Tau Pan, Feb 2018

DunstanS-Cat9-TauPanCampLion

Lions were seen on the majority of the days during February and guests were often serenaded at night by the sound of nearby roars as the Tau Pan pride made contact with each other. As is often the case at Tau Pan, we came across the cats in groups of varying sizes, including a sizable pride of twelve lions which was seen regularly towards Letia Hau, comprising 3 males, 2 lionesses and seven young. One of the times that pride was feasting on a wildebeest kill. The camp watering hole was frequented by the lions very regularly including a female with a cub and the impressive black-maned resident males.

A brown hyena continued to be seen at the watering hole, especially at dawn and dusk. However another individual was less fortunate and we found its carcass nearby, possibly killed as a result of conflict with lions.

An African wild cat was seen a few times hunting mice around the Tau Pan areas and lucky guests were able to capture some photographs of this elusive mammal. Honey badgers were also seen digging for rodents in the same area. Pale Chanting Goshawks were seen keeping a close eye on the honey badgers, hoping to steal some food, but their reactions were too slow to be successful. Black backed jackal, ground squirrels and bat-eared foxes were seen most days, however some more unusual sightings of a Cape fox and the elusive aardwolf were great to have. Cheetah were located at Passarge Valley.

In a very unusual encounter, we came across elephants in Deception Valley – a female and calf. Elephants haven’t been seen in that area by us for many years. They were resting in the shade – although the day was cloudy it was extremely hot.

Following heavy rains towards the end of February plains game species such as oryx, springbok and wildebeest moved into the Tau Pan area to take advantage of the new green shoots of grass. The springbok herds were estimated to be as large as 300 animals and made a spectacular sight as they ran and pronked at sunset. Steenbok were seen regularly and there was a small herd of red hartebeest at Phokoje Pan. A journey of eleven giraffe were seen regularly.

Birdlife continued to be excellent at Tau Pan, especially for the raptors. Species seen included pallid harrier, gabar goshawk, tawny eagle, black-chested snake eagle, brown snake eagle and yellow-billed kite. A pair of bateleur eagles are building a nest near to camp. Kori bustards and secretary birds could be seen stalking across the pans looking for food. We had a remarkable sighting of 45 ostrich chicks in one flock, being looked after by two sets of parents.

The northern black korhaans and red crested korhaans could be seen displaying. In the case of the latter, the male flies straight up and then dramatically tumbles towards the ground as though shot.

Although the first half of the month was fairly dry for the time of year, the clouds were building up each afternoon making for some spectacular sunset shots. Once the rains came the bush sprang to life and was beautiful and green.

(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, Feb 2018

F Pieterse.cat6thunderstorm at sunset nxai

After an exceptionally dry January which appeared to stop the usual zebra and wildebeest migration, we were hoping for late rains to arrive in February and we were not in the least disappointed. The gathering afternoon thunderclouds made for memorable sundowner stops with the different shaped clouds and colours giving some incredible photo opportunities.

Right from the start of the month we experienced very regular rainfall at Nxai Pan and as the wet weather continued the game started to return in large numbers. Every day, the herds of zebra, wildebeest and giraffe increased, congregating at the natural watering holes which had filled up at last.

With the return of the prey species, came the predators. The dominant male lions had not been seen for a while, they had probably followed the herds as they moved away, so we were delighted to find them back in Nxai Pan on 5th February, full bellied and resting after enjoying a good meal. They announced their return with plenty of calling that night and the following day were found reunited with the rest of the Nxai Pan pride comprising three females and six cubs. The young lions are at a very playful stage, engaging in games of chase and pulling each other down, all good practice in terms of learning essential hunting skills, but making for some charming photographs as well. The lions were making the most of the zebra herds and were seen feasting on kills.

Also back in the area after having been away for a little while was the resident male cheetah. He was looking in great condition. He is a very mobile individual, covering the whole area from the west to the east of the pan. A female cheetah with two sub-adult cubs were seen at the wildlife waterhole, surrounded by some very nervous zebras who were alarm calling.

Two wild dogs, an alpha male and alpha female were seen in front of the camp more than once, but were chased away by a breeding herd of elephants from the waterhole. They were also seen hunting springboks in the pan area.

A family of four bat eared foxes were seen regularly along the Middle Road of Nxai Pan. They could be seen looking for food such as grasshoppers and other insects amongst the grasses. Black-backed jackal were often seen near to the larger predators, hoping for the opportunity to scavenge from their carcasses.

