Tau Pan, March – July 2020

FDienaar.cat8CubsPassingCamp

Even though guests were unable to stay due to the Covid19 pandemic, the Tau Pan pride were constant visitors. Their daily routine included drinking at the waterhole in front of camp, roaring loudly throughout the night and occasionally turning up in unexpected places, such as the camp workshop or the staff village just to make sure that no one was napping. This pride comprised ten lions in total, five big males, four females and one male cub. In early July we saw that one of the males was limping and on the northern side of the waterhole found a blue wildebeest carcass that the lions had been feeding on. He seemed to recover well over the following weeks but didn’t re-join the rest of the pride.

Two male lions from San Pan were seen heading towards Phukwi Pan and looking in great condition.

A male cheetah appeared to have picked up the scent of the resident female who we suspected was in oestrus.
The Tau Pan area has a good general game including blue wildebeest, gemsbok, steenbok, kudu, springbok and giraffe, although numbers were reduced compared to the rainy season. Red Hartebeest were seen near to Phukwi Pan.

As the weather turned cooler and dryer during May, the tsamma melons started to ripen, providing nutrients and water for many species of mammal. During the winter in Botswana the silky bushmen grasses in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve turn a beautiful golden yellow. Most of the leaves on the trees and bushes lost their colour before falling.

The nights were incredibly cold during June and July, but those venturing to stand by the fire at night were rewarded with the most spectacular clear night sky with thousands and thousands of stars and four planets visible.

(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!)

Tau Pan, January 2020

AvonBerges_NewLife_Springbok_BabyandYoung_2

After some good rains, the landscape of Central Kalahari started to turn green and the antelope started to drop their young. One day we were lucky enough to witness a springbok giving birth. The whole process took just fifteen minutes.

The resident predators were taking full advantage of breeding season. One exciting morning we found a female cheetah as she was killing a springbok lamb. She stood up to take the carcass to the shade, but on the way, she spotted another lamb running towards its mother so she dropped the dead springbok to chase and kill the second.  After a few minutes she took it to the shade to start feeding. At this point the guests went for a tea and coffee break, but on their way back they were amazed to see that she had killed a third springbok!

Guests were able to get some lovely shots of a relaxed female cheetah finishing up her springbok kill at Phukwi Pan and we also saw cheetahs hunting at Tau Pan. Three brother cheetahs were seen along Passarge Valley a couple of times, although they were still not used to the vehicles.  A resident female with her two cubs was located in Deception Valley; once we saw her on a springbok kill.

The resident Tau Pan pride were seen drinking at the camp waterhole often. There are five male lions in this coalition, some with magnificent black manes. These males range away for up to a week at a time to hunt for food before returning to camp again and re-establishing contact with the rest of the pride with load roars. On day trips we also saw members of the Deception Valley and Letia Hau prides. We saw a lioness try her luck on a wildebeest, but she failed because the area was too open.

A young male leopard was located in the Tau Pan area a couple of times, once very close to camp. We also found a tom leopard in Deception Valley; he went to cross the road but then decided to climb a tree instead, giving our guests a great photo opportunity.

On a day trip we were lucky enough to find wild dogs in Passarge Valley. It was a large pack comprising seven adults and nine puppies. The puppies were quite shy, but the adults were relaxed and everyone was very excited to find the animals in the area.

A brown hyena was spotted along the firebreak.

General game in Passarge Valley and Tau Pan was great and included wildebeest, springbok, gemsbok, giraffe and kudu. We witnessed a dramatic fight between two gemsbok bulls over a female.

Bat-eared foxes and black-backed jackals both had babies. One day we found jackals feeding on a springbok lamb. Two African wild cats were spotted as they were trying their luck on ground squirrels and as we watched they managed to grab one squirrel.

Summer migrants observed included white storks, Abdim storks and Montagu’s harriers. A secretary bird was seen working his kill of a ground agama.

(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!)

Tau Pan, Dec 2019

SLucht.Cat6.WildebeestPan

The Tau Pan pride were seen often and we came across them feasting on a gemsbok that they had killed some thirty minutes before. We also saw them cornering a brown hyena at the camp waterhole. The hyena looked sick and in the end the lions left without harming it. Another time they were at the camp waterhole being nervously watched by a herd of giraffe who were waiting for the lions to move off so that that they quench their thirst. We also came across lions at Deception Valley and Letia Hau during day trips.

