Splash / Kwara, March – July 2020

A.FreiCat6Okavangodelta1

We were delighted to have an abundant flood arrive after a drought season and this filled the lagoon in front of Kwara camp for the first time since reopening. The team were only too happy to move the mekoros back to camp so the activity can start right from the main area. A good number of hippos had moved into the lagoon within a matter of weeks. All the flood plains around the Kwara area flooded and the scenery was very beautiful. All three bridges were put into action and by July the water was pushing onwards towards Splash camp.

Since we resumed game drives in the Kwara Reserve, we located all of our usual resident prides. The One-Eyed pride comprises a mother and daughter lioness and they are both pregnant after mating with the new coalition of five males during May. The daughter is the nearest to her due date and expected to give birth at the beginning of August. These two lionesses and the five males were concentrated around the Splash area where they were seen at least every other day. Sometimes they hang out in camp itself and this included a honeymooning couple.

Rather confusingly in terms of names, the Splash Pride has now relocated to live around Kwara camp because they are trying to avoid the coalition of five males. The three sub-adult brothers of the Splash Pride have developed some mane now and so would be under threat from the larger and stronger coalition.

In July we also came across a healthy new male lion in the area. He killed a zebra 400 metres from the airstrip bridge. However, a few days later he was found dead near to the Kwara walking range with signs showing that he had been fighting with other lions. We picked up the tracks and they led us to three of the coalition of five, one sporting fresh injuries from the fight. Eventually the dead lion was eaten by vultures.

The famous male cheetah known as Mr Special was still in the Kwara area and doing really well. A resident female was also in the area. Another female cheetah with three cubs killed a fully-grown impala on the edge of the woodland and we saw them busy feeding.

Seven spotted hyenas were located feeling on a tsessebe carcass. A leopard was seen actively stalking a tsessebe calf by the woodland and another female was often seen in and around Splash camp, one time making a kill right by the main area.

We saw twelve of the dogs from the Marsh Pack recently and have seen signs of the Kwara pack of twenty-four in the northern area where they denned last year, although at the time of writing the guides were still busy trying to locate the den.

Elephants were constantly in the area, and we saw them bathing, feeding and drinking. General game was consistently good, as it always seems to be in Kwara. There were plentiful zebras, giraffes and other antelopes.

With the smaller mammals, we saw a lot of jackals, both side-striped and black-backed jackals. Honey badgers were also located.

During boat cruises on the permanent Maunachira channel we saw crocodiles and water monitors.

A good number of saddle-billed storks were feeding on the flood plains and a group of eight black herons settled in to stay at Kwara lagoon. A few malachite kingfishers and over ten rufous-bellied herons were seen during boat cruises. Fish eagles took up residence on the Kwara Lagoon and they were feeding on the catfish arriving with the new water.

(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!)

Splash / Kwara, Jan 2020

THarden Cat1 Lions drinking

Four new young male lions made a bold move on the Kwara Reserve and seemed intent on pushing out the resident males that we know as Big Man and Puffy. One of them was limping and it seemed as though they had come into conflict with either the residents or the Zulu Boys who were also hanging around. Our guides were sad that these new lions killed a rather special young lioness who was recognisable by her ginger/cinnamon colouring.  Towards the end of the month we witnessed a fight and lots of chasing between the four new males and the residents. The ongoing battle between these male lions mean that the nights were full of roaring as each side tried to proclaim their territory. Big Man and Puffy were still in the area at the end of the month, but looking extremely nervous. The resident Splash Pride of eight seemed keen to avoid the new males, but we found them a couple of times eating warthogs that they had just killed.

The three resident packs of wild dogs continued to provide plenty of action.  We followed the pack of eighteen as they hunted and killed impalas on a regular basis. One time they managed to kill four impala lambs at once. Vultures and kites could be seen finishing up the leftovers. They also killed a waterbuck calf near Room 12 at Splash.

Meanwhile, the Marsh Pack of twenty-five dogs were also located hunting around the Splash area. One day they came running straight through camp chasing impalas. Eventually they killed two lambs right next to the workshop, devoured them quickly and then continued on with their hunt.

