Kwara, April 2018

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We were excited to see that the alpha female of the wild dog pack of eight was heavily pregnant and that she was busy digging around termite mounds as though looking for a den site. Her chosen location appeared to be very close to Little Kwara’s staff village, so the dogs were seen hunting impala in and around the camp island very regularly. Right at the start of April they came into conflict with a smaller pack of three dogs and a big fight ensued. Luckily none of the dogs suffered fatal injuries, although one of the dogs from the pack of eight lost half a tail. After this, the pack of three moved further to the west of the concession, but the larger pack stayed close to the camps and we stayed hopeful that they would den nearby. Watch this space….

Spotted hyenas had already started denning and in April we were able have lovely sightings of the mothers suckling their cubs. The two cubs were believed to be a couple of months old and were starting to be playful.

A resident female leopard was also believed to be pregnant; this individual was relaxed and in great condition. She was seen stalking reedbuck through the marshes and on another remarkable occasion was seen killing a civet right in front of the vehicle. Towards the end of the month, after not seeing her for a couple of weeks, we picked up her tracks and found her walking along the side of the runway. We were delighted to see that she was lactating, so hopefully we will have some new leopard cub sightings soon. There was a different female on the east of the concession, towards Splash and we were able to watch her hunting a few times. A handsome male leopard killed a female impala and dragged it up a sausage tree where he stayed for at least three days. Very conveniently, this was on the road between the camp and the airstrip, creating some special first and last impressions for guests. The kill attracted hyenas who waited at the bottom of the tree, hoping that some juicy morsels might fall to the ground.

At the start of the month guests were lucky enough to see the resident male cheetah, known as “Special” mating with a female. They stayed together for three days. This individual regularly clambers up onto a large rain tree as part of his territorial marking and it is always a remarkable sight to see this tree-climbing behaviour. We also saw him hunting both zebra and impala. A mother cheetah with two cubs was seen regularly, but the guides were worried for them as she didn’t seem to be having much success with her hunts and the cubs looked hungry.

As always, there was plenty of lion action at Kwara. The Mma Mogotla Pride killed a zebra in broad daylight. Our guides noted that the sub-adult males were growing their manes and fighting with their sisters to get first share of the kill. On the eastern side of the concession near Splash there was a pride of two males and two females in great condition. They were found on a zebra kill and the males were roaring the whole night.

Big breeding herds of elephant were seen and guests enjoyed watching them feeding and bathing. Giraffe were plentiful and mothers could be observed suckling their calves. Impala started their rutting season with the males vocally advertising their territories and vigorously defending their harems of females.

The sunset boat cruise produced beautiful sightings of malachite and pied kingfishers, different bee-eaters species, crocodiles, hippos and water monitors.

Right at the end of the month we had a lucky sighting of a female aardwolf.

 

(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, Mar 2018

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The pack of 8 wild dogs was back in the area and we were delighted to see that the alpha female is pregnant. Right at the end of the month we saw them having a big stand off with four hyenas who were trying to steal their impala kill. The prized carcass changed hands a few times before the wild dog pack eventually prevailed. It was an incredible encounter. The wild dogs were often seen in camp and towards the end of the month they killed an impala between tent one and two before spending two nights within the camp island. The pack of eight also had a skirmish with a small pack of three wild dogs that appeared to have split away from an original pack of ten. The female from the smaller pack was seen digging out old aardvark holes and so could also be pregnant since she seemed to be checking for potential denning sites. These three seem to be finding hunting harder work since they don’t have the advantage of large numbers, not helped by the grass being very long after good rains.
 
There were dramatic developments during the month concerning two female leopards. At the start of the month one was heavily pregnant and the other had a cub of about one year old. The pregnant female was seen investigating potential denning sights, but we noted at the time that hyenas were always following her on hunts. When she eventually gave birth to her cub we only saw it a couple of times before it disappeared and we found the mother leopard plaintively calling for it. We can’t say definitively what happened, but perhaps the hyenas were responsible. Then, in a very bizarre turn of events, a few days later we found that the same leopardess apparently feeding on the older leopard cub belonging to another female who was also nearby. The two females were seen for a few days in close proximity to each other snarling and growling. After this rather grim start to the month we enjoyed many happier sightings of the leopards on kills, mainly red lechwe and common reedbuck. One such carcass was draped in a tree for a couple of days and guests were able to get some great photos in fantastic light. Another time we were lucky enough to follow a leopard for 40 minutes and see her make her reedbuck kill.
 
