Tau Pan, Nov 2018

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November was exceptionally hot and dry, even by usual regional averages for the time of year. As a result, there was almost continual action at the camp waterhole. The Tau Pan pride of lions were there on a daily basis, sometimes all together and other times in smaller groups.

Three of the resident lionesses decided to park off under the luggage rack at Tau Pan airstrip. Luckily they were spotted by the guides and they flashed lights to warn the pilot as he was about to get out of his plane! Another time the same lionesses killed an oryx right at the airstrip. One day we were watching wildebeest herding towards water and saw them unexpectedly divert. We followed up and sure enough there were lions lying in wait for them. One day we found the pride eating on a carcass that we suspected had been brought down by a nomadic lioness who was waiting nearby. It looked as though the larger pride had driven her off her kill. White-backed vultures, hooded vultures and yellow-billed kites were circling above.

A female leopard was spotted a few times in the camp area and also resting in a tree near to the airstrip. Separately, a young tom leopard was also seen near to camp. He was relaxed enough that we were able to spend nearly an hour photographing him on one occasion.

One early morning before game drive we were surprised by two young male cheetah brothers who showed up at Room 6 and then headed straight to the waterhole for a drink. They repeated this behaviour a week or so later so we hope that we will see more of this handsome pair.

A large solitary bull elephant has been living by camp for a few months and on a daily basis he was going to the waterhole to drink and bathe, putting on a high tea show for the guests.

Bat-eared foxes and black-backed jackals have dens in the Tau Pan area and both species were nursing young. Other smaller mammals seen included African wild cat and honey badgers. Guests were fascinated to see the bat eared foxed catching and eating scorpions.

Kudu were often drinking at the waterhole; carefully circling the area and sniffing first to check for lions. A lovely journey of twelve giraffe were often seen, towering above the shrubs and bushes as they made their way between the camp waterhole and the pan where they enjoyed browsing. A big male red hartebeest was seen resting under a shady camelthorn tree.

There were plenty of bird species in the area, and especially around the waterhole where there was almost constant raptor hunting. Yellow-billed kites chased cape turtle doves, Tawny eagles and bateleurs preyed on Burchell’s sandgrouse. Enormous flocks of red-billed quelea gathered and these were hawked by gabar goshawks. Guests enjoyed watching the spectacular mating ritual of the male red-crested korhaan which flies straight up and then suddenly tumbles to the ground as though shot, before gliding to land.

(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 2018

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The Tau Pan pride of five males, two females and three cubs were seen drinking at the camp waterhole and resting at various places nearby. One day four of the males were resting when two male cheetahs approached the waterhole and we witnessed an exciting confrontation between all six big cats before the cheetah were driven away. As usual these resident lions were extremely relaxed around our vehicles. The cubs are at an extremely playful age but they were learning to be quieter when their mother was hunting; she often looked for prey alone as her cubs stand a better chance of eating if they do not have to share with the dominant males. Sometimes the males separated which then meant a lot of roaring across the plains as they re-established contact again later on.

A different pride of three females were in the northern part of Tau Pan area, towards Passarge Valley, but they occasionally ventured south and used the camp watering hole if they were in the area.

A single male leopard was seen drinking at the camo waterhole in the early morning. A lovely sight for the guests to enjoy as they sipped their coffee.

Two cheetah were located at Lion Den looking full-bellied and in good condition.

Guides were surprised to still be seeing a lone wild dog in camp. There is no sign of the rest of its pack, so they thought it was probably an individual dispersed from its natal pack trying to find others to start a new family.

A lone bull elephant is still frequenting the camp and guests enjoyed watching him drinking and mud bathing at the camp waterhole in the afternoons. Often he just lay in the cool water to escape the relentless October heat.

Honey badgers were seen often at Tau Pan busy digging for prey such as lizards, mice and ground squirrels. They were sometimes accompanied by pale chanting goshawks or black-backed jackals looking for an opportunity to snatch the prey before the badgers.

