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

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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!)

Splash, Apr 2019

 

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April was an incredible month for predator sightings and we successfully found lions on 29 out of the 30 days! The two young resident male lions were still in the area near to Splash and we found one of them mating a female very close to camp. On one dramatic night some of our vehicles were following the resident males and other guides had picked up the tracks of the different males, the “Zulu Boys”. The lions were roaring as they made their way towards each other and the evening culminated in a dramatic chase as the two sets of male lions clashed in a territorial fight. After a few days the lions clashed again and the resident males chased the intruders for a long distance to the west of the Kwara Reserve where they promptly stole a kill from some lionesses. One time the resident males came across the carcass of a kudu bull that had apparently been killed by another kudu and so they enjoyed that bonus feast for a couple of days.

The Splash pride comprising two females with their six cubs were further to the west and seemed to be in good condition at the start of the month. We were very happy to see them reunited with the father of the cubs, one of the males who was driven from the Splash area some months before. It is the first time that we have seen him back with his pride since that time. However right at the end of the month the guides were worried that three of the six cubs were missing. Mother Eye Pride of four adults was found feeding on a waterbuck in the marsh area.
A very relaxed African wild cat allowed us to photograph it for quite a number of minutes and we were also able to see serval, water mongoose, springhare, African civet during night drive. Black-backed and side-striped jackals were visible during most drives.

The resident male cheetah, well-known as “Special” was seen extremely well fed. We were able to watch him hunting, although on one occasion he was so full that that he completely ignored some kudu grazing surprisingly close by. A female cheetah was located hunting east of Splash camp and managed to kill an impala. She initially had two cubs but unfortunately lost one early on and the second disappeared towards the end of the month. The female seemed very stressed and went for three days without eating as she called for her cub.

A pack of eight wild dogs were seen almost daily at the start of the month. We were able to follow them until they came to drink at the camp waterhole and a couple of times we saw them feeding on impala. The smaller pack of four wild dogs were highly mobile and covered large distances. The alpha females of both these packs appeared to be pregnant and we think that they will give birth during May. A spotted hyena was fighting with the dogs over a kill.

Yet another pack of thirteen dogs were located feeding on a female kudu that they killed in front of the Kwara camp lagoon. Vultures were waiting hungrily on the ground, but the dogs kept chasing them away. Once we saw this pack chase a sable bull, but he ran into a waterhole to save himself.

Three spotted hyena were waiting underneath a leopard in a tree with its kill, presumably hoping for some bones to drop down to the ground. Later we found them drinking at a waterhole. A different leopard dragged a calf up a tree and gorged on it for almost two days. A shy male leopard was found looking down nervously at two nearby lionesses who appeared to have treed it. Eventually it found its opportunity to escape and jumped down.

Different herds of elephant, totalling about fifty in number, were seen every afternoon on the way down to the boat station. Guests enjoyed watching them feeding, playing and bathing in the soft sand in the Splash area and crossing at the mokoro station at sunset with their small calves. Herds also visited the camp waterhole to drink. Giraffe were plentiful and were spotted in groups of up to 21 individuals. Zebra, wildebeest, tsessebe and baboons were commonly found.

As the waterholes started to dry up we saw birds such as white-headed vultures and lappet-faced vultures feasting on trapped fish. Martial eagles were located nesting. On night drive we successfully found the largest owl in the region, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, and also one of the smallest, the pearl-spotted owlet. Two red-necked falcons were spotted fighting over a dove which was killed by one of small raptors. Red-faced mousebirds were enjoying the fruits of the red star apple. Other notable bird sightings included African hawk-eagles, fan-tailed widowbirds, secretary birds, wattled cranes, lesser jacanas and different families of southern ground hornbills.

(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, Mar 2019

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The male cheetah known as “Special” by our guides was seen often and we held our breath as we watched this favourite resident being stalked by a lioness from the One-Eyed Pride. Luckily for the cheetah the wind changed direction as the lion got very close and when he picked up the bigger cat’s scent he bolted away. This is the second time that the same lioness has targeted Special. As with the previous month, Special was having some luck targeting ostrich and we were lucky enough to witness one of these kills. Another time we saw him try for a warthog, but the sow aggressively defended her piglets and managed to drive the cheetah away. We also saw him hunt impala more than once, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.

