride killed an impala and ate it between the staff bridge and the staff quarters. Three days later they killed a wildebeest at the airstrip.

Upon re-opening camp for guests, we spotted the Pom Pom pride resting at Mompati’s pool but by then they were only fifteen lions as we were missing one of the young males. The following day they were located at Mochimbamo Island finishing off a warthog kill. After leaving the pride resting, we proceeded with the drive and located a solitary lioness at Cat Fish Island. We watched her cross the water towards the pontoon area where she stalked impala, but she was unsuccessful. We continued to watch and were rewarded with 35 minutes of exciting action as she hunted and killed a kudu bull about forty metres in front of the vehicle!  Some days later we located the Pom Pom pride feasting on a zebra at Shumba island. They were surrounded by jackals hoping to get some leftovers, but the zebra did not provide enough meat for the large pride and they spent some time chewing on bones.

A hyena clan with three cubs took refuge in the tunnel at the airstrip.

A mating pair of leopards was located at Xinega lagoon. This was a resident female who is well-known in the area. The tom was skittish and disappeared into the bushes but the female remained behind and climbed up the tree. We watched her for about fifteen minutes before she came down and walked towards where the male was hiding. Although we were able to locate them together again, the male was nervous so we decided to leave the courting couple in peace to create the next generation of leopards. Before camp closure, this female leopard had two cubs which were about eight months old. Although they were not seen on this occasion, we suspected that they were away from their mother due to the presence of the male leopard.

General game was good including warthog, tsessebe, red lechwe, impala, waterbuck, kudu, wildebeest, sitatunga and zebra. Elephants were regularly seen and big herds of buffaloes were located along various flood plains. Vervet monkeys and baboons could be seen in their troops displaying interesting social behaviours.

Birding was very good with lots of water birds, such as pygmy geese, great white pelicans and fish eagles. Some of our first post-lockdown guests were lucky enough to spot the elusive and coveted Pel’s Fishing Owl. Five types of kingfisher were identified (giant, pied, striped, grey-headed and malachite). African jacanas were seen with their chicks who were being cared for by the male bird. Other regular sightings included black collared barbets, arrow-marked babblers and lilac-breasted rollers. Endangered species such as ground hornbills and wattled cranes were in the area.

Smaller mammals encountered included bat eared foxes, spring hares, civets, small spotted genets and large spotted genets

Crocodiles and hippos were found in the bodies of water appearing with the flood.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)


 

Splash / Kwara, March – July 2020

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We were delighted to have an abundant flood arrive after a drought season and this filled the lagoon in front of Kwara camp for the first time since reopening. The team were only too happy to move the mekoros back to camp so the activity can start right from the main area. A good number of hippos had moved into the lagoon within a matter of weeks. All the flood plains around the Kwara area flooded and the scenery was very beautiful. All three bridges were put into action and by July the water was pushing onwards towards Splash camp.

Since we resumed game drives in the Kwara Reserve, we located all of our usual resident prides. The One-Eyed pride comprises a mother and daughter lioness and they are both pregnant after mating with the new coalition of five males during May. The daughter is the nearest to her due date and expected to give birth at the beginning of August. These two lionesses and the five males were concentrated around the Splash area where they were seen at least every other day. Sometimes they hang out in camp itself and this included a honeymooning couple.

Rather confusingly in terms of names, the Splash Pride has now relocated to live around Kwara camp because they are trying to avoid the coalition of five males. The three sub-adult brothers of the Splash Pride have developed some mane now and so would be under threat from the larger and stronger coalition.

In July we also came across a healthy new male lion in the area. He killed a zebra 400 metres from the airstrip bridge. However, a few days later he was found dead near to the Kwara walking range with signs showing that he had been fighting with other lions. We picked up the tracks and they led us to three of the coalition of five, one sporting fresh injuries from the fight. Eventually the dead lion was eaten by vultures.

The famous male cheetah known as Mr Special was still in the Kwara area and doing really well. A resident female was also in the area. Another female cheetah with three cubs killed a fully-grown impala on the edge of the woodland and we saw them busy feeding.

Seven spotted hyenas were located feeling on a tsessebe carcass. A leopard was seen actively stalking a tsessebe calf by the woodland and another female was often seen in and around Splash camp, one time making a kill right by the main area.

We saw twelve of the dogs from the Marsh Pack recently and have seen signs of the Kwara pack of twenty-four in the northern area where they denned last year, although at the time of writing the guides were still busy trying to locate the den.

Elephants were constantly in the area, and we saw them bathing, feeding and drinking. General game was consistently good, as it always seems to be in Kwara. There were plentiful zebras, giraffes and other antelopes.

With the smaller mammals, we saw a lot of jackals, both side-striped and black-backed jackals. Honey badgers were also located.

During boat cruises on the permanent Maunachira channel we saw crocodiles and water monitors.

