Nxai Pan, Nov 2019

Desert Storms

November brought the first proper rains of the season to Nxai Pan. Afterwards, springbok could be seen jumping around as though excited by the change in weather. Plant species such as the trumpet thorn came into bloom and the magnificent trees at Baines Baobabs were resplendent with new foliage.

With the natural waterholes filling with rainfall, the game was less concentrated around the two artificial waterholes which are maintained by Kwando Safaris and the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Nevertheless, these two spots were still a great place to find species such as elephant, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, springbok, steenbok and impala. Day trips to Baines Baobabs yielded good sightings of oryx feeding on the new shoots of grass and we also saw lion in that area. Right at the end of the month we saw a herd of approximately 2,000 zebras near Baines Baobabs, heralding the first wave of the herbivores’ annual migration to Nxai Pan.

The resident pride of lions was regularly located at the waterholes as they waited for prey animals to come down and drink. The pride included three cubs who all seemed to be doing well. One day a dominant male was seen fighting with a young male, leaving the older cat with a wound on his front leg. Although the younger lion was also limping, we saw him the next day with a lioness so it appeared that he had won that particular battle for supremacy. At the end of the month we saw one of the resident males mating a lioness. Another time we enjoyed the comical sight of a lioness playing with a leopard tortoise.

A pack of nine wild dogs was located a couple of times near to the Department of Wildlife camping ground. They were full-bellied and resting.

Bat-eared foxes were seen at their den on Middle Road. On one occasion a black-backed jackal showed a bit too much interest in the fox cubs and so the parent foxes attacked the jackal.

A male cheetah was located a few times and was in good condition.

Lots of spider-hunting wasps were feeding on harvester termites. The fungus growth termites started leaving termite mounds in large numbers, taking to the wing as alates after the first heavy rains. Notable reptile sightings for the month included black mamba and leopard tortoises.

Summer migrants returning back to Nxai Pan included European bee-eaters, swallow-tailed bee-eaters, blue-cheeked bee-eaters, woolly-necked storks, steppe buzzards, black-winged pratincoles and Jacobin cuckoos. Nest-building for species such as the white-browed sparrow weavers was well underway and we saw a pair of secretary birds sitting atop their nest. Other species seen during November included greater kestrel, kori bustard, crimson-breasted shrike and ostrich. Three species of vultures (white-headed, white-backed and lappet-faced) were seen feeding on an elephant carcass. Big flocks of Burchell’s sandgrouse could be seen at the camp waterhole, soaking their specially adapted breast feathers so that they could take water back to their chicks. As the rains continued to arrive, birds more commonly associated with water started to be observed, such as the red-billed teal.

(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 2019

TAbt.Cat9.Elephants at Waterhole.NxaiPan

The high temperatures in Botswana persisted through October, bringing huge herds of animals to the waterhole. The elephants continued to dominate the precious resource, so antelope species and even lions were driven away from the water.

We were lucky enough to witness a cheetah stalking and killing a steenbok in the middle of the pan, but close to the road.

A pride of four lions, a big male and three lionesses, were seen feeding on an elephant carcass for several days. The following week two of them were found mating and we saw them on a regular basis as they continued their honeymoon. A different lioness was seen drinking alone at the camp waterhole and also hunting springbok. We saw the four lions regularly; they were often hanging around the wildlife waterhole being warily watched by herds of antelope as they came to drink. One of the lionesses was heavily pregnant and seemed to be distancing herself from the rest of the pride as her delivery time came close. We enjoyed seeing the whole resident pride of seven, including their three sub-adult cubs, as they rested very full-bellied close to the Wildlife Waterhole after they had devoured a greater kudu. Another time a kudu got stuck in the camp waterhole and when the exhausted animal it eventually got out it was taken by a lioness.

Four bat-eared foxes were located regularly along Middle Road, and towards the end of the month they showed us their four new cubs. We also found African wild cat and plenty of black-backed jackals.

A leopard was seen drinking from the water tanks in camp one evening.