Day trips to Deception Valley yielded other good lion sightings at Letia Hau and in Deception Valley itself. Cheetah were also seen there, including at the woodland area known as ‘Mark and Delia’s’. This area is named after the camping spot of the couple who famously researched in the area,  documented in the book Cry of the Kalahari.

The eastern part of Tau Pan was the productive in terms of general game and we saw many species such as springbok, kudu, wildebeest and giraffe coming to the camp waterhole to drink. For now this was the only water available in a vast arid area, so there was almost always some kind of action to be seen in right in front of the lodge main area.

There were many kori bustards down on the pan, together with secretary birds who we were able to see roosting in their favourite tree each evening. In the mornings large flocks of Burchells sandgrouse and Cape turtle doves flocked in huge numbers to the camp waterhole where the yellow-billed kites, a returning summer migrant, lay in wait for them in order to catch an early breakfast. As the dry weather continued the numbers of queleas started to increase into their thousands.

(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 2018

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The Tau Pan pride were seen very regularly, often giving away their location by roaring heartily as the sun rose. The pride had split into two with the main family comprising five males, two lionesses and three cubs. They were often seen full-bellied at the camp waterhole and appeared to be in great condition. The young cubs were sometimes left on their own at the waterhole whilst the pride went hunting. A smaller group of three lionesses, mother and her two sub-adults were seen away from the rest of the main pride most of the time but they were also doing well and managed to kill an oryx. We also managed to find the Passarge Pan pride of four adults and five cubs, though this group was notably more skittish than the lions who reside nearer to our camp. Four of the Letiahau lions were also located during a day trip.

A lone bull elephant continued to stay near to the camp, drinking and mudbathing at the waterhole. One day as we were watching him enjoy his daily ablutions we suddenly spotted a lone male wild dog. He was calling as though he had lost the rest of his pack. This is a very unusual sighting for us to have at the Tau Pan waterhole.

A sub-adult female leopard was seen a couple of times on our western firebreak. One time we saw her trying to hunt but the kudu spoiled her ambush by making alarm calls. A leopard was also seen in camp itself and dragged a steenbok kill under the deck of Room 9 to eat it. The pilot staying in the room that night was alerted to its presence by the sound of crunching bones during the night…..!

The resident male cheetah was seen a couple of times near to camp. One time he seemed to have his eye on a herd of kudu, but the prey animals, including some giraffe, herded together for protection. Towards the end of the month a coalition of two male cheetahs was seen trying to hunt springbok on the pan, although they were unsuccessful on the times that we saw them they were full-bellied a day or so later.

A shy aardwolf and many families of bat-eared foxes were found at Tau Pan.

Oryx, kudu and springbok started to drop their young. A kudu bull was seen checking if the cows were in oestrus, but apparently not as he then returned back to a bachelor herd.

Honey badgers were seen often. We watched a male hunting for rats for a long time at San Pan. He was successful many times, but had his kills stolen by jackals and goshawks. Her persistently continued to hunt though. We came across a group of six black-backed jackals fighting near to three lionesses. At first we thought they might be fighting over food but as we couldn’t see any carcass nearby the guides deduced it was most likely a territorial fight.

Ground squirrels were observed popping out of their burrows and searching the skies for threats from raptors. Smaller birds, such as queleas and finches flocked around looking for seeds that the ground squirrels might have left behind. Unusual behaviour from a flock of black-faced waxbills alerted our guide that there might be a predator in the vicinity and all of a sudden an African wild cat sprang out from the bushes.

Birdwatchers enjoyed colourful species such as the lilac-breasted roller, crimson-breasted shrike and black-faced waxbills. Raptors such as the tawny eagle, bateleur and gabar goshawk could be seen hunting sandgrouse at the camp waterhole in the mornings.