Three brother cheetahs were seen along Passarge Valley, but they are not yet well habituated to the vehicles and were shy. A different pair of cheetahs was located at Phukwe Pan hunting, but they were chased away by gemsbok. Two female cheetahs and a herd of springbok were seen sizing each other up, but the cats didn’t make a chase in the end. A single male cheetah was seen near to the Tau2 camping site; he was looking very healthy and relaxed.

We saw a brown hyena highly mobile whilst we were on game drive.

A female leopard was seen trying her luck on ground squirrels, but the squirrels quickly escaped into their burrows. We also saw her calmly rolling around in the grass near to the road around sunset time.

Very relaxed bat-eared foxes could be seen with four cubs at their den. Black-backed jackals were often trying to attack the cubs, but the foxes aggressively chased the bigger predators away from their young.

A honey badger was seen wrestling a snake but won in the end and ate the reptile for breakfast. One day we startled a sleeping honey badger who hissed angrily at us before moving away.

Giraffe could be seen browsing the thorn trees. Gemsbok and springbok were grazing the Tau Pan, new shoots of grass at Tau Pan and San Pan.

We came across a penduline tit nest with chicks in it, this fascinating structure is made of woolly plant material and woven by the birds into a soft weatherproof mat resembling felt. According to our legendary San tracker, Scuppa, these nests were used by the Kalahari bushmen to use as swaddling or nappies for babies.

(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!)

Tau Pan, Nov 2019

GRivas.Cat2.Elephant_Dirt

In what was arguably Kwando’s most unusual sighting for 2019, a bull elephant was struck by lightning right in front of the game drive vehicle as guests were photographing him. Given that there are very few elephants in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve it was a most bizarre event to witness. Luckily our guests not too disturbed and were able to appreciate that the elephant’s instant death would give life to others. Over the course of the next week the carcass was eaten up by lions and vultures. Unusually, the five males of the Tau Pan pride allowed a sixth adult male to join them as they fed on the elephant.

The Tau Pan pride were regularly seen at the camp waterhole, sometimes as a group of ten which included three sub-adults, other times in smaller numbers. One day we saw a lioness trying to stalk some springbok, but they picked up her scent and scattered in different directions.

A different pair of lionesses, mother and her sub-adult daughter, who prefer the western side of the area were seen a few times hanging out at the airstrip near to the windsock. We also saw them feasting on an oryx as we drove out to Passarge Valley.

Yet another pride of lions who were new to the area were seen drinking at the camp waterhole. This group comprised two black-maned males, two females and a sub-adult male estimated to be just under three years old. We followed them to the edge of the pan and that afternoon they managed to successfully bring down and kill a kudu.

During day trips we found two lionesses resting at the Sunday Pan waterhole. A female cheetah with three cubs was located in Deception Valley and a different female cheetah at Letia Hau. On different trips we found the Deception Valley pride of eight lions and also saw a male cheetah chasing some springbok. A coalition of three male cheetahs was seen in Passarge Valley a couple of times, although they were still shy.

A male leopard was seen near to the airstrip resting on a branch and scanning the area for potential prey.

Bat-eared foxes with five cubs were observed playing at Tau Pan. We were able to spend quality time with an African wild cat who was trying his luck on ground squirrels.

After the first rains of the season large numbers of springbok and wildebeest started to arrive in Tau Pan. The camelthorn trees at the waterhole started to produce new leaves providing shade for other general game species such as giraffe, oryx and kudu as they came to drink. We still had a resident elephant hanging out near to camp and he could be seen calmly browsing.

White-backed vultures and tawny eagles waited near the lion kills looking for their chance to scavenge. Summer migrants that arrived during November included the red-backed shrike and lesser grey shrike.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Tau Pan, Oct 2019

RBrightmanDesertPipersPan2

In a fantastic sighting we found that the ten lions of the Tau Pan pride had treed a leopard who was looking down very nervously at the formidable lions below. We also enjoyed seeing this impressive pride regularly at the camp waterhole. A pair of lions from the resident pride were mating at the waterhole, however the antelope were so desperate for water in the searing October heat that they still crept down to drink, despite the courting couple. The following day there seemed to be much competition between the five males of the Tau Pan coalition for the attentions of the single female in oestrus. The males created quite a commotion with roaring and chasing which meant that the antelope didn’t dare to come close enough to drink. At other times we saw various members of the pride feasting on oryx and kudu. A female from another pride came to check out the Tau Pan males, but she was attacked by the resident lionesses and she slunk back to rejoin the other female that she hangs with.

