Lagoon, Oct 2019

PedroAmaral.EssenceOfKwando.WildDogsLebala2

The pack of five wild dogs were seen hunting along the flood plains. In a scenario that is unusual at the best of times, let alone in October, the beta female appears to be heavily pregnant. This is the same pack that lost their puppies earlier in the year to lions. It will be interesting to see how they get on since wild dogs are not usually successful raising puppies when the weather is so hot. One day we were watching them as a herd of elephant came and started chasing the dogs around.

Smaller mammals encountered included bat-eared foxes, porcupines, servals, civets, African wild cat, springhare, servals and honey badgers. There were plenty of both black-backed and side-striped jackals. Troops of baboons and vervet monkeys were foraging along the edges of the flood plains. We saw a male baboon and his consorting female eating a scrub hare that they had killed. A pair of aardwolf were found in a den close to the main road. Bat-eared foxes were also denning and after sitting quietly for fifteen minutes we were lucky enough to see a tiny cub pop out to join its mother.

A pride of two females with four cubs known as “Mma D” were discovered looking extremely round-bellied after they had devoured an eland. A few days later we watched them hunt and kill a buffalo calf. A different pride of three females and three cubs formed a hunting party with the two resident males and we watched as they killed a buffalo as it was coming down to drink. By the following week they had three buffalo carcasses stashed in the blue bushes by Second Lagoon and we were lucky enough to witness a brown hyena coming to investigate them. The resident males were seen often and we found them feeding on a red lechwe that they apparently had killed in the morning.

The resident two cheetah brothers were seen marking their territory with two spotted hyenas resting close by. The next day we watched as they tried to target a buffalo calf, but they did not succeed. Another younger pair of male cheetahs had been seen in the area but sadly we found that one of them had been killed by lions. We found the other brother a few days later looking very hungry, but seemed as though he was missing his partner as he was not interested in hunting. A larger, older coalition of two cheetah males were also still in the area and we found them on a newly killed female tsessebe that was heavily pregnant. We also located them feeding on an eland calf.

A female leopard was located on a sausage tree but we were able to follow her as she went off hunting until she killed a steenbok and dragged it into the bushes.

As the dry weather continued big herds of elephants and buffalo were massing near to the water sources.

General game hot spots included some previously burned flood plains at Muddy Waters as well as the lagoons and river. Many species were grazing together in mixed herds including zebra, wildebeest, kudu, tsessebe, impala, giraffe, waterbuck, red lechwe, reedbuck, steenbok, roan and sable antelope. Very large herds of eland made a striking sight.

As the drought continued the hippo population started to take strain and many died of natural causes. Although this was tough to see, it is part of the natural cycle and provided food for crocodiles, vultures, storks and other scavengers.

An African python was seen confidently crossing the road and heading towards the tree line.

Bird sightings included many stork species: open-billed, saddle-billed, yellow-billed and marabou. As well as the more usual heron species we also located goliath herons and the black-crowned night heron. The breeding colony of carmine bee-eaters was still going strong with hundreds of birds making an amazing spectacle and there was a different nesting site for white-fronted bee-eaters. In a spectacularly colourful argument, a broad-billed roller was seen fighting a lilac-breasted roller for a nesting site. Four species of vulture (hooded, lappet-faced, white-headed and white-backed) were seen scavenging carcasses. Yellow-billed kites migrated back to the area. A Verreaux’s (Giant) eagle owl was seen perched at dusk, ready to begin hunting.

(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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