The sleep out deck at Tau Pan was enjoyed by many guests during September. The temperatures were extremely comfortable and the clear night skies made for incredible stargazing. Guests told us how it was to wake in the early hours and see the milky way spread above as a dazzling ribbon of light, complete with shooting stars. The deck faces east so they loved the intense orange glow on the horizon just before sunrise, accompanied by the distant roar of a lion. Africa at it’s finest.

(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, August 2018

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The Tau Pan pride roared their way into August with an all-night declaration of their territory near to camp. They were seen at the camp waterhole in the morning and were there very regularly as the dry weather continued throughout the month. The five big males made an impressive sight as they laid by the water, watched nervously by thirsty oryx and springbok who were waiting to drink. One of the females with her three cubs was seen hunting giraffe. The sub-adult cubs reacted very well and they were nearly successful in bringing down this formidable prey. In the end the giraffe managed to escape from the dangerous situation which lasted almost two hours. Another time we watched as three lionesses tried to catch an oryx, but the large antelope was too quick for them.

A lovely herd of kudu frequented the Tau Pan camp waterhole and sometimes came into camp. The four large bulls had beautifully spiralled horns and they were accompanied by six large females and 5 calves. One day, a solitary tom leopard tried to sneak up on them, but the experienced adults spotted him quickly and snorted an alarm call before galloping away. The next day the leopard returned and guests enjoyed getting beautiful photos of him as he lay resting under the Kalahari apple-leaf trees.

Bat-eared foxes could be seen huddled up together in the early mornings, trying to stay warm whilst the outside temperature was about 5 degrees Celcius. It was interesting to see how they pushed their ears backwards and closed their eyes to camouflage perfectly against the winter grass. Ground squirrels were observed up on their hind legs, scanning for threats from raptors such as the pale chanting goshawk. Black-backed jackal were plentiful in the Tau Pan area and we watched them feeding on the buffalo thorn berries. Guests enjoyed listening to their haunting contact calls. The jackals, along with pale chanting goshawks, tried to raid food from some honey badgers as they dug for rodents.

A large lone elephant bull continued to visit us, hanging out to browse between rooms 3 and 4 or drinking at the waterhole. Springbok and giraffe were also seen coming to drink. One time we came across some giraffe bulls fighting by swinging their necks at each other.

Ostriches, secretary birds and kori bustards were seen at Tau Pan. Red-headed finches and red-headed queleas flocked in huge numbers in front of the camp main area, sometimes hunted by a Gabar goshawk. A single tawny eagle and some crows started to wait patiently by the waterhole for the Burchell’s sandgrouse who were arriving daily in a huge flock at around 9.00am. It was quite a spectacle as the sandgrouse played hide and seek with the raptor, but most times the eagle claimed his breakfast. One morning the guests decided to stay behind in camp to watch this amazing birdlife and were rewarded with a bonus sighting of a female leopard! White-backed vultures were seen at Deception Valley feeding on a springbok carcass, from the tracks on the ground it appeared to be 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, July 2018

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Tau Pan camp was closed for refurbishment during June but the maintenance team were kept on their toes by the regular appearances of lions and an elephant in camp. The elephant enjoyed browsing on the camp ridge during the day and made trips down to the waterhole to drink.

The Tau Pan pride walked though camp frequently, one time stopping to bring down and kill an oryx just in front of the lodge. They could often be seen at the waterhole, and we also spotted a brown hyena drinking on one of the days.

(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 2018

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A couple of extremely unusual sightings happened in Tau Pan during June, the first of which involved no animals at all. On 2nd of June an asteroid collided with earth over western Botswana and our team at Tau Pan were some of the last humans to witness the huge flash it as it turned into a meteor fireball. Hearing the loud explosions our guests came running out of their rooms thinking that our generator had blown up, only to find very startled staff looking at a trail of smoke across the sky. Experts descended on the area from all over the world and partly helped by our team’s eye-witness accounts were able to retrieve fragments of the asteroid. This was only the second time in history that remains have been able to be recovered from a meteorite hitting earth.

