Nxai Pan, July 2019

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!)

Nxai Pan, Jan 2019

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As the rainy season got under way the sweet grasses in the pan came to life creating a beautiful green landscape. This nutritionally important grass is what attracts huge of zebra and wildebeest herds to the Nxai Pan National Park in an annual migration. As expected, the numbers of animals multiplied rapidly as the month progressed.
 
We saw the resident pride of lions comprising two adult females, three sub-adult males and a sub-adult female. The cats appeared to be well-fed as you would expect during this time of plentiful game. One time they were hanging out in camp near to Room 1 and we watched them hunting zebra, but the prey species saw them in enough time and galloped away to safety. Another time the lions got luckier and killed a pregnant zebra close to camp. We saw the subadults on their own whilst their parents were away hunting. We watched them drinking and then one jumped up onto a termite mound posing beautifully for the cameras. That day they looked hungry, but we came across them the following day looking full-bellied and contented. We were pleased to find one of the lionesses who we had not seen for a while back in the area accompanied by three young cubs.
 
The resident male cheetah was located a few times, always looking well-fed.
 
There were still elephants in the area and guests enjoyed watching them drinking and bathing at the waterhole outside the camp.
 
Black-backed jackals were seen, often near to the lions where they were hoping to steal some scraps from their kills. One pair of jackals currently have six puppies aged approximately five months old.
 
Aside from the massive herds of zebra and wildebeest, other general game was good with lots of oryx, giraffe, impala and red hartebeest. Springbok were seen in herds up to 100
 
Guests enjoyed spending time dung beetles rolling their dung balls and African monarch butterflies getting moisture from the elephant dung.
 
Kori bustards were spotted regularly and guests photographed male masked weaver birds building their intricate nests. Flocks of Abdim storks and black storks were seen hanging out close to camp. A pied avocet which is a rare bird to see in the region was located at the Department of Wildlife waterhole. Pale chanting goshawks were feeding on other birds such as Cape turtle doves and once on a black-winged pratincole (we saw up to 500 pratincoles in a single day). Other raptors included martial eagle, tawny eagles, steppe buzzard, pallid harrier, yellow-billed kites and greater kestrels. Different prides of ostrich were in the area, some with chicks. A mixed flock of white-backed and lappet-faced vultures were seen feeding on a zebra carcass.
 
(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 2018

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The resident pride of six lions were seen trying their luck on wildebeest at the Wildlife waterhole. Unfortunately for them the lack of cover made it hard for them to launch a successful ambush. Black-backed jackal were skirting around the periphery of the action hoping to have the chance to scavenge. Two lionesses were also seen hunting springbok in front of the camp, but once again they did not manage. We saw them with three cubs looking very hungry. Later in the month their luck turned and we saw the same lionesses with their young feasting for two days on the carcass of an elephant calf which had died from natural causes. One morning we saw them trying to stalk springbok which were congregated in the vicinity of the waterhole, but failed because the area was too open. We saw the lionesses and cubs in camp one morning, they were calling and trying to locate the rest of the pride.
 
Three cheetah were seen together on the open plains, a male was feeding on a springbok and being watched by two females. The females tried to approach but the male made it very clear that he wanted the meal for himself. Later in the month we had a spectacular sighting of the two females taking down and killing a springbok. A few metres from camp we spotted a male cheetah hunting springbok. It was not successful and the cat lay panting in the shade of an umbrella-thorn tree after the chase. A few days later it seemed that he had had enough of trying to hunt solo and we saw him as he was calling his coalition partner; next time we came across him the two males were back teamed up again.
 
There were still plenty of elephants in the area, congregating at the camp waterhole during the days making for interesting viewing from the main area and the guest rooms.
 
The numbers of antelope increased during the month as they herded towards Nxai Pan to take advantage of the nutritious pan grasses which are so important to support lactation during their breeding season. At the camp waterhole we saw large herds of springbok with lambs. On the way to Baines Baobabs we encountered oryx, steenbok and springbok. Towards the end of the month the annual migration of zebras started to arrive at Nxai Pan.
 
A wonderful family of two adult black-backed jackals with six puppies were found on West Road and a female bat-eared fox with a single puppy was denning on Middle Road. We watched as lots of jackals worked the area around the waterhole, spreading out the elephant dung in search of dung beetles to eat. We were lucky enough to spot a brown hyena although as we were looking at it a black-backed jackal came rushing in from nowhere to chase the bigger predator away.
 
A rock monitor lizard was found foraging on millipedes and grasshoppers.
 
Lots of summer migrants were in the area including steppe buzzards, European bee-eaters, lesser grey shrikes and red-backed shrikes. A pride of ostrich was seen near the waterhole grazing. Lanner falcons were seen close to a termite mound feeding on the winged alates coming out to fly. We also saw many goshawks and kestrels.
 
(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 2018

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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

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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!)