Tau Pan, Mar 2018

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During March there were plenty of wildebeest, springbok, red hartebeest and oryx in the Tau Pan and Passarge Valley areas enjoying the green grasses that emerged following good rains. Guests were able to enjoy seeing them galloping and jumping in the morning breeze before the temperatures started to rise. Giraffe and kudu could also be seen drinking from the camp watering hole.

The most unusual sighting of the month at Tau Pan was a leopard trying to kill an aardwolf. Both animals are elusive at the best of times so it was a special privilege to witness this remarkable interaction. Luckily the aardwolf managed to dash into a burrow and escape to the relief of everyone watching. A female leopard was also seen behind the Tau Pan staff village. Although initially she was walking through long grass we eventually were able to get a better view and spent about an hour with her. Another time two different female leopards were seen on the same morning, one posing beautifully on top of a camelthorn tree before coming down, pausing whilst guests took some lovely photographs, and eventually making her way east.

Another pleasant surprise was locating a pack of 12 wild dogs during a day trip to Deception Valley, a species not often seen in the Central Kalahari. On the same day we also came across plenty of elephant tracks and an impressively full-bellied brown hyena by San Pan.

The Tau Pan pride of lions were seen very regularly throughout the month, sometimes roaring through the night near the rooms to the delight of the guests, and occasionally walking through camp itself. The pride spent a lot of time at the camp watering hole, sometimes all five impressive male lions together accompanied by three females and their three cubs. The cubs were at a very playful age, chasing each other around even when the adults were lying sleeping. A different pride were seen in varying sized groups near to Letitia Hau.

Cheetah were seen regularly. We watched the resident female trying her luck on a steenbok not far from Tau Pan; she pursued for a while but was not successful. The resident male was seen watching and stalking the springbok in the Tau Pan area. A mother cheetah and her two sub-adult cubs, were seen from time to time between Passarge Valley and Deception Valley; but these three females are notably more shy than the animals resident closer to camp, so our guides are patiently trying to habituate them to the vehicles.

A large family of 15 bat-eared foxes, including four puppies were seen regularly near to Tau Pan where they particularly enjoyed relaxing under some shady umbrella-thorn trees. We discovered a group of seven back-backed jackal, two males, three females and two pups catching and eating slender mongoose by the pan. Honey badgers were seen close to Deception Valley

An African python was spotted near to San Pan. Another memorable reptile sighting was a lovely group of seven leopard tortoises, including some babies, feeding on flowers

An unusual sighting for the Tau Pan watering hole was two African painted snipe, these uncommon birds are usually more associated with marsh and wetland regions than the semi-arid Kalahari. An immature martial eagle, the largest raptor found in the area, was seen at camp where it was perched on a camel thorn tree eyeing up some helmeted guineafowl who was scratching at the ground beneath him. Pale chanting goshawks are a common bird species at Tau Pan; some guests managed to take excellent photos of this elegant grey raptor eating a gerbil. The goshawks were also seen following honey badgers as they were seen digging for insects and rodents, hoping for a chance to make an opportunistic kill for themselves. Guests were able to get some lovely images of a bateleur eagle bathing in the camp watering hole. Other species seen regularly were ostrich, kori bustard, secretary bird and northern black korhaan.

(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, Mar 2018

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The zebra and wildebeest migration was still in full swing at the start of the month, with thousands of extra animals in the park. By the middle of the month the rainfalls started to become less frequent and slowly the zebra numbers started to reduce. However other species such as giraffe, ostrich, wildebeest and springbok were still very plentiful. As the zebras started to move away, the bull elephants started to return to the Nxai Pan area where we can expect to see herds steadily increasing in number over the coming dry months.

Day trips to Baines Baobabs continued to be very popular with our guests, especially as the pans were full of water making the landscape exceptionally beautiful. A big herd of oryx relaxing their calves near to the historic trees made for some beautiful photographs. Two buffalo were seen on the road to Baines.

The resident pride of lions was enjoying the bountiful food supply as a result of the zebra and wildebeest migration and were seen frequently, looking extremely well fed. The pride currently comprises three lionesses with their six playful sub-adult cubs, with an adult male also being seen with them from time to time. More than once we saw them engaging in roaring stand-offs with the resident cheetah family, although it seemed that neither species was keen to engage in a physical fight. The cheetahs were always quick to move off when threatened by the lions.

This mother cheetah with her two sub-adult cubs was seen often, usually along the middle road of the pan where they were hunting for springbok. Although we didn’t manage to see them actually making a kill, they looked in really condition so it seems that they were being successful. A male cheetah was also seen during the month.