The water level was rising and so the cheetahs were spending less time on the floodplains and more time in the woodlands. We saw the resident male, nicknamed “Mr Special” hunting and also resting after having devoured an impala carcass. We saw him try his luck on kudu and warthog missing both times, but was seen a couple of days later looking full-bellied after finishing up a reedbuck kill.
 
There was an active hyena den which was giving guests some great sightings of new-born cubs playing with sub-adults. All around Kwara concession we saw a lot of hyena movement with them travelling in groups of 4-8 individuals, especially in the mornings. We saw a clan feeding on an impala carcass and another time a lone individual feeding on an impala which, judging by the tracks, had been stolen from a cheetah.
 
As is often the case on Kwara concession there were a remarkable number of different lion prides operating. Mma Leitlho pride of three were keeping close ties with a younger male. They seemed to be doing well and the oldest female is pregnant. Mma Mogata pride of two females and four sub-adults were also seen in very good condition. To the west, the Shindi pride of three lionesses with their five cubs were also seen finishing up on a zebra kill. Meanwhile on the eastern side of the concession, towards Splash, two male lions including one named “Mr Limping” were frequently seen.
 
There were many elephants in the Kwara concession during March with breeding herds numbering up to forty coming to the islands to feed on marula fruits. In camp itself the marula trees were being enjoyed by solitary bulls. There were plentiful tsessebe and giraffe in the area. At one time we saw some young giraffes staring curiously down and investigated to find an African python killing a spur-winged goose. Sitatungas and bushbucks were both seen during the boat cruises. A sky African civet was also spotted.
 
A Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owl was seen in camp. The mokoro trips continued to yield great sightings of species such as malachite kingfisher, lesser jacana and red-knobbed coot.
(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, Jan 2018

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Many different prides of lion were seen on Kwara during January. A group of eight were seen feeding on a zebra foal. A smaller pride was also seen eating zebra. At the end of the month two lions took down and killed a large male warthog, right in front of the vehicle. A male and female lion were mating at Pelican Pan for several days and towards the end of the month the guides noticed that another two lionesses had moved away from their pride and suspected that one of them had cubs in the area.

The New Year started with a sighting of a female cheetah desperately calling for her sub-adult daughter. Our worst suspicions were confirmed when the next day we found the younger cheetah’s carcass. Judging by the bite marks on the animal’s neck, we suspect that she was killed by lions. Whilst sad to lose much a magnificent animal, inter-species competition is an important part of the natural world. Despite this incident the adult female was still spending a good deal of time in the same area, but regularly lost her kills to lions. Near Splash camp we found another female cheetah with her cub, feeding on an impala lamb and they were also seen chasing common reedbuck. The resident male cheetah is doing well and usually seen full-bellied. We watched him chase and bring down a common reedbuck, with tremendous views of him accelerating across the open floodplain. He was also seen with a female testing to see whether she was in oestrus.

One morning leopard tracks were found in camp and after following the prints for two hours we heard the alarm calls of a common reedbuck. Rounding the corner, we found a female leopard playing with a newly-born reedbuck lamb whilst its mother looked on helplessly. We then followed the leopard into the marshes. After the female leopard lost her cub in December, she changed her movement pattern and was spending more time in the mopane woodlands where she was seen doing some territorial marking. One time we saw her stalking a herd of tsessebe and seemed to be focused on their calves, but a troop of baboons spotted her and raised the alarm, sending the antelopes bolting. A male and female leopard were seen together on a tree and as we watched they climbed down to mate.

The wild dog pack of 7 has lost one of the two pups from the litter of 2017 – there is now only one pup left from the original nine. Towards the end of the month they were seen hunting and chasing impalas through Kwara camp. The pack of six is doing well and even the limping male is back on his feet. Guests enjoyed seeing them engage in playful interactions and successfully taking down and devouring an impala.

The spotted hyena clan started to take their cubs out and about on their hunting missions.