Closer to home, another extraordinary sighting at Tau Pan was a leopard who approached our vehicle and then decided to crawl straight underneath it. Guests held their breath as the animal could be heard underneath banging against the metal. It eventually came out and then lay down to sleep right next to the game viewer in a most unconcerned way. A really incredible encounter which thrilled the guests.

Another complete surprise was the appearance of a bull elephant at Tau Pan camp who was frequently seen by the rooms and at the camp waterhole. Elephants are not common in the area and definitely not something our team expected to come across as they walked to the rooms. It goes to show you never know what will happen next in the bush!
The Tau Pan pride of lions were doing well. They were seen regularly at the camp waterhole and seen feeding on wildebeest carcasses.

An aardwolf was located in the evenings heading southwards across the pan. Honey badgers were seen much more regularly than they had been during the summer months and could be viewed digging at the pan for rodents and barking geckos most days. Bat-eared foxes and black-backed jackals were also regular sightings. Guests enjoyed watching ground squirrels digging and foraging around their burrows, always keenly checking the skies to ensure that a raptor wasn’t about to swoop down on them.

The resident cheetah was seen towards the west of Tau Pan and another cheetah mother with two cubs was seen on day trip to Deception Valley.

General game included oryx, red lechwe, wildebeest, steenbok, springbok and large numbers of giraffe.

Every morning huge flocks of birds were descending on the camp waterhole. At around eight o clock it was hundreds of doves and then by nine o clock it was the turn of Burchell’s sandgrouse. Ostriches were seen often during game drive as well as white-backed vultures and white-headed vultures.

The weather in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve during June was exceptionally clear and cold, making for very beautiful star-gazing conditions in the wide open skies.

(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 2018

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The Tau Pan pride were seen very regularly in different configurations. The impressive coalition of five males were seen together on occasion, but sometime separated from each other to patrol. This usually then resulted in a night of roaring as the males made contact calls to find each other again. A group of six adults and a cub were seen feeding on a wildebeest and two of the males were seen trying to hunt giraffe but failed in their attack due to lack of cover. Two mothers with three cubs were located drinking from the camp waterhole every few days, sometimes accompanied by one of the males. A different pride of lions consisting of a big black-maned lion and a female with her two sub-adult cubs was located at the Passarge waterhole. They looked well-fed and showed little interest in the surprisingly relaxed oryx grazing very nearby.

One morning the guides were surprised to find elephant tracks going through camp as they went to do their wake-up calls. Eventually they found a large bull elephant browsing next to Room 1. Elephants are not very common in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and it is very unusual for us to have one staying in the camp area.

A shy male leopard was seen a few times. On one occasion we found him being mobbed by a few jackals which stopped him successfully hunting the springbok which he had his eye on. A young female who is the daughter of a well-known resident was seen mobile towards the old camp site.

Two young cheetah brothers were sighted towards the west of Tau Pan, although they were a bit skittish.

As is often the case in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve there were many species of raptors including bateleur eagles, tawny eagles, goshawks and secretary birds. Kori bustards and huge flocks of red-billed queleas were also seen.

A beautifully relaxed herd of twenty adult oryx with ten calves was located at Phukwi Pan. Other general game species included springbok, red hartebeest and wildebeest. As the mornings got progressively colder, the antelope could be seen lying on the roads to warm themselves up. There were plentiful giraffe in the area and we were able to see them licking at the soil to gain extra minerals into their diet. At the camp waterhole we watched two kudu bulls testing a female by sniffing her and grimacing in a pose known as the flehmen response. This behaviour is done in order for males to better detect pheromones that might indicate whether the cow is in oestrus.

Black-backed jackals and bat-eared foxes were seen foraging. On one occasion the jackals and foxes started growling at each other, raising their hackles and eventually fighting. An African wild cat was seen hunting birds. Honey badgers were seen hunting, accompanied by jackals and southern pale chanting-goshawks who were always on the lookout for any rodents missed by the honey badgers during their digging. The bat eared foxes could be seen huddling up together in family groups in the early morning chill.