A pair of wild dogs were seen during the month and they appeared to be travelling large distances between the camp watering hole, the Department of Wildlife watering hole, and even out towards Baines Baobabs

Smaller mammals were not as plentiful as they are during the dryer months, but there were still black-backed jackals in the area. Leopard tortoises were also seen.

We experienced some spectacular storms which made driving conditions tricky. The rains encouraged shrubs such as the wild stock rose and trumpet thorn to produce their flowers.

The good rains meant that we started to see some birds more usually associated with wetlands than desert such as red-knobbed coot, Egyptian goose and red-billed teals. At Baines Baobabs there were also black-winged stilts and glossy ibis. Other more common residents seen included kori bustard, ostrich, northern black korhaan and double-banded coursers. Greater kestrels, a seasonal migrant, were also spotted.

(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, Mar 2018

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The Bonga pride of lions used to spend most of their time between Lagoon camp and Lebala camp, but now seemed to have settled in the Lebala area. The Wapoka pride who have long been the resident pride near Lebala appeared to have been pushed deeper south into the woodland. The Bonga is a pride of seven males and three females and were very successful with their hunting during the month as the lions were found feeding on different carcasses including zebra, kudu, wildebeest and giraffe. The Bonga pride are very experienced hunters and they can kill big prey species like giraffe, which is not an easy animal to kill. They were also seen stalking different antelopes on several occasions, witnessed by lucky guests that stayed at Lebala camp during the month of March. There is another female lioness with three cubs which used to be part of Bonga pride around the Lebala area, this lioness was found feeding on a baby giraffe and was also seen stalking impalas but unfortunately the impalas saw her and run away.

A male leopard, son of our well-known female Jane, has been nicknamed Fisherman by our guides as he likes to spend most of his time in the marsh looking for red lechwe. This is a good strategy to avoid the hyenas who are generally found in the more open areas. He was seen feeding on lechwe more than once and was also seen close to camp. When away from the marsh he was seen hunting warthog, even if this means digging out the warthog from their burrows; a sight much relished by Lebala guests. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the resident female leopard Jane and her two cubs during the month of March but this is not necessarily cause for alarm as she has a wide territory in which she patrols.

A pair of one male and female wild dog were seen around Lebala camp area during the month of March; the two dogs were seen hunting impalas and warthogs.  It was very interesting to see these two dogs hunting as they covered a big area in a short time.  In a lovely sighting the two wild dogs were found resting in a lagoon trying to cool down during the day.

Spotted hyenas were located in different areas feeding on the left-overs from lions and other predators; the hyenas seemed nervous of coming near the lions whilst they were feeding, but because there were plenty of kills they kept moving between the different carcasses. A lone female hyena with two cubs was also seen not too far from the camp.

A serval was seen busy hunting going into the burrows looking for mice and other rodents, this was one of the special sightings as a serval is one of the more elusive cats to see. Honey badgers were also located hunting on several occasions.

General game was plentiful and many different species were found including zebra, wildebeest, impala, giraffe, tsessebe, kudu and sable antelope. Breeding herds of elephants were in the area. On cloudy days hippos were seen outside the water grazing, another special sighting as hippos usually spend most of their time in water during the day.

Bird life was also great. We still had carmine bee-eaters in the area and guests enjoyed photographing the woodland kingfisher, another seasonal migrant. Guests were amazed to see lappet faced vulture, hooded vultures and white backed vultures all in one area busy feeding on the left-over carcasses.

(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, Mar 2018

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The four new male lions in the concession seemed to be doing well as they were located in different areas patrolling or hunting. This pride appeared to be specializing in stalking eland and were found feeding on different eland carcasses during the month. The four males were very actively patrolling the area to mark their presence and secure their new territory, often splitting up so that they could cover more ground. There were two lionesses in the area who appeared to be very good hunters, seen feeding on wildebeest close to Lagoon camp on a wildebeest and another time on a warthog. The two lionesses were also seen stalking different antelope species late in the afternoons as temperatures cooled down.

During the month of March three different female leopards and two cubs were spotted around Lagoon camp in different locations, the sub adult leopard was located hunting birds west of the airstrip. The mother of the sub adult leopard was also seen east of the airstrip heading west where the sub adult was located. An old female leopard with her two months old cubs was also located east of Lagoon camp feeding on a reedbuck; she was wise enough to take her kill up on a mangosteen tree to ensure that she didn’t lose her kill, or indeed her precious cubs, to hyenas or lions.

Hyenas were very active around Lagoon camp moving from one carcass to another. One brave hyena was spotted running away with a bone from an eland that was killed by the four male lions. It was very risky for a lone hyena to steal a meal from under the noses of the four-male lions, but the hyena seized its opportunity and bolted with its prize. Guests who were on that activity managed to take great pictures of the hyena running with a bone in its mouth.

