Tau Pan, Nov 2018

Mschoeniger.Cat8livinginharmonywiththewild.jpg

November was exceptionally hot and dry, even by usual regional averages for the time of year. As a result, there was almost continual action at the camp waterhole. The Tau Pan pride of lions were there on a daily basis, sometimes all together and other times in smaller groups.

Three of the resident lionesses decided to park off under the luggage rack at Tau Pan airstrip. Luckily they were spotted by the guides and they flashed lights to warn the pilot as he was about to get out of his plane! Another time the same lionesses killed an oryx right at the airstrip. One day we were watching wildebeest herding towards water and saw them unexpectedly divert. We followed up and sure enough there were lions lying in wait for them. One day we found the pride eating on a carcass that we suspected had been brought down by a nomadic lioness who was waiting nearby. It looked as though the larger pride had driven her off her kill. White-backed vultures, hooded vultures and yellow-billed kites were circling above.

A female leopard was spotted a few times in the camp area and also resting in a tree near to the airstrip. Separately, a young tom leopard was also seen near to camp. He was relaxed enough that we were able to spend nearly an hour photographing him on one occasion.

One early morning before game drive we were surprised by two young male cheetah brothers who showed up at Room 6 and then headed straight to the waterhole for a drink. They repeated this behaviour a week or so later so we hope that we will see more of this handsome pair.

A large solitary bull elephant has been living by camp for a few months and on a daily basis he was going to the waterhole to drink and bathe, putting on a high tea show for the guests.

Bat-eared foxes and black-backed jackals have dens in the Tau Pan area and both species were nursing young. Other smaller mammals seen included African wild cat and honey badgers. Guests were fascinated to see the bat eared foxed catching and eating scorpions.

Kudu were often drinking at the waterhole; carefully circling the area and sniffing first to check for lions. A lovely journey of twelve giraffe were often seen, towering above the shrubs and bushes as they made their way between the camp waterhole and the pan where they enjoyed browsing. A big male red hartebeest was seen resting under a shady camelthorn tree.

There were plenty of bird species in the area, and especially around the waterhole where there was almost constant raptor hunting. Yellow-billed kites chased cape turtle doves, Tawny eagles and bateleurs preyed on Burchell’s sandgrouse. Enormous flocks of red-billed quelea gathered and these were hawked by gabar goshawks. Guests enjoyed watching the spectacular mating ritual of the male red-crested korhaan which flies straight up and then suddenly tumbles to the ground as though shot, before gliding to land.

(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, Nov 2018

MKidd.Cat6waterhole.jpg

November continued to be mostly dry, with heatwave conditions reported by the Botswana government. This meant that animals in our desert camps thronged to the waterholes. The Nxai Pan main waterhole right outside camp continued to be dominated by huge herds of elephants, though we also saw buffalo, giraffe, springbok, kudu and wildebeest drinking there.

One morning, as guests were enjoying breakfast, they were surprised and delighted by a pack of wild dogs running through camp. The dogs chased around some wildebeest who were at the waterhole, quenched their thirst and then disappeared into bush. A brown hyena was seen quite often in the early mornings at the camp waterhole and once at the Department of Wildlife waterhole as well.

Elephants were constantly passing through camp, browsing as they went. Guests commented on how much they enjoyed hearing them munching as they lay in bed at night. One lady peeped through her window and said “it was so close I could see its eyelashes”!

For most of the month lions were found at the Wildlife waterhole which is where the majority of antelope were coming to drink. With the hot weather it seemed that they had decided to just conserve energy by waiting for the food to come to them it! After some rains towards the end of the month the lions became a bit more active again, operating between South Gate and the waterhole. We found two lionesses feeding on an elephant calf kill. One of the lionesses had three cubs who were getting quite active, walking around and playing. One time two cheetahs got a bit too close to the lions and the pride of six chased them away. In the evenings the lions were vocalising as they located each other and declared their territory.

The resident female cheetah was seen hunting, but more than once the relentless heat became too much for her and she had to rest in the shade panting. One productive morning we located three different cheetah, two females lying next to each other and a third not far away. They looked hungry. We saw the two females again, drinking from the Wildlife Waterhole. A male cheetah was found near to the southern camp grounds.

Smaller mammals located included bat eared foxes and honey badgers. There was an aardwolf den along Middle Road.
Other general game sightings included gemsbok and steenbok. The springbok had started dropping their lambs and we watched their herds increase in size as more animals started to make their way to the pans in search of the salt grasses that are so important to support lactation whilst the ewes are nursing. Giraffe and impala were seen browsing.
One morning, during the bushman walk, the guides spotted a 3-4 metre black mamba quietly sunbathing on a termite mound.

Keen birders enjoyed seeing returning migrants to the area such as European rollers and steppe buzzards. The male Northern black korhaans were starting to call in noisy displays.

(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, Nov 2018

ThomasRetterath.cat2wilddogs leb

The two males from the Wapuka Pride were seen alone with two of the females and were mating one of lionesses when a herd of thirty elephants came and chased the lions with lots of trumpeting. It was fascinating to see how the elephants protected their calves by keeping them in the middle of the herd. As with the previous month, both Wapuka Pride and the Bonga lions were overlapping their territories near to camp. One night we heard a hideous commotion and in the morning we found the two prides near to each other looking exhausted. It seemed as though there had been a very serious fight.

