Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, March 2022

Two female lions from the Tau Pan pride killed a Brown hyena in an extraordinarily rare sighting this month!

Tau Pan Summer Season

After hearing the distinct distress call from the waterhole in front of the camp, guides quickly drove to the area to find the lions killing the hyena. During the rainy season, the remains of lion, leopard and cheetah kills become a significant food source for this forager, which is likely what led to this fatal conflict.

Kwando Safaris guide Vasco noted that plants have started losing their flowers and that Kalahari Sand Quick grass was dominant across the pans and valleys, along with Eight-day grass. Both are highly favoured by herbivores for the high nutrient levels, and it has held plenty of plains game somewhat captive. Concentrations of Oryx, wildebeest and Springboks were commonly seen in these rich areas. The herbivores have also been licking the clay soils to obtain the calcium, potassium, and phosphorus required to best strengthen their bodies. This phenomenon of soil-eating is known as geophagia.

To the south of Tau Pan, we found a very shy male cheetah (perhaps due to all lion activity listed below) and enjoyed encounters with a very relaxed leopard. It was located along Aardvark road, resting upon the Camelthorn tree, and we spent beautiful quality time watching the animal go about its day.

Our resident lion pride hung around the Tau Pan area the whole month. The pride consists of two mothers with their six cubs plus five males, who come and go as they please in groups of two or three. They frequently came down to the camp water hole for a thirst-quenching drink after their numerous kills and all seemed in excellent condition. We found the pride on a fresh Oryx kill one day, and after just four to five hours, everything was gone. The cubs played around with the skull and the hooves, and our guests took some fantastic pictures. A few days later, we found three of the males finishing off a wildebeest, which was killed by the females.

During one early morning drive, the three males gathered at the camp water hole roaring with the dawn in an incredible spectacle. The two females with their six cubs joined in, creating beautiful photographs as they were all lined up, showing their reflection in the water. They then moved south of the water hole, where they all spent the rest of the hot day in the welcome shade of a Kalahari apple-leaf tree.

After following a flock of vultures to an Umbrella thorn tree, we located two females from the Airstrip pride that made a kill of a kudu.  

What do whydahs and waxbills have in common?

Monotonous larks have arrived, and we saw a few over at the airstrip. In many regions, they come after the heaviest summer rains. Wattled starlings have also been logged (though we have yet to find their breeding site in our area), along with Northern black korhaans, Red-backed shrikes, Crimson-breasted shrikes, Violet-eared waxbills, and the Shaft tailed whydahs. The latter two birds have an interesting relationship. This whydah is a brood parasite, and the female lays her eggs in the nest of the pretty Violet-eared waxbill. The wily Shaft-tailed whydah will often mimic the violet-eared waxbill’s call when singing or calling.

Plenty of Common buzzards were seen during game drives to Deception Valley. These raptors enjoyed plenty of leftovers from the carnivores and an abundant insect pantry thanks to all the rain. We often found them chasing beetles, termites, frogs, and earthworms on the ground. Tawny eagle, Black-chested eagle, Brown snake eagle and Bateleur eagle were common in the area, but our best raptor sighting had to be two goshawks fighting for the meal. A Gabar goshawk and a Southern pale chanting goshawk locked talons, but the latter ultimately emerged as the victor.

(Note: The leopard in the Camelthorn tree was taken by sound recordist and wildlife photographer Derek Solomon during his summer safari. Other accompanying pictures are 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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