Tau Pan, August 2018

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The Tau Pan pride roared their way into August with an all-night declaration of their territory near to camp. They were seen at the camp waterhole in the morning and were there very regularly as the dry weather continued throughout the month. The five big males made an impressive sight as they laid by the water, watched nervously by thirsty oryx and springbok who were waiting to drink. One of the females with her three cubs was seen hunting giraffe. The sub-adult cubs reacted very well and they were nearly successful in bringing down this formidable prey. In the end the giraffe managed to escape from the dangerous situation which lasted almost two hours. Another time we watched as three lionesses tried to catch an oryx, but the large antelope was too quick for them.

A lovely herd of kudu frequented the Tau Pan camp waterhole and sometimes came into camp. The four large bulls had beautifully spiralled horns and they were accompanied by six large females and 5 calves. One day, a solitary tom leopard tried to sneak up on them, but the experienced adults spotted him quickly and snorted an alarm call before galloping away. The next day the leopard returned and guests enjoyed getting beautiful photos of him as he lay resting under the Kalahari apple-leaf trees.

Bat-eared foxes could be seen huddled up together in the early mornings, trying to stay warm whilst the outside temperature was about 5 degrees Celcius. It was interesting to see how they pushed their ears backwards and closed their eyes to camouflage perfectly against the winter grass. Ground squirrels were observed up on their hind legs, scanning for threats from raptors such as the pale chanting goshawk. Black-backed jackal were plentiful in the Tau Pan area and we watched them feeding on the buffalo thorn berries. Guests enjoyed listening to their haunting contact calls. The jackals, along with pale chanting goshawks, tried to raid food from some honey badgers as they dug for rodents.

A large lone elephant bull continued to visit us, hanging out to browse between rooms 3 and 4 or drinking at the waterhole. Springbok and giraffe were also seen coming to drink. One time we came across some giraffe bulls fighting by swinging their necks at each other.

Ostriches, secretary birds and kori bustards were seen at Tau Pan. Red-headed finches and red-headed queleas flocked in huge numbers in front of the camp main area, sometimes hunted by a Gabar goshawk. A single tawny eagle and some crows started to wait patiently by the waterhole for the Burchell’s sandgrouse who were arriving daily in a huge flock at around 9.00am. It was quite a spectacle as the sandgrouse played hide and seek with the raptor, but most times the eagle claimed his breakfast. One morning the guests decided to stay behind in camp to watch this amazing birdlife and were rewarded with a bonus sighting of a female leopard! White-backed vultures were seen at Deception Valley feeding on a springbok carcass, from the tracks on the ground it appeared to be a cheetah kill.

(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!)

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At the start of the August a female cheetah with her three cubs were seen hunting. Or at least that was the mother’s plan – the three cubs were more interested in playing than stalking, meaning that their chases were unsuccessful. A couple of days later they tried again and the female successfully brought down and killed an impala but this was not a story with a happy ending for the cheetah family. The Nxai Pan pride of lions were hunting nearby and took over the carcass, killing one of the cubs on the spot. The next day the mother appeared to still be calling for her dead cub when they bumped into the lions for a second time and once again they killed a cub. The female bolted with her sole remaining baby but sadly in a weak and hungry state she then abandoned her youngster for a couple of days. It was seen surrounded by black-backed jackal and eventually disappeared, our guides suspecting that the jackal killed it in the end. For the rest of the week the mother was mainly seen mobile, behaving as though she was still seeking her cubs. We were glad to see her looking full-bellied and more relaxed a few days later. A male cheetah was seen north of the lodge trying his luck on impala but didn’t manage to succeed.

Three lionesses with their six sub-adult cubs were seen a few times. One night they came into camp whilst we were serving dinner and started calling. Two males arrived, but seemingly not the ones that the lionesses had been expecting or wanting as a noisy fight ensued which continued throughout the night. Eventually the male lions were chased away. The pride spent a lot of time near the Wildlife Department waterhole where they laid in the shade, but always with an eye on the possibility of making an opportunistic kill of antelope coming to drink. We were able to watch them make a kill of a kudu in this way after waiting patiently for one and a half hours. A new lioness accompanied by a sub-adult male were seen on Middle Road. They were extremely skittish, hiding when vehicles approached and even charging.

A brown hyena was located near to the Wildlife Department waterhole just after sunset. Two spotted hyena were seen at the camp waterhole. Tracks from a male leopard were found in camp a couple of times, though the cat remained elusive.

As the temperatures rose the herds of elephants coming to the camp waterhole started getting larger and larger. The elephants continued to assert their dominance over this precious resource. Even a lone bull elephant refused to let the pride of nine lions come to drink. Such was the competition for water at the waterhole that many elephants came into camp looking for alternative sources. They eyed up the camp swimming pool making for some spectacular photo opportunities.

There were good herds of mixed game species such as wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala, springbok and steenbok at the Wildlife Department waterhole. Bat-eared foxes, honey badgers, scrub hares and black-baked jackals were smaller mammals observed.