One of the beauties of driving in the Lebala section of the Kwando Reserve is the wide open areas in which there are many different species of prey such as zebra, giraffe, impala, sable and roan antelope. Although it is an open area, Bonga Pride were cleverly ambushing prey using the base of big leadwood trees as cover. The same lions were often seen near to camp, one day at Room 9 feeding on two wildebeest carcasses that they killed during the night. The two pride males were there with four lionesses and their cubs. Warthogs and wildebeest seemed to be the main targets for the lions in November. Three subadult male lions had been kicked out of the Bonga Pride by the two dominant males. They looked starving and will quickly need to learn how to survive independently of their mothers.

The resident leopard, known as Fisherman due to his preference for the marsh habitats, was seen near to two hyenas who were feeding on a carcass. The guides suspected that the hyenas had stolen the kill from the leopard. We watched as he stalked some red lechwe through the marshes, but in the end the antelope headed into water that was too deep for him to follow. Another time he had killed a warthog up a tree and was enjoying his feast, with a hyena waiting beneath him gobbling up any scraps that fell to the ground. We came across Jane, the well known resident female leopard. Her daughter was now living independently and we found her drinking on another occasion.

A pack of seven wild dogs (six adults and a puppy) were ranging a very large territory between Lagoon and Lebala camps. The guides suspected that they were changing positions regularly in order to avoid other large predators such as lions and hyena who are numerous in the Kwando Reserve. One day we saw them bring down two impala at once. As they were feeding, within five minutes, four hyenas came and tried to steal the carcasses from the dogs. The pack bravely stood its ground and chased the hyenas away who waited until the dogs had eaten their fill. Another time the Wapoka pride of nine lions were on a hunting mission and flushed out the pack. The guides were worried because two of the dogs appeared to be missing afterwards.

The temperatures in November were scorching and we saw many herds of elephants in the river coming down to drink and cool themselves in the mud and water. These breeding herds had lots of youngsters and one evening we watched as the adults helped them across the river by pushing them, some of the calves were holding onto their mothers’ tails. The the river we also enjoyed watching red lechwe jumping across the streams and big herds of zebra and wildebeest drinking.

We came across a dead buffalo along the river with lots of vultures up in the trees. All of a sudden, a clan of eight hyena appeared and began to feed on the carcass, pulling it apart vigorously. Four black-backed jackals came and started to steal small pieces of meat. We also found a jackal den near to the airstrip with four playful puppies. Once we saw the adults coming back and regurgitating food for the youngsters to eat.

After some rains the monitor lizards started to come further from water in search of food. We had some beautiful sightings of monitor lizards, one was eating tortoise eggs and another one was trying to break small snail shells. We saw several small leopard tortoises. Smaller cats such as African wild cat and serval were seen on night drive, we watched the serval pouncing on a mouse. We were lucky to see a rare sighting of a white-tailed mongoose on our way back to camp one night, the animal was hunting. We also saw honey badgers and a large-spotted genet killing mice on different occasions.

Birdlife was also excellent, especially by the river, including egrets, herons, storks and bee-eaters. The trilling call of the Woodland Kingfisher once again echoed around the bush as this beautiful returning migrant came back to Botswana.

(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, Nov 2018

Lion (Panthera leo), Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus)

We followed two lionesses until they stalked a warthog. One lioness went halfway into the den and pulled it out. Then, to everyone’s amazement, a leopard appeared and stalked the lionesses trying to steal the kill. One lioness chased the leopard up a tree to round off an incredible sighting. Although these lionesses specialise on warthogs, we also saw them eating reedbuck and wildebeest.

A coalition of three males were tracked trying their luck with some buffaloes at Kwena Lagoon but they were not successful. During the month we found these three male lions fairly often, and they were mating one of the lionesses. The other female led us to a place where she was hiding some very tiny cubs deep in thick bush. We didn’t see the cubs for several days but eventually they came more into the open when we could see that there were four and we were able to watch them suckling. After a few days we watched her moving the two cubs from one set of bushes to another. The two female cubs managed to walk alongside their mother, but the male cubs were lazy and she had to carry them by the scruff of their necks. A single male lion was discovered feeding on an elephant calf. The cat seemed unusually aggressive, so for the sake of safety first we gave it a good deal of space.

The resident pack of six adult wild dogs were located often in the middle of the Kwando concession. They still have one of this year’s puppies with them (out of an original litter of eleven). They were not always lucky on their hunts but overall seemed to be doing well and were usually found full-bellied. One time they killed two impalas and another time we saw them take down a roan antelope calf. At the end of the month they brought down an impala and two ostrich chicks in a single morning.

The brown hyena cubs were still doing well and we were able to visit them at their den where they could be quite playful. One time we saw them feeding on a fresh impala skin, although the mother hyena was never visible when we visited.

