Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, March 2022

Two female lions from the Tau Pan pride killed a Brown hyena in an extraordinarily rare sighting this month!

Tau Pan Summer Season

After hearing the distinct distress call from the waterhole in front of the camp, guides quickly drove to the area to find the lions killing the hyena. During the rainy season, the remains of lion, leopard and cheetah kills become a significant food source for this forager, which is likely what led to this fatal conflict.

Kwando Safaris guide Vasco noted that plants have started losing their flowers and that Kalahari Sand Quick grass was dominant across the pans and valleys, along with Eight-day grass. Both are highly favoured by herbivores for the high nutrient levels, and it has held plenty of plains game somewhat captive. Concentrations of Oryx, wildebeest and Springboks were commonly seen in these rich areas. The herbivores have also been licking the clay soils to obtain the calcium, potassium, and phosphorus required to best strengthen their bodies. This phenomenon of soil-eating is known as geophagia.

To the south of Tau Pan, we found a very shy male cheetah (perhaps due to all lion activity listed below) and enjoyed encounters with a very relaxed leopard. It was located along Aardvark road, resting upon the Camelthorn tree, and we spent beautiful quality time watching the animal go about its day.

Our resident lion pride hung around the Tau Pan area the whole month. The pride consists of two mothers with their six cubs plus five males, who come and go as they please in groups of two or three. They frequently came down to the camp water hole for a thirst-quenching drink after their numerous kills and all seemed in excellent condition. We found the pride on a fresh Oryx kill one day, and after just four to five hours, everything was gone. The cubs played around with the skull and the hooves, and our guests took some fantastic pictures. A few days later, we found three of the males finishing off a wildebeest, which was killed by the females.

During one early morning drive, the three males gathered at the camp water hole roaring with the dawn in an incredible spectacle. The two females with their six cubs joined in, creating beautiful photographs as they were all lined up, showing their reflection in the water. They then moved south of the water hole, where they all spent the rest of the hot day in the welcome shade of a Kalahari apple-leaf tree.

After following a flock of vultures to an Umbrella thorn tree, we located two females from the Airstrip pride that made a kill of a kudu.  

What do whydahs and waxbills have in common?

Monotonous larks have arrived, and we saw a few over at the airstrip. In many regions, they come after the heaviest summer rains. Wattled starlings have also been logged (though we have yet to find their breeding site in our area), along with Northern black korhaans, Red-backed shrikes, Crimson-breasted shrikes, Violet-eared waxbills, and the Shaft tailed whydahs. The latter two birds have an interesting relationship. This whydah is a brood parasite, and the female lays her eggs in the nest of the pretty Violet-eared waxbill. The wily Shaft-tailed whydah will often mimic the violet-eared waxbill’s call when singing or calling.

Plenty of Common buzzards were seen during game drives to Deception Valley. These raptors enjoyed plenty of leftovers from the carnivores and an abundant insect pantry thanks to all the rain. We often found them chasing beetles, termites, frogs, and earthworms on the ground. Tawny eagle, Black-chested eagle, Brown snake eagle and Bateleur eagle were common in the area, but our best raptor sighting had to be two goshawks fighting for the meal. A Gabar goshawk and a Southern pale chanting goshawk locked talons, but the latter ultimately emerged as the victor.

(Note: The leopard in the Camelthorn tree was taken by sound recordist and wildlife photographer Derek Solomon during his summer safari. Other accompanying pictures are 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

Tau Pan Camp, February 2022

In its summer wash of luxuriant grass, the sprawling Central Kalahari Game Reserve vegetation remained green during February. Rain forever feels like a miracle in this desert, even though we have already enjoyed our fair share this season! We recorded 35mm of rainfall in just one day, and the animals continued to gorge on the abundance.

In an unusual hunt, we watched a Southern pale chanting goshawk feeding on a lizard, and there was a high number of Oryx, springbok, wildebeest and Red hartbeest around. They were often stuck to the pan in the early mornings and late afternoons, where they gathered for safety to better scrutinise the surroundings for predators. Wisely so.  