A very relaxed mother serval with her young kitten were seen more than once and we were even lucky enough to find them feeding on a fresh kill. We were also lucky enough to get great sightings of honey badgers.

The weather during the first half of January was unusually dry for the time of year and as a result large breeding herds of elephants were seen regularly in the afternoons as they made their way towards the main channels of Moremi Game Reserve to drink, feed and dust-bathe. Guests enjoyed watching teenagers playfighting and swimming.

The general game was very good with plentiful herds of zebra, tsessebe, wildebeest, impala, lechwe, reedbuck and giraffe. In addition to the more usual species we were fortunate enough to see sitatunga and bushbuck, the latter not as commonly seen in the Okavango Delta as in wooded areas.

The water levels were receding towards the end of the month and so many water birds could be seen feeding on the fish trapped in drying waterholes. In a most unusual sighting, a flap-necked chameleon was seen swimming across a channel.

(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, Dec 2017

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Guests at Kwara enjoyed some remarkable leopard sightings during December, the most notable of which was when two males were fighting over the right to mate with a female. We were able to watch the amazing interaction between these three cats for over an hour. This same female was often seen with her young cub and guests enjoyed scenes of them nursing and playing together. However, towards the end of the month the female leopard was seen plaintively calling around the Sable Island area and it was feared that she may have lost her cub. A different female with two cubs was found with an impala kill on a leadwood tree.

A female cheetah with a cub posed on top of a termite mound looking intently at a mixed herd of impala and tsessebe, all with newly born young at foot. We watched as the cheetahs stalked, chased and caught a tsessebe calf, but then the female antelope came back and drove the cats away. Once again, the sub-adult cheetah attacked the same calf but the heroic tsessebe cow returned to the fray to save her baby from the claws and jaws of the cheetah. A magnificent sighting which was the highlight of our guests’ safari.

In another dramatic encounter we watched the two females hunt and kill an impala lamb. Whilst they were finishing their meal a pack of wild dogs arrived and started fighting with the cheetahs. Everyone anxiously held their breath as they feared for the worst, but were relieved to see the two cats manage to escape and run for their lives. Another time we watched their kill being stolen by a hungry hyena looking for an easy meal. The resident male cheetah known as Special was seen often and seemed to be targeting tsessebes making for some lightning quick pursuits between the fastest predator and the fastest antelope. He was not always successful, but managed to grab a calf to eat on more than one occasion.

The clan of hyenas were still using their den, although the cubs were now big enough to follow the adults on their hunting missions. Up to twelve adults and four cubs were being seen, sometimes showing interesting interactions with mothers feeding their offspring and the young members of the clan playing together. A female hyena was located hunting alone and she managed to bring down and kill an impala lamb as we were watching.

Two packs of wild dogs were in the concession, a pack of six towards Splash and the usual resident pack of seven seen often nearer to camp. Both packs were seen making kills and devouring carcasses, making the most of the plentiful impala lambs. One time a noisy interaction between the wild dogs and some hyena was heard during the sundowner stop. We quickly packed up the drinks and followed the sounds to find that the clan of hyenas had managed to overpower the dogs through strength in numbers and were busy stealing the impala kill.

As is often the case on Kwara, there were many different prides of lions in the concession, leading to some impressive displays of territorial roaring and marking. The four big male lions known as the Zulu Boys were still in the area, one of them scavenging on a dead hippo for three days. A pride of three lionesses and a sub-adult were seen hunting and killing a warthog piglet, though such a small meal would barely count as a starter for these huge cats. The next day they brought down an adult impala right in front of the vehicle, a much more satisfying meal for the pride. A male and female lion were seen mating – this was a surprise to our guides as last time we saw that particular lioness she was heavily pregnant, so it was unusual to see her mating so soon. Unfortunately, it was an indication that she may have lost her cubs.

Of the smaller predators, we saw honey badgers digging for food, black-backed jackals foraging, African wild cat and serval hunting frogs and water mongoose in the marsh.

General game in the area continued to be excellent, with large herds of elephant feeding, dust-bathing and debarking the mopane shrubs. There were plentiful zebra, many with foals at foot, and lots of giraffe. The temperatures were hot, causing large pods of hippos to congregate in the Kwara lagoon. During the boat cruises we were fortunate enough to see relaxed male sitatungas and huge Nile crocodiles.