A female cheetah with her cub were seen a few times, including a remarkable sighting where we were watching them with a fresh impala kill. Suddenly, a male leopard appeared and chased away the cheetahs to take over the kill. After about an hour two hyenas came over and started fighting with the leopard over the carcass and then, having successfully won it from the cat, the hyenas then started to fight each other for the prize! An incredible morning’s action for our lucky guests to witness.

There were three resident packs of wild dog in the Kwara Reserve during March, a pack of sixteen towards Kwara, a pack of nine near Splash and a pack of four towards the east. We had an amazing sighting when we started following the dogs during afternoon game drive, only to find that they were leading us back towards camp again. They started to chase impala and were getting away from the vehicles when camp radioed through to say that they had made a kill right in front of the kitchen. As it was almost sundowner time guests disembarked the vehicles to see the dogs whilst on foot at the main area. That particular day, aside from the wild dogs, there were elephants in front of camp and hyenas coming in to try and steal the kill, interacting with the dog pack!  Towards the end of the month one of the pack of nine went missing but we were not sure if it had been killed or whether it had naturally dispersed from the pack to find a new territory.

As in the previous month, the Splash pride were still residing more to the west after two big male lions known as “Puffy” and “Big Man” took up the territory nearer to Splash camp. These males were in prime condition; they mostly hunted at night but one time we watched as they made an awesome attempt on a zebra, running right in front of our vehicles. They also took over a kill made in camp by the wild dogs – the pack’s second kill in camp that month. The lionesses on the Splash side of the reserve are known as the “One Eye” pride. These two lionesses had two cubs, but during the month one disappeared so our guides assumed that it had died. We found these animals feeding on a wildebeest. We managed to stay in touch with the Splash pride and in one unusual sighting we watched as the cubs were playing with a water monitor. It was interesting to see how the lizard defended itself by whipping its tail.

Two young male leopards were located at Honeymoon Pan; they appeared to be having a territorial battle.

There were a good number of hyenas in the area. One morning the guests could see a hyena from the camp fire and it turned out that it was eating a jackal.

Big herds of elephants were moving south through the Kwara reserve so that they could get access to water at the main channel. Guests enjoyed seeing them drinking and bathing. Due to the dry conditions general game was also pushed closer to the river; species included plentiful zebra, giraffe, impala, wildebeest, tsessebe, red lechwe, reedbuck and warthog.

Birdlife was excellent and summer migrants such as the carmine bee-eater, woodland kingfisher and purple rollers were still in the region. Raptors included African fish eagle, bateleur and Ayres hawk-eagle. Tawny eagles and vultures were seen perched on trees waiting for predators to finish eating. Lesser jacana, African jacana and malachite kingfisher were spotted during the boat cruise. Different types of hornbill were identified, including the endangered ground hornbill. Secretary birds were seen feeding and were being followed by lots of carmine bee-eaters hawking the disturbed insects. One day distress calls from starlings and hornbills led us to a two-metre black mamba at the base of a large fever berry tree.

(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, Feb 2019

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We were excited to find three new cheetah in the area, a female with her sub-adult cubs. The youngsters were apt to spend time chasing each other around whilst their mother was getting on with the serious business of hunting, moving from one vantage point to the next looking for their next meal. We saw these cheetahs bringing down and killing an impala, chasing away the jackals that were making a noise as the cats were trying to enjoy their feast. One day the resident male cheetah known as Mr Special was located marking his territory, but we were surprised to see him walk straight through one herd of impala after another without giving them a second glance. We wondered what he was up to but eventually we saw tracks of a female cheetah and her cub around Jackal Den area so we think he picked up their presence within the area. Towards the end of the month we saw Special pull off an amazing kill of an ostrich that he found walking along on the open plain.
 
A pack of 13 wild dogs (five adults and eight pups) were located deep in the mopane at Lion Pan. These animals were highly mobile and seemed to be in hunting mood. They were following routes along old denning sites so we hope that they will stick around for the next couple of months until this season’s pups are born. We also picked up fresh tracks of a pack of nine dogs and managed to follow up and find them hunting until they brought down and ate an impala. Guest loved the whole tracking experience, especially as it culminated in such an exciting finish. A third pack comprising just four dogs were seen from camp whilst we were having our breakfast. We followed them hunting but they were not successful.
 