Tau Pan Central Kalahari

A shy male cheetah was seen at the southern part of the popular pan trying his luck at hunting the Springboks, but one eagle-eyed antelope gave up his location and the herd scattered, leaving him hungry.

Korhaans, Kori bustards, falcons (Amur, Red-footed, Red-necked), Burchell’s sandgrouse, and Turtle doves all visited the camp water hole regularly in the mornings for a drink. The Tau Pan Camp waterhole remains a hive of activity even in the wet season. If only everyone stayed awake to witness the action.

Waterhole excitement

One day, around mid-morning, a male leopard strolled down for a drink and took his time, lapping gingerly from the water for over 15 minutes. Unfortunately, our guests didn’t see him because it was during the siesta.

Another morning, we were due to conduct the nature walk with our San tracker, Scoupa, but during breakfast, he spotted some Oryx and one giraffe acting unusually down near the water. On picking up the binoculars, Scoupa spotted lions in the area, and we boarded the vehicles instead to get a closer look at the Tau Pan pride, which comprises two lionesses with their six cubs.

Although scarce at the beginning of the month, our days soon filled with lion sightings. On a day trip to Deception Valley, we came across the Letiahau Pride resting at the base of a tall Umbrella thorn tree close to the road. The group of two lionesses with their three cubs were accompanied by three males,  which all looked well-fed and healthy. We also encountered two lionesses from the Airstrip Pride slaking their thirst at the camp water hole, and we tracked two other different lionesses on yet another occasion. We followed lion roars towards the pan and located two females with two skinny cubs on the northern side. The cubs were trying to get close to the two lionesses, but they kept growling and pushing them away. Later that day, we located the cubs as a trio with a third young member, but the older females were nowhere to be seen. We suspect that these cubs somehow became separated from their mother.

Tau Pan Central Kalahari

Reptiles were still active on warm days, and we stopped the car during one game drive for a handsome Snouted cobra crossing the road. This intriguing snake actively hunts its prey during the day. It feeds on rodents, birds, eggs, and toads but is fond of eating snakes, too, including the Puff Adder. It measured nearly two metres in length. We also found a Ground agama with a young one, which is uncommon!

(Note: Accompanying pictures were taken 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

Tau Pan Camp, January 2022

Tau Pan Green season

We kicked off the year in true Tau Pan Camp style with a sighting of four lionesses accompanied by six cubs and five males in the eastern part of the area on 1 January 2022. They were catching some shade by sheltering below bushes while the males lay down in the open as if to show off their full bellies. 

This resident Tau Pan pride were seen drinking from the camp waterhole often. One morning, we tracked them through the alarm call of a jackal. They were full-bellied again, and the cubs were playing around with the skull of an oryx. We repeatedly encountered the pride at play which is always a joy to watch. Especially when lions are typically lethargic and can rest for up to 20 hours a day. 

An implausibility of wildebeest

Plains game sightings included high numbers of Oryx, lots of steenboks, a few kudus, healthy implausibilities of Blue wildebeest, a massive amount of springbok and a large click of eland along the Aardwolf Road one day. Did you know? The giant eland antelope breeds all year round. 

This month, we did not see any leopards but found plenty of tracks that proved their omnipresence. Guides spotted four sub-adult cheetahs through another alarm call from our wily friend, the Black-backed jackal, when it called south of the Tau Pan area. They were resting under the tree and looked hungry. Three days later, we encountered three of these cheetahs. We suspected a female was missing because they usually remain solitary between periodic meet-ups with the males. We soon spotted her, but this time accompanied by a cub and hunting on the northern side of Tau Pan. 

Passarge Valley of plenty

Passarge Valley proved particularly productive and yielded a mating pair of Kalahari spine agamas and a Brown hyena running through the bush. One day, we also stopped for a big flock of White-backed vultures and Lappet-faced vultures and saw them feeding on the carcass of a juvenile ostrich chick. 

On a day trip to Deception Valley, we came across a caracal on the move, and in another exciting sighting, an African wild cat was seen active during the day, which is unusual. Early in the month we also located a well-hidden Black-backed jackal den during our morning game drive west of Tau Pan.