The resident male cheetah known as Special was very active in terms of marking his territory and hunting; he was located on most days as he moved between the eastern and western side of the Kwara reserve. We saw him hunting and killing various antelope species including impala, common reedbuck and a wildebeest calf. Once we saw his kill be taken by two male lions.

A female cheetah was busy tracking Special’s marking posts, indicating that she was ready for mating again. When we saw her in the area last year, she was travelling with her sub-adult son, but this year she left him behind at the mokoro station where he was seen calling for her. We saw her hunting and killing an impala lamb.

Herds of elephant could be seen feeding and bathing in the channels. Guests enjoyed watching the young calves playing. Big bull elephants were regularly feeding on the Kwara camp islands and breeding herds could be seen drinking water at the pan in front of camp. A herd of approximately 300 buffalo was seen in the area.

A relaxed tom leopard known as Golden Boy was located frequently near to Kwara. Vervet monkeys alarm-calling revealed a shyer individual and another time it was the snorting of impalas that gave away the location of the cat. A female leopard was found up on a sausage tree.

Spotted hyenas were denning and we were able to see the single cub nursing from its mother. A clan was seen scavenging on a dead giraffe that appeared to have died of natural causes. We also saw hyenas eating a reedbuck carcass and another time watched them as they cooled off in water.

A caracal was spotted hunting helmeted guineafowl but the birds took off before the cat could manage to snatch one. A relaxed aardwolf was located at its temporary den. We were also lucky enough to spot an aardvark, although the animal was quick to dive into some thickets. We saw black-backed and side-striped jackals on most game drives.

Big herds of zebra were attracted by the great grazing and as they month progressed, they were steadily increasing in number. Other general game included warthog, common reedbuck, tsessebe, impala, kudu and red lechwe. We came across an interesting sighting of mating giraffe. Sable antelope were located in the area.

It was a good time for birding as we were able to enjoy several migratory visitors including European rollers, European bee-eaters and broad-billed rollers. A flock of over 100 carmine bee-eaters were seen feeding on flying ants. It was great listening to the snapping of their bills and chattering as they caught their prey. Yellow-billed kites were also enjoying the feast. Endangered wattled cranes and ground hornbills were both doing well in the Kwara Reserve.

(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!)

Splash / Kwara, Dec 2019

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One day our two resident wild dog packs bumped into each other very close to Splash camp, totalling 42 wild dogs in total! We decided to follow the bigger Kwara pack as they finished off an impala, meanwhile Splash pack went on to chase a female leopard and her cub up into a sausage tree.

The Kwara pack comprised twelve adults and thirteen sub-adults who continued to hunt successfully, often near to Kwara camp itself where they were specialising on impala. One time we saw them trying to hunt ostrich chicks but they were out of luck that day. Within this pack there are five dogs who were looking very old, but they were still keeping up with the family. One time they hunted and killed three impala lambs and, as they were feeding, they were charged by four lionesses so they had to give up their meal. They then moved towards camp.

The Splash pack of eight adult and nine young wild dogs took town a pregnant kudu close to the airstrip. Many vultures came to finish off the carcass. These dogs are prolific hunters. As an example, one afternoon they first took down two impala lambs at once and after a short rest they continued on to try their luck on a herd of zebra. The zebra resisted strongly and after a fight with them the dogs continued onwards and finally killed a tsessebe bull.

Resident male lions known as Puffy and Big Man were seen frequently, including on a kudu carcass that their lionesses had killed.  Two male lions from the Zulu boys moved into their territory and were seen feeding on a young tsessebe. A few days later they fought with the resident males who were running from them. There was also a new coalition of four young males entering the area, so it seemed that the stage is set for some exciting territorial battles in the near future as the three coalitions compete for this game-rich area. The Splash pride of two lionesses and six cubs were still on the Kwara camp side of the reserve and seemed most interested in zebra. Sometimes they were accompanied by a male lion.

The resident male cheetah known as Mr Special was doing well, feeding on warthog and common reedbuck. One day he managed to hunt and kill a zebra foal which kept him busy for a couple of days. We saw another intruder male who was far from his usual home range during a period when Special seemed to have moved eastwards. When Special returned he was very actively going back around his marking posts to re-establish his territory. As usual, he continued to amaze us by climbing right up into trees, acting more like a leopard than a cheetah!

