Nxai Pan, Nov 2019

Desert Storms

November brought the first proper rains of the season to Nxai Pan. Afterwards, springbok could be seen jumping around as though excited by the change in weather. Plant species such as the trumpet thorn came into bloom and the magnificent trees at Baines Baobabs were resplendent with new foliage.

With the natural waterholes filling with rainfall, the game was less concentrated around the two artificial waterholes which are maintained by Kwando Safaris and the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Nevertheless, these two spots were still a great place to find species such as elephant, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, springbok, steenbok and impala. Day trips to Baines Baobabs yielded good sightings of oryx feeding on the new shoots of grass and we also saw lion in that area. Right at the end of the month we saw a herd of approximately 2,000 zebras near Baines Baobabs, heralding the first wave of the herbivores’ annual migration to Nxai Pan.

The resident pride of lions was regularly located at the waterholes as they waited for prey animals to come down and drink. The pride included three cubs who all seemed to be doing well. One day a dominant male was seen fighting with a young male, leaving the older cat with a wound on his front leg. Although the younger lion was also limping, we saw him the next day with a lioness so it appeared that he had won that particular battle for supremacy. At the end of the month we saw one of the resident males mating a lioness. Another time we enjoyed the comical sight of a lioness playing with a leopard tortoise.

A pack of nine wild dogs was located a couple of times near to the Department of Wildlife camping ground. They were full-bellied and resting.

Bat-eared foxes were seen at their den on Middle Road. On one occasion a black-backed jackal showed a bit too much interest in the fox cubs and so the parent foxes attacked the jackal.

A male cheetah was located a few times and was in good condition.

Lots of spider-hunting wasps were feeding on harvester termites. The fungus growth termites started leaving termite mounds in large numbers, taking to the wing as alates after the first heavy rains. Notable reptile sightings for the month included black mamba and leopard tortoises.

Summer migrants returning back to Nxai Pan included European bee-eaters, swallow-tailed bee-eaters, blue-cheeked bee-eaters, woolly-necked storks, steppe buzzards, black-winged pratincoles and Jacobin cuckoos. Nest-building for species such as the white-browed sparrow weavers was well underway and we saw a pair of secretary birds sitting atop their nest. Other species seen during November included greater kestrel, kori bustard, crimson-breasted shrike and ostrich. Three species of vultures (white-headed, white-backed and lappet-faced) were seen feeding on an elephant carcass. Big flocks of Burchell’s sandgrouse could be seen at the camp waterhole, soaking their specially adapted breast feathers so that they could take water back to their chicks. As the rains continued to arrive, birds more commonly associated with water started to be observed, such as the red-billed teal.

(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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