Sandgrouse regularly flocked to the full waterholes, and the Kalahari landscape has been fantastic with its greener trees and flowers in bloom. This attracted a glut of insects, and hungry birds soon followed. Even ostriches took advantage of the softer stems, sweet flowers, fresh leaves, and small fruits of the trees. We have seen an abundance of ostriches within the Tau Pan area, sometimes counting 40 in one drive.   

We also noticed a flock of Abdims storks, some Bateleur eagles, Red-knobbed coots, and once a Barn owl came to visit the camp’s central area. Black-shouldered kite, Northern black and Red-crested korhaan were familiar sightings, and guides also noted many juvenile Southern pale chanting goshawks and Yellow-billed kites around. 

(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

Tau Pan Camp, December 2021

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is astonishingly green, and we’ve seen many creatures this month, especially in the pans. With such excellent rainfall, animals congregated in large numbers to feed on the nutritious new shoots. One day, we encountered 67 giraffes at the nearby Phokoje Pan! It was amazing to see such high numbers of giraffes, especially since these lofty creatures are undergoing a silent extinction in other parts of Africa. 

Tau Pan has been productive and flush with herbivores, including gemsbok, springbok, red hartebeest and small groups of kudus. Many of these species had newly-born calves too, which attracted predators. We saw several lions from the Tau Pan pride at the water hole. This pride has one female mothering six cubs, four males and another two females. One day, the three males were located at Tau Pan, full-bellied at a carcass. Another male was seen on the second pan from Tau Pan, and the others were roaring ahead of him, urging him to join the feed. On 25 December, we saw the whole Tau Pan pride resting after a hunt – a lovely Christmas present for our guests. 

On a day trip to the Deception Valley, we came across members of the Deception Pride; three of them lay resting in the bushes. 

We did not see any leopard this month, but the staff noted several tracks around the camp. 

Also around Christmas Day, we saw different cheetahs in Tau Pan and San Pan: two cheetahs at San Pan were feeding on a springbok, the four cheetahs found at Tau Pan were hunting but unsuccessful in landing a meal. We saw this trio for two days (one adult female, two sub-adult females), and they were joined by a sub-adult male. Kwando Safaris guides noted that it was very shy. 

Insect activity flourished this month. Thanks to pools of water, we have logged sightings of rainwater scorpions and other exciting aquatic bugs. Even African jacanas have flown in to visit. The Dwarf bittern, Cattle egret, Little grebe, Black crakes and Common sandpiper were all witnessed enjoying the water too. 

Two jackals were seen feeding on a feast of termites after rains softened their mound. Other insects include the shimmering Giant jewel beetles, busy tok-tokkie beetles, and multiple kaleidoscopic butterfly flights; Yellow pansies, African jokers, African monarchs and Zebra whites have all coloured the desert skies.

A female Side-striped sand snake was seen sliding through the bushes, and a Black mamba crossed the road during a game drive.

A honey badger was briefly seen at San Pan before disappearing in a crash through the bushes in contrast to the relaxed caracal located east of the camp, making for fabulous photographs. An aardwolf was spotted to the west, and there were several steenbok and scrub hare sightings. Bat-eared foxes are always a delight, but arguably more so when sporting pups at their den. One pair was seen with a baby this month.

(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

Tau Pan Camp, June-July 2021

As usual, the Tau Pan pride was active in the area! These well-known lions currently make up a pride of 16, but it is unusual to find them all together in one spot. Perhaps because there’s some competition?

There are also two adult females in the area and six siblings. Three of these six are young and hidden very well because they don’t want to be encountered by rivals (which might get them killed!).

One day, cheetahs were seen hungry and hunting in the morning, and in the afternoon were found feasting successfully on a springbok. This trio consists of a mother and two cubs, visiting us from San Pan. Guides are keeping a keen eye on them because lions are a threat to the little ones.

While the bigger predators often steal the spotlight, winter is a wonderful time to admire the more unusual Kalahari creatures. Thanks to colder mornings, handsome caracal and Africa’s littlest hyena, the harmless ant-eating aardwolf, were both seen active during the day. Our other sand-loving and burrowing residents, the Bat-eared fox, Ground squirrel, Yellow and Slender mongoose, also provided plentiful sightings.