Three buffalo bulls continued to regularly visit the camp waterhole.

Spotted hyenas were seen a few times, including drinking at the camp waterhole.

A big black mamba was seen during game drive. In a mini-drama guests were fascinated watching a spider-killing wasp catching and eating a grasshopper.

General game included zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and springbok. Oryx were located along the road to Baines Baobabs. The baobabs themselves have now got their leaves making these giant trees even more impressive than ever.

Bird sightings included secretary birds and kori bustards. Both lappet-faced and white-backed vultures were seen finishing off an elephant carcass. A pair of ostrich were seen mating close to Middle Road and a different pair already had twelve chicks, estimated to be a couple of weeks old. Guests enjoyed ticking off crimson-breasted shrikes, blacksmith lapwings, gabar goshawks, pale chanting goshawks, northern black korhaans and marico flycatchers.

(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 2019

Kwando 2014- 2015

As the dry weather continued huge herds of elephants possessively congregated around the waterholes, barely letting the other animals in for a drink. Guests were able to enjoy watching the interactions between the breeding herds and bulls from the main area and their rooms. Elephants were also browsing the foliage right inside camp.

Spotted hyenas were regular visitors to the camp waterhole and could also be heard uttering their haunting contact calls in the mornings around 6.30am.

Lions were seen a few times including a pride of two lionesses and three cubs who visited the camp waterhole. We saw them try their luck on some passing kudu, but they were not successful. Later that day the lionesses were stalking zebra but once again the predators did not manage to get their meal. One of the resident lionesses was heavily pregnant and had moved away from the rest of the pride. A new male was located and he was looking very nervous; our guides surmised that he may have had a clash with the resident male. A male and female lion were spotted in camp as we escorted guests back to their rooms.

A cheetah was seen heading to the eastern part of camp as we enjoyed our breakfast; it seemed hungry and on the look-out for a meal. We also saw him the next day, only about 200 metres away from the pregnant lioness, but neither predator seemed aware of the other.

Bat-eared foxes were located a few times foraging very close to Middle Road.

A group of four male buffalo could be seen at the waterholes. Other general game included kudu, giraffe, springbok, steenbok, impala, zebra, wildebeest and warthog. Oryx were seen during the drive to Baines Baobabs.

Bird sightings included ostrich, pale chanting goshawks, brown snake eagles, secretary birds and northern black korhaans. :Lappet-faced and white-backed vultures were seen most days.

There was a big bush fire at Nxai Pan in September which started at Baines Baobabs and heading to the pan region and this encouraged animals to migrate to the northern side of the park.

(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, Aug 2019

ELandmann.Cat5NxaiPan2

As the weather started to get warmer elephants spent more time mud-bathing as well as drinking at the camp waterhole. This gave guests great opportunities to view the behaviour of the animals, and occasionally very close up photo opportunities as the animals came to investigate the camp swimming pool.

Three lionesses were located at the Wildlife Waterhole and the following day they had united with one of the resident males. These lions also tried to drink at the camp waterhole but were chased away by elephants who are very protective about the clean water that Kwando provides. One time we saw the lions stalking buffalo, but they were not successful.

Spotted hyena were seen a good number of times at the camp waterhole. In one particularly exciting encounter a lone spotted hyena decided to try his luck hunting blue wildebeest, but the whole herd turned on the predator and chased him away.

The camp waterhole was also visited by three buffalo bulls, warthogs, breeding herds of wildebeest, springbok, zebra and kudu. Day trips out to admire the huge trees at Baines Baobabs also yielded sightings of oryx in a herd of twenty and plenty of steenbok. Other general game included giraffe.

A male cheetah was located along the road in the middle of Nxai Pan.

There was evidence of a male leopard moving through camp and once during a bushman walk we found very fresh tracks from the previous night.

We saw a honey badgers digging for rodents and black-backed jackals were seen feeding on a guinea fowl carcass. We had a lovely view of bat-eared foxes lying close to a termite mound.

