Tau Pan, July 2018

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Tau Pan camp was closed for refurbishment during June but the maintenance team were kept on their toes by the regular appearances of lions and an elephant in camp. The elephant enjoyed browsing on the camp ridge during the day and made trips down to the waterhole to drink.

The Tau Pan pride walked though camp frequently, one time stopping to bring down and kill an oryx just in front of the lodge. They could often be seen at the waterhole, and we also spotted a brown hyena drinking on one of the days.

(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!)

Nxai Pan, July 2018

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As the seasonal cool dry weather continued elephants visited the camp watering hole in ever increasing numbers. Several big breeding herds turned up each day, as well as smaller groups of bachelors and solitary bulls. The bulls competed quite aggressively for dominance over the waterhole. One morning there was a big fight between two bulls which resulted in a calf falling in the water. The mother couldn’t see her youngster and was extremely upset until a different bull herded her towards the waterhole as though to show her where her baby was and she helped the calf out of the water. A fascinating interaction to watch.
 
The Nxai Pan pride of ten lions also showed up at the camp waterhole. There was one lioness who was heavily pregnant and the guides expected her to give birth towards the end of the month. We watched three lionesses with their six cubs hunting giraffe for well over an hour, but eventually they gave up trying to bring down the huge prey animals. Another time the pride had tried the camp waterhole but were driven away by elephants so they relocated to the Wildlife Department waterhole. Whilst they were resting some kudu came down to drink and the lions tried to stalk them, but the kudu spotted them and managed to bolt away just in time. A solitary lion roared his heart out all night near to camp, but didn’t manage to locate his pride. He was seen resting near camp the next day.
 
A female cheetah with three delightful cubs aged approximately seven weeks old was seen hunting.
 
Unusually, spotted hyena were seen a few times, including two who were drinking from the waterhole right in front of camp. They approached nervously due to the presence of the elephants, but eventually managed to sneak in for a drink before settling down to rest in a shady spot nearby.
 
Black-backed jackal were seen regularly, including a very bold individual who was trotting around near to the guests as they sat around the fireplace in the evenings and early mornings. One day we watched three black-backed jackal feeding on a big chunk of meat. A fourth jackal appeared but was promptly chased away as though he was an intruder in the territory.
 
General game included herds of giraffe, wildebeest, springbok and zebra. Good numbers of oryx and warthogs were seen on the way to Baines Baobabs.
 
We had a wonderful sighting of a martial eagle at the camp waterhole. After perching on a tree for a while, the bird swooped down to take a helmeted guineafowl, but was chased off his kill by black-backed jackal before he had a chance to fly off with it. Ostrich were seen regularly and the males were in full breeding plumage, showing red on the front of their legs and a bright red bill. Other species identified included larks, titbabblers, shrikes, flycatchers, prinias, warblers, penduline tits, batis, snake-eagles and korhaans.
 
(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!)

Lebala, July 2018

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July was a great month for lions at Lebala with both the Bonga and the Wapoka prides being seen. The Bonga pride of nine stayed in the northern area where they were often seen following a huge herd of buffalo leading to some magnificent sightings. One day we heard the lions growling in the woodland and found them fighting with a big buffalo. The fight lasted for at least fifteen minutes before they eventually killed the bull. It took them a couple of days to devour the whole animal. Another time we saw two adults and seven sub-adults trying to drag down a buffalo and were jumping on its back, but the rest of the herd returned and drove the lions away. Other times they got luckier and we found them eating buffalo carcasses.

Six members of the Wapoka pride were found north of the camp feasting on a wildebeest carcass that they had just killed. The following day we tracked them towards the airstrip and were lucky enough to see them taking down an impala right in front of our vehicle. We also located them stalking zebra. Two male lions known as the Selinda Boys were found back in the south of the Kwando Reserve after having been away for about six months. We noticed that a resident female lion with three cubs about eight months old appeared to be very nervous of the intruders and was quickly mobilising her family to be as far away from them as possible.

The resident tom leopard known as “Fisherman” was seen more than once in the marsh area targeting red lechwe. We saw him try and miss one time, but on another occasion we were lucky enough to see him bring down and kill a young ram. To the west of the staff village we watched a great interaction between a male leopard and a spotted hyena. The leopard took a kill from the hyena and ran away with it but was quickly caught by the hyena who took it back. The carcass was passed back and forth four times before the leopard eventually managed to drag it up a sausage tree and out of the hyena’s reach. A female leopard was seen hunting, providing some wonderful photo opportunities as she climbed termite mounds and trees to scan the area.

