Tau Pan, Sep 2018

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The Tau Pan pride were seen very regularly, often giving away their location by roaring heartily as the sun rose. The pride had split into two with the main family comprising five males, two lionesses and three cubs. They were often seen full-bellied at the camp waterhole and appeared to be in great condition. The young cubs were sometimes left on their own at the waterhole whilst the pride went hunting. A smaller group of three lionesses, mother and her two sub-adults were seen away from the rest of the main pride most of the time but they were also doing well and managed to kill an oryx. We also managed to find the Passarge Pan pride of four adults and five cubs, though this group was notably more skittish than the lions who reside nearer to our camp. Four of the Letiahau lions were also located during a day trip.

A lone bull elephant continued to stay near to the camp, drinking and mudbathing at the waterhole. One day as we were watching him enjoy his daily ablutions we suddenly spotted a lone male wild dog. He was calling as though he had lost the rest of his pack. This is a very unusual sighting for us to have at the Tau Pan waterhole.

A sub-adult female leopard was seen a couple of times on our western firebreak. One time we saw her trying to hunt but the kudu spoiled her ambush by making alarm calls. A leopard was also seen in camp itself and dragged a steenbok kill under the deck of Room 9 to eat it. The pilot staying in the room that night was alerted to its presence by the sound of crunching bones during the night…..!

The resident male cheetah was seen a couple of times near to camp. One time he seemed to have his eye on a herd of kudu, but the prey animals, including some giraffe, herded together for protection. Towards the end of the month a coalition of two male cheetahs was seen trying to hunt springbok on the pan, although they were unsuccessful on the times that we saw them they were full-bellied a day or so later.

A shy aardwolf and many families of bat-eared foxes were found at Tau Pan.

Oryx, kudu and springbok started to drop their young. A kudu bull was seen checking if the cows were in oestrus, but apparently not as he then returned back to a bachelor herd.

Honey badgers were seen often. We watched a male hunting for rats for a long time at San Pan. He was successful many times, but had his kills stolen by jackals and goshawks. Her persistently continued to hunt though. We came across a group of six black-backed jackals fighting near to three lionesses. At first we thought they might be fighting over food but as we couldn’t see any carcass nearby the guides deduced it was most likely a territorial fight.

Ground squirrels were observed popping out of their burrows and searching the skies for threats from raptors. Smaller birds, such as queleas and finches flocked around looking for seeds that the ground squirrels might have left behind. Unusual behaviour from a flock of black-faced waxbills alerted our guide that there might be a predator in the vicinity and all of a sudden an African wild cat sprang out from the bushes.

Birdwatchers enjoyed colourful species such as the lilac-breasted roller, crimson-breasted shrike and black-faced waxbills. Raptors such as the tawny eagle, bateleur and gabar goshawk could be seen hunting sandgrouse at the camp waterhole in the mornings.

The sleep out deck at Tau Pan was enjoyed by many guests during September. The temperatures were extremely comfortable and the clear night skies made for incredible stargazing. Guests told us how it was to wake in the early hours and see the milky way spread above as a dazzling ribbon of light, complete with shooting stars. The deck faces east so they loved the intense orange glow on the horizon just before sunrise, accompanied by the distant roar of a lion. Africa at it’s finest.

(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, Sep 2018

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Huge herds of elephants made a spectacle at the camp waterhole every day, drinking and mud-bathing. Their antics continued through the night, with their noisy splashing and rumbling a constant sound track. Although elephants dominated, it was not uncommon to see a queue of up to seven mammal species at once waiting for their turn to quench their thirst. These animals commonly included giraffe, kudu, impala, springbok, zebra and wildebeest, but we were also lucky enough to find a male eland and some buffalo.
 
The resident pride of ten lions were seen most frequently at the wildlife waterhole. This is a favourite spot of theirs to ambush antelope as they come down to drink so we were often found watching the pride, who were watching their prey, in anticipation of some action. Our patience was rewarded and we saw them trying unsuccessfully to catch both wildebeest and kudu there on a few occasions. A pair of lionesses with three tiny cubs of about a month old were seen for the first time. We were able to enjoy a lovely sighting of them suckling their cubs.
 
A male cheetah was located more than once. The first time we saw him he was mobile and looked hungry, so it was good to find him on a springbok carcass a couple of days later. There were many jackals waiting for a chance to scavenge. The next day we saw the female cheetah drinking at the wildlife waterhole. This was the resident individual who the previous month had lost all three of her cubs to lions. We were pleased to find her on carcasses during the month and know that she was doing well.
 
A pair of spotted hyenas visited the camp waterhole for a drink more than once.
 
Honey badgers were seen in the middle of the pan digging for rodents and on occasion we were able to see them catch their prey. Bat eared foxes were also sighted regularly.
 
We managed to find a pair of ostrich accompanied by seventeen hatchlings. From birth ostrich chicks are able to accompany their parents as they graze. Some black-backed jackals were darting around hoping for the opportunity to snatch a chick, but the male ostrich defended his family vigorously.
 