Endangered bird species continued to find Kwara a safe haven, including saddle-billed storks, wattled cranes, ground hornbills and four species of vulture (white-headed, lappet-faced, hooded and white-backed). A pair of secretary birds was seen nesting in the concession.

(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, Nov 2017

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The first rains in the Okavango Delta arrived in November, and shortly afterwards the antelope species started to drop their young, with huge numbers of animals being born during the month. Guests were overwhelmed by the cuteness overload and their camera lenses were suddenly focused on zebra foals, warthog piglets and impala lambs rather than the big predators.

Of course, the predators themselves were also enjoying the baby boom amongst their prey species, relishing the easy pickings by singling out newborn calves and lambs. Two male lions killed a new born giraffe right between the airstrip and the camp meaning that arriving guests quickly realised the sometimes-harsh reality of untamed Africa. Botswana is as raw and wild as it comes.

During November were excited to pick up tracks of white rhino in the concession, a female and a calf. A few days later we managed to get a glimpse of female, although she was skittish. It is wonderful to see these incredible animals repopulating the Okavango Delta again.

The female leopard and her cub of three months are both doing really well and continuing to delight guests. The mother is a successful hunter and was usually seen full-bellied, specialising on impala lambs, but also taking down red lechwe and young reedbuck. The cub has now learned to climb trees all the way to the top which should her it less vulnerable. She has become relaxed with the game drive vehicles and is confident enough to come out into the open to take a curious look at us. Guests particularly enjoyed seeing the mother calling for her cub to come out of hiding and the pair tenderly reuniting and nursing afterwards. Although the cub will still drink milk for many months she is just starting to eat meat.

One beautiful morning we located a handsome male leopard moving south of the airstrip. We saw him stalking a herd of impala and in a lightning fast burst of speed he quickly took down one of the antelope. He also killed a young reedbuck in front of the vehicle on a different occasion.

The resident pack of wild dogs comprising seven adults and five puppies were all in good condition and were seen often as they opportunistically raided the drier parts of the Kwara concession. One morning we found them near to the airstrip starting their greeting ritual in perfect early morning light. We followed them as they hunted down a fully-grown impala ewe and devoured it in front of us. The dogs were relentless in their quest to make the most of the easy time to feast and we saw them being successful all month. In fact, more than once we saw them making multiple kills; on one drive they killed three times – two impala lambs and a tsessebe calf. A second pack of twelve dogs returned to the area. Last time we saw them they had two puppies with them, sadly this time we saw them there were only adults. They stayed near to camp for a few days, feeding daily on impala and reedbuck.

A clan of ten hyenas were seen feeding on a giraffe kill and their den was very active with five fast-growing cubs. One time fourteen adults were seen fighting the wild dogs over an impala carcass. Our guides also discovered five separate jackal dens, three for side striped jackals and two for black-backed jackals. Seeing the pups playing outside the dens was a treat for guests.

Many prides of lion were seen in the area. They were successful with their kills and often found hunting and feeding. Two nomadic males showed interest in laying claim to the Kwara area and were roaring each dawn and dusk. Mr Nose seemed to have deferred to them and moved further east in the concession. One of the older lionesses known as Mma Leitlho went missing halfway through the month; the last time we saw her she was heavily pregnant so the guides suspected that she was denning.

The resident female cheetah with her sub-adult cub were making great use of the dried-out flood plains as hunting grounds where they were able to use their speed to their advantage, often seen on kills and more than once took down their prey right in front of the guests. The newly born antelope made perfect target practice for the fast-growing youngster and she was seen trying her luck on impala lambs. The male cheetah was also seen well fed and often hanging around the Splash area making the most of calving season. We were interested to see the male spending more time with the females and towards the end of the month we saw them mating several times.