A pair of spotted hyenas accompanied by a sub-adult were seem mobile towards the old hyena den by the airstrip.

The resident pair of wild dogs were seen running around camp searching for something to eat. At that stage they had a single puppy trailing along behind them, leading our guides to suspect that the rest of the litter may have been killed by predators. Unfortunately as the month progressed the single remaining pup also disappeared.

Big herds of elephants have returned to the riverine area and guests really enjoyed watching them bathing and playing in the water. General game was plentiful including very relaxed herd of sable antelope.

Honey badgers were seen digging for mice. Guests enjoyed seeing a big colony of dwarf mongoose and watching how they used a sentry system to look for danger.

Guests were thrilled with some great sightings of rosy-throated longclaw. This species is often hard to see well as they are usually found in deep grasses and marshland, so it was a treat to be able to show keen birders the bird out in the open. Another incredible rare sighting was the African swamp hen which was located by the marsh. Unusually we spotted some carmine bee-eaters; these are usually summer migrants, so it is strange that some have decided to over-winter in the area.

(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!)

Lagoon, July 2018

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Wild dogs were seen most days during July including a thrilling chase of a kudu right through the middle of camp which nearly ended up with kudu falling into the swimming pool! The adults moved the puppies to a new den site about seven kilometres from their original den where we were able to watch the pack’s wonderful interactions including greeting rituals and the adults coming back to regurgitate food for their young. Sadly, the pack of wild dogs continued to lose puppies; from the original litter of thirteen there were only five remaining by the end of the month. The guides have noticed that this pack choose rather shallow holes for their dens rather than using deeper aardvark holes which would give the puppies greater protection from predators. The adults were seen hunting frequently including warthog, kudu, wildebeest and impala.

Ten members of the Bonga pride were mostly located at the midway point between Lagoon and Lebala camps. They have been pushed into this area by the coalition of four new males who have taken over the territory at the northern part of the Kwando Reserve. Three of the males appear to be more dominant and seem to be fighting with the fourth male who picked up a fresh scar to his face as a result. There was a pair of lionesses with a cub who seemed nervous of the males and were keeping well into the marshlands where the cub could be hidden in the reeds and sedges. We saw them raiding a kill from a big male leopard, other times they seemed to be preying on warthogs. A lone lioness was seen following the buffalo herds around and once we found her feeding on a successful kill. We came across a male and female lion mating.

The resident female leopard was seen feeding on an impala up a tree in the Kwena Lagoon area. It appears that her two sub-adult cubs have now separated from her completely. The young female was seen mobile but appeared to be sniffing and tracking. She succeeded in flushing out and mobbing a hyena who was dragging a tsessebe carcass. The young male was found resting on the river bank as we were doing a boat cruise.

The hyena den was active with up to nine cubs being seen at once, accompanied by various numbers of adults. The mothers were usually seen suckling their young in the evenings. Some of the cubs were starting to nibble on leftover meat brought back to the den by the females and were becoming quite playful.

Several species of mongoose were seen (banded, yellow, dwarf and slender). Honey badgers were located digging for mice. Night drives yielded sightings of aardwolf and African wild cat. Jackals, bat-eared foxes, African civets, caracal, genets, bush babies and were other smaller mammals spotted.

The coalition of two cheetah brothers were located hunting through the woodland and were seen chasing giraffe, a surprisingly large prey species for them to try and tackle. They were unsuccessful on that occasion but at other times we saw them looking relaxed and full-bellied.

Big herds of elephants were coming through camp to drink at the lagoon in front of the rooms, some making a foray into Namibia and back again. Bachelor herds of buffalo were all over the mixed woodland and riverine areas with breeding herds showing up on the floodplains. Eland, roan and sable antelope were seen along with giraffe, waterbuck, zebra, wildebeest, impala, reedbuck, tsessebe, red lechwe and kudu.

Along the river bank we saw hippos basking in the sun and huge crocodiles out of the water. Sitatunga were spotted during the boat cruise as well as monitor lizards, red lechwe, waterbuck and reedbuck.

Birdlife was great with raptors, kingfishers, bee-eaters and lots of water birds such as storks and ducks. Vultures, tawny eagles and bateleur eagles were seen near to wild dog kills.

(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!)

Kwara Reserve, July 2018

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At the start of the month the wild dog den near to the airstrip was still very active and guests enjoyed fabulous sightings of the two-month-old puppies playing and being fed regurgitated meat by the adults. There were still eight adults and eleven puppies and all of the dogs looked in great condition. Towards the end of the month, as the floods started to rise in the area, the pack relocated out of the Kwara Reserve but luck was on our side because around the same time a different pack of dogs turned up at Splash camp and on two consecutive nights made kills very near to Room 8. We subsequently found that they had a den near to the Old Mokoro Station.
 
