Tau Pan, January 2020

AvonBerges_NewLife_Springbok_BabyandYoung_2

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

RHebhardt.Cat2NxaiPanelephantszebrasatwaterhole

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

GTankard.Cat2africanwildcat

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

WRiley.Cat2dogsbuffalo

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!)

Splash / Kwara, Jan 2020

THarden Cat1 Lions drinking

Four new young male lions made a bold move on the Kwara Reserve and seemed intent on pushing out the resident males that we know as Big Man and Puffy. One of them was limping and it seemed as though they had come into conflict with either the residents or the Zulu Boys who were also hanging around. Our guides were sad that these new lions killed a rather special young lioness who was recognisable by her ginger/cinnamon colouring.  Towards the end of the month we witnessed a fight and lots of chasing between the four new males and the residents. The ongoing battle between these male lions mean that the nights were full of roaring as each side tried to proclaim their territory. Big Man and Puffy were still in the area at the end of the month, but looking extremely nervous. The resident Splash Pride of eight seemed keen to avoid the new males, but we found them a couple of times eating warthogs that they had just killed.

The three resident packs of wild dogs continued to provide plenty of action.  We followed the pack of eighteen as they hunted and killed impalas on a regular basis. One time they managed to kill four impala lambs at once. Vultures and kites could be seen finishing up the leftovers. They also killed a waterbuck calf near Room 12 at Splash.

Meanwhile, the Marsh Pack of twenty-five dogs were also located hunting around the Splash area. One day they came running straight through camp chasing impalas. Eventually they killed two lambs right next to the workshop, devoured them quickly and then continued on with their hunt.

The resident male cheetah known as Special was very active in terms of marking his territory and hunting; he was located on most days as he moved between the eastern and western side of the Kwara reserve. We saw him hunting and killing various antelope species including impala, common reedbuck and a wildebeest calf. Once we saw his kill be taken by two male lions.

A female cheetah was busy tracking Special’s marking posts, indicating that she was ready for mating again. When we saw her in the area last year, she was travelling with her sub-adult son, but this year she left him behind at the mokoro station where he was seen calling for her. We saw her hunting and killing an impala lamb.

Herds of elephant could be seen feeding and bathing in the channels. Guests enjoyed watching the young calves playing. Big bull elephants were regularly feeding on the Kwara camp islands and breeding herds could be seen drinking water at the pan in front of camp. A herd of approximately 300 buffalo was seen in the area.

A relaxed tom leopard known as Golden Boy was located frequently near to Kwara. Vervet monkeys alarm-calling revealed a shyer individual and another time it was the snorting of impalas that gave away the location of the cat. A female leopard was found up on a sausage tree.

Spotted hyenas were denning and we were able to see the single cub nursing from its mother. A clan was seen scavenging on a dead giraffe that appeared to have died of natural causes. We also saw hyenas eating a reedbuck carcass and another time watched them as they cooled off in water.

A caracal was spotted hunting helmeted guineafowl but the birds took off before the cat could manage to snatch one. A relaxed aardwolf was located at its temporary den. We were also lucky enough to spot an aardvark, although the animal was quick to dive into some thickets. We saw black-backed and side-striped jackals on most game drives.

Big herds of zebra were attracted by the great grazing and as they month progressed, they were steadily increasing in number. Other general game included warthog, common reedbuck, tsessebe, impala, kudu and red lechwe. We came across an interesting sighting of mating giraffe. Sable antelope were located in the area.

It was a good time for birding as we were able to enjoy several migratory visitors including European rollers, European bee-eaters and broad-billed rollers. A flock of over 100 carmine bee-eaters were seen feeding on flying ants. It was great listening to the snapping of their bills and chattering as they caught their prey. Yellow-billed kites were also enjoying the feast. Endangered wattled cranes and ground hornbills were both doing well in the Kwara 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!)

Tau Pan, Dec 2019

SLucht.Cat6.WildebeestPan

The Tau Pan pride were seen often and we came across them feasting on a gemsbok that they had killed some thirty minutes before. We also saw them cornering a brown hyena at the camp waterhole. The hyena looked sick and in the end the lions left without harming it. Another time they were at the camp waterhole being nervously watched by a herd of giraffe who were waiting for the lions to move off so that that they quench their thirst. We also came across lions at Deception Valley and Letia Hau during day trips.