A good number of saddle-billed storks were feeding on the flood plains and a group of eight black herons settled in to stay at Kwara lagoon. A few malachite kingfishers and over ten rufous-bellied herons were seen during boat cruises. Fish eagles took up residence on the Kwara Lagoon and they were feeding on the catfish arriving with the new water.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Tau Pan, January 2020

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After some good rains, the landscape of Central Kalahari started to turn green and the antelope started to drop their young. One day we were lucky enough to witness a springbok giving birth. The whole process took just fifteen minutes.

The resident predators were taking full advantage of breeding season. One exciting morning we found a female cheetah as she was killing a springbok lamb. She stood up to take the carcass to the shade, but on the way, she spotted another lamb running towards its mother so she dropped the dead springbok to chase and kill the second.  After a few minutes she took it to the shade to start feeding. At this point the guests went for a tea and coffee break, but on their way back they were amazed to see that she had killed a third springbok!

Guests were able to get some lovely shots of a relaxed female cheetah finishing up her springbok kill at Phukwi Pan and we also saw cheetahs hunting at Tau Pan. Three brother cheetahs were seen along Passarge Valley a couple of times, although they were still not used to the vehicles.  A resident female with her two cubs was located in Deception Valley; once we saw her on a springbok kill.

The resident Tau Pan pride were seen drinking at the camp waterhole often. There are five male lions in this coalition, some with magnificent black manes. These males range away for up to a week at a time to hunt for food before returning to camp again and re-establishing contact with the rest of the pride with load roars. On day trips we also saw members of the Deception Valley and Letia Hau prides. We saw a lioness try her luck on a wildebeest, but she failed because the area was too open.

A young male leopard was located in the Tau Pan area a couple of times, once very close to camp. We also found a tom leopard in Deception Valley; he went to cross the road but then decided to climb a tree instead, giving our guests a great photo opportunity.

On a day trip we were lucky enough to find wild dogs in Passarge Valley. It was a large pack comprising seven adults and nine puppies. The puppies were quite shy, but the adults were relaxed and everyone was very excited to find the animals in the area.

A brown hyena was spotted along the firebreak.

General game in Passarge Valley and Tau Pan was great and included wildebeest, springbok, gemsbok, giraffe and kudu. We witnessed a dramatic fight between two gemsbok bulls over a female.

Bat-eared foxes and black-backed jackals both had babies. One day we found jackals feeding on a springbok lamb. Two African wild cats were spotted as they were trying their luck on ground squirrels and as we watched they managed to grab one squirrel.

Summer migrants observed included white storks, Abdim storks and Montagu’s harriers. A secretary bird was seen working his kill of a ground agama.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Nxai Pan, Jan 2020

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As the month progressed the numbers of zebra and wildebeest steadily increased and by the first week of January an estimated 5,000 zebra were in the pan area. Springbok and steenbok were also feeding amongst them. Most of the antelope herds had new-born youngsters, taking advantage of the summer salt pan grasses which produce vital minerals for milk production. Giraffes in numbers up to fifty could be seen browsing on the edges of the pan; guests enjoyed watching two young males sparring with each other by “necking”. Kudu and buffalo appeared at the camp waterhole, whilst oryx were seen towards Baines Baobabs.

The resident Nxai Pan pride were making the most of the migration and were seen feasting on zebra frequently. They were generally found in a group of three lionesses and sometimes accompanied by the male lion. We also saw the male lion on a wildebeest kill. Black-backed jackals and vultures could be seen waiting to finish off the carcasses. Once we witnessed the lionesses being chased by elephants. Sometimes the lions were close to camp and we could hear them calling all night.

Elephants still visited the camp waterhole in large numbers, to the delight of guests who could then enjoy watching the herd interactions from their room or the main area. After heavy rains the elephants dispersed to make the most of the natural waterholes.

Reptiles included rock monitors, leopard tortoises, a black mamba and a puff adder.

This particular green season has produced an abundance of butterflies and moths. Species included the blue pansy, African monarch and scarlet-tip.

We saw black-backed jackals digging out rodents at the pan and also were lucky enough to observe them regurgitating food for their puppies at the wildlife waterhole. Bat-eared foxes were foraging for termites along the open plains.

Birding was great and summer migrants included grey crowned cranes, European bee-eaters, black cuckoos, steppe buzzards and pallid harriers. A pair of yellow-billed kites were observed at their nest as they raised their one chick. Abdim’s storks were plentiful with a flock of over one hundred at the camp waterhole. Water birds that appeared following rain included spoonbills, red-billed teal, little grebes and open-billed storks. Lesser flamingos were seen at the pan near Baines Baobabs.

Resident birds seen included kori bustards, chestnut-vented tit-babblers, double-banded coursers, yellow-throated sandgrouse, secretary birds and northern black korhaans. A pale chanting goshawk was seen feeding on a dove. Ostriches and their chicks were seen in large numbers, sometimes as many as fifty adults in the pan area. Red-crested korhaans were engaged in a mating displays whereby the males fly straight up and then tumble to the ground as though shot.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lebala, Jan 2020

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The resident pack of four wild dogs were hunting successfully and more than once we saw them take down two impalas during one chase. Another time we watched as the impala they were chasing spectacularly leapt to safety across the river. On one occasion the dogs’ impala kill was stolen by a sub-adult male lion who came rushing in out of nowhere at high speed, forcing the dogs to run away. At times, we enjoyed seeing the pack running around and playing with each other, developing their social bonds.