 

(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, April 2018

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The Tau Pan pride were seen very regularly, and often extremely close to the camp. At one stage the whole pride of ten (five males, two females and three cubs) took up residence next to the Tau Pan workshop, making the servicing of our vehicles a little tricky. The cubs were unfazed and played around the area, but thankfully after a couple of hours they moved off towards the camp waterhole so the mechanic could get back on with his work.

During the month, the pride appeared to be hunting successfully and were seen full-bellied. Guests really enjoyed seeing how tolerant the big males were of the smaller cubs playing with them. One of the females with her two sub-adult cubs split away from the main pride from time to time and they managed to kill a giraffe calf at the camp waterhole. Jackals and vultures descended on the area in large numbers, looking for an opportunity to scavenge. This kill kept the three lions busy for a couple of days before they reunited with the rest of the pride.

A different pride of lions was seen at the Passarge Valley waterhole, resting under a thorn tree.

We enjoyed a wonderful sighting of an African wild cat at Phukwi Pan who boldly came out of the bushes during the morning coffee break and lay on its back, entertaining the guests. It was a remarkable sighting of a species that is usually quite shy.

A lovely relaxed family of four bat-eared foxes were resident at Tau Pan and they could be observed foraging for insects and rodents. Black-backed jackals were often seen.

The day trips to Deception Valley often yielded interesting sightings, including a male leopard near to Letia Hau. A female leopard was also seen at the start of the month nearer to Tau Pan.

A herd of red hartebeest comprising ten adults and three calves were seen at the Tau Pan area as well as an unusual sighting of a single eland. This is not a species that we see often in the Central Kalahari, but it seemed very comfortable grazing alongside some oryx. At Passarge Valley springbok and oryx were plentiful and we saw a female cheetah with two cubs there looking full-bellied after having killed and eaten a springbok.

The Kalahari raptors are beautiful and we saw many different species on a daily basis. A highlight was a lovely sighting in April of two bateleur eagles enjoying the remains of an oryx 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, Mar 2018

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During March there were plenty of wildebeest, springbok, red hartebeest and oryx in the Tau Pan and Passarge Valley areas enjoying the green grasses that emerged following good rains. Guests were able to enjoy seeing them galloping and jumping in the morning breeze before the temperatures started to rise. Giraffe and kudu could also be seen drinking from the camp watering hole.

The most unusual sighting of the month at Tau Pan was a leopard trying to kill an aardwolf. Both animals are elusive at the best of times so it was a special privilege to witness this remarkable interaction. Luckily the aardwolf managed to dash into a burrow and escape to the relief of everyone watching. A female leopard was also seen behind the Tau Pan staff village. Although initially she was walking through long grass we eventually were able to get a better view and spent about an hour with her. Another time two different female leopards were seen on the same morning, one posing beautifully on top of a camelthorn tree before coming down, pausing whilst guests took some lovely photographs, and eventually making her way east.

Another pleasant surprise was locating a pack of 12 wild dogs during a day trip to Deception Valley, a species not often seen in the Central Kalahari. On the same day we also came across plenty of elephant tracks and an impressively full-bellied brown hyena by San Pan.

The Tau Pan pride of lions were seen very regularly throughout the month, sometimes roaring through the night near the rooms to the delight of the guests, and occasionally walking through camp itself. The pride spent a lot of time at the camp watering hole, sometimes all five impressive male lions together accompanied by three females and their three cubs. The cubs were at a very playful age, chasing each other around even when the adults were lying sleeping. A different pride were seen in varying sized groups near to Letitia Hau.

Cheetah were seen regularly. We watched the resident female trying her luck on a steenbok not far from Tau Pan; she pursued for a while but was not successful. The resident male was seen watching and stalking the springbok in the Tau Pan area. A mother cheetah and her two sub-adult cubs, were seen from time to time between Passarge Valley and Deception Valley; but these three females are notably more shy than the animals resident closer to camp, so our guides are patiently trying to habituate them to the vehicles.