An aardwolf was located at mid-day walking on the road; although it ended up going into a burrow guests were able to get some good shots before it disappeared. An African wild cat was seen walking through tall grass. Bat eared foxes were seen feeding, and jackals were found scavenging on different carcasses

The two resident male cheetahs were located on a hunting mission, after tracking them for two hours. The coalition managed to kill a piglet and after feeding they spent the rest of the day in the shade. The following day they started moving to start patrolling their territory area. These two brothers cheetahs cover a huge area.

A pack of six wild dogs were in the Lagoon area and seen either hunting or resting during the day. One morning the six wild dogs tried their luck with a pair of zebra but instead the two zebras chased them. The six wild dogs gave up and moved on into the bushes, but their bad luck continued as they then came face to face with a lioness so decided to run away from the area altogether.

General game was great during March. There were large breeding herd of elephants, a good number of zebras, eland, giraffes, impalas, wildebeest and roan antelopes. Hippos were also located outside water during the day.

Birds sightings were good and highlights included lesser jacana, hooded vulture, pygmy goose, white baked vulture, Verreaux eagle owl, scoops owl and pearl spotted owl.

A python was also located on several occasions.

(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, Mar 2018

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The pack of 8 wild dogs was back in the area and we were delighted to see that the alpha female is pregnant. Right at the end of the month we saw them having a big stand off with four hyenas who were trying to steal their impala kill. The prized carcass changed hands a few times before the wild dog pack eventually prevailed. It was an incredible encounter. The wild dogs were often seen in camp and towards the end of the month they killed an impala between tent one and two before spending two nights within the camp island. The pack of eight also had a skirmish with a small pack of three wild dogs that appeared to have split away from an original pack of ten. The female from the smaller pack was seen digging out old aardvark holes and so could also be pregnant since she seemed to be checking for potential denning sites. These three seem to be finding hunting harder work since they don’t have the advantage of large numbers, not helped by the grass being very long after good rains.
 
There were dramatic developments during the month concerning two female leopards. At the start of the month one was heavily pregnant and the other had a cub of about one year old. The pregnant female was seen investigating potential denning sights, but we noted at the time that hyenas were always following her on hunts. When she eventually gave birth to her cub we only saw it a couple of times before it disappeared and we found the mother leopard plaintively calling for it. We can’t say definitively what happened, but perhaps the hyenas were responsible. Then, in a very bizarre turn of events, a few days later we found that the same leopardess apparently feeding on the older leopard cub belonging to another female who was also nearby. The two females were seen for a few days in close proximity to each other snarling and growling. After this rather grim start to the month we enjoyed many happier sightings of the leopards on kills, mainly red lechwe and common reedbuck. One such carcass was draped in a tree for a couple of days and guests were able to get some great photos in fantastic light. Another time we were lucky enough to follow a leopard for 40 minutes and see her make her reedbuck kill.
 
The water level was rising and so the cheetahs were spending less time on the floodplains and more time in the woodlands. We saw the resident male, nicknamed “Mr Special” hunting and also resting after having devoured an impala carcass. We saw him try his luck on kudu and warthog missing both times, but was seen a couple of days later looking full-bellied after finishing up a reedbuck kill.
 
There was an active hyena den which was giving guests some great sightings of new-born cubs playing with sub-adults. All around Kwara concession we saw a lot of hyena movement with them travelling in groups of 4-8 individuals, especially in the mornings. We saw a clan feeding on an impala carcass and another time a lone individual feeding on an impala which, judging by the tracks, had been stolen from a cheetah.
 
As is often the case on Kwara concession there were a remarkable number of different lion prides operating. Mma Leitlho pride of three were keeping close ties with a younger male. They seemed to be doing well and the oldest female is pregnant. Mma Mogata pride of two females and four sub-adults were also seen in very good condition. To the west, the Shindi pride of three lionesses with their five cubs were also seen finishing up on a zebra kill. Meanwhile on the eastern side of the concession, towards Splash, two male lions including one named “Mr Limping” were frequently seen.
 
There were many elephants in the Kwara concession during March with breeding herds numbering up to forty coming to the islands to feed on marula fruits. In camp itself the marula trees were being enjoyed by solitary bulls. There were plentiful tsessebe and giraffe in the area. At one time we saw some young giraffes staring curiously down and investigated to find an African python killing a spur-winged goose. Sitatungas and bushbucks were both seen during the boat cruises. A sky African civet was also spotted.
 
A Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owl was seen in camp. The mokoro trips continued to yield great sightings of species such as malachite kingfisher, lesser jacana and red-knobbed coot.
(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!)