The Wapoka pride were seen hunting zebra and red lechwe. A female with three cubs was seen killing a warthog piglet which she immediately gave to her youngsters, rather than eat it herself. These cubs were seen playing with a small tree, until the lioness hid them in a bush whilst she went stalking wildebeest.

The two resident males lions were located finishing up a wildebeest that they had killed. These males often engaged in load roaring to reconnect with each other after they split up to patrol. They made an impressive sight striding through the plains together, watched by impala who were snorting alarm calls.

A young male lion was nicknamed Nomad as he wandered around on his own and as yet had no territory. However, he seemed to be doing well fending for himself and we saw him chasing warthogs. We also saw two intruder male lions at Halfway Pan.

The coalition of two resident cheetah brothers were found feeding on a kill.

The resident young tom leopard known as Fisherman was spotted hunting a few of times, although not successfully.

General game included impala, kudu, giraffe, red lechwe, buffalo, steenbok, wildebeest, eland, sable, warthogs, zebras, reedbuck, red lechwe and sitatunga.

Big herds of elephants were in the area, some up to 100 strong. We watched them drinking and mud-bathing. They were feeding on trees as well as the lush green devil’s thorn.

Hippos were observed wrestling and opening their mouths in dominance displays. One time two bulls were in a serious fight that lasted over half an hour.

We were able to enjoy watching an aardwolf as it was walking around feeding on termites. A family of seven bat-eared foxes presented a wonderful photo opportunity. Black-backed jackals were seen often and one family had puppies who came right up to the vehicle. A troop of over twenty baboons, including eleven babies provided entertainment as they jumped around in the trees. We also saw African wild cats during night drive.

Notable bird sightings included African skimmers, red bishops, European bee-eaters, pink-backed pelicans, saddle-billed storks, martial eagles, woodland kingfishers, brown snake-eagles and carmine bee-eaters, yellow-billed kites and marabou storks.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lagoon, Jan 2020

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Regular readers of our sightings reports may recall that the resident pack of five wild dogs denned at the beginning of December. Although the female gave birth to a single pup, it appears that it did not survive because by January the pack were nomadic once again. This outcome was disappointing, but not a great surprise because it would be rare for a puppy born so out of season to thrive. We were able to follow them as they hunted for impala and zebra.

The Northern pride of lions were hunting successfully; their target prey included wildebeest, zebra and warthog. One time we saw them feeding and, unusually, the two males let the lioness finish off a zebra foal, even though they looked hungry themselves. A lioness with three sub-adult cubs was seen frequently, including on a fresh elephant calf kill. One time we saw a lioness moving her three new born cubs to a new den, carrying them in her mouth. We were watching a lion pride and noticed a sub-adult male looking pointedly in a certain direction. The lion was moving its tail side to side and he started growling before racing into a charge. We followed him and noticed two figures disappearing off into the distance as two cheetahs ran for their lives. We tracked the cheetahs and eventually they relaxed and went back to marking their posts.

These two cheetahs were the resident coalition of two brothers who. During the month we found them ambushing zebra to target their foals, retreating to rest under the Kalahari apple-leaf trees as the day warmed up. Another time we saw them marking their territory and chasing around some giraffes. They were also seen hunting eland calves. After the clash with the lion they moved deeper south towards Lebala camp.

A female brown hyena was seen at the entrance of the den site on the Munhumutapa Islands. We also saw her running close to the river.

Very good general game in the area included big herds of eland, zebra, wildebeest, sable, kudu, red lechwe, buffalo and giraffe. There was a lovely herd of seventeen roan antelope including three calves. Elephants were seen in big numbers. One time we were lucky enough to come across a wildebeest giving birth.

A spotted hyena was seen running away with the carcass of a young zebra. We also saw another hyena feeding on the skin of an old giraffe carcass. The skin had been soaked by rain, making it easier to eat and digest.

We came across aardwolves foraging for termites during night drive. Bat-eared foxes were also in feasting on the termite alates that emerged after the rains; we saw three different families of foxes near to their den sites. Both black-backed and side-striped jackals were denning and we were abel to enjoy sightings of the pups. During night drive, we came across a family of genets with three small cubs. We were able to watch an African wild cat hunting for rodents and birds. Other smaller mammals located included dwarf mongoose, slender mongoose and bush babies.

A resident female leopard showed good signs of being pregnant. We saw her a couple of times as she was marking her territory, climbing trees and visiting waterholes. A rather skittish tom was also located.

We saw a fantastic feeding frenzy of many birds hawking for flying termites; species included tawny eagles, bateleurs, lesser-spotted eagles, Wahlberg’s eagles, swallows and bee-eaters. A pride of 24 ostrich were located as they grazed. Other notable bird sightings included wattled cranes, secretary birds, slaty egrets, Verreaux’s eagle owls, martial eagles, ground hornbills and European rollers.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)