Kwara Reserve, Oct 2018

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There was incredible predator action at Splash during October with lions being seen every single day.
 
On average our guides and trackers managed to find three predator sightings per day and on some dates there was a “full house” of lion, leopard, wild dogs, cheetah and hyena.
 
A pack of four wild dogs, two adults and two sub-adults, were seen chasing impala around camp and were successful in bringing down their prey making a fantastic end to the afternoon safari that day. They were seen often hunting around the camp after that, sometimes making kills. One time they interrupted early morning breakfast with a kill right by the front entrance, Another time they almost lost their kill to leopards. A different pack of five adults and four young were located near to Motswiri Pan where they had just finished devouring an impala. A third pack of eighteen, the dogs who denned in June at Little Kwara, were seen one day resting next to the airstrip, much to the delight of departing guests who had mistakenly thought that their safari was finished. When staying on the Kwara Reserve you shouldn’t pack your camera away until the very last second!
 
An alarm call from a side-striped jackal alerted us to the presence of a predator one morning. We picked up cheetah tracks and followed them until we found the beautiful resident female looking relaxed and well-fed. A resident male was seen on the majority of days during October. He was mostly resting or patrolling his territory but a few times he was hunting and we were lucky enough to be able to see him make his kill.
 
The Splash pride of lions was seen in front of camp drinking water, making for a wonderful photographic opportunity. The pride consists of two males, two females and six cubs. The mothers were very protective of their cubs, always hiding them away in the Kalahari Apple Leaf during the days before venturing out to drink at the camp waterhole. A male lion was heard roaring north east of camp so we explored in that direction and came across him with two females relaxing in the early morning sun.
 
Two male lions known as ‘Puffie’ and ‘Big Man’ had killed a hippo but they were displaced from their hard-won carcass by the two resident males of the Splash pride. When we visited the area the next day all the lions had gone and been replaced by an impressive clan of twenty three hyena gorging themselves on the huge carcass, surrounded by vultures. We also came across spotted hyenas bathing in water, trying to find relief from the soaring temperatures.
 
We enjoyed tracking a leopard to New Bridge and our guests appreciated the effort taken to locate the handsome tom. After an hour and a half we found the cat in the process of killing a baboon. Spotted hyenas were also in the area as they had also been following the leopard, but the tom was successful in driving them away and hanging onto his carcass. Two female leopards, a mother and daughter, responded to the call of a side-striped jackal. We followed them as they discovered that the jackal was alarmed by wild dogs who had killed an impala, but the wild dogs had finished their kill by the time the leopards arrived and moved off.
 
General game in the area was rewarding, including beautiful roan antelope. Elephants, giraffe and buffalo were plentiful. Other plains game species included zebra, kudu, wildebeest, warthog, waterbuck, impala and red lechwe. Troops of baboons and vervet monkeys entertained guests with their playful antics.
 
We saw an encouraging number of vultures in the area including hooded, white-backed and a few white-headed. We were excited to see lappet-faced vultures nesting east of Splash camp. There were plenty of ground hornbills, some of whom had chicks. A pair of secretary birds was nesting near to Impala Pan.
 
(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!)

Kwara Reserve, Sep 2018

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Two lionesses had a den near to Mabala Dikgokong where they were raising six cubs. They were seen very often and our guiding team now fondly refer to them as the ‘Splash Pride’. They were often near to their den, feeding on impala, reedbuck, and zebra kills (the pride was so effective that they were collectively described by one guide as “a killing machine”!) The cubs were very active, usually playing around, and we enjoyed watching them nurse from their mothers. One day we had a gorgeous sighting of them drinking at a waterhole, their perfect reflection making for a wonderful photo opportunity. They were disturbed from their original den by two females from the Mma Leitho pride, but continued to be sighted most days. After chasing off the Splash Pride the females of Mma Leitho joined up with two resident males and ended up killing a tsessebe together. Two new male lions were seen to the east of Splash.
 
A big pack of twenty two wild dogs was seen on the eastern side of the Kwara reserve and were regularly targeting impala. The Kwara pack of wild dogs appeared again after about a month’s absence. During their time away they appeared to have lost one of their puppies, but still had ten youngsters, now hunting with the adults. We saw that they managed to kill a red lechwe, a reedbuck and also an impala, although lions drove them off the latter and took over the carcass. A third pack of just three adults with two puppies were found on the eastern side of the Kwara reserve and were seen feeding on an impala.
 
The resident male cheetah, affectionally known as “Special” was following his usual pattern of traversing the whole Kwara reserve from east to west. He was seen feeding on a warthog piglet and we also saw him chase down and kill and impala. He killed an adult warthog near to the Old Mokoro Station where we saw him feasting, surrounded by hungry vultures and side-striped jackals.
 