Ostrich were seen mating on different occasions, guests enjoying the ritual dance by the male. It was also breeding time for the vultures and we found both white-backed and lappet-faced vultures sitting on their nests. Other great birding ticks for the month were greater kestrels, tawny eagles, crimson-breasted shrikes, double-banded coursers, secretary birds, Bradfield’s hornbills and Cape penduline-tits. A martial eagle was seen eating a guinea fowl carcass behind the camp workshop; the resident pair seemed to be specialising on guinea fowl, however we also saw them eating a northern black korhaan and a slender mongoose. Guests enjoyed watching the brilliantly coloured lilac-breasted roller hawking for grasshoppers.

(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 2019

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With the continued dry weather many different species could be seen congregating around the waterholes in the late afternoons, especially as the afternoon temperatures started to get warmer. This included big herbivores such as elephants and buffalo who are very dependent on having good water availability.

A pride of four lions, a male with three lionesses, was located frequently. The cats were looked full-bellied and in good condition. During the month we found two of the lions mating.

A female leopard was spotted moving through camp by one of our housekeepers.

General game was great and included breeding herds of wildebeest and zebra on the pan. Giraffe were plentiful and could be seen browsing the thorn trees. Springbok herds with up to 100 individuals were located at the Department of Wildlife waterhole alongside a large pride of ostrich. Oryx were located feeding along the road to Baines Baobabs.

Small predators such as black-backed jackals and bat-eared foxes could be observed trotting around looking for food. Jackals have a very varied diet and through the month we saw them foraging for harvester termites, finishing off the carcass of an impala ram and following honey badgers who were digging for rodents. We also saw an aardwolf.

Spotted hyenas, up to five in number, were seen at the camp waterhole early on several mornings.

Large flocks of helmeted guineafowl and Cape turtle doves were seen feeding on grass seeds and harvester termites. Guests enjoyed seeing ostrich dust-bathing. Pale chanting goshawks were often found and one was feeding on a guinea fowl carcass. We also saw blacksmith lapwings mobbing a tawny eagle. Other bird sightings included Burchell’s sandgrouse, secretary birds, greater kestrels, kori bustards, chestnut-vented tit-babblers, black-chested snake eagles and yellow canaries.

(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 2019

E.Landmann.Cat5elephantNxaiPan

Nxai Pan was closed for the month, but although there were no guests, the animals still came to visit us at the camp and waterhole.

Lions were seen frequently, and also heard as they called during the night. Once the lions made a kill of a warthog right in front of camp providing some entertainment for the maintenance team.

Elephants, on the other hand, seemed determined to make life harder for the maintenance crew, necessitating even more repairs to be made, but our team managed to prevail in the end. During the camp closure we made modifications to the waterhole to improve the supply of clean water in the hope that this will keep the elephants from looking for refreshment within the camp itself.

General game included big herds of wildebeest, but the regular zebra visitors had dwindled to just four individuals. We saw impala, warthog and many giraffes.

Black-backed jackals were usually around, and sometimes spotted hyena early in the mornings just after sunrise.

Birds seen at the waterhole included ostrich and yellow-billed storks. We observed a huge flock of vultures at the waterhole which made us go out and see if there was a carcass, but the vultures were just busy preening, bathing and drinking. A martial eagle was seen taking a guinea fowl. Black-breasted snake eagles, tawny eagles and pied crows were other regular visitors.

Dwarf mongoose and banded mongoose were seen in the camp grounds.

(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 2019

RWalker.Cat5Cheetah&Elephant

A male cheetah was located moving along but with a very full belly. Guides reported that this animal was looking very healthy due to the large herds of springbok in the area.

A nomadic male lion was in the area for 3-4 days and he managed to kill a wildebeest near the Wildlife Waterhole. This lion did not seem used to safari vehicles and was still a bit shy. A lone lioness was also seen at the same waterhole and eventually the two paired up and starting mating.

There was very good general game in the area, mostly congregated at the two waterholes. Large herds of elephant were seen drinking whilst springbok, wildebeest, impala, zebra, kudu and giraffe all had to wait their turn. Herds of oryx were grazing on Baobab Loop and herds of up to 300 springbok were grazing on the open plains.