A pair of secretary birds were seen foraging on the pan and could be seen roosting after sunset. It is a magnificent sight to see these huge birds perched in a tree. An unusual sighting was a dark chanting goshawk feeding on a cape turtle dove. An African cuckoo, which is a regional migrant, was spotted. Other notable ticks were sabota larks, marico flycatchers, Burchell’s sandgrouses and kori bustards.
 
(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, Sep 2018

Kwando Lagoon, Day 3 (Morning Drive)

A pack of six wild dogs with their two puppies was located near to John’s Pan where they had a big confrontation with some honey badgers. A smaller pack of two wild dogs was in the area throughout the month. One day they came right into camp as we were having morning breakfast. We followed them hunting a couple of times and once they led us to the remains of an impala which had been previously killed by the resident tom leopard.
 
The same leopard was seen hunting red lechwe in the marshes (he is known by the guides as ‘Fisherman’ due to his preference for this habitat). A different male was located at John’s Pan where he was feeding on a red lechwe, surrounded by vultures.
 
One day we found a leopard cub sitting in a branch near to Motswiri Pan. We went back in the afternoon and found her mother lying nearby. The female is known as ‘Jane‘ and has been resident in the area for many years. A few days later we saw Jane and her cubs sharing a red lechwe kill with her adult son from a previous litter. It was unusual, but very heartwarming, to see the different generations together in this way.
 
The Bonga Pride of nine were seen hunting right in front of camp where they brought down and killed a blue wildebeest. The hot dry weather meant that buffalo were starting to come back towards the riverine areas, so they were also targeted. We watched the lions ambush a herd at Tsessebe Island, but they didn’t manage to make a kill before the buffaloes crossed the channel. Later in the month they had better luck and we came across them feasting on a buffalo carcass that they had just killed. In the same area we saw two lionesses with six cubs take down two warthogs right in front of the vehicle. We watched them for about an hour enjoying their first meal in days. The pride tried warthogs many times during the month. One time the prey dashed into a burrow and the pride of 10 lions determinedly dug it out, but it was a lot of effort for relatively small reward. Another time, elephants came to the rescue of the warthogs and succeeded in chasing the lions away.
 
At the moment both the Bonga and Wapoka prides’ territories are overlapping, right over Lebala camp itself. One day the Bonga Pride stretched out and rested all day at the camp. Two days later three lionesses from the Wapoka Pride were spotted walking right in front of the main area in the early morning. We quickly jumped into vehicles to follow them as they stalked a large warthog. That afternoon we found two spotted hyenas finishing up the carcass. We were lucky enough to find two of the Wapoka lionesses with three tiny cubs. This was the first time that we had seen the new litter. A big male lion, Sebastian, has was seen mating one of the females from the Wapoka Pride.
 
Large herds of elephant started to move into the marsh area. They were seen mudbathing and crossing the channel along with their very young calves. Hippos and elephants were heard munching vegetation around the rooms at night.
 
A herd of roan antelope and calves was a special sighting, with sable antelope and eland also being seen during the month. Big herds of red lechwe splashing as they ran through the water always makes for a beautiful photo opportunity. Other general game included giraffe, kudu, tsessebe, impala, zebra, wildebeest, warthog and baboon.
 
There was plenty of water in the pans and channels, attracting wetland birds such as spoonbills, whistling ducks, black-winged stilts, and openbilled storks. We saw a huge flock of pink-backed pelicans flying. Carmine bee-eaters have arrived for breeding at John’s Pan and it was amazing to watch them as they were busy excavating their nests.
 
(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, Sep 2018

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The two brown hyena cubs at their den near to camp continued to be the star attraction at Lagoon during September. This incredibly rare opportunity to see a usually shy species romping around our vehicles in broad daylight was enjoyed by all of our guests. The cubs were extremely playful and starting to show dominance behaviours, such as neck wrestling, which will help them to establish their place in the clan as they get older. Their mother was still as elusive as ever, but continued to bring the pups meals at night including a warthog carcass.
 
Two lionesses were seen hunting red lechwe north of the camp. They didn’t manage to make a kill that time but a few days later they brought down a wildebeest not far from the airstrip. The next morning there was a big battle between these lionesses and a clan of six spotted hyenas. In the end strength in numbers won the day and the hyenas took over the kill. Both black-backed and side-striped jackals joined in the scavenging. A different pair of lionesses managed to catch a wildebeest near to Zebra Pan and once again spotted hyenas were around to make sure that they stole whatever they could. In the same area two male lions brought down a buffalo calf; we came across them just a few minutes after the kill. One morning there was a big roaring match between the coalition of four at Zebra Pan and a different pride of three towards the airstrip, their deep vocalisations echoing in the still morning air. Towards the end of the month we found two of the lions mating whilst their companions feasted on a nearby carcass.
 