On one day we saw a fascinating intraspecific competition: the male cheetah killed an impala but was driven away by a leopard and in turn the carcass was stolen by the lions. We followed a new female cheetah as she hunted, although she was not lucky on that occasion. There was also a new male cheetah in the area.
To gain respite from the steadily-increasing daytime heat the leopards were enjoying resting on shady branches of the Sausage Trees which were now in full bloom displaying striking blood-red flowers. We found a male and female leopard together on such a tree, but the female was a little skittish and jumped down. A female leopard in the Splash area was gradually getting used to the safari vehicles and one day was seen drinking at the camp waterhole. We managed to drive around to take a closer look and after initially ducking into some bushes she came out and rested on a termite mound giving us a better opportunity to enjoy her. There was also a young male resident in the area.
 
Spotted hyena were often seen in the Splash area, and inside camp itself.
 
There were lots of elephants in the area, with a breeding herd coming to drink at the camp waterhole in the afternoons. Further afield we enjoyed watching elephants cross the channels and especially seeing how they worked together to help their calves climb up the steeper banks. Bachelor herds of buffalo bulls were seen regularly in the marsh where we watched them feeding and mud-bathing. Overall, the general game was very plentiful.
A honey badger was seen killing a rock python in an incredible tussle.
 
By the start of September the flood waters were high and had attracted lots of waterbirds to the area including herons, slaty egrets and carmine bee-eaters. The heronry sites at Xobega and Gadikwe were both active. Yellow-billed kites had returned to the area for the summer months.
 
(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!)

Kwara Reserve, Aug 2018

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As is often the case in the Kwara Reserve, the fierce intra-specific competition between predators led to some interesting sightings. One morning a sub-adult female leopard was located feeding on an impala carcass up a tree. Whilst we were watching her a pack of wild dogs appeared opposite her and then a male lion came along the same road. The lion killed one of the puppies meaning that there are only eight left with four adults. Although the guests were sad at the way the morning turned out for the dogs, it was a fascinating to witness the interaction between three of the major predators in the region.

The same sub-adult female leopard was located on a giraffe carcass. She leapt up into a nearby tree and started to eat a kill she had previously stashed there of a side-striped jackal. Two sub-adult leopards who are brother and sister were seen in the Machaba area for over two weeks. They were very relaxed around the game viewers and we were able to enjoy watching them stalking francolins.

We were blessed with separate packs of wild dogs during August, a pack of two with three puppies were often hunting impala around Splash camp and we found them on their kills. Another pack comprising four adults with eight puppies (having lost one to the lions). They also came right through the middle of Splash camp just as the guests were finishing their tea. We immediately dashed to the vehicles and were lucky enough to see the dogs make a kill east of camp. Each time we saw this pack and their puppies they seemed a little bit more relaxed around the vehicles than the previous time.

A female cheetah with two cubs was seen moving away from a troop of baboons; she was being followed by the resident male known as “Mr Special”. We left them looking well fed and resting under the Kalahari apple-leaf trees. It was a busy month for the male cheetah as he traversed huge areas from west to east and was seen actively marking his territory. Towards the end of the month he was tending to stay on the west of the Kwara Reserve, the guides thought that this was perhaps because of the increased lion activity on the eastern side. We saw the cheetahs regularly on impala kills. On one particularly rewarding morning we saw both Special and the female with two cubs on two separate kills.

The resident pride of lions near to Splash comprised two males and two females. The younger male was seen mating with a female with the others resting about seventy metres away. We found two of them scavenging on a carcass that they stole from the wild dogs. In another area two lionesses with their six cubs were having a productive time, successfully killing two kudus on two consecutive days. For the first times we saw this pride together with the two males who had fathered the cubs and it was great to see them all socialising together. On another game drive we found the pride of eight on a fresh impala kill. A few minutes later a clan of eight spotted hyena came and stole the kill from the lions. On a different day we discovered the hyenas looking well-fed and covered in blood. We back-tracked and found a giraffe carcass loaded with vultures.

Big breeding herds of elephant could be seen feeding and bathing near to Lechwe Plains.

Two honey badgers made themselves at home foraging around the camp paths on a daily basis. A relaxed serval was discovered twice in one week at Lechwe Plains.

Wildcat were also hunting around Splash Hippos.

A Slaty Egret was resident east of the airstrip at the bridge crossing. Ground hornbills were encountered at the Splash Camp walking range.

(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!)

Kwara Reserve, July 2018

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At the start of the month the wild dog den near to the airstrip was still very active and guests enjoyed fabulous sightings of the two-month-old puppies playing and being fed regurgitated meat by the adults. There were still eight adults and eleven puppies and all of the dogs looked in great condition. Towards the end of the month, as the floods started to rise in the area, the pack relocated out of the Kwara Reserve but luck was on our side because around the same time a different pack of dogs turned up at Splash camp and on two consecutive nights made kills very near to Room 8. We subsequently found that they had a den near to the Old Mokoro Station.
 
