Tau Pan, July 2018

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Tau Pan camp was closed for refurbishment during June but the maintenance team were kept on their toes by the regular appearances of lions and an elephant in camp. The elephant enjoyed browsing on the camp ridge during the day and made trips down to the waterhole to drink.

The Tau Pan pride walked though camp frequently, one time stopping to bring down and kill an oryx just in front of the lodge. They could often be seen at the waterhole, and we also spotted a brown hyena drinking on one of the days.

(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, July 2018

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As the seasonal cool dry weather continued elephants visited the camp watering hole in ever increasing numbers. Several big breeding herds turned up each day, as well as smaller groups of bachelors and solitary bulls. The bulls competed quite aggressively for dominance over the waterhole. One morning there was a big fight between two bulls which resulted in a calf falling in the water. The mother couldn’t see her youngster and was extremely upset until a different bull herded her towards the waterhole as though to show her where her baby was and she helped the calf out of the water. A fascinating interaction to watch.
 
The Nxai Pan pride of ten lions also showed up at the camp waterhole. There was one lioness who was heavily pregnant and the guides expected her to give birth towards the end of the month. We watched three lionesses with their six cubs hunting giraffe for well over an hour, but eventually they gave up trying to bring down the huge prey animals. Another time the pride had tried the camp waterhole but were driven away by elephants so they relocated to the Wildlife Department waterhole. Whilst they were resting some kudu came down to drink and the lions tried to stalk them, but the kudu spotted them and managed to bolt away just in time. A solitary lion roared his heart out all night near to camp, but didn’t manage to locate his pride. He was seen resting near camp the next day.
 
A female cheetah with three delightful cubs aged approximately seven weeks old was seen hunting.
 
Unusually, spotted hyena were seen a few times, including two who were drinking from the waterhole right in front of camp. They approached nervously due to the presence of the elephants, but eventually managed to sneak in for a drink before settling down to rest in a shady spot nearby.
 
Black-backed jackal were seen regularly, including a very bold individual who was trotting around near to the guests as they sat around the fireplace in the evenings and early mornings. One day we watched three black-backed jackal feeding on a big chunk of meat. A fourth jackal appeared but was promptly chased away as though he was an intruder in the territory.
 
General game included herds of giraffe, wildebeest, springbok and zebra. Good numbers of oryx and warthogs were seen on the way to Baines Baobabs.
 
We had a wonderful sighting of a martial eagle at the camp waterhole. After perching on a tree for a while, the bird swooped down to take a helmeted guineafowl, but was chased off his kill by black-backed jackal before he had a chance to fly off with it. Ostrich were seen regularly and the males were in full breeding plumage, showing red on the front of their legs and a bright red bill. Other species identified included larks, titbabblers, shrikes, flycatchers, prinias, warblers, penduline tits, batis, snake-eagles and korhaans.
 
(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, July 2018

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July was a great month for lions at Lebala with both the Bonga and the Wapoka prides being seen. The Bonga pride of nine stayed in the northern area where they were often seen following a huge herd of buffalo leading to some magnificent sightings. One day we heard the lions growling in the woodland and found them fighting with a big buffalo. The fight lasted for at least fifteen minutes before they eventually killed the bull. It took them a couple of days to devour the whole animal. Another time we saw two adults and seven sub-adults trying to drag down a buffalo and were jumping on its back, but the rest of the herd returned and drove the lions away. Other times they got luckier and we found them eating buffalo carcasses.

Six members of the Wapoka pride were found north of the camp feasting on a wildebeest carcass that they had just killed. The following day we tracked them towards the airstrip and were lucky enough to see them taking down an impala right in front of our vehicle. We also located them stalking zebra. Two male lions known as the Selinda Boys were found back in the south of the Kwando Reserve after having been away for about six months. We noticed that a resident female lion with three cubs about eight months old appeared to be very nervous of the intruders and was quickly mobilising her family to be as far away from them as possible.

The resident tom leopard known as “Fisherman” was seen more than once in the marsh area targeting red lechwe. We saw him try and miss one time, but on another occasion we were lucky enough to see him bring down and kill a young ram. To the west of the staff village we watched a great interaction between a male leopard and a spotted hyena. The leopard took a kill from the hyena and ran away with it but was quickly caught by the hyena who took it back. The carcass was passed back and forth four times before the leopard eventually managed to drag it up a sausage tree and out of the hyena’s reach. A female leopard was seen hunting, providing some wonderful photo opportunities as she climbed termite mounds and trees to scan the area.

A pair of spotted hyenas accompanied by a sub-adult were seem mobile towards the old hyena den by the airstrip.

The resident pair of wild dogs were seen running around camp searching for something to eat. At that stage they had a single puppy trailing along behind them, leading our guides to suspect that the rest of the litter may have been killed by predators. Unfortunately as the month progressed the single remaining pup also disappeared.

Big herds of elephants have returned to the riverine area and guests really enjoyed watching them bathing and playing in the water. General game was plentiful including very relaxed herd of sable antelope.

Honey badgers were seen digging for mice. Guests enjoyed seeing a big colony of dwarf mongoose and watching how they used a sentry system to look for danger.

Guests were thrilled with some great sightings of rosy-throated longclaw. This species is often hard to see well as they are usually found in deep grasses and marshland, so it was a treat to be able to show keen birders the bird out in the open. Another incredible rare sighting was the African swamp hen which was located by the marsh. Unusually we spotted some carmine bee-eaters; these are usually summer migrants, so it is strange that some have decided to over-winter in the area.

