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Category: Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan May 2013

 

In the beginning of May, it’s hard to get out of bed. It’s the beginning of the change in weather, as the temperature at night begins to drop, and the idea of getting up at 5.30 a.m. means getting out of the snug warm duvet in the darkness, getting dressed quickly, and moving as fast as possible to the fireplace, for a welcome cup of coffee. For those that were a little slow to get started one morning, it meant an enforced delay in getting their cup of coffee…. For those first around the camp fire, most were staring into the warming flames, though one of the eagle-eyed guides was looking out towards the waterhole, still barely visible at such distance in only half-light. A moving shape alerted his interest, with his initial reaction being that it was a brown hyena (rumours of a company-wide scheme of rapid promotion for the first person to show a brown hyena to the writer of this report may have had something to do with it). A little closer look, and the brown hyena turned out to be a lioness, with another lioness following close behind. As they moved away from the water hole, towards the camp, a quick count of guests at the fire place (now much more awake) and the realization that two guests were taking a few extra minutes getting out from under the duvet. To complicate matters, the lionesses were now making a bee-line for the gap between rooms 5 & 6. Very quickly, the sleepy guests had a vehicle not far from their bedroom with the guide telling them not to go outside till the cats had moved off. Luckily, the vegetation between the rooms is not very lion friendly. The lions soon moved back out into the open to warm up in the sun, enabling the guests to finally secure a good cup of coffee! Later in the morning, the lionesses moved off to the east of the camp, to lie up under the scrubby acacias, in the hope of catching something a little later.

Although the nights are cooler, the days are still warm, and wildebeest, oryx and other general game are seen resting in the shade of the small trees that dot the edge of the pan, and the tracks to Baines Baobabs. Moving to the main waterhole to drink, there is relief there for the thirsty animals, but right of way still belongs to the elephants, who shove the wildebeest away from the waters edge. Ostriches also move in to drink from time to time, and a pair were seen with a flotilla of knee-height chicks following along the way.

The 9th of May was a lucky day for two kudus who almost fell upon two lionesses as they approached the waterhole. The lionesses ignored them, focusing more intently on the other game that was drinking at the water hole. Perhaps they were just whiling the day away, as the lionesses didn’t make a move on any individual. The next day wasn’t such a lucky one for a zebra, as a herd of zebras was seen fleeing from Baobab Loop, and we made the discovery of one lioness having just caught one.

Lions were seen several days in a row in mid-May, with the Main Waterhole being the key area. Of a group of six lions, one male and female were mating for several days, ignoring the presence of the others, and pretty much any other animal nearby.

Cheetahs were seen several times as well this month, and we were able to follow them for two days in a row whilst they desperately searched for something to hunt. They travelled a distance of roughly ten kilometers over the two days, without seeming to have any success.

It’s not just the big predators that get to make the kills out here – raptors often take one of the many thousands of guinea fowl that roam around the ground. One raptor, a martial eagle (the biggest raptor we have) did well to catch his meal of a guinea fowl, but then lost it immediately to a brave black backed jackal!

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Nxai Pan April 2013

Peguese.Cat2Springbok Nxai

Although Nxai Pan was a little quieter this month in terms of the numbers of guests visiting, we still got to show some lovely game to the visitors that stayed with us. There are still plenty of springbok around, and we are beginning to see small breeding herds of elephants, in addition to the bulls that are with us the whole year around.

We had great cheetah sightings – in fact, we saw cheetah every day for ten days in a row from the middle of April. One particular sighting was very amusing, where two adults were painstakingly stalking some springbok, only to lose their quarry when a jackal that was following them made a noise and spooked the springbok. They must have had some success eventually, as two days later they were found relaxing with full bellies. Not too far from them, a male and a female lion were seen mating.

Another day, and it was all happening at the main water hole – two cheetah were drinking at the waterhole just as a group of kudu also decided to drink. The kudu were extremely nervous, and the cheetah’s tail flicked from sided to side, watching them ou out of the corner of their eye – but leaving them alone for the time being. A little later, two lions were seen relaxing not far from the waterhole. Highly unusual, the next day the two lions and two cheetahs were back at the same waterhole, at the same time. Both species of animals seemed uninterested in the other, and continued to drink and relax next to the waterhole. Whilst all this was going on, zebra, springbok, ostriches, wildbeest, jackals and elephants continued to come in towards the waterhole, and await their turn, nervously!

The 29th of April was a wonderful day at Nxai Pan, with the arrival of 6 wild dogs! A very rare sighting in the Nxai area, the dogs were found between the Wildlife Camp and the West Road, chasing springboks around the plain. Jackals followed the dogs at a short distance, in the hope that these amazing predators would catch one, that they might then have the left overs! Sadly, the dogs moved off without having any success in their hunt – at least as far as we were able to see.