A different pride of lions was discovered at Passarge Junction looking very full after they had killed and eaten an oryx. They were surrounded by over thirty vultures who were waiting for the lions to finish their meal. On another day trip to Deception Valley we stopped at Sunday Pan and came across lions who were finishing up a kudu that they had killed the previous day. However, we saw that they had also killed a lioness from a competing pride and to our surprise they were also eating her remains.

A lone elephant continued to hang between the camp and the waterhole, enjoying a mud wallow in the afternoons.

A female leopard was located at the camp waterhole drinking. We also saw a well-fed tom patrolling his territory which he was marking by spraying bushes with urine.

Two different cheetah were located on the same day in different places on a day trip to Deception Valley.

Bat-eared foxes were denning at Tau Pan.

Good general game could be seen concentrated around the waterhole at Sunday Pan. At the camp waterhole big herds could be seen coming in for a drink including a group of fifty kudu with some impressively-sized males. At Tau Pan the game ventured outside of the actual pan to take advantage of fresh shoots in the surrounding bushes. Species included oryx, giraffe, kudu, springbok and wildebeest.

Bird life was great with sightings of tawny eagles, black-chested snake-eagles, pale chanting goshawks and yellow-billed kites. We saw a big flock of vultures come to the waterhole to drink and wash themselves after they had finished eating a carcass.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Tau Pan, Sep 2019

ARamesh.Cat2Caracal

We were lucky enough to have wonderful sightings of a caracal at the camp waterhole in the mornings and late afternoon. We had started seeing this animal near to camp the previous month and was relaxed enough that guests were even able to photograph him as he rested near to the rooms.

A huge tom leopard was seen drinking at the waterhole and regularly moved through camp during the night, guides observing fresh tracks as they went to the rooms to wake the guests up. This animal is so large that he is the same size as a sub-adult lion.

The lone elephant bull who has been hanging out near to camp for the past year was still in residence. With the general area so dry he has limited options to move elsewhere as the next permanent water source is now very far away. General game at the waterhole included wildebeest, kudu and springbok. There was also a lone impala, unusual for the region, and we saw that it had joined up with the kudu herd for safety. Kudu bulls engaged in a territorial battle; as expected the much bigger challenger won the fight.

Two male lions from the Tau Pan pride were seen attempting to hunt, but they started their chase too early and the prey animals managed to bolt to safety. The Tau Pan lions were often seen at the waterhole, sometimes making an opportunistic attack on the antelope species coming to drink. The pride has sub-adults and it was fun watching them play and greeting their parents. We also found a mating pair within the pride. Two intruder males continued to silently and stealthily use the waterhole, never calling and seemingly wanting to keep a low profile to avoid conflict with the strong coalition of five males in the Tau Pan pride. Two strange lionesses were also seen for the first time.

At Phukwi Pan two male lions were found on an oryx carcass. We returned the following day and the lions had moved on, but the remains were being scavenged on by a brown hyena and black-backed jackals.

A male cheetah was located near Sunday Pan and we also found a female with three cubs on Letiahau Road. The mother looked like she may have been in a fight as she had a cut on her leg.

There were plenty of black-backed jackals, ground squirrels and bat-eared foxes at Tau Pan. We were also lucky enough to see on occasion aardwolf and brown hyena. Guests enjoyed understanding about the symbiotic relationship between honey badgers and the pale chanting goshawks, the raptor following the honey badgers as they dug out rodents, looking for an easy meal.

Other great raptor sightings included tawny eagles hunting doves at the waterhole, sometimes jackals were hoping to steal their kill. A large flock of vultures was seen at Sunday Pan finishing off the remains of a lion kill.

Although the area was still dry, colour was coming back to the area as some of the tree species such as blackthorn and riverthorn were coming into bloom. The worm-bark albezia produced fluffy cream coloured flowers and the Kalahari apple-leaf produced pinky/purple blossoms.

Some guests who had enjoyed a night on the Tau Pan sleep-out deck described the stargazing as “breathtaking”.

(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!)