The two resident lionesses of Splash pride and their six cubs were still in good condition but were staying more on the mopane woodland near to Kwara camp; it seems that they were still trying to avoid the new males on the Splash side of the reserve who would be a threat to their cubs. During the middle of the month these females looked nervous and were staying deep bushes with one lioness venturing out occasionally to look around. We suspected that the new males could have patrolled the area leaving their scent and we will have to hope that the mothers continue to do such a good job of hiding their cubs away. We saw that they had killed an adult kudu, so these lionesses are clearly good hunters. We also saw them near to New Bridge ambushing some red lechwe. Another time we watched them stalking a warthog, one of the lionesses edging along flat on her belly before springing for the kill. She was successful and soon two spotted hyenas, black-backed jackals and many vultures turned up to try and scavenge.
 
To the west of Splash a fully-grown male leopard was located at Green pan with a fresh kill of a reedbuck ram. The kill was really heavy for the predator so he fed on the ground before dragging it up onto a tree. It is a good job that he did this because two male lions were couple of kilometres east of the area and raptors such as bateleur, tawny eagles and yellow billed kites were starting to give away the location of the carcass. A leopard was located a kilometre north of camp during morning game drive; the animal was identified as a young male. The animal was well fed, hardly surprising since there was plenty of prey in the area including lots of young antelopes.
 
We watched two adult spotted hyenas nursing their four cubs at the den towards the Kwara camp side of the reserve. Closer to Splash there were many hyenas concentrated in an area where last year there was an active den so we are hoping that they might use the same spot again.
 
There was plentiful general game including zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, reedbuck, tsessebe and impala. Guest enjoyed seeing big herds of elephant. Smaller mammals located included serval, aardwolf, genet, African wild cat and springhare. In a rare sighting, an aardvark was located during night drive on the way back to camp.
 
There were lots of summer visitor birds still on Kwara Reserve including European bee- eaters, carmine bee-eaters, European rollers, woodland kingfishers and Wahlbergs eagles who we saw feeding on harvester termites. Marabou storks were plentiful since the breeding season was over for them. The heronry island was less active as most of the chicks had flown, but some birds continued to use the area as a roosting site.
(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, Jan 2019

guides Phodiso ( Pd ) and Vasco

Splash Camp, Kwara Private Reserve – January 2019 Sightings Report
 
The sweet short grass that sprang up after December’s fire continued to bring in substantial herds of general game, especially zebra which were present in huge numbers.
 
One time as soon as we left camp we picked up very fresh cheetah tracks and after following them for about 30 minutes we found the resident male cheetah known as Mr Special sitting up on a termite mound. Whilst watching we saw a dazzle of zebra approaching from the south. The cheetah got ready and when the herd was about 30 metres he burst forth to chase one of the foals out of the group. However the zebra stallion did his job well and was able to rescue the foal from the cat. After giving up the hunt Special started to mark his territory including climbing up and jumping on trees. During the month we saw the same cheetah also preying on impala and common reedbuck. One time we saw Special being chased by a lioness from the Mother Eye Pride. Initially it didn’t look like a serious situation for the cheetah, but when the lioness got close he burst into top speed to escape. The chase lasted about five minutes.
 
For about 6 weeks we have been seeing three young cheetahs, two sisters and a brother. As yet these youngsters were still a bit shy so the guides are patiently working to slowly let them get used to the vehicles.
 
A pack of nine wild dogs were seen often, one male of this pack was described as a “killing machine” by our guides and has been nicknamed Boko. When he is hunting the chances of seeing prey brought down is very high indeed. One time we were following for about 10 minutes when the chase started on a herd of impala with Boko in the lead. When we caught up with them Boko was fighting with a young ram. Immediately the rest of the pack arrived and disembowelled the antelope.
 
On another occasion the wild dog pack started chasing a full grown common waterbuck. Boko as ever was leading and putting pressure on the antelope which ran into a small pool of water. The pack tried to harass their prey out of the water until eventually Boko leapt into the water and attacked the waterbuck from the tail whereupon the buck ran out of the pool. He was chased by the pack but he escaped and went back to the same water again. This time three dogs chased him into the water and attached him at the same time. The waterbuck decided to sit down in the water and defend himself with his large horns, but Boko was still holding onto the antelope’s tail until he managed to cut it off and ate it. By this stage both predator and prey were exhausted so everyone seemed to decide to take a rest and after about 10-15 minutes the dogs gave up and moved on leaving the tailless buck still in the water.
 