Three brother cheetahs were seen along Passarge Valley, but they are not yet well habituated to the vehicles and were shy. A different pair of cheetahs was located at Phukwe Pan hunting, but they were chased away by gemsbok. Two female cheetahs and a herd of springbok were seen sizing each other up, but the cats didn’t make a chase in the end. A single male cheetah was seen near to the Tau2 camping site; he was looking very healthy and relaxed.

We saw a brown hyena highly mobile whilst we were on game drive.

A female leopard was seen trying her luck on ground squirrels, but the squirrels quickly escaped into their burrows. We also saw her calmly rolling around in the grass near to the road around sunset time.

Very relaxed bat-eared foxes could be seen with four cubs at their den. Black-backed jackals were often trying to attack the cubs, but the foxes aggressively chased the bigger predators away from their young.

A honey badger was seen wrestling a snake but won in the end and ate the reptile for breakfast. One day we startled a sleeping honey badger who hissed angrily at us before moving away.

Giraffe could be seen browsing the thorn trees. Gemsbok and springbok were grazing the Tau Pan, new shoots of grass at Tau Pan and San Pan.

We came across a penduline tit nest with chicks in it, this fascinating structure is made of woolly plant material and woven by the birds into a soft weatherproof mat resembling felt. According to our legendary San tracker, Scuppa, these nests were used by the Kalahari bushmen to use as swaddling or nappies for babies.

(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, Dec 2019

zebra mother and child in flight

After the first rains of the season the herbivores started to drop their young and we were lucky enough to witness a wildebeest giving birth. The calf was able to stand in ten minutes and was running around after thirty minutes.

As the month progressed, the numbers of zebra started to build into their hundreds as herds arrived as part of their annual migration to the pans. We saw two stallions have a very intense fight for more than half an hour

Bachelor and breeding herds of elephants continued to visit the camp waterhole in large numbers.

The resident pride of lions was seen fairly regularly and they seemed to be specialising on springbok and zebra. Two of the lions were mating over the course of several days and were often surrounded by game species such as giraffe, zebra and wildebeest who seemed to recognise that the cats had other things on their mind than hunting.

A pack of nine wild dogs, four adults and five puppies, were seen resting one day.

The resident male cheetah was observed actively marking his territory by spraying urine on posts such as termite mounds.

Springboks with their lambs were scattered around the pan. Other general game included gemsbok, red hartebeest, giraffe, common duiker, kudu and impala. Most of the antelopes were in breeding season, with lots of new-born babies.

We enjoyed watching a family of four bat-eared foxes playing together at their den and foraging for harvester termites. They included a young cub and a sub-adult as well as the parents. We also found a black-backed jackal den with two puppies.

At Baines Baobabs several elephant bachelor herds congregated together, numbering about sixty animals in total. They were mud wallowing and play-fighting.

We watched three lanner falcons try their luck at catching knob-billed ducks, forcing one duck to dive underwater to escape. After the rains, storks such as Abdims, yellow-billed and open-billed started to appear and we also saw the beautiful grey crowned cranes and lesser flamingos. Other water birds that arrived as the pans filled included red-billed teal, knob-billed ducks, marsh sandpipers, painted snipes and little grebes. Steppe buzzards, yellow-billed kites and pale chanting goshawks were seen together in a mixed flock hawking termites. We were lucky enough to see red-crested korhaans in a courtship display. A dead ostrich was found along East Road, but strangely none of the scavengers seemed interested in it at all.

(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, Dec 2019

AForsythe.Cat 6 watering hole.jpg

The resident Wapoka pride was located on 29 out of 31 days in December. This large pride comprises five females, eleven sub-adult cubs and two males. We were able to follow them as they hunted and took down a buffalo bull. They were also taking full advantage of the herbivore breeding season by feeding on impala lambs and zebra foals. Once we saw that the two male lions had been left to babysit whilst the lionesses went hunting. In a bold move three male lions came across from Lagoon as far as the Lebala airstrip. Meanwhile the resident males were enjoying the carcass of an elephant calf along with the female with three very small cubs. By observing circling vultures, we were able to locate two sub-adult males and a sub-adult female feasting on a large giraffe.

Guides were excited to see the resident pack of wild dogs as they had been absent for a little while. This is a small pack of just two adults and two sub-adults. The youngsters were very playful, running around and even splashing through water.