(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, September 2017 Sightings

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We were thrilled to see that wild dogs were back in abundance at Kwara, following the sad loss of a yearling killed by a hyena the previous month. Incredibly three separate packs were seen on the concession during September. The largest of these groups comprised 15 animals, 14 adults with just one pup, and they were often seen near to the Kwara camps. One morning they killed an impala next to Room 5 at Little Kwara and then chased another impala into the lagoon in front of Kwara. On a different occasion, the pack of fifteen ran through both camps followed by four hyenas. The dogs lost interest in the impala that they had been hunting and turned back to focus on their enemies. In the ensuing skirmish one hyena was badly bitten by the dogs. The hyenas headed back towards their den, pursued by the pack of dogs and once they arrived at the den the fight was on again. This time the hyena clan managed to drive off the dogs. From there, the pack moved out towards the boat station where they located a male impala and gave him a spectacular chase across the water towards the camps. Eventually they managed to bring down a yearling impala from another herd, not a large meal considering their exhausting morning’s efforts.

There were also two smaller packs, comprising 4 and 6 dogs respectively. At one time the pack of 6 was spotted next to a female cheetah and her sub-adult cub who were looking longingly at the carcass that they were devouring. We suspected that she had been driven off her kill by the dogs. Guests were amused one day to see the pack of six looking at our brand new bridge with intense curiosity, as if trying to figure out what on earth the construction was all about.

During September we saw various different prides of lion on the Kwara concession. A new male who has been seen in the area for a few months was found feeding on a wildebeest carcass, the nearby trees covered in vultures and bateleur eagles. He was still there the following day with 2 females, he was mating the sub-adult lioness whilst the older one was watching the honeymooners. The next day two other males walked into the area and busily declared it their territory in a display of scent marking, spraying, rolling and bonding. A familiar lion known as “Mr Limping” returned to the area and announced his arrival with a night long roar-a-thon between Little Kwara’s staff village and camp. This individual lost his territory a year and a half ago to the Zulu Boys, but in an unusual twist he seems to have recruited one of the latter males to form a coalition with him and they were seen patrolling together. The other Zulu Boys were found in the west of the concession in a pride which included five cubs aged 5-6 months old. All together there seemed to be five new male lions in the area, all bidding to win dominance over the One-Eyed Pride. It will be interesting to see what develops over the coming weeks.

Whilst watching two male lions devouring a kill one afternoon, our sharp-eared guide and tracker team heard the alarm call of a side-striped jackal. They decided to investigate and found a beautiful female leopard resting in a marula tree. She dropped down from the tree and walked about a kilometre where she sniffed at the base of a sausage tree. She climbed into a hole so deeply that only her back legs and tail were visible before clambering out with a tiny cub in her mouth. Our lucky guests watched as she gently carried her offspring back to the marula tree where she was first found and deposited it into a hole. The mother and cub were seen many times after that, conveniently choosing to live near to the airstrip. A male leopard was also seen in the area. Towards the end of the month, he was up a tree with his kill and we found him with 6 hyenas waiting at the base of the tree, hoping for some meat to fall down. A few minutes later the large pack of 15 wild dogs arrived and chased the hyena as the leopard nervously watched. Three sought-after predators in one sighting!

Guides were pleased to see a resident female cheetah return with her 8-month-old cub as she had not been in the area for a while. We followed her as she was hunting and she managed to kill a red lechwe. The following day the resident male known as Special was located as he took down a reedbuck, so those particular guests were lucky enough to see two cheetah kills in two days. Another male cheetah was tracked after making an incredibly long walk from the western side of the concession. He was eventually located right on our eastern boundary looking sadly at a hyena who was full-bellied and covered in blood; we suspected that the hyena had stolen his kill. The cheetah quietly sneaked away and ventured back west, scent marking all the way. In the end it was a fruitless and exhausting journey for the intruder.

The boat trips to the heronry provided a wonderful spectacle, with many different species of water birds preparing for the nesting season including pelicans, fish eagles, storks, herons and egrets. Ground Hornbills and Secretary Birds were viewed frequently and Verreaux’s Eagle Owls were often spotted on night drives.

(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, August 2017 Sightings

Verreaux's Eagle-owl or Giant Eagle Owl (Bubo lacteus)

The hyena den at Kwara was very active during August with six females nursing cubs of varying ages. Spotted hyena cubs are born with a brownish-black coat and only start to get their adult markings at approximately three months old. There was just one cub still in its infant darker coat during the month and was already showing a cheeky character, becoming a favourite with guides and guests. We were able to see mothers nursing and cubs playing throughout the month.