Two big resident male lions were occupying the territory near to Splash and we found them mating with two females. It seemed to be a marathon double date, with the four lions mating every fifteen minutes over the course of five days. The same lions were spotted stalking zebras at the waterhole in front of Splash camp and sometimes came into camp itself. One night they stole a kill from the wild dogs just in front of our Head Guide’s room and then continued with their mating. The guide had just popped back to his room to pick something up before dinner only to find that he couldn’t leave because of the lions. When he didn’t appear for dinner a vehicle was quickly dispatched to collect him! Two new females near to Mabala Motlotse were found with six young cubs. One-eyed pride was located scanning for potential prey species with lots of red lechwe antelope in the area.
 
The female leopard with two cubs changed her den to a spot at Third Bridge. The cubs were very playful and curious, even coming right underneath our vehicles. The mother seemed very relaxed sleeping in a nearby tree. We also found her with impala kills in the trees, usually by herself whilst the cubs stayed behind in the den. Another time we found her with a reedbuck kill near to the airstrip. A different young female was found hunting a honey badger, but true to its reputation the honey badger defended itself very aggressively and eventually won the encounter. Another time we found the same leopard feeding on an African civet.
 
The resident male cheetah, known as “Special” was found hunting and killing a reedbuck. We also saw him at other times feeding on kills or resting on termite mounds. Nearer to Splash we were excited to find two young cheetah males who were new to the area. We spotted them hunting and followed them for a couple of days, eventually being rewarded with seeing them kill an impala by Tsessebe Pan.
 
A large honey badger was frequently seen shuffling along the paths at Splash camp and encountered by guides and guests as they were walking to and from their rooms in the evenings and early mornings. He was not in the slightest aggressive, and it was a treat for guests to see this animal whilst on foot. Other small mammals spotted were servals, civets, genets, jackals and mongoose.
 
General game was excellent with big herds of elephants, zebras, giraffe, wildebeest, impala, reedbuck and red lechwe. Big herds of elephants were coming down to the waterhole in front of Splash camp to drink every evening.
 
Notable bird species recorded included Verreaux’s eagle owl, marsh owls, secretary birds, ground hornbills, wattled cranes, African fish eagles and martial eagles.
 
(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!)

Kwara Reserve, June 2018

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The wild dog pack of 8 adults and 11 puppies were denning close to Little Kwara camp. We were able to witness them making successful kills and then returning to the den to regurgitate food for the alpha female. Guests really enjoyed seeing the mother nursing her pups. From the 10th of June the pack relocated to an old hyena den nearby and by that stage the puppies were also starting to eat the meat that the adult pack members were providing.

The spotted hyena den was also very active with five young cubs. Guests enjoyed watching them playing with their siblings and the adults. The cubs also seemed to take a liking to our vehicles and came close trying to chew the tyres.

A female leopard with her two cubs was located very often at her den site and the cubs appeared to be in good condition. Hyenas stole reedbuck kills from her a couple of times, but we also saw her with impala carcasses, taken up the tree for safety. Her cubs were about two months old and very playful. We had delightful sightings of them climbing trees and playing with their mother’s tail.

The resident male cheetah known as “Special” was seen throughout the month. At the start of the June we saw him by the old mokoro station trying to hunt a warthog, but in a dramatic encounter the warthog fiercely fought him and he suffered an injury. Luckily he was not hurt too badly and to everyone’s relief we saw him the following evening chasing red lechwes though he was not successful that time or the next day. By the end of the month he seemed to be back on form and we saw him eating well on impala.

Four male lions had formed a coalition, although often seen in pairs. They appeared to be in good condition. One day we saw two of them in a stand-off with one of the Zulu Boy males. They were fighting over the carcass of a baby hippo and roaring at each other. Two lioness sisters were located nursing cubs of about 3-4 months old and were seen again feasting on a tsessebe carcass. The six cubs were initially nervous, but were getting used to the vehicles and settling quickly after the engine was switched off. There was another lioness seen often at Splash drinking from the waterhole in front of camp. The guides suspected that she was lactating so perhaps had cubs nearby.

Guests enjoyed watching a very relaxed honey badger who was digging for mice. Aardwolf, porcupine, serval and African civet were all seen during night drives.

General game included plentiful giraffe, zebra, tsessebe and wildebeest. Elephants were seen in good numbers, especially towards Splash hippos. A breeding herd of forty buffalo was located.

At Splash the general game and birdlife in front of camp was excellent, with many species coming to the waterhole to drink. Lions and hyenas could frequently be heard at night calling from within camp. Elephant and buffalo were also seen nearby.

Bird species seen during the month included martial eagle, saddle-billed storks, marabou storks, secretary birds and the endangered ground hornbill. A Verreaux’s (giant) eagle owl was roosting every night in the camp island. A large flock of pelicans were seen at Splash camp. The boat cruises continued to provide lovely bird sightings including African fish eagle herons and spoonbills.

(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!)