Nxai Pan, Nov 2018

MKidd.Cat6waterhole.jpg

November continued to be mostly dry, with heatwave conditions reported by the Botswana government. This meant that animals in our desert camps thronged to the waterholes. The Nxai Pan main waterhole right outside camp continued to be dominated by huge herds of elephants, though we also saw buffalo, giraffe, springbok, kudu and wildebeest drinking there.

One morning, as guests were enjoying breakfast, they were surprised and delighted by a pack of wild dogs running through camp. The dogs chased around some wildebeest who were at the waterhole, quenched their thirst and then disappeared into bush. A brown hyena was seen quite often in the early mornings at the camp waterhole and once at the Department of Wildlife waterhole as well.

Elephants were constantly passing through camp, browsing as they went. Guests commented on how much they enjoyed hearing them munching as they lay in bed at night. One lady peeped through her window and said “it was so close I could see its eyelashes”!

For most of the month lions were found at the Wildlife waterhole which is where the majority of antelope were coming to drink. With the hot weather it seemed that they had decided to just conserve energy by waiting for the food to come to them it! After some rains towards the end of the month the lions became a bit more active again, operating between South Gate and the waterhole. We found two lionesses feeding on an elephant calf kill. One of the lionesses had three cubs who were getting quite active, walking around and playing. One time two cheetahs got a bit too close to the lions and the pride of six chased them away. In the evenings the lions were vocalising as they located each other and declared their territory.

The resident female cheetah was seen hunting, but more than once the relentless heat became too much for her and she had to rest in the shade panting. One productive morning we located three different cheetah, two females lying next to each other and a third not far away. They looked hungry. We saw the two females again, drinking from the Wildlife Waterhole. A male cheetah was found near to the southern camp grounds.

Smaller mammals located included bat eared foxes and honey badgers. There was an aardwolf den along Middle Road.
Other general game sightings included gemsbok and steenbok. The springbok had started dropping their lambs and we watched their herds increase in size as more animals started to make their way to the pans in search of the salt grasses that are so important to support lactation whilst the ewes are nursing. Giraffe and impala were seen browsing.
One morning, during the bushman walk, the guides spotted a 3-4 metre black mamba quietly sunbathing on a termite mound.

Keen birders enjoyed seeing returning migrants to the area such as European rollers and steppe buzzards. The male Northern black korhaans were starting to call in noisy displays.

(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, Oct 2018

2- Klug.Cat8-Mirroring Dogs 2 nxai

The ongoing dry weather meant that we saw a wider range of animals coming to drink at the Kwando camp waterhole, including some of the more unusual species in the area. We were excited to see a pack of six wild dogs quenching their thirst before going on a hunting mission to the western woodlands. A few days later we were watching jackal hunting guinea fowl at the waterhole when the birds flew up into a tree and the jackals started acting strangely. We were thrilled when a rare brown hyena appeared and we were lucky enough to see it on a few different days afterwards. Other species seen at the waterhole included spotted hyena, buffalo and springbok.
 
All of these animals were seen in the early morning, stealing the opportunity to drink, because by mid-morning every single day huge herds of elephant arrived from the woodlands to the west of camp and dominated the precious resource right through until the middle of the night. This included big solitary bulls, small groups of bachelors and breeding herds. One time a small calf got itself into the waterhole and couldn’t manage to find its way out to the huge consternation of its mother. Eventually it was rescued to safety.
 
The resident pride of eight lions, comprising five females and three males, were usually seen at the wildlife waterhole, where they tended to rest during the day, with an opportunistic eye out for a meal from the visiting antelope species. Two different lionesses were seen there one day and by looking at her teats the guides thought one of them could be nursing, although there was no sign of the cubs that time. A few days later we got lucky and found her three tiny cubs, no more than a couple of weeks old. She was busy hiding them in a bush to protect them from other predators. The next day the guides were very pleased when they managed to locate her den site.
 
We saw a male cheetah kill an ostrich chick and quickly eat it out in the open before a group of jackals could try to steal it from him. We saw him later in the month looking very well fed. The resident female cheetah was often found on the eastern side of camp, favouring umbrella thorn trees for shade from the strong sun. One time we saw her heading towards the wildlife waterhole for a drink, but she spotted some lionesses and quickly changed her direction to avoid a conflict with the larger cats. A few days later we saw her trying to hunt some springbok, but she was not successful.
 
Towards the end of the month an adult aardwolf was seen back in the same spot where a pair denned last year, so we will be watching with interest to see if it looks like they will be having cubs there again.
Day trips to Baines Baobabs yielded big herds of oryx grazing on the open plains. Tracks of wild dogs were also seen along the road to Baines.
 
