Nxai Pan, March – July 2020

Nxai Pan SMalan (113)

Big herds of elephants continued to show up at the camp waterhole where they could be seen from the lodge as they drank and mud-bathed. Other animals, such as warthogs, tried to sneak in for a drink, but the elephants were quick to chase them off. Buffalo were also seen drinking from the waterhole, sometimes in herds as large as 200.

Spotted hyenas were also thirsty visitors to the camp waterhole, especially early in the morning, and also ventured inside camp to lap at water dripping from the water tanks.

One night we saw a leopard in camp. Lions could often be heard calling from camp and in April we noticed that one of the Nxai Pan lionesses was lactating, so suspected that she had cubs nearby. Finally, in June, we were delighted to have a sighting of the new cubs for the first time.

One time we found a male cheetah feeding on an ostrich carcass.

Honey badgers were located foraging. Black-backed jackals were spotted trying to catch guinea fowl and also scattering elephant dung to look for beetles. A family of four bat-eared foxes were digging and looking for termites near to the camp.

A very relaxed herd of gemsbok were seen grazing along the road to Baines Baobabs. Giraffe were browsing the thorn trees with young bulls engaged in play-fighting. Springbok were located in the pan area where up to 300 individuals could be viewed pronking and running around in the open space. The majority of the zebra and wildebeest herds left the Nxai Pan area from March onwards as the annual migration departed, although a few remained behind. In June many zebra were seen heading towards the Boteti River to meet the arriving flood waters.

During April there were many butterflies such as acreas and scarlet tips feeding on the flowers of the pincushion veronica.

Relaxed prides of ostrich were located along Middle Road, feeding on the short nutritious pan grasses and we also saw them drinking from the camp waterhole. One time we were lucky enough to witness a male dancing in a mating ritual. A pied avocet was an unusual sighting for Nxai Pan. More commonly viewed species included pale chanting-goshawks, kori bustards, marabou storks, tawny eagles and secretary birds. White-backed and lappet-faced vultures were both in the area. We had an interesting sighting of the male yellow-billed hornbill feeding the female whilst she was nesting inside a tree cavity. During the brooding time the female hornbill loses all her feathers, so is completely reliant on her mate for survival.

(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, Jan 2020

RHebhardt.Cat2NxaiPanelephantszebrasatwaterhole

As the month progressed the numbers of zebra and wildebeest steadily increased and by the first week of January an estimated 5,000 zebra were in the pan area. Springbok and steenbok were also feeding amongst them. Most of the antelope herds had new-born youngsters, taking advantage of the summer salt pan grasses which produce vital minerals for milk production. Giraffes in numbers up to fifty could be seen browsing on the edges of the pan; guests enjoyed watching two young males sparring with each other by “necking”. Kudu and buffalo appeared at the camp waterhole, whilst oryx were seen towards Baines Baobabs.

The resident Nxai Pan pride were making the most of the migration and were seen feasting on zebra frequently. They were generally found in a group of three lionesses and sometimes accompanied by the male lion. We also saw the male lion on a wildebeest kill. Black-backed jackals and vultures could be seen waiting to finish off the carcasses. Once we witnessed the lionesses being chased by elephants. Sometimes the lions were close to camp and we could hear them calling all night.

Elephants still visited the camp waterhole in large numbers, to the delight of guests who could then enjoy watching the herd interactions from their room or the main area. After heavy rains the elephants dispersed to make the most of the natural waterholes.

Reptiles included rock monitors, leopard tortoises, a black mamba and a puff adder.

This particular green season has produced an abundance of butterflies and moths. Species included the blue pansy, African monarch and scarlet-tip.

We saw black-backed jackals digging out rodents at the pan and also were lucky enough to observe them regurgitating food for their puppies at the wildlife waterhole. Bat-eared foxes were foraging for termites along the open plains.

Birding was great and summer migrants included grey crowned cranes, European bee-eaters, black cuckoos, steppe buzzards and pallid harriers. A pair of yellow-billed kites were observed at their nest as they raised their one chick. Abdim’s storks were plentiful with a flock of over one hundred at the camp waterhole. Water birds that appeared following rain included spoonbills, red-billed teal, little grebes and open-billed storks. Lesser flamingos were seen at the pan near Baines Baobabs.

Resident birds seen included kori bustards, chestnut-vented tit-babblers, double-banded coursers, yellow-throated sandgrouse, secretary birds and northern black korhaans. A pale chanting goshawk was seen feeding on a dove. Ostriches and their chicks were seen in large numbers, sometimes as many as fifty adults in the pan area. Red-crested korhaans were engaged in a mating displays whereby the males fly straight up and then tumble to the ground as though shot.

(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, Dec 2019

zebra mother and child in flight

After the first rains of the season the herbivores started to drop their young and we were lucky enough to witness a wildebeest giving birth. The calf was able to stand in ten minutes and was running around after thirty minutes.

As the month progressed, the numbers of zebra started to build into their hundreds as herds arrived as part of their annual migration to the pans. We saw two stallions have a very intense fight for more than half an hour

Bachelor and breeding herds of elephants continued to visit the camp waterhole in large numbers.

The resident pride of lions was seen fairly regularly and they seemed to be specialising on springbok and zebra. Two of the lions were mating over the course of several days and were often surrounded by game species such as giraffe, zebra and wildebeest who seemed to recognise that the cats had other things on their mind than hunting.

A pack of nine wild dogs, four adults and five puppies, were seen resting one day.

The resident male cheetah was observed actively marking his territory by spraying urine on posts such as termite mounds.

Springboks with their lambs were scattered around the pan. Other general game included gemsbok, red hartebeest, giraffe, common duiker, kudu and impala. Most of the antelopes were in breeding season, with lots of new-born babies.

We enjoyed watching a family of four bat-eared foxes playing together at their den and foraging for harvester termites. They included a young cub and a sub-adult as well as the parents. We also found a black-backed jackal den with two puppies.

At Baines Baobabs several elephant bachelor herds congregated together, numbering about sixty animals in total. They were mud wallowing and play-fighting.

We watched three lanner falcons try their luck at catching knob-billed ducks, forcing one duck to dive underwater to escape. After the rains, storks such as Abdims, yellow-billed and open-billed started to appear and we also saw the beautiful grey crowned cranes and lesser flamingos. Other water birds that arrived as the pans filled included red-billed teal, knob-billed ducks, marsh sandpipers, painted snipes and little grebes. Steppe buzzards, yellow-billed kites and pale chanting goshawks were seen together in a mixed flock hawking termites. We were lucky enough to see red-crested korhaans in a courtship display. A dead ostrich was found along East Road, but strangely none of the scavengers seemed interested in it at all.

(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, 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!)