A large family of 15 bat-eared foxes, including four puppies were seen regularly near to Tau Pan where they particularly enjoyed relaxing under some shady umbrella-thorn trees. We discovered a group of seven back-backed jackal, two males, three females and two pups catching and eating slender mongoose by the pan. Honey badgers were seen close to Deception Valley

An African python was spotted near to San Pan. Another memorable reptile sighting was a lovely group of seven leopard tortoises, including some babies, feeding on flowers

An unusual sighting for the Tau Pan watering hole was two African painted snipe, these uncommon birds are usually more associated with marsh and wetland regions than the semi-arid Kalahari. An immature martial eagle, the largest raptor found in the area, was seen at camp where it was perched on a camel thorn tree eyeing up some helmeted guineafowl who was scratching at the ground beneath him. Pale chanting goshawks are a common bird species at Tau Pan; some guests managed to take excellent photos of this elegant grey raptor eating a gerbil. The goshawks were also seen following honey badgers as they were seen digging for insects and rodents, hoping for a chance to make an opportunistic kill for themselves. Guests were able to get some lovely images of a bateleur eagle bathing in the camp watering hole. Other species seen regularly were ostrich, kori bustard, secretary bird and northern black korhaan.

(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, Feb 2018

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Lions were seen on the majority of the days during February and guests were often serenaded at night by the sound of nearby roars as the Tau Pan pride made contact with each other. As is often the case at Tau Pan, we came across the cats in groups of varying sizes, including a sizable pride of twelve lions which was seen regularly towards Letia Hau, comprising 3 males, 2 lionesses and seven young. One of the times that pride was feasting on a wildebeest kill. The camp watering hole was frequented by the lions very regularly including a female with a cub and the impressive black-maned resident males.

A brown hyena continued to be seen at the watering hole, especially at dawn and dusk. However another individual was less fortunate and we found its carcass nearby, possibly killed as a result of conflict with lions.

An African wild cat was seen a few times hunting mice around the Tau Pan areas and lucky guests were able to capture some photographs of this elusive mammal. Honey badgers were also seen digging for rodents in the same area. Pale Chanting Goshawks were seen keeping a close eye on the honey badgers, hoping to steal some food, but their reactions were too slow to be successful. Black backed jackal, ground squirrels and bat-eared foxes were seen most days, however some more unusual sightings of a Cape fox and the elusive aardwolf were great to have. Cheetah were located at Passarge Valley.

In a very unusual encounter, we came across elephants in Deception Valley – a female and calf. Elephants haven’t been seen in that area by us for many years. They were resting in the shade – although the day was cloudy it was extremely hot.

Following heavy rains towards the end of February plains game species such as oryx, springbok and wildebeest moved into the Tau Pan area to take advantage of the new green shoots of grass. The springbok herds were estimated to be as large as 300 animals and made a spectacular sight as they ran and pronked at sunset. Steenbok were seen regularly and there was a small herd of red hartebeest at Phokoje Pan. A journey of eleven giraffe were seen regularly.

Birdlife continued to be excellent at Tau Pan, especially for the raptors. Species seen included pallid harrier, gabar goshawk, tawny eagle, black-chested snake eagle, brown snake eagle and yellow-billed kite. A pair of bateleur eagles are building a nest near to camp. Kori bustards and secretary birds could be seen stalking across the pans looking for food. We had a remarkable sighting of 45 ostrich chicks in one flock, being looked after by two sets of parents.

The northern black korhaans and red crested korhaans could be seen displaying. In the case of the latter, the male flies straight up and then dramatically tumbles towards the ground as though shot.

Although the first half of the month was fairly dry for the time of year, the clouds were building up each afternoon making for some spectacular sunset shots. Once the rains came the bush sprang to life and was beautiful and green.

(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!)