Tau Pan, Oct 2018

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The Tau Pan pride of five males, two females and three cubs were seen drinking at the camp waterhole and resting at various places nearby. One day four of the males were resting when two male cheetahs approached the waterhole and we witnessed an exciting confrontation between all six big cats before the cheetah were driven away. As usual these resident lions were extremely relaxed around our vehicles. The cubs are at an extremely playful age but they were learning to be quieter when their mother was hunting; she often looked for prey alone as her cubs stand a better chance of eating if they do not have to share with the dominant males. Sometimes the males separated which then meant a lot of roaring across the plains as they re-established contact again later on.

A different pride of three females were in the northern part of Tau Pan area, towards Passarge Valley, but they occasionally ventured south and used the camp watering hole if they were in the area.

A single male leopard was seen drinking at the camo waterhole in the early morning. A lovely sight for the guests to enjoy as they sipped their coffee.

Two cheetah were located at Lion Den looking full-bellied and in good condition.

Guides were surprised to still be seeing a lone wild dog in camp. There is no sign of the rest of its pack, so they thought it was probably an individual dispersed from its natal pack trying to find others to start a new family.

A lone bull elephant is still frequenting the camp and guests enjoyed watching him drinking and mud bathing at the camp waterhole in the afternoons. Often he just lay in the cool water to escape the relentless October heat.

Honey badgers were seen often at Tau Pan busy digging for prey such as lizards, mice and ground squirrels. They were sometimes accompanied by pale chanting goshawks or black-backed jackals looking for an opportunity to snatch the prey before the badgers.

Day trips to Deception Valley yielded other good lion sightings at Letia Hau and in Deception Valley itself. Cheetah were also seen there, including at the woodland area known as ‘Mark and Delia’s’. This area is named after the camping spot of the couple who famously researched in the area,  documented in the book Cry of the Kalahari.

The eastern part of Tau Pan was the productive in terms of general game and we saw many species such as springbok, kudu, wildebeest and giraffe coming to the camp waterhole to drink. For now this was the only water available in a vast arid area, so there was almost always some kind of action to be seen in right in front of the lodge main area.

There were many kori bustards down on the pan, together with secretary birds who we were able to see roosting in their favourite tree each evening. In the mornings large flocks of Burchells sandgrouse and Cape turtle doves flocked in huge numbers to the camp waterhole where the yellow-billed kites, a returning summer migrant, lay in wait for them in order to catch an early breakfast. As the dry weather continued the numbers of queleas started to increase into their thousands.

(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, Oct 2018

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The ongoing dry weather meant that we saw a wider range of animals coming to drink at the Kwando camp waterhole, including some of the more unusual species in the area. We were excited to see a pack of six wild dogs quenching their thirst before going on a hunting mission to the western woodlands. A few days later we were watching jackal hunting guinea fowl at the waterhole when the birds flew up into a tree and the jackals started acting strangely. We were thrilled when a rare brown hyena appeared and we were lucky enough to see it on a few different days afterwards. Other species seen at the waterhole included spotted hyena, buffalo and springbok.
 
All of these animals were seen in the early morning, stealing the opportunity to drink, because by mid-morning every single day huge herds of elephant arrived from the woodlands to the west of camp and dominated the precious resource right through until the middle of the night. This included big solitary bulls, small groups of bachelors and breeding herds. One time a small calf got itself into the waterhole and couldn’t manage to find its way out to the huge consternation of its mother. Eventually it was rescued to safety.
 
The resident pride of eight lions, comprising five females and three males, were usually seen at the wildlife waterhole, where they tended to rest during the day, with an opportunistic eye out for a meal from the visiting antelope species. Two different lionesses were seen there one day and by looking at her teats the guides thought one of them could be nursing, although there was no sign of the cubs that time. A few days later we got lucky and found her three tiny cubs, no more than a couple of weeks old. She was busy hiding them in a bush to protect them from other predators. The next day the guides were very pleased when they managed to locate her den site.
 
We saw a male cheetah kill an ostrich chick and quickly eat it out in the open before a group of jackals could try to steal it from him. We saw him later in the month looking very well fed. The resident female cheetah was often found on the eastern side of camp, favouring umbrella thorn trees for shade from the strong sun. One time we saw her heading towards the wildlife waterhole for a drink, but she spotted some lionesses and quickly changed her direction to avoid a conflict with the larger cats. A few days later we saw her trying to hunt some springbok, but she was not successful.
 
Towards the end of the month an adult aardwolf was seen back in the same spot where a pair denned last year, so we will be watching with interest to see if it looks like they will be having cubs there again.
Day trips to Baines Baobabs yielded big herds of oryx grazing on the open plains. Tracks of wild dogs were also seen along the road to Baines.
 
