Tau Pan, Dec 2018

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On one exciting morning we barely had to drive any distance from camp at all to have incredible sightings. We had just set out on drive when we came across three lions looking full-bellied as though they had enjoyed a big prey animal. Next, we found two cheetah brothers drinking at the camp waterhole whilst at the same time there were two lions mating close to the sleep out deck.
 
The Tau pride of lions comprising five big males, three sub-adults and two females were nearby throughout December. One time nine of them were seen attempting to hunt greater kudu and wildebeest near to the camp waterhole. A couple of days later they were lounging around at the airstrip looking well fed and relaxed. The pride followed this pattern of moving between the camp and the airstrip for most of the month. A different pair of lionesses with a single cub were also seen at the airstrip. These animals who are usually resident on the western side of the area never stayed long at the camp waterhole; guides suspected that they were respecting the dominance of the Tau Pan pride and trying to avoid them.
 
Two male cheetah were seen chasing and killing a springbok lamb and we were lucky enough to witness the whole hunt from start to finish. Black-backed jackals were hanging around hoping for some left-overs. Another time the two males were hunting at the firebreak near to camp, but they were spotted by their prey who managed to escape. A different group of cheetah, a mother with two sub-adult cubs, were located at Tau Pan. At first these animals were skittish, but soon settled down and relaxed under a tree allowing us to take good photos.
 
A large bull elephant was still frequenting the camp waterhole at the start of the month and we could see how the lions gave him space by moving away when he arrived.
 
After heavy rains during Christmas week a large tom leopard was stuck in the mud and was very difficult for him to get out. It was sad to see the big cat struggling so much. A female leopard was seen on the move near to camp and a male was hunting on Phukwi Road. Unfortunately he was not successful and we left him climbing a tree to take some rest.
 
A cape fox was located at San Pan and guests enjoyed watching this active and relatively rare animal. Bat-eared foxes and jackals were plentiful in the Tau Pan area feeding on harvester termites. We also had a lovely sighting of these bat-eared foxes near to San Pan; it was a beautiful encounter as we were able to watch the mother nursing her cubs. A very relaxed herd of springbok showed up at the same time – the perfect desert scene. Other smaller creatures sighted during December included ground squirrels, leopard tortoise, African wild cat and yellow mongoose. On a day trip to Deception valley we came across the interesting sight of an aardvark carcass which the guides suspected was killed by lions judging by the tracks in the area. Black-backed jackals were often found in the vicinity of the lion pride, hoping that they might be able to share in any kills that the cats made.
 
A pack of seven wild dogs were found a couple of times on trips out to Sunday Pan. We saw the dogs drinking at the waterhole, playing and resting.
 
Oryx were located near to San Pan and also at Sunday Pan where we also found red hartebeest. Other antelope species for the month included giraffe, kudu, springbok, steenbok and wildebeest.
 
Notable bird sightings included the pallid harrier, banded coursers, greater kestrels and red-necked falcons. A gabar goshawk was found with the kill of a red-billed quelea. We were able to spot the nest for the lilac-breasted rollers, these colourful birds always a favourite with guests. A pair of secretary birds were seen. We observed a kori bustard displaying by puffing up its feathers to attract the female. Southern black korhaans were also in breeding season and two males were found fighting over a female. The male red-crested korhaans were displaying by shooting themselves up into air and then crashing down as if shot; it is a complete mystery as to why this spectacular feat should be so attractive, but seemingly it is very alluring if you are a female korhaan!
 
(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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