As the season changed to hot, dry weather, herds of elephant and buffalo congregated in the riverine areas to bathe and drink every day. Sometimes different family groups came together to form a ‘superherd’ with up to 300 elephants being seen together at one time. Guests loved seeing the elephants crossing the river right in front of the camp and playing in the water. At night the elephants herded back towards the woodland areas to browse and graze. A breeding herd of over 200 buffalo were found drinking at Watercut.
 
The wild dog pack had been away for about a month so we were very relieved to see them when they appeared on the 12th. Sadly though, another three of the puppies were missing which means that there were now only two survivors of this year’s litter accompanying the six adults. They stayed in our area for the remainder of the month and we were able to see them hunting
 
Leopards were seen a few times. One morning a leopard was found sitting on a fallen log and as if that wasn’t a good enough photo opportunity it helpfully moved to the top of a termite mound to pose further. One morning we saw a male make an ambush on a herd of tsessebe, but they saw him just in time and managed to gallop away. Another time the tom was found resting up on a tree.
The resident coalition of two male cheetah brothers were seen enjoying an impala kill near to Zebra Pan
 
A very relaxed herd of ten sable antelope with seven calves were enjoyed by guests as well eland and roan antelope. Other general game included plentiful giraffe mixed with zebra, wildebeest, tsessebe, warthogs, red lechwe, baboons, waterbuck, kudu and impala.
 
African wild cats, honey badgers, servals, genets, porcupines, bat-eared foxes, scrub hare, springhare and African civet were all seen under spotlights during night drive.
 
Huge flocks of carmine bee-eaters were nesting at Kwena Lagoon. The spectacle and noise was incredible as the brilliantly coloured birds swooped and chattered in their hundreds. White-fronted bee -eaters were also seen by the river bank. Other great bird sightings included martial eagles, Verreaux’s (giant) eagle owls, secretary birds, slaty egrets and white-faced owls. We saw four types of vulture during September: lappet-faced, white-backed, hooded and white-headed. Hundreds of openbill storks were seen gathered at Second Lagoon feeding on snails.
 
(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, Sep 2018

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Two lionesses had a den near to Mabala Dikgokong where they were raising six cubs. They were seen very often and our guiding team now fondly refer to them as the ‘Splash Pride’. They were often near to their den, feeding on impala, reedbuck, and zebra kills (the pride was so effective that they were collectively described by one guide as “a killing machine”!) The cubs were very active, usually playing around, and we enjoyed watching them nurse from their mothers. One day we had a gorgeous sighting of them drinking at a waterhole, their perfect reflection making for a wonderful photo opportunity. They were disturbed from their original den by two females from the Mma Leitho pride, but continued to be sighted most days. After chasing off the Splash Pride the females of Mma Leitho joined up with two resident males and ended up killing a tsessebe together. Two new male lions were seen to the east of Splash.
 
A big pack of twenty two wild dogs was seen on the eastern side of the Kwara reserve and were regularly targeting impala. The Kwara pack of wild dogs appeared again after about a month’s absence. During their time away they appeared to have lost one of their puppies, but still had ten youngsters, now hunting with the adults. We saw that they managed to kill a red lechwe, a reedbuck and also an impala, although lions drove them off the latter and took over the carcass. A third pack of just three adults with two puppies were found on the eastern side of the Kwara reserve and were seen feeding on an impala.
 
The resident male cheetah, affectionally known as “Special” was following his usual pattern of traversing the whole Kwara reserve from east to west. He was seen feeding on a warthog piglet and we also saw him chase down and kill and impala. He killed an adult warthog near to the Old Mokoro Station where we saw him feasting, surrounded by hungry vultures and side-striped jackals.
 
On one day we saw a fascinating intraspecific competition: the male cheetah killed an impala but was driven away by a leopard and in turn the carcass was stolen by the lions. We followed a new female cheetah as she hunted, although she was not lucky on that occasion. There was also a new male cheetah in the area.
To gain respite from the steadily-increasing daytime heat the leopards were enjoying resting on shady branches of the Sausage Trees which were now in full bloom displaying striking blood-red flowers. We found a male and female leopard together on such a tree, but the female was a little skittish and jumped down. A female leopard in the Splash area was gradually getting used to the safari vehicles and one day was seen drinking at the camp waterhole. We managed to drive around to take a closer look and after initially ducking into some bushes she came out and rested on a termite mound giving us a better opportunity to enjoy her. There was also a young male resident in the area.
 
Spotted hyena were often seen in the Splash area, and inside camp itself.
 
There were lots of elephants in the area, with a breeding herd coming to drink at the camp waterhole in the afternoons. Further afield we enjoyed watching elephants cross the channels and especially seeing how they worked together to help their calves climb up the steeper banks. Bachelor herds of buffalo bulls were seen regularly in the marsh where we watched them feeding and mud-bathing. Overall, the general game was very plentiful.
A honey badger was seen killing a rock python in an incredible tussle.
 
By the start of September the flood waters were high and had attracted lots of waterbirds to the area including herons, slaty egrets and carmine bee-eaters. The heronry sites at Xobega and Gadikwe were both active. Yellow-billed kites had returned to the area for the summer months.
 
(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!)