However, we are sad to report that the success of the hyenas was at the expense of the wild dog pack. One morning, just after the adult dogs left for their morning hunt, a hyena was found killing one of the yearling dogs from last year’s litter. The hyena ate the whole carcass in an unusual act of inter-specific competition. After that rather grisly incident the pack abandoned the den and left the area for some time.

A resident female leopard appeared to be heavily pregnant and was often seen hunting reedbuck around Sable Island and near the boat station. She made an impressive sight as she walked through the tall grasses searching for prey species and climbing up the trees to get a better vantage point of her prey. She also walked through the camp at night, making the leopard’s distinctive sawing call.

Cheetah were also seen often during August. The female with cub with located on several occasions and we witnessed the youngster trying to stalk and chase a herd of tsessebe – a surprisingly ambitious prey species to start practicing on given that they are the fastest antelope of all. The resident male cheetah, known as Special, also thought he would try his luck with a tsessebe and singled out a calf, but the mother antelope fiercely defended her young and managed to save it from the cat. We saw Special having better luck with the red lechwe where we saw him killing a sub-adult. Our guides were especially pleased to see a young female cheetah who separated with her brother early this year when her mother was attacked by a leopard. She was located in the Splash area after being out of our area for 3 months. We followed her hunting but she didn’t manage to make the kill – she appeared to be lacking experience, probably because her mother died whilst her skills were still being honed. At least she has found a suitable area to live in; the Splash area has an abundance of medium-sized herbivores, and less competition from lions and hyenas, making it perfect cheetah country.

There continue to be many different prides of lion located within the Kwara concession. The magnificent male lion, known as Mr Nose due to his battle-scarred face, was seen mating with the young female of the Mma Leitho Pride. A younger nomadic lion came and challenged him in a battle for dominance, but Mr Nose’s experience showed and he was successful in driving the would-be usurper away. The whole pride is looking healthy and they have been seen on successive blue wildebeest kills. The Zulu Boys were seen travelling through the marshes with three lionesses giving an awesome sighting of six Okavango Delta habituated lions wading through water. The One-Eyed Pride were seen on a giraffe kill and another time trying their luck on red lechwe but without success.

As usual, the general game in the Kwara was very good. Big herds of elephant moved from north to south to access the main channels of the Moremi, creating wonderful photographic opportunities as they waded through the flooded channels. Giraffe and buffalo were plentiful, especially in the Splash area. There were lots of breeding herds from North to South. Giraffes and buffaloes were also seen in area near to Splash. Other species regularly seen included zebra, impala, blue wildebeest, led lechwe, warthogs and baboons.

Ground hornbills were frequently located on morning game drives and a pair of secretary birds were seen occasionally. After sunset, the large Verreaux’s eagle owls were often located using spotlight.

(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, July 2017

mvecht,action3,dogsfightinghyena kwara

Kwara consistently averages over 3 predator sightings a day, but in July it was even higher than that! Wild dogs and spotted hyena both have active dens, lions were located every single day and we enjoyed very regular sightings of cheetah and leopard.

Towards the end of June the alpha female from the resident pack of wild dogs on the Kwara concession chose a den site. The guides paid tactful visits to check on progress every couple of days and on 8th July we had our first exciting sighting of the new puppies. Over the next week we were able to confirm that she had successfully produced a total of 9 new pups and although we were extremely careful to minimise disruption, we were able to enjoy some wonderful sightings of this young family suckling from their mother and playing outside the den. For some fortunate guests, there was the chance to see the whole pack together, interacting with the puppies as they socialised before setting off to search for food. We also witnessed the adults coming back from their hunting missions and regurgitating meat for the puppies to eat. The pack was seen chasing down and killing impala regularly; on one occasion three spotted hyenas tried to steal the hard-won meal, but the dogs were able to drive the bigger predators away.

The hyenas had their own mouths to feed as they also have an active den and we were able to see two females nursing their two cubs. On one occasion, the hyenas were seen at the staff village, sniffing to follow the scent of a leopard who had dragged a carcass through the area. Other interesting hyena behaviour observed during the month included watching their behaviour at a latrine site where they defecated and pawed the ground, marking their territory.