Tau Pan, Aug 2019

AForsythe.Cat1 Lions mating.jpg

A pair of lions were found mating fairly close to camp. They stayed in the same spot for many days, getting progressively thinner as they were not interested in hunting whilst they continued their honeymoon activities. This female was not usually part of the Tau Pan pride, but from a smaller group of three lionesses who are sometimes seen in the area. Towards the end of their time together the female seemed as though she wanted to get away from the male but he would not allow her to. Meanwhile the rest of the Tau Pan pride were regularly seen at the waterhole. The four other males, two lionesses and three sub-adults tried to stalk a giraffe as it came to drink, but the prey spotted them and managed to get away. In another spectacular sighting two male lions tried to ambush a wildebeest at speed, but the lions simply ended up with a rather comical bath in the waterhole as the herds stampeded away.

As the ongoing dry season continued the waterhole became very active with many species of game including wildebeest, steenbok, springbok, oryx, kudu and a lone elephant bull.  In addition to the lions we were also lucky enough to spot leopard and brown hyena drinking. We were thrilled that a caracal was seen very regularly at the waterhole and this medium sized cat was also hunting guinea fowl around the area. As the month progressed the caracal became bolder and more than once ate a dove just underneath the camp main deck.

The guides spotted fresh cheetah droppings on a termite mound near to Sunday Pan and after following the direction of the tracks they found a female by some bushes. We were able to find her a few more times as the month progressed. The resident female cheetah of the Tau Pan area was also located.

A male lion from the Deception Valley pride was located near to Letia Hau. He was looking very skinny and old. The landscape towards Deception Valley was noticeably greener than the Tau Pan area and looking very beautiful. On another day trip we came across two different female cheetah hunting springbok, one at Letia Hau and one at Passarge Valley.

An African wild cat was spotted hunting a korhaan, but he mistimed his jump and the bird was able to fly to safety. We located yellow mongoose and slender mongoose. Honey badgers could be seen digging for rodents. Other smaller mammals included black backed jackals and the rare Cape fox.

In the early morning huge flocks of sandgrouse and doves visited the waterhole in front of the main deck. Raptors such as tawny eagles were waiting for their opportunity. We saw a gabar goshawk take down a dove before a pale chanting goshawk stole the kill. On game drive at Tau Pan we observed  Northern black korhaans having a territorial fight.

(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!)

Tau Pan, July 2019

CDunn.Cat8lionincamp.jpg

Tau Pan was closed for maintenance during July, but as always there was plenty of action at the waterhole which is overlooked by the rooms and the main deck.

The dryer than usual summer months this year meant that there was not as much moisture to be gained from vegetation such as tsamma melons as there would have been during a wet year, thus the animals reliably came to drink from the water that we provided.

Visitors included the Tau Pan pride of lions, a resident female leopard, springbok, kudu, oryx, giraffe and a large herd of wildebeest.

Big flocks of doves came to drink in the mornings and it was quite common to see males fighting over a female. Black-backed jackals waited for the arrival of sandgrouse hoping to score a 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!)

Tau Pan, June 2019

Peguese.Cat4LionHunt

The five male lions of the Tau Pan pride were still holding their territory in a coalition as had been the case for over two years. Sometimes they separated into smaller groups of twos or threes and we found them often, including their regular visits to the camp watering hole. One time we saw two of the males approaching a big kudu, but the wind was against them and the antelope was able to get away. As is often the case at Tau Pan the male lions had nights where they called and called, enthralling the guests. There were still three lionesses in the area, but one was now looking very old and usually seen on her own, seemingly unable to keep up with the others.

We were extremely lucky with leopard sightings during June, including a particularly relaxed female who we saw a couple of times sitting up on a camel thorn tree scanning for prey. We spent good time with her until she came down from the tree and set off on her hunting mission. We also saw her hunting together with her adult son, quite remarkable since nowadays they occupy different territories. They were highly mobile and appeared to be interested in hunting some steenbok together, but the prey species smelled them and bolted. More than once we saw the female hunting bat-eared foxes but she was unsuccessful; it was interesting to see how the jackal alarm call warned the foxes in good time. A male leopard was observed trying his luck on some young oryx, but the area was too open so they spotted him and ran away.

A brown hyena sometimes visited the camp waterhole early in the morning, before any of the other predators were nearby. One time we were lucky enough to see a brown hyena near to Tau Pan as we were enjoying our sundowner drinks. The hyena was walking straight towards us and so guests were able to get some great shots of this elusive mammal.