In the early mornings lots of doves and guinea fowl came to the camp waterhole to drink. Black-backed jackals were usually there as well hoping to snatch breakfast from the flocks. Ostrich, secretary birds and kori bustards were regularly seen striding across the pans. Smaller birds identified included the marico flycatcher, capped wheatear, black-eared waxbills, crimson-breasted shrike and southern white-crowned shrike.

(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, August 2018

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At the start of the month we could hear a big commotion between lions at night. In the morning we found Sebastian, one of the resident males, with a big scar on his face and it appeared that he had fought with his brother lion, Old Gun, over the mating rights to one of the females from the Wapoka Pride. They had been together for a week and were both looking very skinny having had other things on their mind apart from food. Old Gun appeared to be the winner of the battle for dominance and was growling at his brother when we saw them the next day. We watched a sensational kill on an impala by the Wapoka Pride; one female circled around and drove the impala right into the mouths of the rest of the lionesses. The same pride also killed a wildebeest and we saw one of the young males on an elephant carcass.

The Bonga pride of nine lions were found close to camp and one time fighting with a honey badger, although the smaller creature managed to get away. One of the Bonga lionesses who has cubs of 3-4 months old was discovered feeding on a fresh warthog carcass and was also seen hunting lechwe along the marsh. At one stage this young family was joined by the two big resident males. Four new lions, three young males and a female, were located seen feeding on a buffalo. These animals haven’t been seen in our area before and were quite shy.

Our resident female leopard, Jane, reappeared back in the area after having been absent for a long while. When she left she had two cubs, but there now appears to be just one remaining. When we first saw them they were feeding on a red lechwe carcass that seemed to be a few days old. Some lionesses came and took the kill from them, but they seemed like they had a good feast before they were robbed. A few days later they were hunting in camp and managed to kill a bushbuck and drag it under some bushes to eat. A tom leopard was located very close to camp and we followed him as he was hunting along the edge of the marshes. A male leopard who is a brother to the resident Fisherman was identified as he was found finishing up a reedbuck that he had killed a couple of days previously.

One afternoon we were lucky enough to come across an elephant who had only just given birth. The calf was still covered in blood and helplessly trying to get up. The rest of the herd gathered around to help. A truly magical time was had watching a huge herd of elephants bathing and splashing in the marshes.

The resident pack of two wild dogs came through the camp a couple of times hunting bushbucks but didn’t manage to make a kill.

The two cheetah brothers were seen in the Lebala side of the Kwando Reserve, sometimes posing beautifully on termite mounds or on their marking trees. One time we were following them and they came across mating lions who chased them away. Luckily the cheetah managed to escape.

On evening drive we were lucky enough to find a pangolin; an incredibly rare species that we are doing well to find a few times already in Lebala this year. Two honey badgers were seen chasing mice near to the airstrip. Black-backed jackals were also in the area.

A large number of carmine bee-eaters started to flock into the area for breeding season and could be seen gathering at John’s Pan.

(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, Aug 2018

IMG_1862 - kim campbell by email

The sighting of the month, if not the year, at Lagoon was the discovery of a brown hyena den just five minutes from the camp. Initially the brief glances that we had of the cubs had us scratching our heads as brown hyena are not even shown on the species distribution maps for the area, so the possibility of aardwolf still seemed more likely. However once the cubs became bold enough to let us have a good look at them we were thrilled to be able to announce definitively that we had brown hyena resident in the Kwando Reserve. Our guides were very patient in terms of getting the youngsters habituated to the vehicles, and their efforts were rewarded by the cubs allowing incredibly relaxed sightings of them playing at the den site. The mother was still very shy and only seen fleetingly by the trackers. We believed that she was visiting the den between midnight and 6am, the only sign of her appearance being the carcasses that she delivered for her cubs. Her meal offerings included a goliath heron, an aged caracal carcass (previously killed by lions) and a piece of buffalo skin. One time a female spotted hyena came and started digging at the brown hyena den, but luckily she didn’t harm the cubs.

The Lagoon resident pack of wild dogs were seen regularly at the start of the month; the six adults and five puppies all seemed to be in good shape. We were able to follow them hunting near to camp and saw them having some commotion with spotted hyenas. One of their more spectacular hunts saw them chase an impala into the river where it was promptly caught and eaten by a crocodile. Not a successful day for the dogs, but an incredible safari experience for our guests. As the month progressed the puppies started to join the adults on hunts and therefore the pack became more nomadic.

The spotted hyena clan comprising more than ten adults and eight cubs moved to a new den site after one of the cubs was killed, most likely by a lion. The adult hyenas took in turns to be at the den, usually no more than six individuals at a time. As well as suckling from their mothers we were able to watch the youngsters tussling over a buffalo leg which had been brought to the den by one of the adults.