We managed to find a spotted hyena den which had five cubs of varying ages. We also saw hyenas bathing in muddy pools to cool off from the heat. Once a spotted hyena was feeding on an impala, chasing away jackals and vultures who were trying to scavenge.

A leopard was located up a tree feeding on an impala lamb and we also found a leopard cub on its own whilst its mother was away hunting.

More than once a female aardwolf with four cubs was seen during night drive. The mother was very relaxed, although the cubs were still a little shy. Both back-backed and striped jackal were seen nearly every drive with plenty of puppies accompanying their parents as they foraged. We came across a serval successfully hunting frogs.

Guides reported that more elephants were being seen than usual and buffalo were also massing in their hundreds, both species taking advantage of the very good grazing in the area. As the weather went through a dry spell, elephant herds at the Splash waterhole increased to about 100 strong.

Breeding season for the herbivores was well underway with zebra, wildebeest, warthog, impala and tsessebe all producing young.

Reptiles seen included snakes such as African pythons and black mambas.

A good number of migratory birds were seen in the area including steppe buzzards, steppe eagles, woolly-necked storks, broad-billed rollers, black kites and lots of yellow-billed kites. Wattled cranes were observed in a courtship display, jumping four metres in the air with wings spread out.

(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!)

 

Splash / Kwara, Nov 2019

jvarley.Cat2 Cheetah

The resident male cheetah known as Special was seen hunting and killing a common reedbuck. A female cheetah with a three-month-old cub was located hunting on the eastern side of camp. Another cheetah mother with a sub-adult son was also spotted. One remarkable day all five cheetahs met up; the two females started to chase each other, leaving Mr Special as a somewhat unwilling babysitter to the two youngsters. The female with the younger cub eventually came and collected her offspring, leaving the other female to mate with Special whilst her cub continued to call for her.

In another great sighting we found a sub-adult female leopard trying her luck with impala but at the end of her approach the impala saw her and took off. However, the antelope ended up running straight into a female cheetah who succeeded in bringing one down. The leopard then came in trying to steal the kill, but the cheetah bravely fought for the right to her hard-won meal.

In a territorial challenge, three intruder male lions were seen roaring and following the resident males who were running away from them. Two separate pairs of lions were seen mating. A new pride to the area comprising two males and two females managed to kill a buffalo near to the mokoro station. The Splash Pride of two lionesses and six sub-adults were still in the area and doing well. They attracted the attention of two males from the Zulu Boys, well-known visitors to the Kwara Reserve. The Splash Pride were also seen hunting buffalo and zebra.

We managed to locate three separate aardwolf dens in the area and at the most established the cubs could be seen playing near the entrance, whilst the mother stood nearby.

The Marsh Pack of twenty-five wild dogs were located hunting more than once, variously killing impala, common reedbuck and tsessebe calves, sometimes right at camp. Once we saw them feeding on a fully-grown kudu bull which was the biggest prey we have yet seen them take down. This pack is made up of thirteen adults and twelve puppies of about 6 months old; the youngsters have grown well and join the adults on all their hunts.

The Kwara pack of twenty-six wild dogs were located early one morning running around camp hunting and eventually killed two impala at the same time.

Two tom leopards were seen in a territorial fight to the north of Kwara camp. Eventually one backed away leaving the other to go and rest on top of a tree. A very relaxed female leopard was hunting monkeys and eventually managed to catch a baby vervet to the consternation of the troop. A different female continued to specialise in hunting jackal.

Spotted hyenas were seen feeding on a dead elephant, chasing away vultures and jackals who were also trying to scavenge. We also saw a clan of ten hyena waiting for lions to finish up with a buffalo carcass.

Following the first rains general game in the area was very good with buffalo herds up to two hundred grazing the green areas that had previously been flooded. Tsessebe started dropping their calves. Big herds of zebra could be seen grazing, grooming each other and sun-bathing. Near to the boat station, a serious territorial fight between two common reedbuck lasted more than twenty minutes. Victory was eventually claimed by the sub-adult bull. Other game species included giraffe, wildebeest and impala. There were plenty of elephants in the area including a breeding herd of about forty drinking and mud-bathing at the Splash camp waterhole.

