Splash, Feb 2019

jvarley.Cat2 Cheetah family

We were excited to find three new cheetah in the area, a female with her sub-adult cubs. The youngsters were apt to spend time chasing each other around whilst their mother was getting on with the serious business of hunting, moving from one vantage point to the next looking for their next meal. We saw these cheetahs bringing down and killing an impala, chasing away the jackals that were making a noise as the cats were trying to enjoy their feast. One day the resident male cheetah known as Mr Special was located marking his territory, but we were surprised to see him walk straight through one herd of impala after another without giving them a second glance. We wondered what he was up to but eventually we saw tracks of a female cheetah and her cub around Jackal Den area so we think he picked up their presence within the area. Towards the end of the month we saw Special pull off an amazing kill of an ostrich that he found walking along on the open plain.
 
A pack of 13 wild dogs (five adults and eight pups) were located deep in the mopane at Lion Pan. These animals were highly mobile and seemed to be in hunting mood. They were following routes along old denning sites so we hope that they will stick around for the next couple of months until this season’s pups are born. We also picked up fresh tracks of a pack of nine dogs and managed to follow up and find them hunting until they brought down and ate an impala. Guest loved the whole tracking experience, especially as it culminated in such an exciting finish. A third pack comprising just four dogs were seen from camp whilst we were having our breakfast. We followed them hunting but they were not successful.
 
The two resident lionesses of Splash pride and their six cubs were still in good condition but were staying more on the mopane woodland near to Kwara camp; it seems that they were still trying to avoid the new males on the Splash side of the reserve who would be a threat to their cubs. During the middle of the month these females looked nervous and were staying deep bushes with one lioness venturing out occasionally to look around. We suspected that the new males could have patrolled the area leaving their scent and we will have to hope that the mothers continue to do such a good job of hiding their cubs away. We saw that they had killed an adult kudu, so these lionesses are clearly good hunters. We also saw them near to New Bridge ambushing some red lechwe. Another time we watched them stalking a warthog, one of the lionesses edging along flat on her belly before springing for the kill. She was successful and soon two spotted hyenas, black-backed jackals and many vultures turned up to try and scavenge.
 
To the west of Splash a fully-grown male leopard was located at Green pan with a fresh kill of a reedbuck ram. The kill was really heavy for the predator so he fed on the ground before dragging it up onto a tree. It is a good job that he did this because two male lions were couple of kilometres east of the area and raptors such as bateleur, tawny eagles and yellow billed kites were starting to give away the location of the carcass. A leopard was located a kilometre north of camp during morning game drive; the animal was identified as a young male. The animal was well fed, hardly surprising since there was plenty of prey in the area including lots of young antelopes.
 
We watched two adult spotted hyenas nursing their four cubs at the den towards the Kwara camp side of the reserve. Closer to Splash there were many hyenas concentrated in an area where last year there was an active den so we are hoping that they might use the same spot again.
 
There was plentiful general game including zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, reedbuck, tsessebe and impala. Guest enjoyed seeing big herds of elephant. Smaller mammals located included serval, aardwolf, genet, African wild cat and springhare. In a rare sighting, an aardvark was located during night drive on the way back to camp.
 
There were lots of summer visitor birds still on Kwara Reserve including European bee- eaters, carmine bee-eaters, European rollers, woodland kingfishers and Wahlbergs eagles who we saw feeding on harvester termites. Marabou storks were plentiful since the breeding season was over for them. The heronry island was less active as most of the chicks had flown, but some birds continued to use the area as a roosting site.
(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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