General game was good, especially at the Department of Wildlife waterhole where several species such as springbok, kudu, impala, giraffe, wildebeest, elephants and ostrich could all be seen at once.
Birders enjoyed sightings of Southern pale chanting goshawks, green-backed pytilia, camaropteras, violet-eared waxbills and cape penduline tits. The dry weather attracted large flocks of birds such as guineafowl, sandgrouse and doves to the two waterholes in the National Park.
 
After a rainfall in the middle of the month, a large number of birds were seen feeding on harvester termites including lanner falcons, swallow-tailed bee-eaters and kori bustards. Summer migrants, including the blue-cheeked bee-eater, continued to return to 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!)

Nxai Pan, Sep 2018

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Huge herds of elephants made a spectacle at the camp waterhole every day, drinking and mud-bathing. Their antics continued through the night, with their noisy splashing and rumbling a constant sound track. Although elephants dominated, it was not uncommon to see a queue of up to seven mammal species at once waiting for their turn to quench their thirst. These animals commonly included giraffe, kudu, impala, springbok, zebra and wildebeest, but we were also lucky enough to find a male eland and some buffalo.
 
The resident pride of ten lions were seen most frequently at the wildlife waterhole. This is a favourite spot of theirs to ambush antelope as they come down to drink so we were often found watching the pride, who were watching their prey, in anticipation of some action. Our patience was rewarded and we saw them trying unsuccessfully to catch both wildebeest and kudu there on a few occasions. A pair of lionesses with three tiny cubs of about a month old were seen for the first time. We were able to enjoy a lovely sighting of them suckling their cubs.
 
A male cheetah was located more than once. The first time we saw him he was mobile and looked hungry, so it was good to find him on a springbok carcass a couple of days later. There were many jackals waiting for a chance to scavenge. The next day we saw the female cheetah drinking at the wildlife waterhole. This was the resident individual who the previous month had lost all three of her cubs to lions. We were pleased to find her on carcasses during the month and know that she was doing well.
 
A pair of spotted hyenas visited the camp waterhole for a drink more than once.
 
Honey badgers were seen in the middle of the pan digging for rodents and on occasion we were able to see them catch their prey. Bat eared foxes were also sighted regularly.
 
We managed to find a pair of ostrich accompanied by seventeen hatchlings. From birth ostrich chicks are able to accompany their parents as they graze. Some black-backed jackals were darting around hoping for the opportunity to snatch a chick, but the male ostrich defended his family vigorously.
 
A pair of secretary birds were seen foraging on the pan and could be seen roosting after sunset. It is a magnificent sight to see these huge birds perched in a tree. An unusual sighting was a dark chanting goshawk feeding on a cape turtle dove. An African cuckoo, which is a regional migrant, was spotted. Other notable ticks were sabota larks, marico flycatchers, Burchell’s sandgrouses and kori bustards.
 
(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!)

CBevan.Cat4Cheetah&cubs.jpg

At the start of the August a female cheetah with her three cubs were seen hunting. Or at least that was the mother’s plan – the three cubs were more interested in playing than stalking, meaning that their chases were unsuccessful. A couple of days later they tried again and the female successfully brought down and killed an impala but this was not a story with a happy ending for the cheetah family. The Nxai Pan pride of lions were hunting nearby and took over the carcass, killing one of the cubs on the spot. The next day the mother appeared to still be calling for her dead cub when they bumped into the lions for a second time and once again they killed a cub. The female bolted with her sole remaining baby but sadly in a weak and hungry state she then abandoned her youngster for a couple of days. It was seen surrounded by black-backed jackal and eventually disappeared, our guides suspecting that the jackal killed it in the end. For the rest of the week the mother was mainly seen mobile, behaving as though she was still seeking her cubs. We were glad to see her looking full-bellied and more relaxed a few days later. A male cheetah was seen north of the lodge trying his luck on impala but didn’t manage to succeed.

Three lionesses with their six sub-adult cubs were seen a few times. One night they came into camp whilst we were serving dinner and started calling. Two males arrived, but seemingly not the ones that the lionesses had been expecting or wanting as a noisy fight ensued which continued throughout the night. Eventually the male lions were chased away. The pride spent a lot of time near the Wildlife Department waterhole where they laid in the shade, but always with an eye on the possibility of making an opportunistic kill of antelope coming to drink. We were able to watch them make a kill of a kudu in this way after waiting patiently for one and a half hours. A new lioness accompanied by a sub-adult male were seen on Middle Road. They were extremely skittish, hiding when vehicles approached and even charging.

A brown hyena was located near to the Wildlife Department waterhole just after sunset. Two spotted hyena were seen at the camp waterhole. Tracks from a male leopard were found in camp a couple of times, though the cat remained elusive.