A pride of four ostrich were seen feeding on fresh jasmine leaves emerging along the firebreak

A serval was seen catching a bullfrog on the road before killing making off with it. We saw African wildcat during night drive.

(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!)

Splash / Kwara, Oct 2019

FDSchoeniger.Cat4fightingforfood - Splash

Lions were seen every single day on Kwara Reserve during October. The One Eye Pride were located near to Splash camp. A male known as “Big Man” was mating a lioness whilst the others were resting. This courtship went on for several days. Splash Pride of two lionesses and six cubs were often around Splash camp. They managed to kill an elephant calf during nightfall and we saw them feasting on the carcass the following day. We also saw them eating greater kudu, with spotted hyena waiting nearby for the chance to steal. Another time they managed to bring down a warthog, but the male lion took the meal for himself.

A new pride comprising two lionesses and their seven cubs were seen feeding on zebra and kudu. The cubs were still very young and just getting used to the vehicles.

Two male lions who have been in different parts of the Kwara Reserve over the past year ended up bumping into each other and a big fight ensued with plenty of roaring. Big Man emerged the victor and Mr Limping was pushed away.

A leopard cub was found located up on a tree by himself, waiting for his mother to return from hunting. The resident female leopard known as Splash girl was seen regularly. A tom leopard was feeding on an impala high up on a tree, but gave us a good view. Guests were thrilled to be able to see another tom resting on a tree branch as they were on their mokoro trip!

The resident pack of eight wild dogs with their eleven puppies were doing well and we were able to follow them as they made a successful hunt of a reedbuck near to the boat station. We also saw them kill several impalas, although one time their meal was taken from them by a pride of lions. There was a period of a few days where these dogs disappeared and the guides tried in vain to find them. Then one morning we were delighted to find them not only back in the area but actually waiting for us at the breakfast area at Splash camp! Another time they made a kill of an impala within Kwara camp.

A second larger pack of fourteen adults and twelve puppies were hunting extremely productively in the marsh area. One morning they managed to managed to kill an impala and a red lechwe and the next afternoon they brought down another impala and a reedbuck. All four carcasses were eaten in the water. Another time we saw them chasing impala, but the antelope managed to make her escape by swimming across the channel.

In yet more wild dog excitement, a third pack of twenty-six arrived from Khwai, arrived into our area and we followed them as they chased a reedbuck into the channel. It was a bad day for the dogs, but a good day for a crocodile who opportunistically seized his moment and took the reedbuck down.

The well-known male cheetah, “Special”, was located feeding on an impala which he had killed that afternoon. Another time we were following him as he missed a few chances, but then a warthog piglet ran straight towards him and he was able to grab his meal. A female cheetah with her male cub had not been seen for some time so we were happy to discover them one afternoon. We followed them as they hunted and killed a reedbuck. There was another female who we saw nursing her two cubs. After they finished feeding the cubs climbed on top of their mother making for some cute photo opportunities.

Spotted hyenas were seen feeding on the bones of a buffalo carcass.

As the dry weather continued and the temperatures started to sky-rocket, a good number of elephants were showing up at the river for drinking, fighting, swimming and mud wallowing. Buffalo were also in the area. Two sable bulls were seen at Splash camp waterhole. Other general game included roan antelope, kudu, reedbuck, red lechwe, impala, zebra and giraffe.

We were lucky enough to find an active aardwolf den and in a special sighting were able to watch the mother nursing her three new cubs. On night drives we encountered African wild cat, genet and serval.

Notable bird sightings included ground hornbills and on a boat trip we were lucky enough to find a Pel’s fishing owl. It is always pleasing to see summer migrants return to the area and in October these included yellow-billed kites and southern carmine bee-eaters. Yellow-billed storks were seen near to the water and guests enjoyed photographing an African fish eagle devouring a fish. At the Xobega Lagoon and Gadikwe Heronry the storks, herons and ibis were busy nesting.

(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!)