A female cheetah with four cubs was located. In a fascinating encounter, we were able to watch as she gave the cubs a lesson in hunting. She had caught an impala lamb but deliberately didn’t finish it off herself so that the cubs could learn and practise the killing skills they would need later in life.  We also came across the coalition of two cheetah brothers a couple of times on kills.

In a rare sighting for Lebala, we were lucky enough to come across a brown hyena. Spotted hyenas were located more frequently and once we had a lovely sighting of them bathing and playing in a pool.

A tom leopard was located highly mobile; we followed him for a while before he headed deep into the mopane woodland.

Most of the general game animals were in full breeding mode with babies at foot. Species included kudu, impala, warthog, steenbok, eland and wildebeest. We enjoyed lovely sightings of red lechwe leaping as they crossed channels, however on one dramatic occasion a lechwe was attached by a crocodile. They fought for about thirty minutes before the antelope finally managed to get away.

Elephants were in the area, coming down to the pools to drink; once we saw them chasing off a pride of lions. It was wonderful to see breeding herds crossing the channels with their calves. Guests enjoyed seeing hippos playing and opening their mouths wide “yawning” in a territorial display to show off their tusks. An unusually big herd of sixty giraffe were seen alongside herds of zebra. Sitatunga were seen on the flood plain next to a big flock of pelicans.

We had an active aardwolf den and were able to see the mother with her three cubs playing and feeding on termites. Bat-eared foxes also had cubs. On night drive we encountered a relaxed serval, aardwolf, African wild cat, honey badger and African civet

Some guests were particularly fascinated with dung beetles rolling their balls and burying them in the sand.

Notable bird sightings included ground hornbills, woolly-necked storks, carmine bee-eaters, brown snake-eagles, tawny eagles, martial eagles, black herons, yellow-billed kites, saddle-billed storks, woodland kingfishers, broad-billed rollers, carmine bee-eaters, pink-backed pelicans and Verreaux’s (Giant) eagle owl. We saw a pair of ostrich with their fifteen chicks.

(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, Dec 2019

BStuckenhoff.Cat4CheetahChase4

The resident pack of five wild dogs moved approximately two kilometres from their initial den; a normal behaviour which helps to reduce parasites and attack from other predators. The mother dog, the pack’s beta female, stayed guard at the den whilst the rest of the pack went hunting. When they returned, we were able to see them regurgitating food for her. During the first week of the month we managed to get our first glimpse of a single puppy and saw it often outside the den afterwards. By the middle of the month the pup was able to start eating regurgitated meat. The dogs were hunting very successfully, mainly on impala lambs, sometimes taking two at once. They also killed a kudu by the Lagoon camp staff village. During full moon they tried hunting at night, but this did not appear to be a successful strategy as they returned empty-bellied and the alpha male sustained an injury to his right front leg. Luckily it was not too serious and he was able to keep up with the pack.

After being soaked by the morning rain, hard work paid off for our guide and tracker as they came across cheetah tracks that hadn’t been touched by the rain, indicating that they were very fresh. They followed the tracks and noticed that the prints changed to show that the cats were running alongside antelope. In the distance we saw a tawny eagle landing next to a hooded vulture; a tell-tale sign of some action. Sure enough, when we went to investigate, the two cheetah brothers were busy feeding on a fresh kudu carcass.  A few days later, we found that the brothers had separated with one calling for two days to find his coalition partner before they were reunited. The cheetahs were then absent for a week, so the guides hatched a plan to focus on seeking them out one morning. After hours of looking, they gave up and decided to stop for coffee, only to find the two cheetahs nonchalantly waiting at the pre-arranged coffee stop, as though they were playing games with us all along. At the end of the month we saw that they had killed two impala lambs at once and were busy feeding.

Lions were seen almost daily. Some were in honeymoon mood and once we had a rather unique sighting of mating lions, just 300 metres away from mating elephants. The three male lions known as the “Northern Boys” enjoyed feasting on a hippo.  Baboon alarm calls also led us to find them with two females resting on a termite mound. A few days later we saw these females hunting warthog, but they were not successful. We followed the two lionesses as they hunted and watched as they eventually killed a tsessebe calf. We saw a different pride of two females and three cubs on a fresh zebra kill.

Since the start of the rains, we enjoyed relaxed sightings of bat-eared foxes foraging in the late afternoons near to their den. The aardwolf den was very active. Black-backed jackals also had puppies at their den site.