Two different coalitions of male lions were located during drives, six individuals in total. Two females, a mother and daughter, appeared to be excellent hunters and we found them feeding on zebra and wildebeest carcasses. One time we witnessed them killing a small warthog, but their meal was snatched up by hyenas. Another time we were able to follow them hunting a wildebeest and making the kill. We picked up the tracks of a lioness with three cubs on the western part of the camp; we followed up into the mopane woodland and found her feasting on a buffalo. This was the first time that we were able to see her cubs in plain view. Another time we saw her on a wildebeest kill. The Bonga pride of ten lions were back into the Lagoon side of the Kwando Reserve and we watched them following the buffalo herds.

The two cheetah brothers were only occasionally spotted but seemed to be doing well.

A shy tom leopard was located near to the airstrip and the resident young male seen at the riverside. There were also two female leopards in the area, mother and daughter but now separated. We found them hunting at saw that they were each making successful kills of impala.

Sable and roan antelope were seen feeding together as a mixed herd. Giraffe, wildebeest, red lechwe. tsessebe, impala, warthog, baboon and zebra were all present in plentiful numbers. Big herds of buffalo and elephant (up to 100 strong) were in the area, with many elephants swimming and drinking at camp. Sitatunga were seen during the boat cruise.

A lioness was seen stalking a caracal and eventually ended up killing the smaller cat. A mother porcupine was walking down the road accompanied by her baby. Honey badgers were located digging for mice, and one time they were following a honeyguide bird through the bush. A serval was found hunting in the marsh areas a couple of times. Other smaller mammals seen by guests included African wildcat and bat-eared fox.

An African scops owl was seen at the camp almost every day at the start of the month. Brightly coloured carmine bee-eaters were starting to arrive earlier than usual at the Kwena Lagoon – a nesting site which they use annually. Another summer migrant, yellow-billed kites, have also started to be spotted again. Slaty egrets, black herons and ground hornbills were found near to Watercut. There was a great sighting of a martial eagle killing a helmeted guinea fowl and taking it up a tree to eat it.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from a guest who sent us their photo of their brown hyena sighting when they stayed at our camp recently)

Kwara Reserve, Aug 2018

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As is often the case in the Kwara Reserve, the fierce intra-specific competition between predators led to some interesting sightings. One morning a sub-adult female leopard was located feeding on an impala carcass up a tree. Whilst we were watching her a pack of wild dogs appeared opposite her and then a male lion came along the same road. The lion killed one of the puppies meaning that there are only eight left with four adults. Although the guests were sad at the way the morning turned out for the dogs, it was a fascinating to witness the interaction between three of the major predators in the region.

The same sub-adult female leopard was located on a giraffe carcass. She leapt up into a nearby tree and started to eat a kill she had previously stashed there of a side-striped jackal. Two sub-adult leopards who are brother and sister were seen in the Machaba area for over two weeks. They were very relaxed around the game viewers and we were able to enjoy watching them stalking francolins.

We were blessed with separate packs of wild dogs during August, a pack of two with three puppies were often hunting impala around Splash camp and we found them on their kills. Another pack comprising four adults with eight puppies (having lost one to the lions). They also came right through the middle of Splash camp just as the guests were finishing their tea. We immediately dashed to the vehicles and were lucky enough to see the dogs make a kill east of camp. Each time we saw this pack and their puppies they seemed a little bit more relaxed around the vehicles than the previous time.

A female cheetah with two cubs was seen moving away from a troop of baboons; she was being followed by the resident male known as “Mr Special”. We left them looking well fed and resting under the Kalahari apple-leaf trees. It was a busy month for the male cheetah as he traversed huge areas from west to east and was seen actively marking his territory. Towards the end of the month he was tending to stay on the west of the Kwara Reserve, the guides thought that this was perhaps because of the increased lion activity on the eastern side. We saw the cheetahs regularly on impala kills. On one particularly rewarding morning we saw both Special and the female with two cubs on two separate kills.

The resident pride of lions near to Splash comprised two males and two females. The younger male was seen mating with a female with the others resting about seventy metres away. We found two of them scavenging on a carcass that they stole from the wild dogs. In another area two lionesses with their six cubs were having a productive time, successfully killing two kudus on two consecutive days. For the first times we saw this pride together with the two males who had fathered the cubs and it was great to see them all socialising together. On another game drive we found the pride of eight on a fresh impala kill. A few minutes later a clan of eight spotted hyena came and stole the kill from the lions. On a different day we discovered the hyenas looking well-fed and covered in blood. We back-tracked and found a giraffe carcass loaded with vultures.

Big breeding herds of elephant could be seen feeding and bathing near to Lechwe Plains.

Two honey badgers made themselves at home foraging around the camp paths on a daily basis. A relaxed serval was discovered twice in one week at Lechwe Plains.

Wildcat were also hunting around Splash Hippos.

A Slaty Egret was resident east of the airstrip at the bridge crossing. Ground hornbills were encountered at the Splash Camp walking range.

(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!)