Splash, Sep 2019

WMorgan.Cat1Leopard in tree Lebala

A pack of wild dogs comprising eleven adults and thirteen puppies were found resting after a successful hunt; the puppies were extremely playful making for some great photo opportunities. One evening during dinner at Splash camp the same pack made a kill of an impala between rooms four and five. As the lions were not far away, they heard the commotion and came in to take over the carcass. The following morning, we found the dogs highly mobile with two puppies missing and lions roaring in the direction that they had come from. Sadly, the two puppies never reappeared.

We watched in amazement as a different pack of fourteen adults and twelve puppies managed to kill three impala during a single chase.

The resident male cheetah known as Special was seen looking healthy and well-fed. One time we saw him bring down and kill a common reedbuck right in front of the safari vehicle. We also saw him chasing and killing a young warthog and a sub-adult reedbuck. A female cheetah with two cubs was new to the area, but was still skittish around vehicles so the guides were careful to give her lots of extra space until she gets used to us.

A female leopard, known as Splash girl seemed to have developed a taste for side-striped jackal and we saw her feeding on a remarkable four jackal carcasses during the month. A male leopard was seen south of Splash camp with a common reedbuck carcass up on a tree; we were able to revisit the animal over a four-day period, but still the leopard was quite shy.

The Splash pride of two lionesses with their six cubs were found hunting and they killed an impala. Later that evening they came through to Splash camp, the first time they have been seen there since they were pushed further west by the arrival of two new males late last year. Another time we heard zebra distress calls as we were still having early morning coffee in camp and started the safari only to find Splash Pride feeding on a carcass close to Room 1. Guests were able to take fantastic photos in great light. A few minutes later we came across two lionesses who are new to the area with their cubs. They had blood stains all over their faces so the guides suspected that they were the ones who had taken down the zebra, but Splash Pride had taken over their kill.  Splash Pride were also seen making unsuccessful attempts on reedbuck and warthog during the month. The cubs were very playful and enjoy climbing trees to the delight of our guests.

We saw the same new lionesses with their cubs a few times. The lionesses were still being careful to hide their newborn cubs in the marsh area, but we saw the adults on a warthog carcass, surrounded by vultures.

The two resident male lions were lucky enough to find a sick buffalo who they finished off and then enjoyed eating for the next three days. We also saw them trying to hunt tsessebe, but these fast antelope moved off too quickly for the lions

Mother Eye Pride managed to kill a tsessebe but lost it to spotted hyenas; the lions were up on a mound covered in blood watching the clan devour their meal. Another time we watched as two spotted hyenas made an attempt to chase some impala, but they didn’t manage to make a kill.

General game included giraffe who were feeding on sausage tree fruits in addition to their usual browsing. As the dry weather continued, there were big herds of elephants along the main channel. Guests enjoyed watching breeding herds drinking and mud-bathing. A roan antelope bull could be seen drinking at the camp waterhole in the mornings and afternoons. On the boat cruise we saw plenty of crocodiles and also had lovely sitatunga sightings.

The guides were delighted to discover a new aardwolf den. We were able to enjoy wonderfully relaxed sightings with a range of smaller mammals on night drive including serval, civet, African wild cat. A shy honey badger was seen close to the Splash parking area and another with a cub was seen digging for rodents by the side of a tree.

A beautiful group of four ostrich with their twenty-two chicks let us spend good time photographing them. It was breeding time for many of the birds in the region; at the Xobega heronry we found a good number of yellow-billed, marabou and open-billed storks nesting.

(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!)

Splash, Aug 2019

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We continued observing the resident wild dog pack who adopted three puppies from their neighbours. The pack now numbered eight adults and fourteen young including the new additions. It was interesting to note that all of the puppies were being treated equally by the adults. At the start of the month all seemed to be doing well, however during the month one of the “kidnapped” puppies disappeared, presumed dead. The puppies were at a very playful age, providing great entertainment for our guests. We were able to follow the pack many times as they chased and brought down their prey, mainly impala.

The resident male lions were found feeding on an elephant calf. A couple of days later the remains of this huge feast was being finished off by a clan of fifteen hyena with large numbers of vultures waiting for their chance at the carcass. These lions were targeting substantial prey and we also saw them feeding on a kudu bull and a buffalo. The two males were also seen marking their territory by spraying on bushes, an important activity because three new males were seen in the Kwara Reserve for the first time, appearing from the east and travelling towards Splash. A new pride of two females with seven cubs was also found; although the six-month cubs were very shy their mothers appeared to be well used to vehicles.