As for the bigger game, no elephants were seen, but “they might be on the southern part of Central Kalahari”, Vasco says. “We do see their tracks heading towards another waterhole on the northern part of Passarge Valley”. While there are no migratory birds present at the moment, there is still plenty of bird watching to do. Vasco recorded plenty of raptors such as the Pale chanting goshawk, Tawny eagle and vultures, plus our little brown jobs, the Sabota lark, Fawn coloured lark, as well as the bigger brown jobs Kori bustard and Northern black korhaan.

Vasco says a highlight is the night sky. “It’s awesome to watch constellations in the evening. Scorpio is prominent, then there’s Corvus the crow-flying bird (but upside down) the Southern Cross and the confusing False cross, plus Musca, the bee”. Each constellation with its own African interpretation.

(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 Camp, October 2020

RAhlborn.Cat1.Lion Family.TauPan

Lions were often in and around the camp area. A lioness with three cubs took up temporary respite from the intense sun under the deck of the manager’s house. We could see that she was nursing an injured leg and during this time seemed to prefer being away from the pride and staying in camp where she could hide her cubs. This meant that the camp team needed to be extra careful as they moved around, but by the end of the month, her leg had improved and she was seen more often with the pride at the waterhole. A male lion, the father of the cubs, was also keeping an eye on his family in camp and seen near to the office. The lions were often hanging out at the waterhole, much to the frustration of thirsty antelope, who could smell the water but did not dare to get too close. One day the lions were successful in killing a wildebeest at the waterhole and another time we saw that they were stalking some drinking giraffe, but the giraffes spotted them in time and ran away. As is usual at Tau Pan, the team looking after camp were regularly entertained by the coalition of five males roaring heartily through the night to proclaim ownership of their territory.

One morning a brown hyena was seen running away from a lioness at the waterhole. We also saw a caracal heading towards the camp office – a very special sighting.

A big tom leopard was seen resting under a bush, this is the son of the dominant female in the area. The resident leopard did a patrol of the whole camp, inspecting the veranda of each room, before moving onto the next one. We followed her tracks in fascination the next day, wondering what had been going through her mind. Maybe she is missing having guests in camp as much as we are?!

The camp team saw a gabar goshawk kill a cape turtle dove and then he took his meal off to the bushes to enjoy in peace.  Another time, a big brown snake eagle caught a dove, but he didn’t finish his meal, because all of a sudden, a tawny eagle flew over him and he dropped his prey, which was snatched up by the larger eagle.

General game at the waterhole included kudu, giraffe and wildebeest.  Right at the end of October we were delighted to see a newly born springbok, already strong and ready to run for its life from some approaching lions.

One morning our guide saw a slender mongoose climb a tree and then jumped down. As soon as he landed, a Kalahari scrub robin started to give a warning call to other birds.

(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 Camp, August – September 2020

WGreiner.Cat5cheetahintree

Our camps welcomed domestic guests in August, and the wildlife in and around Tau Pan did not fail to impress during game drives. One of the most photographed sightings this month was that of a male cheetah resting on a fallen tree.

As usual, the Tau Pan pride was active in the area. The large males from the pride were regularly sighted quenching their thirst at the waterhole, and two of the lionesses and their three cubs were spotted feasting on a wildebeest by the side of a road close to camp.

The waterhole in front of camp was also been a hive of activity for birds, such as the sandgrouse, shaft-tailed whydah and red-billed quelea. Raptors often lurked close-by to try their luck, preying on these smaller birds. A Southern pale chanting goshawk was successful and was seen feeding on a Cape turtle dove one morning.

As we arrived at the tail end of winter, the landscape around the pans was marked by dried yellow grass and many of the trees lost their leaves. Some of the trees, such as the camel-thorn tree, are adapted to have new leaves during this period, providing much-needed nutrition to browsers.

General game was excellent, especially in Passarge Valley where good numbers of oryx, greater kudu, springbok, giraffe, jackal, bat-eared fox and ostrich were encountered.

While tracks were seen along the camp’s pathways most mornings and his rasping calls heard during some nights, the resident male leopard remained elusive and shied away from being spotted this month.

(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, 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!)