Lagoon, Dec 2019

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The resident pack of five wild dogs moved approximately two kilometres from their initial den; a normal behaviour which helps to reduce parasites and attack from other predators. The mother dog, the pack’s beta female, stayed guard at the den whilst the rest of the pack went hunting. When they returned, we were able to see them regurgitating food for her. During the first week of the month we managed to get our first glimpse of a single puppy and saw it often outside the den afterwards. By the middle of the month the pup was able to start eating regurgitated meat. The dogs were hunting very successfully, mainly on impala lambs, sometimes taking two at once. They also killed a kudu by the Lagoon camp staff village. During full moon they tried hunting at night, but this did not appear to be a successful strategy as they returned empty-bellied and the alpha male sustained an injury to his right front leg. Luckily it was not too serious and he was able to keep up with the pack.

After being soaked by the morning rain, hard work paid off for our guide and tracker as they came across cheetah tracks that hadn’t been touched by the rain, indicating that they were very fresh. They followed the tracks and noticed that the prints changed to show that the cats were running alongside antelope. In the distance we saw a tawny eagle landing next to a hooded vulture; a tell-tale sign of some action. Sure enough, when we went to investigate, the two cheetah brothers were busy feeding on a fresh kudu carcass.  A few days later, we found that the brothers had separated with one calling for two days to find his coalition partner before they were reunited. The cheetahs were then absent for a week, so the guides hatched a plan to focus on seeking them out one morning. After hours of looking, they gave up and decided to stop for coffee, only to find the two cheetahs nonchalantly waiting at the pre-arranged coffee stop, as though they were playing games with us all along. At the end of the month we saw that they had killed two impala lambs at once and were busy feeding.

Lions were seen almost daily. Some were in honeymoon mood and once we had a rather unique sighting of mating lions, just 300 metres away from mating elephants. The three male lions known as the “Northern Boys” enjoyed feasting on a hippo.  Baboon alarm calls also led us to find them with two females resting on a termite mound. A few days later we saw these females hunting warthog, but they were not successful. We followed the two lionesses as they hunted and watched as they eventually killed a tsessebe calf. We saw a different pride of two females and three cubs on a fresh zebra kill.

Since the start of the rains, we enjoyed relaxed sightings of bat-eared foxes foraging in the late afternoons near to their den. The aardwolf den was very active. Black-backed jackals also had puppies at their den site.

Female leopards were seen a few times, one with a freshly killed wildebeest calf carcass which she had hoisted up a tree.

During night drives we spotted porcupine, African civet, serval, aardwolf and springhare. We were lucky enough to get good photos of an African wild cat hunting at night.

Spotted hyenas were seen patrolling the area and a clan of twenty were feasting on a giraffe carcass.

General game was very good and included herds of eland, sable and roan antelope. There were many buffaloes in the mixed woodland and marsh areas. Elephants were also seen in big herds in the open areas close to the woodlands.

The inland pans had filled with water and were breeding hotspots for waders such as wood sandpipers, three-banded plovers, ruffs and little stints. Other species of waterfowl included red-billed teal, yellow-billed ducks, saddle-billed storks, little grebes, knob-billed ducks and giant kingfishers. Guests were thrilled to see wattled cranes, slaty egrets and ground hornbills. Birds feasting on emerging termite alates included yellow-billed kites, tawny eagles, marabou storks and even fish eagles. A couple of times we saw martial eagles feeing on impala lambs.

(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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