Meanwhile at the start of the month the resident Splash pride were looking hungry. We saw the two females trying to hunt zebra, but their six cubs were more of a hindrance than a help and scared the prey away. They eventually started managing to make some kills including warthog and by the middle of the month were seen feasting on an elephant carcass. One day we found them chasing a pack of wild dogs.

One Eye Pride were located hunting initially without success, but a few days later they we found them feeding on their target prey of waterbuck.

A resident female leopard was located up on a tree, eyeing up a nearby herd of red lechwe and a male was found with a porcupine kill up a tree; it was no doubt a tricky manoeuvre to lift this prickly carcass into place and the meal kept him busy for a couple of days.

There was plenty of cheetah action during September, with sightings on 23 separate days. The resident male spent about three weeks hunting near to Splash camp and we were lucky enough to witness him hunting impala and making a kill. He also was seen feeding on steenbok. A female cheetah with her three sub-adult cubs was hunting very successfully in the area and we saw them feeding on reedbuck and impala. A different lone female cheetah was spotted hunting at sunset. We revisited the area in the morning and found her feeding on a reedbuck. She was also seen with her sub-adult son feeding on impala.

A clan of four spotted hyenas were observed nursing their cubs.

Night drives were productive. A drive after dinner one night yielded springhare, African civet, African wild cat, bat-eared foxes, six hyena, a serval and a marsh owl. Other smaller mammals seen during the month included honey badgers and porcupines.

Good numbers of general game species could be found grazing on the edge of the floodplain near Tsum Tsum including a lovely herd of sixteen sable antelopes and some eland.  We were excited to discover sable and roan antelope were also turning up at the Splash camp waterhole. Zebra were plentiful. Big herds of buffalo could be seen heading towards the permanent water channels and family groups of elephant could be observed drinking, playing and dust-bathing.

There were some interesting raptor sightings. A bateleur eagle was seen feeding on a side-striped jackal whilst a martial eagle killed and ate a yellow-billed stork. One morning a Verreaux’s eagle owl was seen eating a snake. Endangered wattled cranes and ground hornbills continued to thrive in the Kwara Reserve.

(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!)

Splash, July 2019

JTVink_mammals_wilddogwithpups

A very unusual tale unfolded with two packs of wild dogs. Regular followers of these reports may recall that at the end of June the pack of eight and a smaller pack of four had a confrontation. In the days that followed the larger pack had taken to ambushing the den of the smaller pack and we feared for the lives of their puppies. But in an extraordinary twist at the start of July we found the three puppies of the smaller pack five kilometres from home at the pack of eight’s den – apparently kidnapped! We contacted researchers who explained that there are previous records of wild dogs adopting puppies from other packs and hypothesized that the smaller pack may in fact be a distantly related splinter group. The pack of eight continued to feed all fourteen puppies (eleven of their own and three from the other pack) via regurgitation and both sets were nursed by the alpha female. The two sets of puppies looked distinctly different at this stage because of their varied ages, the eleven from the pack of eight were still small and dark, whereas the adopted pups were much bigger and starting to develop their patterned coats. We were able to see the adult dogs hunting impala and reedbuck, usually finishing off the whole carcass in just twenty minutes, a strategy that helps to avoid competition with other predators. Once time we found the dogs being chased by lions who were attempting to scavenge, but luckily all the predators remained uninjured. Another time we found the pack taunting and chasing a herd of elephants, but the pachyderms grouped together to defend their calves.

To add to the wild dog excitement, at the end of the month we came across the Kwara pack of thirteen adults and followed them back to their den where we counted fourteen puppies. Having already seen the other pack we ended up seeing a total of 49 wild dogs that day!

The resident male cheetah known as Special still continued to be a big favourite with guests and we were able to follow him as he hunted impala and reedbuck. One time we saw him watching some common reedbuck who had young ones with them. The cheetah stalked to get closer before chasing and separating a lamb from its mother. The lamb was only a few days old and at that stage seemed to get confused as to who was its mother because it stopped running and turned straight to the cheetah. To everyone’s wonderment Special played with the lamb for about 10-15 minutes before, inevitably, killing it. Another time we found him close to Splash room 1 and followed him until he killed a common reedbuck. Some hyenas came and took away the kill, providing an exciting inter-species interaction.