Skilled work by the trackers allowed us to locate a sub-adult female leopard. We saw her a few times afterwards, but she was looking hungry and was even unsuccessfully trying to hunt tree squirrels in her desperation for a meal. Life appeared hard for this young female finding her way in the world. Another time she was resting in a tree and we saw her being attacked by a troop of baboons causing her to jump from the tree and hide in the thickets. We were relieved when we found her feeding on a new-born impala lamb. Another adult female leopard was resident in the riverine areas.

The coalition of cheetah brothers was also picked up after good tracking from their marking post. After two and a half hours our team was chuffed to find them resting full-bellied with blood on their faces. Mostly these males were specialising in hunting warthog, but we also found them stalking and killing tsessebe a couple of times during November.

General game was good, with big herds of elephant, giraffe, kudu, wildebeest, waterbuck and zebra as well as the more elusive sable and roan antelope which were thriving in the mopane woodlands. A small herd of eland were also seen. Some of the antelope species, such as tsessebe and impala were starting to drop their young. Elephants came to the river in front of camp in a daily basis to drink and swim.
During night drive our guides were successful in locating aardwolf, honey badgers, servals, caracals and African wild cats.

The carmine bee-eater colony at Kwena Lagoon was still active at the start of the month and we were able to watch adults coming back to feed their chicks, but by the end of the month the flock had dwindled to just a few birds. We watched a martial eagle kill a warthog piglet. It is always a pleasure to see the returning summer migrants and in November we were happy to see broad-billed rollers, black kites, yellow-billed kites and blue-cheeked bee-eaters. Year-round residents such as the saddle-billed stork and wattled cranes were also enjoyed by guests. Back at camp the African scops owlet continued to roost by the fireplace whilst Peter’s epauletted fruit bats were identified in the marula tree by the front deck.

An African python was seen strangling a baby impala at Kwena Lagoon and a black mamba was briefly seen in the riverine area but it disappeared into the long grass.

(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!)

Splash, Nov 2018

DMysak.Cat7gnuseyetoeye.jpg splash

November was an exciting month at Splash camp. Antelope species such as impala and tsessebe started to drop their young meaning that predators were able to enjoy easy pickings and were making frequent kills. Even baboons were seen feeding on new impala lambs.

The Splash pride of ten were often around camp, the two male lions very vocal in the evenings. One time the two lionesses relaxed for the day between rooms two and three. Although on their own that time, the two lionesses had three cubs each and we found the six cubs of the Splash pride were increasingly left on their own whilst the adults went hunting. Once, surprisingly, they were alone with the fresh kill of a steenbok lamb. A few days later we found two of the cubs separated from the other four and for a worrying time we didn’t see those two at all. Eventually by the middle of the month, to everyone’s relief, they had reappeared. One of the resident males from the Splash pride was seen fighting with a nomadic intruder. Three females from the Mother Eye pride were seen with a male and the youngest lioness appeared to be pregnant. Two males were seen feeding on a dead hippo surrounded by vultures awaiting their turn at the carcass.

The resident pack of eight adults and nine puppies were seen regularly, mostly specialising on impala but we also saw them hunting zebra. One time they came right into camp hunting, so guests and guides quickly abandoned their early morning breakfast to try and keep up with the dogs. On another occasion two adult and two young wild dogs made a kill of an impala right by the parking area whilst the guests were out on game drive. A different pack of six adults and four puppies were located once with their faces covered in blood.

The resident male cheetah known as Special was seen frequently. One morning he led us on a marshland exploration, stalked a herd of red lechwe and with explosive energy killed one antelope and dragged it to the shade. He lay panting for fifteen minutes before starting to eat and enjoy his reward for a successful hunt. We followed the female cheetah hunting and watched as she brought down and killed an impala. She was also seen hunting reedbuck and feeding on a red lechwe lamb.
Spotted hyenas were seen every few days including a female nursing two cubs at a den near to the old Kwara camp.

November was a good month for sightings of the smaller mammals. An aardwolf den was located on Cheetah Plains and the animals allowed us good time with them. We were able to enjoy a wonderful sighting of an African civet which was unusually relaxed and our guests were able to take great photos under spotlight. We also located serval on more than one occasion as well as African wild cat. A pair of bat-eared foxes have a den west of Impala Pan.

The resident female leopard made a kill of a Common Reedbuck near to Sable Island and feasted for two nights, but she left the carcass on the ground and eventually it was stolen by hyenas. A pair of young leopards who had been moving around as a brother and sister appeared to have separated and we saw the male more than once. Another male leopard was concentrating on hunting the area west of Impala Pan. Not for the faint-hearted, guests watched as a leopard ate a minutes-old tsessebe calf.

As always in the Okavango Delta the mokoro excursions are popular and allowed guests to see smaller creatures such as the painted reed frogs and enjoy beautiful water lilies. More than once after mokoro activity herds of elephants and bachelor buffaloes came to drink and wallow at the mokoro station much to the delight of guests who quickly swapped fishing rods for cameras to capture the moment.

Guests were thrilled to spot the elusive Pel’s Fishing Owl during a boat cruise and we also saw barn owls and eagle owls. An unusual highlight for some keen birders was a black-chested snake-eagle taking down a night heron.

(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!)