Two big resident male lions were occupying the territory near to Splash and we found them mating with two females. It seemed to be a marathon double date, with the four lions mating every fifteen minutes over the course of five days. The same lions were spotted stalking zebras at the waterhole in front of Splash camp and sometimes came into camp itself. One night they stole a kill from the wild dogs just in front of our Head Guide’s room and then continued with their mating. The guide had just popped back to his room to pick something up before dinner only to find that he couldn’t leave because of the lions. When he didn’t appear for dinner a vehicle was quickly dispatched to collect him! Two new females near to Mabala Motlotse were found with six young cubs. One-eyed pride was located scanning for potential prey species with lots of red lechwe antelope in the area.
 
The female leopard with two cubs changed her den to a spot at Third Bridge. The cubs were very playful and curious, even coming right underneath our vehicles. The mother seemed very relaxed sleeping in a nearby tree. We also found her with impala kills in the trees, usually by herself whilst the cubs stayed behind in the den. Another time we found her with a reedbuck kill near to the airstrip. A different young female was found hunting a honey badger, but true to its reputation the honey badger defended itself very aggressively and eventually won the encounter. Another time we found the same leopard feeding on an African civet.
 
The resident male cheetah, known as “Special” was found hunting and killing a reedbuck. We also saw him at other times feeding on kills or resting on termite mounds. Nearer to Splash we were excited to find two young cheetah males who were new to the area. We spotted them hunting and followed them for a couple of days, eventually being rewarded with seeing them kill an impala by Tsessebe Pan.
 
A large honey badger was frequently seen shuffling along the paths at Splash camp and encountered by guides and guests as they were walking to and from their rooms in the evenings and early mornings. He was not in the slightest aggressive, and it was a treat for guests to see this animal whilst on foot. Other small mammals spotted were servals, civets, genets, jackals and mongoose.
 
General game was excellent with big herds of elephants, zebras, giraffe, wildebeest, impala, reedbuck and red lechwe. Big herds of elephants were coming down to the waterhole in front of Splash camp to drink every evening.
 
Notable bird species recorded included Verreaux’s eagle owl, marsh owls, secretary birds, ground hornbills, wattled cranes, African fish eagles and martial eagles.
 
(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!)

Tau Pan, June 2018

Kwando 2014- 2015

A couple of extremely unusual sightings happened in Tau Pan during June, the first of which involved no animals at all. On 2nd of June an asteroid collided with earth over western Botswana and our team at Tau Pan were some of the last humans to witness the huge flash it as it turned into a meteor fireball. Hearing the loud explosions our guests came running out of their rooms thinking that our generator had blown up, only to find very startled staff looking at a trail of smoke across the sky. Experts descended on the area from all over the world and partly helped by our team’s eye-witness accounts were able to retrieve fragments of the asteroid. This was only the second time in history that remains have been able to be recovered from a meteorite hitting earth.

Closer to home, another extraordinary sighting at Tau Pan was a leopard who approached our vehicle and then decided to crawl straight underneath it. Guests held their breath as the animal could be heard underneath banging against the metal. It eventually came out and then lay down to sleep right next to the game viewer in a most unconcerned way. A really incredible encounter which thrilled the guests.

Another complete surprise was the appearance of a bull elephant at Tau Pan camp who was frequently seen by the rooms and at the camp waterhole. Elephants are not common in the area and definitely not something our team expected to come across as they walked to the rooms. It goes to show you never know what will happen next in the bush!
The Tau Pan pride of lions were doing well. They were seen regularly at the camp waterhole and seen feeding on wildebeest carcasses.

An aardwolf was located in the evenings heading southwards across the pan. Honey badgers were seen much more regularly than they had been during the summer months and could be viewed digging at the pan for rodents and barking geckos most days. Bat-eared foxes and black-backed jackals were also regular sightings. Guests enjoyed watching ground squirrels digging and foraging around their burrows, always keenly checking the skies to ensure that a raptor wasn’t about to swoop down on them.

The resident cheetah was seen towards the west of Tau Pan and another cheetah mother with two cubs was seen on day trip to Deception Valley.

General game included oryx, red lechwe, wildebeest, steenbok, springbok and large numbers of giraffe.

Every morning huge flocks of birds were descending on the camp waterhole. At around eight o clock it was hundreds of doves and then by nine o clock it was the turn of Burchell’s sandgrouse. Ostriches were seen often during game drive as well as white-backed vultures and white-headed vultures.