We also found a female cheetah with three cubs a few times. They were feeding on different species such as impala, a kudu calf, warthog and steenbok and sometimes we were lucky enough to witness their hunt. It was interesting to watch the mother use a sub-adult reedbuck to train her cubs how to chase and kill.

A female honey badger and her young cub visited Splash camp every night, sometimes easily seen by guests as they enjoyed pre-dinner drinks around the open fire. We also saw many honey badgers during game drive.

A beautiful young female leopard, estimated to be about three years old, was very relaxed with our vehicles and we were able to spend quality time with her including watching her hunt impala. We found another female with a cub up a tree feeding on an impala.

Two lionesses with their six cubs were seen hunting to the east of the airstrip and we watched as they brought down and killed a young warthog. It took them just ten minutes to finish the piglet off. The two young resident male lions made a big deal of declaring their territory by roaring. We found them mating a lioness at the start of the month.

Two very bold spotted hyenas came quite close to the vehicle as we were stopped for sundowner drinks. Jackals were seen scavenging on the remains of a wild dog kill. We also saw African wild cat and civet.

Huge herds of elephant were in the area, attracted by the permanent channel that forms our border with the Moremi Game Reserve.

A very relaxed herd of five sable antelope could be seen near to the mokoro station and a roan antelope bull was seen more than once drinking from the waterhole in front of camp. Giraffe could be seen with splayed legs as they reached down to lick the minerals from the soil in a behaviour known as geophagia, commonly seen in many species during dry season.

Every day a large herd of buffalo could be seen moving to the west of camp. Once we saw them being followed by two lionesses from the Mother Eye Pride, the first time that we have seen this pride trying their luck on buffalo. In the end the buffalo won the day and the two lionesses walked away.

Cattle egrets and oxpeckers could be seen accompanying the herds of buffalo, some herds up to 200 strong. A flock of one hundred vultures were observed feeding on the leftovers of a cheetah kill. On the same morning we watched a fish eagle feed on a catfish and then a tawny eagle eating a monkey. Two fish eagles were also seen in front of Splash camp. Four bateleur eagles were seen on the ground drinking water neat to the mokoro station.

(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!)

 

Splash, June 2019

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The pack of eight wild dogs were denning close to Splash and were visiting camp almost every day to kill an impala and then go back to regurgitate for the alpha female. She was heavily pregnant at the start of the month and the guides think that she gave birth during the second week as then she stayed down in the den.  Sometimes the resident lions tried to come and steal kills from the dogs. On the 28th June we got our first glance of the eleven puppies that this pack had produced and continued to see them daily thereafter.

Towards the end of the month there was a conflict between the pack of eight and the smaller pack of four wild dogs. We saw the two packs fighting and although the four dogs managed to escape the larger pack went to their den and spent the whole day lying in ambush. Over the next few days they continued with this ambushing behaviour and we feared for the lives of the smaller pack’s puppies as we hadn’t seen them since the big confrontation, but right on the last day of the month we were relieved to see that the three puppies from the smaller pack were still alive and doing well. This story then took a very interesting turn in the weeks that followed – stay tuned to July’s sighting report for the next exciting instalment!

Big herds of elephant and buffalo could be seen coming down from the northern part of the concession to drink at the permanent water channels on the border of Moremi Game Reserve. Guests loved watching the elephant procession as they swam, fed and mud-bathed. One time we were lucky enough to witness the incredible sighting of an elephant giving birth. The big buffalo bulls were observed sun-bathing and wallowing in mud; some of the females were nursing their calves.

The Splash pride were seen at the waterhole in front of Kwara camp – perhaps looking for a sneak preview of the rebuilt camp which will be opening in September! We saw the pride feeding on a freshly killed warthog, but the prey was a sub-adult so there was not enough food to go around, leading to lots of exciting purrs and growls. On the east of the Kwara Reserve two intruder male lions killed a big male buffalo and we found them looking extremely full-bellied after their huge meal. We also saw the dominant males bring down a buffalo bull and they feasted on that carcass for a few days. We saw one of the resident males trying to court a lioness from the One Eye Pride, but she did not seem receptive.