Now that winter had descended upon the Central Kalahari Game Reserve there was little sustenance in the pan grasses, so the general game started to disperse elsewhere. Species seen at the camp waterhole included oryx, springbok and kudu. We saw a good number of giraffe together, including two young bulls playfighting. On drive we also saw red hartebeest and wildebeest. Guests enjoyed seeing big herds of springbok pronking and described it as “springbok sports day”!

At the Tau Pan waterhole there were many birds coming to drink and the mornings took on a certain order of events as Cape turtle doves arrived at approximately 8am, followed by Burchell’s sandgrouse and guinea fowl flocking an hour or so later. These prey species attracted raptors such as the lanner falcon, bateleur, pale chanting goshawk and tawny eagle. Once we were nearby when a goshawk managed to swoop down on a dove and started eating it from a bush close to the vehicle – a real ‘wow’ moment for the keen birders who happened to be with us that day.

A lone elephant, the same individual who was visiting us last year, returned to the camp area to take advantage of the waterhole. This big bull tended to browse within the camp itself during the night.

We observed honey badgers digging for prey species such as rodents. Aardwolf were seen a couple of times, including a really close sighting where guests managed to get great photos. One morning we saw a remarkable ten bat-eared foxes. Jackals led us towards a female leopard late one afternoon as we followed their alarm calls. A caracal was briefly seen as it fed on a helmeted guineafowl, but the cat was shy and ducked for cover. We also saw a Cape fox.

A four-metre black mamba was spotted going in and out of ground squirrel burrows as it looked for a meal.

A remarkable bird sighting that we had not previously witnessed was a yellow-billed hornbill killing and eating another bird. A flock of white-backed vultures were found finishing off a springbok carcass that looked to be the result of a cheetah kill.

(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!)

Tau Pan, May 2019

JWingate.Cat7taupancubs (1 of 1)

Lions from the Tau Pan pride were seen almost daily and very often at the camp waterhole where we were able to get lovely photos of them drinking with reflections in the water. Once we saw one of the males trying his luck on some oryx, however the area was too open and the antelope made their escape. The male lions are well known at Tau Pan for regularly roaring near to camp and on a couple of nights they kept the guests awake and enthralled as their roars almost seemed to make the walls vibrate. We saw the lionesses a few times including one who was stalking a herd of kudu, but the herd picked up her scent and galloped off. We also found a lioness with porcupine quills stuck in her neck after an encounter with the large rodent.

One male was limping, perhaps from a thorn or other foot injury, and he had been staying near to the waterhole where he had been eating smaller prey such as springhares and sandgrouse, however he astounded the guides by managing to bring down a large kudu bull all by himself despite his injury. We were lucky enough to witness this unusual kill. The following day three other male lions came to join in the feast. A brown hyena was seen skirting the waterhole, but this solitary animal kept his distance because of the male lion. We were lucky to see the hyena the following day in a more relaxed state.

A couple of times a tom leopard was spotted along the main road, but this is quite a shy individual and guest had to be quick to take photos before it ducked for cover. A more obliging female leopard was found up in a tree scanning around before she jumped down to the ground. She was also seen again a couple of times near to the firebreak, once posing in beautiful light. Right at the end of the month we were lucky enough to see a male leopard hunting and spent some quality time with him as he stalked springbok, though the open ground was against him and he was not successful.

A female cheetah was found a couple of times and seemed well fed and in good condition. We were able to observe her marking her territory.

Bat-eared foxes were seen at Tau Pan and, briefly, an aardwolf. Guests enjoyed seeing black-backed jackals calling and responding to each other. Honey badgers were also located, sometimes with the jackals following behind hoping to pick up a rodent escaping the honey badgers’ digging. On one occasion we saw a flock of crowned lapwings mobbing an African wild cat before the cat disappeared into the bushes.

Now that the Central Kalahari Game Reserve was in its usual dry state the camp waterhole was visited by all kinds of creatures including giraffe, springbok, wildebeest and a good number of kudu with their calves. There was plentiful birdlife also at the waterhole including helmeted guineafowl, Cape turtle doves and Burchell’s sandgrouse in large numbers. There were a good number of giraffe in the Pan and we were able to see two male fighting for dominance in a behaviour known as “necking”. Towards the end of the month the antelope species, such as oryx, stayed on the eastern side of the pan where they were foraging on tubers that were still holding valuable moisture.

As temperatures dropped and skies cleared the stargazing became even more incredible, one of the features for which the Kalahari desert is famous.

(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!)