A sub-adult elephant died near to the camp waterhole after we had reported it to the Wildlife Officers the day before as we observed a bad injury to its hind leg. This carcass attracted spotted hyenas and a flock of forty vultures, both white-backed and lappet-faced.

There were many black-backed jackals near to the waterholes where they hunted guinea fowl, scavenged and hunted through elephant dung for beetles. A family of four bat eared foxes were located and honey badgers were seen hunting rodents along West Road.

The day trip to see the massive trees at Baines Baobabs was still popular and along the way guests saw oryx, steenbok and other general game. One time we were lucky enough to see a male leopard basking in the sun at the junction of the Baines Baobab road.

Bird species encountered included kori bustard, secretary birds, helmeted guinea fowl and ostriches. Smaller passerines included marico and chat flycatchers, black-chested prinias as well as the colourful lilac-breasted rollers. There were many pale chanting goshawks and we found one feeding on a cape turtle dove. Another time the goshawks were seen flying along behind two foraging honey badgers, hoping to be able to snatch a rodent that the mammals might flush out from a hole.

(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, Apr 2019

PoupetteDeLauw.Cat4Dungbeetle

Lions were seen regularly at Nxai Pan during April, particularly during the second half of the month. The resident pride consisting of three females and three sub-adults favoured a shady spot close to Room 1 and were frequently located at both the camp and wildlife waterholes. We found a mating pair of lions which was particularly interesting as the male appeared to be new to the area.

The resident male cheetah was seen looking healthy and full-bellied.

A female leopard was seen stalking steenbok along the airstrip road before disappearing into the thickets.

A pack of five wild dogs was located along the main road near to the turnoff to Baines Baobabs. They were just finishing off the carcass of a steenbok.

As the weather dried up elephants started to return to both waterholes in large numbers and breeding herds up to 100 strong were seen. The elephants were often seen right inside camp, sometimes taking a cheeky drink of our swimming pool creating some amazing photo opportunities.

At the start of April there was still very good general game in the area including herds of zebras, springbok, wildebeest and kudu, but as the month progressed the numbers of zebra started to reduce as the annual migration headed back towards the Boteti area. A tower of giraffe was seen licking the soil, a behaviour that helps them to absorb vital minerals.

Lots of black-backed jackals were seen scattering around elephant dung in order to forage on dung beetles. There were several families of bat-eared foxes in the pan area. Honey badgers were also seen digging for mice a few times.

Kwando’s desert camps are always a good place to observe some of the smaller dramas that play out daily and guests spent quite some time watching a dung beetle roll up a ball five times its own size. A highlight for others was watching a black mamba hunt and eat a striped skink.

Bird species identified included pale chanting goshawks, marico flycatchers, crimson-breasted shrikes, lanner falcons, pallid harriers, secretary birds and kori bustards. A flock of over 100 white-backed vultures along with a few lappet-faced vultures were seen bathing at the camp waterhole. Also at the waterhole there were large flocks of Burchell’s sandgrouse and cape turtle doves. Over 100 cattle egrets were seen following wildebeest; these birds taking advantage of the animals’ movement through the grass to disturb insects. Crowned lapwings were nesting and we were able to observe them camouflaging and defending their nests. Northern black korhaans were displaying to attract females.

(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 2019

TAbt.Cat1.Elephant.NxaiPan

At the start of the month there were still a couple of spectacular thunderstorms, but overall this year’s rains were lower than previous years and so the animals started to congregate towards the artificial waterholes sooner than usual. A number of male elephants – up to fifty in one group – were witnessed drinking at the Department of Wildlife waterhole.

We watched as six of the lions, two lionesses and four sub-adults, tried to work as a team to split a zebra calf away from its mother but they were not successful and ended up giving up to lie down in the bushes. The next day a male lion tried to join this group, but the lionesses were not happy with him and chased him away roaring loudly. Another time the adult lionesses allowed three of the youngsters to try hunting some wildebeest on their own, but lack of cover meant that they were spotted too easily and the wildebeest ran away – another important lesson learned by the sub-adults. Later in the month we saw the same pride feeding on a wildebeest a few times and also on a zebra foal near to the camp staff village.