Another time the pack killed an impala right inside camp near to Room 8. Because lions were not far away they picked up the distress call of the antelope and chased the dogs off the kill. The two male lions started fighting over the kill and they, together with two lionesses, spent the whole day in camp including lying right in front of the main area during brunch time.
 
A different pack of four wild dogs – two adults and two youngsters – were also seen hunting through the mopane woodlands.
 
The male lions known as “Big Man” and “Puffy” were located close to the boat station. We tracked them to find them posing beautifully on a termite mound. The Splash pride with their cubs were also successfully tracked.
 
After being missing in action for a while the resident lioness known as Mma Leitlho was located south of Splash camp feeding on a warthog. Our guides were alerted to the kill by the presence of a tawny eagle and hooded vulture who had been sitting in a branch above the carcass for a while. Once she started moving our guides noticed that she was lactating, so we suspected she had cubs hidden nearby.
 
Whilst we were enjoying bush dinner we heard two male lions roaring about a kilometre east of camp. Ten minutes later we saw a lioness followed by two males walk between the main area and where we were sitting. The lions and the guests all remained calm and the guests even managed to get some photos to record this extraordinary moment.
 
A mother leopard with her cub seemed to be new to the area and were still quite shy. The female leopard had killed a reedbuck which was hanging in a tree, with hyena and jackals waiting underneath hoping for some meal to fall to the ground
 
There was an active spotted hyena den near to Kwara camp. We saw three adults and four cubs. The cubs were of a playful age and were coming over inquisitively to the vehicles, to the delight of the guests.
 
Termites flying out after the first rains made a feast for other species including giant bullfrogs, snakes, mongoose and many species of birds such as eagles, bee-eaters and swallows. We saw African rock pythons as well as tortoises.
 
Night drives were interesting with plenty of good sightings of the smaller mammals such as African wild cats, civets, aardwolf, servals and genets
 
There was very good birdlife in the area and we saw wattled cranes, secretary birds and southern ground hornbills almost every day.
 
(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, Dec 2018

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The most dramatic sighting of the month was an enormous bush fire which had been raging in the Moremi Game Reserve for some time and one night jumped the channel into Kwara Reserve. Over the course of that weekend most of the open parts to the south of the reserve was burned flat with dried turpentine grass causing four metre flames. Fortunately, just about all of the trees and bushes survived the hot fast fire and we were blessed with beautiful rain the week afterwards which quickly produced a stunning carpet of green throughout the reserve. This new growth attracted a huge influx of grazers, which in turn attracted predators. Not that life was easy for the predators as they were no longer camouflaged by tall yellow grass.

This was a disadvantage for the cats, but a big advantage for the prey animals – and of course safari-goers – who could now spot them easily at a distance. Towards the end of the month we were often able to spot lions, cheetah and wild dogs in one morning with lots of hunting and killing, mainly young impala, tsessebe and wildebeest.

There was a changing of the guard with the lions at Splash with the two resident males moving out of the territory allowing space for two younger males to come in. The new very handsome boys made a big deal about staking their claim to the land around Splash with lots of roaring and marking. They managed to kill a buffalo near to camp at Lechwe Plains and spent four days feeding on it. The two males were found with a lioness from Mother Eye Pride who was being mated, later the honeymoon couple came to the pan in front of Splash for a drink. The Splash pride of two females with their six cubs were not seen as regularly now that their males had moved, but we after seeing a large number of vultures we located them looking well fed and resting. This pride seemed to be sensibly staying away from the new males who might well kill their cubs, so have moved all the way across to the Kwara camp side of the reserve. They appeared to be in great condition and doing well.

We were lucky to have two packs of wild dogs on the Kwara reserve during December, a pack of twenty-six and a pack of four. We saw them on different occasions hunting around Splash camp, the pack of twenty six were specialising in attacking tsessebe calves, sometimes killing two at a time.