Female leopards were seen a few times, one with a freshly killed wildebeest calf carcass which she had hoisted up a tree.

During night drives we spotted porcupine, African civet, serval, aardwolf and springhare. We were lucky enough to get good photos of an African wild cat hunting at night.

Spotted hyenas were seen patrolling the area and a clan of twenty were feasting on a giraffe carcass.

General game was very good and included herds of eland, sable and roan antelope. There were many buffaloes in the mixed woodland and marsh areas. Elephants were also seen in big herds in the open areas close to the woodlands.

The inland pans had filled with water and were breeding hotspots for waders such as wood sandpipers, three-banded plovers, ruffs and little stints. Other species of waterfowl included red-billed teal, yellow-billed ducks, saddle-billed storks, little grebes, knob-billed ducks and giant kingfishers. Guests were thrilled to see wattled cranes, slaty egrets and ground hornbills. Birds feasting on emerging termite alates included yellow-billed kites, tawny eagles, marabou storks and even fish eagles. A couple of times we saw martial eagles feeing on impala lambs.

(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, Dec 2019

MSchuff.Cat4lunch_lebala

One day our two resident wild dog packs bumped into each other very close to Splash camp, totalling 42 wild dogs in total! We decided to follow the bigger Kwara pack as they finished off an impala, meanwhile Splash pack went on to chase a female leopard and her cub up into a sausage tree.

The Kwara pack comprised twelve adults and thirteen sub-adults who continued to hunt successfully, often near to Kwara camp itself where they were specialising on impala. One time we saw them trying to hunt ostrich chicks but they were out of luck that day. Within this pack there are five dogs who were looking very old, but they were still keeping up with the family. One time they hunted and killed three impala lambs and, as they were feeding, they were charged by four lionesses so they had to give up their meal. They then moved towards camp.

The Splash pack of eight adult and nine young wild dogs took town a pregnant kudu close to the airstrip. Many vultures came to finish off the carcass. These dogs are prolific hunters. As an example, one afternoon they first took down two impala lambs at once and after a short rest they continued on to try their luck on a herd of zebra. The zebra resisted strongly and after a fight with them the dogs continued onwards and finally killed a tsessebe bull.

Resident male lions known as Puffy and Big Man were seen frequently, including on a kudu carcass that their lionesses had killed.  Two male lions from the Zulu boys moved into their territory and were seen feeding on a young tsessebe. A few days later they fought with the resident males who were running from them. There was also a new coalition of four young males entering the area, so it seemed that the stage is set for some exciting territorial battles in the near future as the three coalitions compete for this game-rich area. The Splash pride of two lionesses and six cubs were still on the Kwara camp side of the reserve and seemed most interested in zebra. Sometimes they were accompanied by a male lion.

The resident male cheetah known as Mr Special was doing well, feeding on warthog and common reedbuck. One day he managed to hunt and kill a zebra foal which kept him busy for a couple of days. We saw another intruder male who was far from his usual home range during a period when Special seemed to have moved eastwards. When Special returned he was very actively going back around his marking posts to re-establish his territory. As usual, he continued to amaze us by climbing right up into trees, acting more like a leopard than a cheetah!

We managed to find a spotted hyena den which had five cubs of varying ages. We also saw hyenas bathing in muddy pools to cool off from the heat. Once a spotted hyena was feeding on an impala, chasing away jackals and vultures who were trying to scavenge.

A leopard was located up a tree feeding on an impala lamb and we also found a leopard cub on its own whilst its mother was away hunting.

More than once a female aardwolf with four cubs was seen during night drive. The mother was very relaxed, although the cubs were still a little shy. Both back-backed and striped jackal were seen nearly every drive with plenty of puppies accompanying their parents as they foraged. We came across a serval successfully hunting frogs.

Guides reported that more elephants were being seen than usual and buffalo were also massing in their hundreds, both species taking advantage of the very good grazing in the area. As the weather went through a dry spell, elephant herds at the Splash waterhole increased to about 100 strong.

Breeding season for the herbivores was well underway with zebra, wildebeest, warthog, impala and tsessebe all producing young.

Reptiles seen included snakes such as African pythons and black mambas.

A good number of migratory birds were seen in the area including steppe buzzards, steppe eagles, woolly-necked storks, broad-billed rollers, black kites and lots of yellow-billed kites. Wattled cranes were observed in a courtship display, jumping four metres in the air with wings spread out.

(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!)