General game was good, especially at the Department of Wildlife waterhole where several species such as springbok, kudu, impala, giraffe, wildebeest, elephants and ostrich could all be seen at once.
Birders enjoyed sightings of Southern pale chanting goshawks, green-backed pytilia, camaropteras, violet-eared waxbills and cape penduline tits. The dry weather attracted large flocks of birds such as guineafowl, sandgrouse and doves to the two waterholes in the National Park.
 
After a rainfall in the middle of the month, a large number of birds were seen feeding on harvester termites including lanner falcons, swallow-tailed bee-eaters and kori bustards. Summer migrants, including the blue-cheeked bee-eater, continued to return to 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!)

Lebala, Oct 2018

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A young female leopard, named by our guides as Jenny, was seen walking on the road and we watched her as she started to hunt squirrels. She jumped up a tree to hunt the squirrel and was successful in catching and eating it, though this would be a very small snack indeed for a leopard! We watched a female leopard make a kill of an impala, but unfortunately two male lions came onto the scene and chased her up into a tree. She waited in the tree for quite some time, but eventually gave up on the kill and ran away. A very shy male leopard was picked up under spotlights on night drive. He was not one of the resident toms, but an intruder from another area. We saw him later in the month with a kudu kill up a tree.

Diligent work by the guide and tracker team led us to the Wapoka Pride of lions lying down on the road, we went back after a while and followed them hunting where they brought down a wildebeest – our guests rewarded for their patience by a spectacular kill sighting. The Wapoka Pride were then not around for couple of weeks, but returned towards the end of the month. They seemed nervous and were regularly climbing trees and mounds as they hunted; our guides suspected that they were being so vigilant because they knew that the Bonga Pride was also in the area. A couple of days later Wapoka Pride brought down a buffalo bull near to the camp at night. Our guides were flabbergasted when Bonga Pride also showed up at the carcass and the two prides ate side by side without any apparent friction. This was highly unusual behaviour and a fantastic sighting, to which was added hyenas and jackals trotting around and vultures roosted in the trees waiting patiently for their turn. By the next morning it was just Bonga Pride lying round-bellied at the carcass. The vultures came down and started to feed and hyenas tried to sneak a few mouthfuls but were too scared of the lions to feed properly.

We saw Bonga pride hunting and bringing down two wildebeest right in front of the vehicle and watched with interest as the two pride males refused to let the lionesses eat, only allowing the cubs to approach the carcass and join in the feeding. The following day the pride killed a big male warthog but once again one of the male lions took the carcass and ate it alone. Once we followed them as they were stalking a herd of kudu which were hidden in the bushes, but the antelope saw them in time and took off. The lions continued heading towards the marshes where they often hunt warthogs and aquatic species of antelope such as red lechwe. Another time we tracked the lions to Tsessebe Pan where we were able to get lovely shots of them lined up drinking, with reflections in the water.

The resident pack of just two wild dogs were seen lying down in a pool of wet mud to cool down before trying to hunt impala. Unfortunately for them the long grass impeded their hunt so they eventually gave up and went hungry. A different pack of six adults and one puppy were ranging between the Lebala and Lagoon sides of the Kwando Reserve and we found them a couple of times in the Halfway Pan area, always looking well fed with round bellies.

Big herds of red lechwe were in the area and our guests enjoyed photographing them as they splashed through the water in the marshes.

A huge herd of buffalo were seen grazing very close to camp. Elephants were also plentiful and guests enjoyed watching them mud-bathing. A lovely herd of endangered sable antelope comprising twelve adults and five calves was in the area.

A big number of carmine bee-eaters were still by their nests at John’s Pan and summer migrants, such as yellow-billed kites, were busy coming back into 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, Oct 2018

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The brown hyena cubs continued to be big favourites with our guests. They were mostly seen playing in the mornings. The youngsters are growing past and were starting to separate to occupy different dens. Their mother remains elusive, visiting them in the middle of the night to bring them food that this month included an impala carcass.

Bonga Pride were sometimes seen by John’s Pan and Lechwe Corner, but in general have been towards Lebala camp over the past few months. This has opened up the Lagoon territory for several new coalitions of males and during October we saw a group of four, a group of three and several pairs hunting buffaloes. Two very big males and a female were found at Kwena Lagoon feeding on an elephant carcass and mating. Several lionesses were roaming the area including three pregnant females who have broken away from the Bonga Pride.