A female cheetah killed an impala lamb in front of camp one day and after she had finished eating spent her day relaxing at Splash Hippos. The following day we found the resident male, Special, tracking the female but he did not manage to find her. We continued to see Special regularly throughout the month, this well-known individual often posing beautifully up on termite mounds as he scanned for prey. We saw him taking down young reedbuck, a species who would usually reply on the cover of long grass but who were now left vulnerable after the fire.

Our guides were happy when a resident female leopard who had not been seen for some time reappeared and seemed to be heavily pregnant. We watched her hunting red lechwe but she was not lucky. Two other leopards appeared north of Kwara and a new very relaxed male leopard has started to show up to the east of Splash.

An aardwolf den was still active at the start of the month giving guests good sightings of this elusive creature. Bat-eared foxes also had an active den. Nocturnal animals such as civets, serval, genets and porcupine were also located in the area frequently. Spotted hyenas were denning at Kwara camp.

The burned area after the fire attracted many birds of prey including tawny eagles, booted eagles, steppe eagles and Wahlberg’s eagles feeding on termites that started to fly out after the rains. Ground hornbills were often seen near to the airstrip.

(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, Nov 2018

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November was an exciting month at Splash camp. Antelope species such as impala and tsessebe started to drop their young meaning that predators were able to enjoy easy pickings and were making frequent kills. Even baboons were seen feeding on new impala lambs.

The Splash pride of ten were often around camp, the two male lions very vocal in the evenings. One time the two lionesses relaxed for the day between rooms two and three. Although on their own that time, the two lionesses had three cubs each and we found the six cubs of the Splash pride were increasingly left on their own whilst the adults went hunting. Once, surprisingly, they were alone with the fresh kill of a steenbok lamb. A few days later we found two of the cubs separated from the other four and for a worrying time we didn’t see those two at all. Eventually by the middle of the month, to everyone’s relief, they had reappeared. One of the resident males from the Splash pride was seen fighting with a nomadic intruder. Three females from the Mother Eye pride were seen with a male and the youngest lioness appeared to be pregnant. Two males were seen feeding on a dead hippo surrounded by vultures awaiting their turn at the carcass.

The resident pack of eight adults and nine puppies were seen regularly, mostly specialising on impala but we also saw them hunting zebra. One time they came right into camp hunting, so guests and guides quickly abandoned their early morning breakfast to try and keep up with the dogs. On another occasion two adult and two young wild dogs made a kill of an impala right by the parking area whilst the guests were out on game drive. A different pack of six adults and four puppies were located once with their faces covered in blood.

The resident male cheetah known as Special was seen frequently. One morning he led us on a marshland exploration, stalked a herd of red lechwe and with explosive energy killed one antelope and dragged it to the shade. He lay panting for fifteen minutes before starting to eat and enjoy his reward for a successful hunt. We followed the female cheetah hunting and watched as she brought down and killed an impala. She was also seen hunting reedbuck and feeding on a red lechwe lamb.
Spotted hyenas were seen every few days including a female nursing two cubs at a den near to the old Kwara camp.

November was a good month for sightings of the smaller mammals. An aardwolf den was located on Cheetah Plains and the animals allowed us good time with them. We were able to enjoy a wonderful sighting of an African civet which was unusually relaxed and our guests were able to take great photos under spotlight. We also located serval on more than one occasion as well as African wild cat. A pair of bat-eared foxes have a den west of Impala Pan.

The resident female leopard made a kill of a Common Reedbuck near to Sable Island and feasted for two nights, but she left the carcass on the ground and eventually it was stolen by hyenas. A pair of young leopards who had been moving around as a brother and sister appeared to have separated and we saw the male more than once. Another male leopard was concentrating on hunting the area west of Impala Pan. Not for the faint-hearted, guests watched as a leopard ate a minutes-old tsessebe calf.

As always in the Okavango Delta the mokoro excursions are popular and allowed guests to see smaller creatures such as the painted reed frogs and enjoy beautiful water lilies. More than once after mokoro activity herds of elephants and bachelor buffaloes came to drink and wallow at the mokoro station much to the delight of guests who quickly swapped fishing rods for cameras to capture the moment.

Guests were thrilled to spot the elusive Pel’s Fishing Owl during a boat cruise and we also saw barn owls and eagle owls. An unusual highlight for some keen birders was a black-chested snake-eagle taking down a night heron.

(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!)