The lion kills attracted many scavenging hyenas and jackals.

We were fortunate enough to find aardvark a couple of times during night drive, although the creature was quite shy. A very relaxed aardwolf was seen frequently on lechwe plains foraging on snouted termites and harvester termites. A honey badger with a young cub were to be found foraging along the pathways at Splash camp. Serval and genet were located on night drive.

The resident male cheetah known as Special was seen hunting often with prey species ranging from warthog to kudu calves. One time we were lucky enough to watch him stalking, then chasing and killing an impala. Another time we saw him losing a kudu carcass to a clan of hyenas. Right at the end of the month he killed a warthog piglet very close to Splash Room 1.

A young female leopard was seen stalking regularly near to Splash camp, one time being followed by a hyena hoping for the chance to steal a kill.

Other general game included roan antelope and sitatunga.

A pair of endangered wattled cranes were usually to be found on the Kwara flood plain. Four species of vulture were identified. Guests enjoyed photographing a goliath heron finish his kill of a frog with the amphibian’s legs dangling out of the bird’s bill. Other sightings included saddle-billed storks, ground hornbills, short-tailed eagles and tawny 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!)

Splash, May 2019

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During May the Kwara Reserve lived up to its well-deserved reputation for fantastic sightings, averaging a remarkable three predator sightings per day.

At the start of the month the pack of eight wild dogs made it almost a daily ritual to visit Splash camp, kill an impala and go back to the den to regurgitate for their pregnant alpha female.

We saw the resident male lions responding to the calls of wild dogs as they tried to steal their kills, sometimes successfully. Once they killed a kudu and it was interesting to see how they dragged it under a bush and covered the carcass with sand to prevent other predators being attracted by the smell. There were two new male lions to the east of Splash camp; we saw them laying with very full bellies after they had killed a big buffalo bull. Probably because of the new males being in the area, the resident lions put on some terrific roaring performances during the night to proclaim their territory. Once they were joined by two lionesses at the camp waterhole; the females then decided to rest directly under Room 11 so we needed to drive them off a little so that the guests could safely enter their room for their own siesta! We saw this pride of four lions being chased out into the open by a herd of elephants, but then a big herd of buffalo also came to join in the action and there was an awesome sighting of lions and buffalo chasing each other around.

The Splash Pride comprising two lionesses and six cubs had been on the Kwara side of the reserve for some months, moving even further west out of the area, so guides were happy to see them back with us at the waterhole in front of Kwara camp

The male cheetah known as Special still continued to delight our guests and we saw cheetah on 29 out of 31 days! We saw Special try his luck on a warthog without success, but the same evening he managed to take down a kudu calf but as it was late in the day he lost the kill to hyenas. We also saw Special demonstrate his incredible acceleration to take down a common reedbuck, fortunately he got to keep his meal that time. The resident female cheetah was also spotted.

A young female leopard was seen looking relaxed and well-fed as we found her under spotlight on night drives. We saw a male leopard hunting during the day in the marsh area west of Kwara camp, although he was not successful.

An exceptionally relaxed aardwolf was seen regularly near to the mokoro station during night drive. Other smaller mammals observed included African wild cat and African civet.

Big herds of buffalo, up to 400 strong, were seen coming down from the northern part of the Kwara Reserve, heading towards the main channel. General game was concentrated in the areas near the channels and included giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest and large herds of elephant. This was breeding season for the impala and we observed how the males became vocal and highly territorial.

Despite the low rainfall in the Okavango Delta this season we are blessed to still have great access to water and the mokoro trips remained as popular as ever. Gliding through the water provided the chance to see creatures such as painted reed frogs, long reed frogs and we were even lucky enough to see a spotted necked otter.

A pair of wattled cranes were seen regularly near to the flood plains. We are glad to report that endangered vultures are doing well in the Kwara Reserve and on one buffalo carcass we saw four different species: hooded, white-headed, white-backed and lappet-faced. Jackals were also seen scavenging. Two adult southern ground hornbills were seen feeding their chick. Trapped catfish in the drying pools attracted fish eagles looking for an easy meal.

(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!)