Elephants were still in the area, but not in the huge numbers that we see at Nxai Pan during the dry season. Now that the natural pans had filled, they were using the opportunity to browse vegetation further away from the permanent water sources that they rely on at other times of the year.

Cooler weather provided good birding conditions and we had some exciting summer visitors to admire. Two Denham’s bustards were located during the month. This was an exciting sighting of an uncommon seasonal migrant to the area which has been classified as ‘near threatened’. Big flocks of black-winged pratincoles could be found near to the natural pans and the two permanent waterholes. Lots of vultures were in the area, waiting for the predators to make inroads in to the migrating herds.

(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, Feb 2018

amills.Mammal_Pangolin Lebala

February was a great month for spotting some of the more elusive animals. One evening as a game drive was returning to camp and we thought that all the action was over, the sharp-eyed tracker suddenly asked the guide to stop and reverse, whereby he proudly pointed out a pangolin – a highly prized sighting. An aardwolf was also spotted on a night drive as the guides were game driving back to the camp; the aardwolf was very relaxed and going into the termite mounds looking for food. An African wildcat was also seen.

During February the Wapoka pride split into three separate groups, but the majority of the lions were still in the Lebala area. The guides frequently located one female with three cubs and two male lions, as well as a different group of six males with one female. The rest of the pride were not located during the month of February. One of the main reasons why big prides split is if they do not get well fed, or possibly the six sub-adult males were now old enough for the dominant male to eject them from the family group. All two different prides located were being very successful with their hunting, the mother with three cubs and two males was spotted one of the morning feeding on kudu. The same pride was also seen feeding on a zebra carcass, making for some great photographs for our guests. The six boys were found feeding on a giraffe carcass, and they were also seen stalking wildebeest.

A pack of sixteen wild dogs were seen regularly and appeared to be doing well in the area as they were seen hunting and feeding on impala on more than one occasion.

Resident female leopard Jane and her two cubs were back in the area which was very good news as she has been not around for some time. Having been located, she immediately thrilled the guests by chasing and killing a warthog. She took that up a tree where she stayed for a day feeding along with her two cubs. Guests were able to get some fantastic photos. A male leopard was also located feeding on an impala carcass one of the afternoon.

Two male cheetahs were located resting as they were on a mission of patrolling the area, it was getting dark so the guides did not spend much time with them.

The hyenas moved from their den after the lions spent most of their time nearby and posing a great threat to the hyena cubs. The clan were spotted feeding on left over carcasses, and there was one hyena who regularly came through the camp at night.

General game was good and there were large numbers of wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, kudu and breeding herds of elephant. Honey badgers were also located in the area busy looking for something to eat. Hippos could be seen enjoying the natural pans which had filled with water after the rains.

Bird life was abundant due to the summer migrants. Species seen included a breeding pair of endangered wattled cranes, carmine bee-eaters and African skimmers.

(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, Feb 2018

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A new pride of four male lions have continued to do well in the area and were located in different parts of the concession as they explored their new territory. Sometimes they were seen patrolling alone, each taking a different route to cover the maximum ground, before meeting again. Some of the guests were very lucky to see them roaring, which is also part of marking their presence in the area to other lions. A female was also located with one of the male lions the guides suspected that they might be mating. The male lions were also seen stalking zebras but unfortunately not being successful. The Bonga pride were located resting on a termite mound.

The resident female leopard appeared to be doing well raising her two cubs, it takes a very experienced leopard to raise two cubs in an area where there are so many hyenas and lions. She was seen hunting and her biggest target seemed to be baboons; she was spending most of her time around the area where the baboons spend their night. The two cubs were seen playing around chasing each other around the trees. This female leopard was also seen stalking impalas but not being successful. She was also spotted resting on top of the sausage trees during the day, making for great photo opportunities.

A pack of six wild dogs were still in the area and seen often. One afternoon the guides followed them as they were hunting and guests were lucky enough to see them bring down and devour an impala. Another time the wild dogs were found feeding on a warthog carcass. The pack was also seen stalking impala on different occasions.

The two male cheetahs were located in the area during the month of February, the two male cheetahs spend most of their time in the area between our two camps Lebala and Lagoon. The male two brothers were seen patrolling their area to make sure there were no intruders. A serval cat was located one of the afternoons and the lucky guests managed to take good daytime pictures of this species who is more usually seen at dawn or dusk. Six bat eared foxes were seen busy hunting feeding on insects and going into the holes looking for beetles and other insects.