The weather in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve during June was exceptionally clear and cold, making for very beautiful star-gazing conditions in the wide open skies.

(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!)

Nxai Pan, June 2018

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Nxai Pan camp was closed for refurbishment during June, but although there were no human visitors, the animals continued to make full use of our facilities. As the dry weather continued, our maintenance team saw many species flocking to our waterhole to drink including lion, buffalo, kudu, impala, giraffe, wildebeest and springbok. As always, elephants visited in large numbers, some coming into camp to browse.

(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!)

Lebala, June 2018

Little Kwara

The Bonga Pride of lions comprising eleven adults and three cubs of about nine months were still in the area. One of the lionesses had split away from the rest of the family whilst she was nursing her two smaller cubs. We found the pride together enjoying kills of buffalo, wildebeest, warthog and zebra on numerous occasions. They spent time during the day at the various waterholes, always with an eye on the opportunity to ambush prey coming down to drink. The two big dominant males, Old Gun and Sebastian, were starting to give the two-year-old males a hard time, injuring one of the youngsters, and our guides feel sure that they will soon be driven out of the family group. Another time two of the boys were seen fighting with a honey badger. True to its reputation the honey badger put up a ferocious defence and it took almost an hour for the lions to eventually kill it but after all that effort they decided not to eat the honey badger’s remains. The Wapoka Pride were also seen including two of the lionesses hunting warthogs near to the river.

As usual for the Lebala area, hyenas were often found near to the lion prides hoping for the chance to steal a kill. We also found a clan of twelve hyena on a kudu carcass which we suspected had died of natural causes. They were eating vigorously and didn’t take long to finish the meat off. Vultures were nearby to pick the bones clean, giving our guests a wonderful opportunity to see nature’s clean-up crews in action.

A leopard was located near to the staff village and guests were lucky enough to watch him kill a civet right as we followed him. This beautiful tom, known to the guides as The Fisherman, was seen often in the marsh area.

African wild cat was located on night drive hunting and more unusually also seen in the open during the day.

Elephants were seen crossing the river and it was fun to see them playing and bathing in the water. Herds of buffalo were also starting to come back out of the mopane woodlands and back towards the wetter areas. A lovely herd of ten sable adults with six calves were located. As the floods started to come into the Kwando Reserve we had fantastic sightings of red lechwe herds splashing through the water. Other general game species located often included giraffe, zebra and kudu.

A resident pair of two wild dogs came into the camp one morning and seemed to be in a hunting mood as they were running around the camp. Eventually they seemed to decide that luck was not on their side and they spend the day lounging by Room 9. Another time they were managed to kill a kudu calf and we were delighted to see that they had a puppy trailing along behind them. All of a sudden, a hyena appeared and managed to confiscate the carcass from the pack. The dogs were also found feeding on an impala east of our airfield.

The coalition of cheetah brothers spent time on the Lebala side of the Kwando reserve where they were seen spraying on trees to mark their territory. This lovely pair of cats can be quite playful with each other as they scamper up and down trees.

Birding was good, especially by the river where we saw saddle-billed storks, egrets and ibis. A remarkable sighting of twenty wattled cranes shows that the Kwando reserve is doing well in augmenting the Okavango Delta as a stronghold for these endangered birds. Guests also enjoyed a lovely sighting of a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl.

(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!)

Lagoon, June 2018

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Wild dogs were still denning near to Lagoon camp in June giving incredible sightings of the mother nursing and the whole pack interacting, including their “greeting rituals”. The pack comprised six adults and they hunted every day to give the alpha female and her puppies sufficient food. Towards the end of the month the eleven puppies were getting quite bold and were curiously approaching our vehicles. The female who lost her puppies to the alpha female the previous month appeared to have recovered well from their fight. The dogs had good success hunting in the riverine area where they were seen feeding on a female kudu and sub-adult waterbuck.

Spotted hyenas also had a den in the area with seven cubs of varying ages. Most appeared to be doing well, though towards the end of the month we noticed that one youngster was getting weaker and was being bullied by the other cubs; this is quite normal dominance behaviour within the clan. There were usually a few adults left behind to guard the den site and guests enjoyed watching the mothers tenderly nursing their young. The cubs were being very playful and one day we watched them having a tug of war over a warthog skull which the adults had brought back to the den.