Lion sightings were plentiful and comprised a number of different prides and individuals. We found one of the males of the Marsh Pride, known as Judah, having a drink at a watering hole and followed him as he went back into the bush where he and his brother were feasting on a hippo. This particular coalition is well known for targeting the unusually large prey and the huge carcass kept the males busy for two days. As well as the hippo, lions were seen hunting and feeding on a variety of different species including giraffe, zebra, kudu and wildebeest. Three male lions were found on a kill near to the boat station; spotted hyena came in to try and steal, but the formidable lions managed to stand their ground and stayed in the area for two days. The Zulu Boys were still in the area and found mating with a female at Tsum Tsum. They were also seen scent-marking and roaring to proclaim their territory. Another three lions, Mma Leitho and her son and daughter, were spotted with blood all over their faces and full-bellied. The One-eyed pride was located and seem feeding on a freshly killed wildebeest, surrounded by a committee of hungry vultures waiting for their turn.

The resident male cheetah, known as “Special” was seen hunting impala and red lechwe without success, but had better luck with warthogs which he was seen eating more than once. He was often observed patrolling his territory and scent marking. A female cheetah and cub were also regularly located.

After disappearing for a month, a resident female leopard was back in the area and seen stalking the red lechwe on the marsh. Another time, she successfully killed an impala but unfortunately for her about ten spotted hyenas came and stole her prize; the interaction was amazing to see.  A different female had a young cub and we were lucky to find them enjoying a carcass together up a tree. On a different occasion, the cub was spotted resting in an aardvark hole without its mother who had no doubt gone off in search of their next meal. A strong male leopard was seen feeding for two days on an impala carcass in a tree and the following day resting full-bellied on the ground nearby

General game was excellent with large herds of elephants coming to eat fruits. They were often seen at pans drinking and mud-bathing. The plains had abundant herds of zebra, wildebeest, tssesebe, red lechwe and giraffe. Buffalo were also found grazing in the area. A male sitatunga was viewed from the boat – this rare water-adapted antelope a real highlight for our guests. Other smaller mammals spotted included serval and African civet.

The drying waterholes had trapped fish and frogs, eagerly snapped up by  Saddle-billed Storks, Hammerkops and two different species of pelicans. Secretary Birds, Wattled Cranes, Slaty Egrets and Kori Bustards were other notable bird sightings for the month.

(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, June 2017

IvanaLjolje.Cat7.hyena-KWARA

Once again Kwara averaged 3 predator sightings per day; this month these statistics were boosted by the exciting news that both spotted hyenas and wild dogs were denning in the area. In fact, one remarkable sighting included three predators all at the same time. We had been following the wild dogs who were mobile and hunting, just missing an impala. The dogs then chanced upon a hyena who they managed to corner and seemed intent on killing. As if this was not dramatic enough, the guides drew their guests’ attention to the fact that the whole scene was being observed from a tree above by a female leopard with a fresh impala carcass.

We had been observing the heavily pregnant alpha female wild dog for some time and as she started to be left behind from the pack’s hunting mission we realised that it would not long before she denned. Towards the end of the month it seemed that she had picked out her spot and we look forward to the patter of tiny paws in due course. At this very sensitive time we do our utmost not to disturb her and restrict visits to the den to ensure that the animals are not harassed.

The spotted hyenas have been denning for longer and there appeared to be four cubs. Adults were seen at the den in numbers between two and twelve. One evening two large male lions came into camp and called all night long. In the morning, we located them not far from the staff village. We followed them to the hyena den where a big fight started as the clan defended their den against their mortal enemies. It was fascinating to see the interaction of two male lion and about 14 hyena. Using their whooping call, the hyenas summoned reinforcements and were eventually successful in driving the lions away. Another time a group of 12 hyena were successful in stealing a waterbuck kill from a crocodile.

Several different groups of lions were seen during the month, often hunting or feeding. The groups included the One Eye pride, the Zulu Boys coalition of males, the Shinde Pride and a regular nomadic male known to the guides as “Mr Nose” due to a distinctive tear mark on his muzzle. The three Shinde lionesses were all lactating and we suspected that they had cubs hidden in the area.