Spotted hyenas were seen in different location feeding on the left-overs from other predators; hyenas could not keep up with the wild dogs to try steal their carcass.

General game was great and we saw good number of zebras, wildebeest, impalas and breeding elephants. A massive herd of over 150 eland were seen often and made an impressive sight; this is the largest of the antelope species and to see them in such numbers is a wonderful sighting. A herd of roan antelope were also located more than once.

There were some good rains end of February and the vegetation was nice and green. The river channel in front of the lodge filled nicely and grunting hippos were always wallowing in front of the rooms.

Bird life was also good as we still have birds coming for breeding including carmine bee-eaters and African skimmers. The African fish eagle was always regularly seen, and a real favourite with guests.

(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!)

Kwara, Feb 2018

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There was a new female cheetah in the area who had two cubs in great condition. We located her for the first time as she was hunting close to Honeymoon Pan and we were able to see her successfully kill an impala. Two days later we found her again and once more she brought down an impala in front of the vehicle. She appeared to be a very skilful hunter. The two cheetah males in the area seemed to be doing well and managing to actively avoid all the lions. One of them seemed a very active hunter who was specialising on warthogs, though on one occasion we watched him being driven off ferociously by a sow protecting her piglets. Another time, we had a wonderful sighting where he was rolling over and over on the same area of a termite mound.

The number of lions in the Kwara concession appeared to be growing and two big new males were actively patrolling and marking the eastern area from Splash, all the way to the Kwara airstrip. The two brothers have formed a coalition and were very vocal when separated from each other – to the delight of our guests who were thrilled with the spine-tingling experience of having lions roaring very close to the game drive vehicle. The new males were seen mating with two lionesses so hopefully they will be successful in holding onto their territory for the arrival of the cubs.

A pride of three lionesses in the 4 Rivers area with their five cubs was doing well. We followed them hunting and watched them kill a warthog, on another occasion they came close to pulling down a wildebeest in front of the vehicle, but just missed. One time we were watching them interacting and grooming each other, with one of the Zulu Boys a short distance away keeping an eye on his females. Whilst we were still watching the lions, we saw some impalas springing out of the bush pursued by a pack of 8 wild dogs. We quickly drove around to follow them and saw that they had managed to kill one of the impala and were busy feeding. Very soon afterwards jackals, hyenas and vultures arrived seeking their opportunity to scavenge. There’s never a dull moment at Kwara!

The pack of 8 wild dogs were seen hunting often, although sometimes the long grasses seemed to be impeding their ability to pursue their prey. Nevertheless, we found them on successful kills including a young kudu and a common reedbuck.

There was a new female cheetah in the area who had two cubs in great condition. We located her for the first time as she was hunting close to Honeymoon Pan and we were able to see her successfully kill an impala. Two days later we found her again and once more she brought down an impala in front of the vehicle. She appeared to be a very skilful hunter. The two cheetah males in the area seemed to be doing well and managing to actively avoid all the lions. One of them seemed a very active hunter who was specialising on warthogs, though on one occasion we watched him being driven off ferociously by a sow protecting her piglets. Another time, we had a wonderful sighting where he was rolling over and over on the same area of a termite mound.

The female leopard who lost her cub earlier this year was still in the area. One day she was spotted moving through long grass, almost invisibly due to her camouflage, but then obligingly climbed up a tree where guests were able to get some great photos. On the western side of the concession there was a new female leopard. At one stage she had killed an impala and could be seen feeding on the carcass up a tree for three consecutive days. There was also a new male leopard who was beautifully relaxed. One day jackal alarm calls alerted us to the presence of a large predator and we discovered the tom holding a male impala’s neck in the act of suffocating it. Another time, we found him on the kill of a waterbuck calf.

The cooler, rainy weather during February was favoured by the hyenas who were active patrolling during the day. A giraffe carcass in the north east of the concession which appeared to have been killed by the two new male lions was a particularly favoured meal. This large carcass also attracted side-striped and back-backed jackals.

Large herds of elephants were still in the area and guests enjoyed watching them browse and mud-bathe. As the water levels dropped at the start of the month, the hippos changed their feeding habits and were noticeably more aggressive in protecting their territory. No doubt they welcomed the heavy deluges of rain that finally appeared as the month progressed.

Three species of vultures were regularly seen – lappet-faced, hooded and white-backed – true wilderness areas such as the Kwara concession are becoming increasingly vital for the safe future of these endangered birds. The heronry was still active and a highlight for guests during the boat cruises.

(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!)