As the temperatures rose the herds of elephants coming to the camp waterhole started getting larger and larger. The elephants continued to assert their dominance over this precious resource. Even a lone bull elephant refused to let the pride of nine lions come to drink. Such was the competition for water at the waterhole that many elephants came into camp looking for alternative sources. They eyed up the camp swimming pool making for some spectacular photo opportunities.

There were good herds of mixed game species such as wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala, springbok and steenbok at the Wildlife Department waterhole. Bat-eared foxes, honey badgers, scrub hares and black-baked jackals were smaller mammals observed.

In the early mornings lots of doves and guinea fowl came to the camp waterhole to drink. Black-backed jackals were usually there as well hoping to snatch breakfast from the flocks. Ostrich, secretary birds and kori bustards were regularly seen striding across the pans. Smaller birds identified included the marico flycatcher, capped wheatear, black-eared waxbills, crimson-breasted shrike and southern white-crowned shrike.

(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

VerenaS_7_playing cheetah cub

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!)

Nxai Pan, June 2018

TAbt.Cat5.Dirty dancing.NxaiPan

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!)

Nxai Pan, May 2018

Nxai Pan - Elephants

Predictably, as the natural water sources dried up and the weather stayed dry the herds of elephants returned to the camp waterhole in huge numbers. With the clear viewpoint from the main area and rooms, guests were able to spend their siesta time watching lots of interesting interactions within the elephant family groups.

A resident pride of nine lions (three lionesses with six sub-adult cubs) were spotted on different occasions hunting. As the natural waterholes dried up we noticed that the lions’ movement pattern became more predictable. They would visit the camp waterhole, then move in a clockwise direction around the pan before completing their loop via the Department of Wildlife waterhole. They appeared to be specialising in killing giraffe calves as there were lots of them in the area.

At the start of the month we saw the two resident sub-adult cheetahs very regularly, including hunting. A male cheetah was also seen hunting in the middle of the pan but without success.

There were only a few zebras remaining in the pan, but plenty of giraffe, wildebeest, warthogs and black-backed jackals. Bat-eared foxes were also seen resting. Springbok, oryx and steenbok were mainly towards Baines Baobabs with just a few in the Nxai Pan area.

Plenty of raptors were seen in the area including lanner falcons, pale chanting-goshawk, Gabar goshawk, martial eagles, black-shouldered kites and secretary birds. Smaller species included scaly-feathered finches, black-chested prinias, bee-eaters, ant-eating chats, and various species of larks and flycatchers. Kori bustards and ostriches could be seen striding out across the pans.

At Baines Baobabs the trees were starting to lose their leaves, their bare branches looking remarkably like inverted roots, earning the species their nickname of ‘upside-down tree’. On a day trip to Baines Baobabs we saw an interesting fight between a Mozambique Spitting Cobra and a Puff Adder; these two highly venomous snakes engaged in a deadly duel.

 

(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, April 2018

NXAI PAN - RHebhardt.Cat2NxaiPanelephantszebrasatwaterhole

The Nxai Pan pride were seen extremely regularly during April and were looking in great condition, which is to be expected at this time of year as they have just enjoyed the benefit of the annual zebra migration. There were still plenty of zebra herds in the area and the lions were seen stalking them. Usually we saw them as a pride of 9, three lionesses together with their six very playful cubs. Occasionally they were joined by a male – especially when there was food to be eaten. The pride of ten were seen feasting on a wildebeest carcass for a couple of days. Another time they were all together on a giraffe kill. Despite the size of the carcass, the male refused to let the rest of the lions eat. When the lionesses were without food, the male lion tended to be seen on his own.

A mother cheetah with her two sub-adult cubs was seen hunting right in front of camp however the herd of zebras that she was targeting stood together to chase the cats off. We observed that the female cheetah seems to be teaching the two youngsters to be more independent and they were sometimes seen on their own, but still calling for their mother.  A male cheetah was seen hunting between the Department of Wildlife camp and the main waterhole. A different female was seen resting along the main waterhole road before heading east into the woodlands. This is a particularly relaxed individual and we saw her more than once during the month.

Some elephant bulls were still in residence, although less in number whilst the natural waterholes elsewhere were still full. Giraffe were seen feeding on the acacia trees. Plains game species included springbok and oryx who seemed to enjoy feeding under the trees. In an adorable sighting two steenbok were seen playing with their young lamb. Most unusually a bushbuck was spotted outside the camp gate; this is unusual as this species tend to be found in more riverine areas.

Some interesting smaller animals were seen on the way to Baines Baobabs including bat-eared foxes, jackals, steenbok and slender mongoose. The pan by the historic trees still shimmered with water and although it was starting to dry up there were still aquatic birds such as African spoonbill, red-billed teal, glossy ibis and back-winged stilt. The baobabs themselves were still adorned with a crown of green leaves.

