Splash, Dec 2018

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The most dramatic sighting of the month was an enormous bush fire which had been raging in the Moremi Game Reserve for some time and one night jumped the channel into Kwara Reserve. Over the course of that weekend most of the open parts to the south of the reserve was burned flat with dried turpentine grass causing four metre flames. Fortunately, just about all of the trees and bushes survived the hot fast fire and we were blessed with beautiful rain the week afterwards which quickly produced a stunning carpet of green throughout the reserve. This new growth attracted a huge influx of grazers, which in turn attracted predators. Not that life was easy for the predators as they were no longer camouflaged by tall yellow grass.

This was a disadvantage for the cats, but a big advantage for the prey animals – and of course safari-goers – who could now spot them easily at a distance. Towards the end of the month we were often able to spot lions, cheetah and wild dogs in one morning with lots of hunting and killing, mainly young impala, tsessebe and wildebeest.

There was a changing of the guard with the lions at Splash with the two resident males moving out of the territory allowing space for two younger males to come in. The new very handsome boys made a big deal about staking their claim to the land around Splash with lots of roaring and marking. They managed to kill a buffalo near to camp at Lechwe Plains and spent four days feeding on it. The two males were found with a lioness from Mother Eye Pride who was being mated, later the honeymoon couple came to the pan in front of Splash for a drink. The Splash pride of two females with their six cubs were not seen as regularly now that their males had moved, but we after seeing a large number of vultures we located them looking well fed and resting. This pride seemed to be sensibly staying away from the new males who might well kill their cubs, so have moved all the way across to the Kwara camp side of the reserve. They appeared to be in great condition and doing well.

We were lucky to have two packs of wild dogs on the Kwara reserve during December, a pack of twenty-six and a pack of four. We saw them on different occasions hunting around Splash camp, the pack of twenty six were specialising in attacking tsessebe calves, sometimes killing two at a time.

A female cheetah killed an impala lamb in front of camp one day and after she had finished eating spent her day relaxing at Splash Hippos. The following day we found the resident male, Special, tracking the female but he did not manage to find her. We continued to see Special regularly throughout the month, this well-known individual often posing beautifully up on termite mounds as he scanned for prey. We saw him taking down young reedbuck, a species who would usually reply on the cover of long grass but who were now left vulnerable after the fire.

Our guides were happy when a resident female leopard who had not been seen for some time reappeared and seemed to be heavily pregnant. We watched her hunting red lechwe but she was not lucky. Two other leopards appeared north of Kwara and a new very relaxed male leopard has started to show up to the east of Splash.

An aardwolf den was still active at the start of the month giving guests good sightings of this elusive creature. Bat-eared foxes also had an active den. Nocturnal animals such as civets, serval, genets and porcupine were also located in the area frequently. Spotted hyenas were denning at Kwara camp.

The burned area after the fire attracted many birds of prey including tawny eagles, booted eagles, steppe eagles and Wahlberg’s eagles feeding on termites that started to fly out after the rains. Ground hornbills were often seen near to the airstrip.

(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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