Lebala

Lebala Camp, December 2021

A green carpet has been rolled out for all life forms this month! Our landscape has completely transformed. There’s an abundance of fresh pastures. Shrubs are sprouting. The entire panorama shows life at last. 

With the rains intensifying, elephants numbers around the camp have significantly reduced. The abundance of water out in the natural catchment areas leaves little reason for them to venture towards the river for a drink. 

However, three buffalos have been common around Lebala Camp, seen predominantly in the early morning hours and later in the evening. They occupied the eastern side island (where the head guide and manager rooms are), spending their days along Monyumba area and coming to camp later in the evening. More recently, we have noted them roaming around the property even during the daytime. This could be due to fewer people in the camp (December saw the latest COVID-19 variant discovery, Omicron). 

Plenty of general game was seen, ranging from kudus, impalas and giraffes. One night, there was lots of galloping among wildebeests and buffalos at the fire break in front of the camp. The following day, we noticed lion tracks. 

One hot day, two lionesses with three subadults were observed, extremely relaxed under the shade. They headed south of the camp where we had heard male lions calling overnight. We picked up on their tracks following the Golden boys and caught up with them in the company of the lioness with their three cubs all full-bellied.

On New Year’s Eve, the successful killing of a buffalo by lions not far from camp drew the attention of White-backed vultures and Lappet-faced vultures. Guides also noted a Squacco heron, Yellow-billed kite and Yellow-billed stork on their way to investigate the night commotion. 

After a long dry spell of not seeing the male leopard, Mike called the radio with an excited voice to say, “He is still alive”. Fisherman (a resident male leopard) sat high up in a tree, relaxed and dangling his legs. This solitary cat seemed in good shape and looking massive. After months without seeing him, we thought nature might have taken its course, or he had moved to a different area. Good to see you, at last, Fisherman!

We had no sign of wild dogs this month, but we are sure they are still in the area; they have likely moved deeper into the Mopane woodlands. It has likewise been very quiet with cheetah sightings. 

One solitary hyena was spotted in front of the camp on three mornings during breakfast time. It liked to stroll along the fire break, perhaps scouring the plains for impala lambs. At night, we often heard their calls due west of the camp.

Warthogs, bushbucks and squirrels were common around the camp, and our resident porcupine had little ones! We have seen her with them foraging around the office area on a few occasions, but they spent most of their time hidden under the main area deck.

Lappet-faced vultures nested on the Rain tree in the guide’s quarters. These vultures have been seen around the camp for quite some time, and we believe they might have already had chicks. It’s been fascinating to watch them build their nest by collecting twigs around the camp.

The morning calls of Swamp boubou, Red-eyed doves and Black coucal marked the beginning of each summer day. On Christmas Day, we got a gift. A Verreaux’s eagle-owl had caught a mouse. Carmine bee-eaters have also been spectacular to watch. They often feasted on termites in the afternoon. Grey-hooded kingfishers, Striped kingfishers, and the Woodland kingfisher have all been common in the immediate wetland area and easily seen from the entry bridge, accompanied with Southern masked weavers fizzing about the reeds. A Dark-capped bulbul was always seen pitching around the main area, feeding on Fever berries in the company of Arrow-marked babblers. The Pearl-spotted owlet was also resident here, calling in the morning and afternoons. 

The common presence of buffalos around the camp has also brought oxpeckers. Their calls a reminder to be on the lookout for these dagga boys. Cattle egrets have followed them in as well.

(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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