At Nxai Pan other bird species identified included northern black korhaan, ostrich, kori bustard and pale chanting goshawks.

(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, Mar 2018

A.Haberfehlner.cat.6.Baines

The zebra and wildebeest migration was still in full swing at the start of the month, with thousands of extra animals in the park. By the middle of the month the rainfalls started to become less frequent and slowly the zebra numbers started to reduce. However other species such as giraffe, ostrich, wildebeest and springbok were still very plentiful. As the zebras started to move away, the bull elephants started to return to the Nxai Pan area where we can expect to see herds steadily increasing in number over the coming dry months.

Day trips to Baines Baobabs continued to be very popular with our guests, especially as the pans were full of water making the landscape exceptionally beautiful. A big herd of oryx relaxing their calves near to the historic trees made for some beautiful photographs. Two buffalo were seen on the road to Baines.

The resident pride of lions was enjoying the bountiful food supply as a result of the zebra and wildebeest migration and were seen frequently, looking extremely well fed. The pride currently comprises three lionesses with their six playful sub-adult cubs, with an adult male also being seen with them from time to time. More than once we saw them engaging in roaring stand-offs with the resident cheetah family, although it seemed that neither species was keen to engage in a physical fight. The cheetahs were always quick to move off when threatened by the lions.

This mother cheetah with her two sub-adult cubs was seen often, usually along the middle road of the pan where they were hunting for springbok. Although we didn’t manage to see them actually making a kill, they looked in really condition so it seems that they were being successful. A male cheetah was also seen during the month.

A pair of wild dogs were seen during the month and they appeared to be travelling large distances between the camp watering hole, the Department of Wildlife watering hole, and even out towards Baines Baobabs

Smaller mammals were not as plentiful as they are during the dryer months, but there were still black-backed jackals in the area. Leopard tortoises were also seen.

We experienced some spectacular storms which made driving conditions tricky. The rains encouraged shrubs such as the wild stock rose and trumpet thorn to produce their flowers.

The good rains meant that we started to see some birds more usually associated with wetlands than desert such as red-knobbed coot, Egyptian goose and red-billed teals. At Baines Baobabs there were also black-winged stilts and glossy ibis. Other more common residents seen included kori bustard, ostrich, northern black korhaan and double-banded coursers. Greater kestrels, a seasonal migrant, were also spotted.

(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, Feb 2018

F Pieterse.cat6thunderstorm at sunset nxai

After an exceptionally dry January which appeared to stop the usual zebra and wildebeest migration, we were hoping for late rains to arrive in February and we were not in the least disappointed. The gathering afternoon thunderclouds made for memorable sundowner stops with the different shaped clouds and colours giving some incredible photo opportunities.

Right from the start of the month we experienced very regular rainfall at Nxai Pan and as the wet weather continued the game started to return in large numbers. Every day, the herds of zebra, wildebeest and giraffe increased, congregating at the natural watering holes which had filled up at last.

With the return of the prey species, came the predators. The dominant male lions had not been seen for a while, they had probably followed the herds as they moved away, so we were delighted to find them back in Nxai Pan on 5th February, full bellied and resting after enjoying a good meal. They announced their return with plenty of calling that night and the following day were found reunited with the rest of the Nxai Pan pride comprising three females and six cubs. The young lions are at a very playful stage, engaging in games of chase and pulling each other down, all good practice in terms of learning essential hunting skills, but making for some charming photographs as well. The lions were making the most of the zebra herds and were seen feasting on kills.

Also back in the area after having been away for a little while was the resident male cheetah. He was looking in great condition. He is a very mobile individual, covering the whole area from the west to the east of the pan. A female cheetah with two sub-adult cubs were seen at the wildlife waterhole, surrounded by some very nervous zebras who were alarm calling.

Two wild dogs, an alpha male and alpha female were seen in front of the camp more than once, but were chased away by a breeding herd of elephants from the waterhole. They were also seen hunting springboks in the pan area.

A family of four bat eared foxes were seen regularly along the Middle Road of Nxai Pan. They could be seen looking for food such as grasshoppers and other insects amongst the grasses. Black-backed jackal were often seen near to the larger predators, hoping for the opportunity to scavenge from their carcasses.

Elephants were still in the area, but not in the huge numbers that we see at Nxai Pan during the dry season. Now that the natural pans had filled, they were using the opportunity to browse vegetation further away from the permanent water sources that they rely on at other times of the year.

Cooler weather provided good birding conditions and we had some exciting summer visitors to admire. Two Denham’s bustards were located during the month. This was an exciting sighting of an uncommon seasonal migrant to the area which has been classified as ‘near threatened’. Big flocks of black-winged pratincoles could be found near to the natural pans and the two permanent waterholes. Lots of vultures were in the area, waiting for the predators to make inroads in to the migrating herds.

(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!)