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Nxai Pan March 2013

NXAI PAN JODea.Bat Eared FoxMammals

The first of the March morning game drives began with three males lions resting by the Main waterhole on Kgama Kgama road. A lovely way to start, though one of the lions looked a little morose for some reason! Other days saw them returning to that water hole to lay in wait for prey to approach, and we also had six lions visiting the camp waterhole early one morning, just in time for the morning coffee and muffins.

The next day we were able to witness two cheetah socializing in such away that you could almost understand what they were saying.

Queues at the waterholes continue, as the smaller animals wait for the elephants to move off before approaching. The camp waterhole often has 12-15 elephants at a time drinking there – which can create a bit of a bar brawl amongst themselves as they all crowd around looking for the purest section of water.

One morning game drive provided lovely views of the less famous predators: spotted hyena, four bat-eared foxes and a honey badger.

 

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Nxai Pan February 2013

Cullivan_Cat2_elephantwateringhole NXAI 

The zebras are still grazing around Nxai Pan, in their hundreds, with their young growing fast. Light rains early in the month will help encourage new growth of grass, and coax the animals to stay a little longer, before they move off to greener pastures.

Unlike the zebra, giraffes don’t migrate and stay in the park throughout the year. There was a lovely sighting of 17 adults and 10 young congregating together, and feeding on the leaves of the shrubs.

A shy, large male leopard was briefly seen on the Western Road – he quickly moved off as the car approached. Lions were seen several times, with two unknown males moving away quickly when the car approached, and another much more relaxed male with a female who were mating. The lioness made an attempt at hunting afterwards, but she was unsuccessful. The male looked on, exhausted!

Although there are plenty of places to drink at the moment, with the heavy rain that fell in January still collecting in larger pans, there is nothing elephants enjoy more than a good deep drink, with plenty of space for everyone to drink at once… Hence, the waterhole in front of camp is still popular with elephants, including a herd of 12 adults with a youngster that water levels were sufficient for a bath, as well as a drink!

Another day, it was thirsty work for everyone, as the two male cheetahs arrived at the camp waterhole to drink, whilst a group of elephants were also drinking. The bull elephant’s, in spite of never being in danger from a cheetah, decided that they did not want anyone else to drink at the same time, so began trumpeting and chasing the cheetahs around, in a bizarre twist to the ‘cat and mouse’ game.

A few days later, it was a female cheetah that had to suffer the same fate as a bull elephant took a dislike to sharing ‘his’ waterhole with such an animal! Two sub-adult cheetahs however, had more luck with their hunting skills, and managed to bring down an impala in a cloud of dust after some concentrated stalking.

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Nxai Pan January 2013

NEarly.Cat7 Zebra Family NXAI

A phenomenal month at Nxai Pan with the zebra migration in full swing. The foals are already quite big, and all the herds look in great condition – apart from the odd one or two that show tell-tale signs of having a close shave with a lion.

Everywhere you look on the pan, hundreds and hundreds of springbok are milling around, with their young offspring bouncing and pronking (yes that is a real word, it describes the vertical springing jump with arched back that springbok make!) . Not exactly sure of the cars, the young sometimes approach closer than the adults out of curiosity, before moving off, with their out of proportion rabbit-like ears flicking to and fro.

With there being so many zebra around the park, the lions have dispersed, as there is no need to stay close to the waterholes, hoping that something will come down to drink. In addition, three days of heavy rain – the most rain northern Botswana has seen in 40 years! – meant that there are pans in many more spots, rather than the few isolated waterholes. Two male intruder lions were seen at the beginning of the month, but the young pride also saw them and moved out of the way quickly! Sadly, it’s thought that these male lions then moved out of the park and into the surrounding areas to the west, where they spent several weeks in January catching the much easier prey of domestic cows. There was a report at the end of the month of farmers shooting these ‘problem animals’.

The cheetahs, however, are still around, and we have had some lovely sightings. One of these included a young male who was seen close to the road, only a few minutes after heading out of the camp on morning game drive. He was posing elegantly, and was very photogenic. At one point, he decided that he needed to practice his hunting skills, and instead of focusing on one of the numerous springboks that were never far away, his attention was drawn to a very suspicious looking pile of elephant dung. He leapt and pounced on it, and created his own game of football with the dried dung, much to the amusement of the on-lookers!

The waterholes do still draw different species together, though perhaps not with as much angst as it can be during the dry season, it’s still important to be cautious when drinking. That must somehow explain the interesting meeting of a zebra and a leopard tortoise at one waterhole one afternoon. The tortoise had made it to the edge of the water, and was about to drink, when an approaching zebra startled him. He quickly withdrew his head and legs into the safety of his shell, but the sudden movement in turn startled the zebra. The two animals then proceeded into a ‘duet of startlement’ as each one alternately relaxed, then noticed the other one, made a quick withdrawal, in turn startling the other animal. Eventually, both animals realised they were not under immediate attack, and managed to get on with the business of drinking.

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