(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, July 2018

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Wild dogs were seen most days during July including a thrilling chase of a kudu right through the middle of camp which nearly ended up with kudu falling into the swimming pool! The adults moved the puppies to a new den site about seven kilometres from their original den where we were able to watch the pack’s wonderful interactions including greeting rituals and the adults coming back to regurgitate food for their young. Sadly, the pack of wild dogs continued to lose puppies; from the original litter of thirteen there were only five remaining by the end of the month. The guides have noticed that this pack choose rather shallow holes for their dens rather than using deeper aardvark holes which would give the puppies greater protection from predators. The adults were seen hunting frequently including warthog, kudu, wildebeest and impala.

Ten members of the Bonga pride were mostly located at the midway point between Lagoon and Lebala camps. They have been pushed into this area by the coalition of four new males who have taken over the territory at the northern part of the Kwando Reserve. Three of the males appear to be more dominant and seem to be fighting with the fourth male who picked up a fresh scar to his face as a result. There was a pair of lionesses with a cub who seemed nervous of the males and were keeping well into the marshlands where the cub could be hidden in the reeds and sedges. We saw them raiding a kill from a big male leopard, other times they seemed to be preying on warthogs. A lone lioness was seen following the buffalo herds around and once we found her feeding on a successful kill. We came across a male and female lion mating.

The resident female leopard was seen feeding on an impala up a tree in the Kwena Lagoon area. It appears that her two sub-adult cubs have now separated from her completely. The young female was seen mobile but appeared to be sniffing and tracking. She succeeded in flushing out and mobbing a hyena who was dragging a tsessebe carcass. The young male was found resting on the river bank as we were doing a boat cruise.

The hyena den was active with up to nine cubs being seen at once, accompanied by various numbers of adults. The mothers were usually seen suckling their young in the evenings. Some of the cubs were starting to nibble on leftover meat brought back to the den by the females and were becoming quite playful.

Several species of mongoose were seen (banded, yellow, dwarf and slender). Honey badgers were located digging for mice. Night drives yielded sightings of aardwolf and African wild cat. Jackals, bat-eared foxes, African civets, caracal, genets, bush babies and were other smaller mammals spotted.

The coalition of two cheetah brothers were located hunting through the woodland and were seen chasing giraffe, a surprisingly large prey species for them to try and tackle. They were unsuccessful on that occasion but at other times we saw them looking relaxed and full-bellied.

Big herds of elephants were coming through camp to drink at the lagoon in front of the rooms, some making a foray into Namibia and back again. Bachelor herds of buffalo were all over the mixed woodland and riverine areas with breeding herds showing up on the floodplains. Eland, roan and sable antelope were seen along with giraffe, waterbuck, zebra, wildebeest, impala, reedbuck, tsessebe, red lechwe and kudu.

Along the river bank we saw hippos basking in the sun and huge crocodiles out of the water. Sitatunga were spotted during the boat cruise as well as monitor lizards, red lechwe, waterbuck and reedbuck.

Birdlife was great with raptors, kingfishers, bee-eaters and lots of water birds such as storks and ducks. Vultures, tawny eagles and bateleur eagles were seen near to wild dog kills.

(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 Reserve, July 2018

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At the start of the month the wild dog den near to the airstrip was still very active and guests enjoyed fabulous sightings of the two-month-old puppies playing and being fed regurgitated meat by the adults. There were still eight adults and eleven puppies and all of the dogs looked in great condition. Towards the end of the month, as the floods started to rise in the area, the pack relocated out of the Kwara Reserve but luck was on our side because around the same time a different pack of dogs turned up at Splash camp and on two consecutive nights made kills very near to Room 8. We subsequently found that they had a den near to the Old Mokoro Station.
 
Two big resident male lions were occupying the territory near to Splash and we found them mating with two females. It seemed to be a marathon double date, with the four lions mating every fifteen minutes over the course of five days. The same lions were spotted stalking zebras at the waterhole in front of Splash camp and sometimes came into camp itself. One night they stole a kill from the wild dogs just in front of our Head Guide’s room and then continued with their mating. The guide had just popped back to his room to pick something up before dinner only to find that he couldn’t leave because of the lions. When he didn’t appear for dinner a vehicle was quickly dispatched to collect him! Two new females near to Mabala Motlotse were found with six young cubs. One-eyed pride was located scanning for potential prey species with lots of red lechwe antelope in the area.
 
The female leopard with two cubs changed her den to a spot at Third Bridge. The cubs were very playful and curious, even coming right underneath our vehicles. The mother seemed very relaxed sleeping in a nearby tree. We also found her with impala kills in the trees, usually by herself whilst the cubs stayed behind in the den. Another time we found her with a reedbuck kill near to the airstrip. A different young female was found hunting a honey badger, but true to its reputation the honey badger defended itself very aggressively and eventually won the encounter. Another time we found the same leopard feeding on an African civet.
 
The resident male cheetah, known as “Special” was found hunting and killing a reedbuck. We also saw him at other times feeding on kills or resting on termite mounds. Nearer to Splash we were excited to find two young cheetah males who were new to the area. We spotted them hunting and followed them for a couple of days, eventually being rewarded with seeing them kill an impala by Tsessebe Pan.
 
A large honey badger was frequently seen shuffling along the paths at Splash camp and encountered by guides and guests as they were walking to and from their rooms in the evenings and early mornings. He was not in the slightest aggressive, and it was a treat for guests to see this animal whilst on foot. Other small mammals spotted were servals, civets, genets, jackals and mongoose.
 
General game was excellent with big herds of elephants, zebras, giraffe, wildebeest, impala, reedbuck and red lechwe. Big herds of elephants were coming down to the waterhole in front of Splash camp to drink every evening.
 
Notable bird species recorded included Verreaux’s eagle owl, marsh owls, secretary birds, ground hornbills, wattled cranes, African fish eagles and martial eagles.
 
(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!)