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!)

Nxai Pan, Sep 2018

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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!)

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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

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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

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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!)