Spotted hyenas were regularly sighted around the area, mostly at abandoned buffalo carcasses that the nomad males had killed, including some exciting interactions between lions and the hyena clan.
Other times spotted hyenas were seen patrolling the area or cooling themselves in the muddy waterholes which were drying out

Female leopards were seen patrolling and hunting during afternoon drives. We had lovely sightings of a female with her kill up a tree and a male with a warthog kill on the airstrip road.

The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers were found resting under a tree.

The pack of six wild dogs (five adults and one sub-adult) were found well-fed and quenching their thirst after a successful hunting expedition. We tracked them hunting a couple of other times but they were not lucky on those occasions.

Smaller predators encountered included African wild cats, servals, mongoose (yellow, dwarf and banded), bat-eared foxes and honey badgers. Black-backed jackals were denning and guests were able to see the cubs.

General game was frequenting the hot spots along the flood plains. There were plenty of eland , sable, roan, buffalo and heavily pregnant plains game species, some of whom started dropping their young after a storm build-up in the middle of the month. There were big herds of elephants all over the area throughout the day. Other species included zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala, red lechwe, waterbuck, warthog and tsessebe

Aquatic bird species were seen wading and foraging on the flood plains. Summer migrants continued to arrive in the area. Carmine bee-eaters were still nesting at Kwena Lagoon and John’s Pan. Guests enjoyed sightings of kingfishers, including giant and the colourful malachite. Four different species of vulture were identified feeding on the buffalo carcasses (hooded, white-backed, lappet and white-headed).

(Note: Accompanying image is a screen grab from a video that was sent to us from a guest who stayed at Lagoon earlier this year. Thank you Helen Apps for this amazing footage!)

Kwara Reserve, Oct 2018

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There was incredible predator action at Splash during October with lions being seen every single day.
 
On average our guides and trackers managed to find three predator sightings per day and on some dates there was a “full house” of lion, leopard, wild dogs, cheetah and hyena.
 
A pack of four wild dogs, two adults and two sub-adults, were seen chasing impala around camp and were successful in bringing down their prey making a fantastic end to the afternoon safari that day. They were seen often hunting around the camp after that, sometimes making kills. One time they interrupted early morning breakfast with a kill right by the front entrance, Another time they almost lost their kill to leopards. A different pack of five adults and four young were located near to Motswiri Pan where they had just finished devouring an impala. A third pack of eighteen, the dogs who denned in June at Little Kwara, were seen one day resting next to the airstrip, much to the delight of departing guests who had mistakenly thought that their safari was finished. When staying on the Kwara Reserve you shouldn’t pack your camera away until the very last second!
 
An alarm call from a side-striped jackal alerted us to the presence of a predator one morning. We picked up cheetah tracks and followed them until we found the beautiful resident female looking relaxed and well-fed. A resident male was seen on the majority of days during October. He was mostly resting or patrolling his territory but a few times he was hunting and we were lucky enough to be able to see him make his kill.
 
The Splash pride of lions was seen in front of camp drinking water, making for a wonderful photographic opportunity. The pride consists of two males, two females and six cubs. The mothers were very protective of their cubs, always hiding them away in the Kalahari Apple Leaf during the days before venturing out to drink at the camp waterhole. A male lion was heard roaring north east of camp so we explored in that direction and came across him with two females relaxing in the early morning sun.
 
Two male lions known as ‘Puffie’ and ‘Big Man’ had killed a hippo but they were displaced from their hard-won carcass by the two resident males of the Splash pride. When we visited the area the next day all the lions had gone and been replaced by an impressive clan of twenty three hyena gorging themselves on the huge carcass, surrounded by vultures. We also came across spotted hyenas bathing in water, trying to find relief from the soaring temperatures.
 
We enjoyed tracking a leopard to New Bridge and our guests appreciated the effort taken to locate the handsome tom. After an hour and a half we found the cat in the process of killing a baboon. Spotted hyenas were also in the area as they had also been following the leopard, but the tom was successful in driving them away and hanging onto his carcass. Two female leopards, a mother and daughter, responded to the call of a side-striped jackal. We followed them as they discovered that the jackal was alarmed by wild dogs who had killed an impala, but the wild dogs had finished their kill by the time the leopards arrived and moved off.
 
General game in the area was rewarding, including beautiful roan antelope. Elephants, giraffe and buffalo were plentiful. Other plains game species included zebra, kudu, wildebeest, warthog, waterbuck, impala and red lechwe. Troops of baboons and vervet monkeys entertained guests with their playful antics.
 
We saw an encouraging number of vultures in the area including hooded, white-backed and a few white-headed. We were excited to see lappet-faced vultures nesting east of Splash camp. There were plenty of ground hornbills, some of whom had chicks. A pair of secretary birds was nesting near to Impala 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!)