The resident female cheetah and her three cubs appeared to be doing well and were seen on a fresh impala carcass, with jackals and vultures waiting impatiently for their turn. Two different male cheetah were also seen marking their territories and hunting, one travelling an unusual 30km return trip between Splash and Four Rivers in a single day.

The resident female leopard was most often spotted near to the boat station where she spent a couple of days on a reedbuck kill up a tree. She was also located in the marsh area where she was actively marking her territory. One of the more amusing sightings of the month was when guides found her jumping up and down on a tree squirrel which still somehow managed to escape the fierce predator.

Very large herds of elephants were encountered on regular basis due to the fact that the pans to the north were drying up. Buffalo were also seen as well as zebras, wildebeest, impala and red lechwe.

Despite the cooler weather, guests continued to enjoy mokoro trips where species ranged from tiny painted reed frogs to pods of curious hippos

Ostriches were a regular sight and two females were seen fighting aggressively. The resident Ground Hornbill family seemed to be thriving and guests were fascinated to see one of the females carrying a spotted bush snake. We followed the birds for almost half an hour, watching her deliberately dropping and picking up the reptile before eventually swallowing it whole. A beautiful flock of 9 Wattled Cranes were also seen 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!)

Kwara, May 2017

COSullivan_Cat2_YoungGiraffe

Once again, Kwara averaged more than 3 predator sightings per day during the month. The most dramatic event during May came after a single nomadic male lion successfully killed a baby giraffe near the Kwara staff village. As dinner was being served in the camp, a tremendous commotion broke out; hyenas started calling each other in to steal the lion’s hard-won meal. The guests were curious to see what was happening, so dinner was adjourned and the guests loaded in safari vehicles to take a closer look. On arrival, we found the lion feeding but surrounded by fifteen hyenas. A few minutes later, the aggression from the hyenas intensified and they started biting the lion from every direction. In the end, they won through sheer numbers and forced the lion to let go whereby he rested a few metres away from the carcass. The noisy fighting continued into the early hours, however by dawn the area was fully cleaned up as though nothing had happened.

The resident pack of seven wild dogs were often seen mobile and hunting; they successfully killed impala twice near to Little Kwara camp. The alpha female was heavily pregnant so it seems likely that she may den in the near future.

Various cheetah individuals and families were encountered during May. The most exciting sighting involved a resident male cheetah who was located by Jackal Den area, resting. All of a sudden, he was keenly focused on a warthog family. He climbed down from the mound and stalked before sprinting and catching one of the sub-adult warthogs. The squeaking of the prey alerted the mother warthog who appeared and jumped on the cheetah, fiercely biting and kicking until the cheetah ran away. Remarkably both prey and predator got away unscathed.

The mother cheetah with her two cubs, now 9 months old seems to have relocated to the Four rivers area where we found her on an impala kill. Towards the end of the month a male had joined the group and were all seen together resting on a termite mound. At one point, the male was testing the female’s urine to see if she was in oestrus.

We were happy to welcome back to the area Juda and Meruba, two magnificent black-maned male lions from the Marsh Boys pride who were last seen 6 months ago. They were joined by two females from the Solo Pride. A different pride of lions comprising one male and two females were seen often and although a small group they provided some dramatic action. On one occasion, they killed a warthog right in front of the game viewers. Another time they made an attempted kill of a young giraffe, missing by only a few inches.
Leopards were found many times, including a female feeding up on a tree with hyena lying in wait at the bottom, ready to snatch any falling bones. A pair of leopards were seen mating, so we hope that they will be successful.

The natural watering holes were drying out after the rains, so large breeding herds of elephants started to come down from the mophane woodlands in order to be closer to the main water channels. The groups included females with small calves. Some of the resident bull elephants were heavily in musth and searching around for females to mate with.

General game continued to be good including sable antelope, large herds of zebra, impala, tsessebe and red lechwe. Giraffe were seen in large numbers – up to fifty individuals in a single drive.

With the water levels dropping there were good sightings of Wattled Cranes, Saddle-billed storks and Yellow-billed storks feeding in and around in the shallow pools. A group of six endangered Southern Ground Hornbills were a regular sight around Double Crossing and could be heard calling in the mornings. Secretary Birds and Lappet-faced Vultures are both nesting in the concession at the current time.

(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!)