We saw the resident male cheetah fairly often, usually either with a springbok kill, or in the vicinity of these antelope as he eyed up his next meal.

Other smaller mammals included jackals and bat-eared foxes, some of whom had small cubs.

The Wildlife waterhole was a good spot to see general game including elephant, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, giraffe, steenbok and large herds of springbok. One time we watched as two zebra stallions had a vicious fight at the waterhole. Eleven buffalo were spotted grazing as part of a mixed herd with wildebeest.

Bird sightings included ostriches, kori bustards, secretary birds and pale chanting goshawks. There were plenty of vultures including white-backed and lappet-faced.

(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 2019

KAJordan.Cat5Giraffs1yes

During February there were big herds of zebra, wildebeest and springbok, often grazing just in front of camp. Some of the zebra herds were 300 animals strong and they favoured the open pan which gave them good visibility against predators and nutritious grass to graze. One day we were lucky enough to see a zebra actually giving birth.  It was amazing to see how the mares worked together to protect the new foal from the stallion who was keen to get closer.

We were watching a tower of twenty one giraffe including five calves when we noticed that one of the giraffe had a broken horn which was hanging down at the side of its face, most likely as a result of fighting. Unlike European and North American deer species who drop their antlers annually, African antelope horns are permanent fixtures forming part of their skull so this injury was unusual and presumably very painful for the poor animal. Another time we were watching as fifteen giraffe were licking at the soil, a behaviour which helps them to ingest valuable minerals such as calcium and phosphorous.

Two adult steenbok were seen running across the road with a tiny lamb of only a few days old. This was a rare sighting because new born lambs, barely more than a couple of kilograms, are usually hidden out of sight for at least the first two weeks. Guests loved watching the springbok jumping and pronking in an excited fashion after a heavy rainfall. Other general game species seen included impala, red hartebeest, oryx and warthog

Elephants were still visiting the camp waterhole and it was lovely to watch them bathing and splashing from the main area. One time we came across a bull elephant and explained to the guests that they could tell he was in musth from the strong smelling urine that the animal was dribbling all over his back legs.

The resident pride of six lions were seen drinking from the camp waterhole. In this group there were two adult females, one sub-adult female and three playful sub-adult males.  The dominant males were not always with the pride, but we came across one of them sitting on a termite mound roaring. One day we found the pride had killed a wildebeest and were still feeding on the carcass, surrounded by black-backed jackals and vultures.  The lions were also targeting the big zebra herds and we saw a zebra hobbling along with big claw marks as a result of a lucky escape.

The resident male cheetah was seen a couple of times and a lone spotted hyena was seen occasionally, including drinking at the camp waterhole.

Kwando guides enjoy showing guests all aspects of the ecosystems that they work in and one of the smaller, but no less interesting sightings included two tiny lizards of just five centimetres having a fight. Butterflies such as the brown-veined white and African monarch were seen settling in large numbers on fresh elephant dung where they were lapping up the moisture.

Smaller mammals found included bat eared foxes, black-backed jackals, honey badgers and wild cats.

White-backed and the scarcer white-headed vultures were seen bathing in one of the natural waterholes. Steppe buzzards, pale chanting goshawks, pallid harrier, yellow-billed kites and tawny eagles were amongst the raptor species identified. A secretary bird was seen chasing a mouse around until it caught and devoured it and we also watched a kori bustard killing and eating a small black mamba on the open plains. Brilliantly coloured blue-cheeked and swallow-tailed bee-eaters were located as well as three roller species (lilac-breasted, purple and European). A pride of ostrich was found dancing around in the pan, the adults were attempting to protect their chicks from jackal. It was also interesting to find a kori bustard displaying and inflating his neck pouch and fluffing up his feathers to attract females.

(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!)