Two sub-adult leopard cubs aged 10-11 months are now more independent and were seen increasingly on their own, as well as with their mother. The cubs were now at a stage where they were practicing their hunting skills on mice and birds meanwhile their mother was keeping their bellies full with impala, warthog and baboon carcasses. The young male appeared to be splitting away from his sister and mother completely and one day paid us a visit at camp, passing between Room 1 and the main area. The female leopard came into oestrus and then was seen together with a very nervous adult male.

A group of five lions were seen in Lagoon during the month consisting of three males and two females. One of the males is markedly more skittish than the others and tends to keep himself a bit more separate, especially when vehicles are around. The other two brothers were patrolling huge distances to mark their territories, sometimes splitting apart to cover different areas. One of the females came into oestrus during the month and was duly mated. As a pride, they seemed to be specialising in wildebeest as a favourite prey species, but the lionesses were also seen visiting warthog burrows in the late afternoons as the temperature cooled down.

The coalition of two cheetah brothers were seen occasionally. On one occasion they were hunting a huge male warthog, but he stood his ground and eventually chased the cats away. They were also seen hunting red lechwe.

Aardwolves were located more than once during night drives. We saw a caracal successfully hunting mice through the grasses and it eventually moved into a more open area giving everyone a good view. Other smaller mammals located included African wild cat, honey badger, African civet, genets, bat-eared fox and side-striped jackal.

General game was very good throughout the month including large herds of elephant, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, impala, kudu, red lechwe, tsessebe, eland and waterbuck. Endangered roan and sable antelopes were also enjoyed by our guests. Large buffalo herds have come back out of the mopane woodlands and were often found drinking by the river.
Notable bird sightings included saddle-billed storks, ground hornbills, secretary birds, pearl-spotted owlet, Verreaux’s eagle owl and black herons. Short-tailed and tawny eagles could be viewed following the hunting wild dogs, hoping to be able to scavenge the carcass. A large group of vultures were seen at their bathing spot.

(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!)

Kwara Reserve, June 2018

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The wild dog pack of 8 adults and 11 puppies were denning close to Little Kwara camp. We were able to witness them making successful kills and then returning to the den to regurgitate food for the alpha female. Guests really enjoyed seeing the mother nursing her pups. From the 10th of June the pack relocated to an old hyena den nearby and by that stage the puppies were also starting to eat the meat that the adult pack members were providing.

The spotted hyena den was also very active with five young cubs. Guests enjoyed watching them playing with their siblings and the adults. The cubs also seemed to take a liking to our vehicles and came close trying to chew the tyres.

A female leopard with her two cubs was located very often at her den site and the cubs appeared to be in good condition. Hyenas stole reedbuck kills from her a couple of times, but we also saw her with impala carcasses, taken up the tree for safety. Her cubs were about two months old and very playful. We had delightful sightings of them climbing trees and playing with their mother’s tail.

The resident male cheetah known as “Special” was seen throughout the month. At the start of the June we saw him by the old mokoro station trying to hunt a warthog, but in a dramatic encounter the warthog fiercely fought him and he suffered an injury. Luckily he was not hurt too badly and to everyone’s relief we saw him the following evening chasing red lechwes though he was not successful that time or the next day. By the end of the month he seemed to be back on form and we saw him eating well on impala.

Four male lions had formed a coalition, although often seen in pairs. They appeared to be in good condition. One day we saw two of them in a stand-off with one of the Zulu Boy males. They were fighting over the carcass of a baby hippo and roaring at each other. Two lioness sisters were located nursing cubs of about 3-4 months old and were seen again feasting on a tsessebe carcass. The six cubs were initially nervous, but were getting used to the vehicles and settling quickly after the engine was switched off. There was another lioness seen often at Splash drinking from the waterhole in front of camp. The guides suspected that she was lactating so perhaps had cubs nearby.

Guests enjoyed watching a very relaxed honey badger who was digging for mice. Aardwolf, porcupine, serval and African civet were all seen during night drives.

General game included plentiful giraffe, zebra, tsessebe and wildebeest. Elephants were seen in good numbers, especially towards Splash hippos. A breeding herd of forty buffalo was located.

At Splash the general game and birdlife in front of camp was excellent, with many species coming to the waterhole to drink. Lions and hyenas could frequently be heard at night calling from within camp. Elephant and buffalo were also seen nearby.

Bird species seen during the month included martial eagle, saddle-billed storks, marabou storks, secretary birds and the endangered ground hornbill. A Verreaux’s (giant) eagle owl was roosting every night in the camp island. A large flock of pelicans were seen at Splash camp. The boat cruises continued to provide lovely bird sightings including African fish eagle herons and spoonbills.

(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!)