Southern Africa Bush Tails

Botswana – Kwando Newsletter

Sightings – November 2017 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

The first rains in the Okavango Delta arrived in November, and shortly afterwards the antelope species started to drop their young, with huge numbers of animals being born during the month. Guests were overwhelmed by the cuteness overload and their camera lenses were suddenly focused on zebra foals, warthog piglets and impala lambs rather than the big predators.

Of course, the predators themselves were also enjoying the baby boom amongst their prey species, relishing the easy pickings by singling out newborn calves and lambs. Two male lions killed a new born giraffe right between the airstrip and the camp meaning that arriving guests quickly realised the sometimes-harsh reality of untamed Africa. Botswana is as raw and wild as it comes.

During November were excited to pick up tracks of white rhino in the concession, a female and a calf. A few days later we managed to get a glimpse of female, although she was skittish. It is wonderful to see these incredible animals repopulating the Okavango Delta again.

The female leopard and her cub of three months are both doing really well and continuing to delight guests. The mother is a successful hunter and was usually seen full-bellied, specialising on impala lambs, but also taking down red lechwe and young reedbuck. The cub has now learned to climb trees all the way to the top which should her it less vulnerable. She has become relaxed with the game drive vehicles and is confident enough to come out into the open to take a curious look at us. Guests particularly enjoyed seeing the mother calling for her cub to come out of hiding and the pair tenderly reuniting and nursing afterwards. Although the cub will still drink milk for many months she is just starting to eat meat.

One beautiful morning we located a handsome male leopard moving south of the airstrip. We saw him stalking a herd of impala and in a lightning fast burst of speed he quickly took down one of the antelope. He also killed a young reedbuck in front of the vehicle on a different occasion.

The resident pack of wild dogs comprising seven adults and five puppies were all in good condition and were seen often as they opportunistically raided the drier parts of the Kwara concession. One morning we found them near to the airstrip starting their greeting ritual in perfect early morning light. We followed them as they hunted down a fully-grown impala ewe and devoured it in front of us. The dogs were relentless in their quest to make the most of the easy time to feast and we saw them being successful all month. In fact, more than once we saw them making multiple kills; on one drive they killed three times – two impala lambs and a tsessebe calf.  A second pack of twelve dogs returned to the area. Last time we saw them they had two puppies with them, sadly this time we saw them there were only adults. They stayed near to camp for a few days, feeding daily on impala and reedbuck.

A clan of ten hyenas were seen feeding on a giraffe kill and their den was very active with five fast-growing cubs. One time fourteen adults were seen fighting the wild dogs over an impala carcass. Our guides also discovered five separate jackal dens, three for side striped jackals and two for black-backed jackals. Seeing the pups playing outside the dens was a treat for guests.

Many prides of lion were seen in the area. They were successful with their kills and often found hunting and feeding. Two nomadic males showed interest in laying claim to the Kwara area and were roaring each dawn and dusk. Mr Nose seemed to have deferred to them and moved further east in the concession. One of the older lionesses known as Mma Leitlho went missing halfway through the month; the last time we saw her she was heavily pregnant so the guides suspected that she was denning.

The resident female cheetah with her sub-adult cub were making great use of the dried-out flood plains as hunting grounds where they were able to use their speed to their advantage, often seen on kills and more than once took down their prey right in front of the guests. The newly born antelope made perfect target practice for the fast-growing youngster and she was seen trying her luck on impala lambs. The male cheetah was also seen well fed and often hanging around the Splash area making the most of calving season. We were interested to see the male spending more time with the females and towards the end of the month we saw them mating several times.

Lagoon 

The first of the summer storms came to the Kwando region in November quickly turning the vegetation verdant green. Breeding season was in full swing during November and all of the antelope species started to give birth to their young. In turn, this created a bonanza for the predators who were quick to make the most of the easy food source.

The two resident brother cheetahs were seen regularly, and were successful with their hunting. We saw them on red lechwe, impala and young tsessbe carcasses. One day we had found them resting in the morning, so went back in the afternoon to see what they were up to. They were up and alert, in full hunting mode. We followed them as they looked for prey, stopping regularly on their favourite look out points to scan the surrounding area. They had just climbed such a tree when the guide suddenly spotted a leopard nearby. In a very unusual encounter, the cheetahs bravely chased the bigger predator away. As if this wasn’t enough drama for the afternoon, the cheetah then promptly went behind a bush and killed an impala. What a thrilling afternoon for our guests!

The big Bonga pride of 7 adults and 10 sub-adults were seen regularly and in good health. The lions all fed together for three days on the kill of a fully-grown giraffe. Another time the pride was found looking extremely satisfied next to no less than three buffalo carcasses right next to each other. By the following day they were still only halfway through the second carcass and the two males were moving off, having had their fill. They were also seen feeding on zebra. A group of four hyena were seen moving around the lions, but lacking strength in numbers they were not brave enough to challenge for the kill.

The resident pack of nine wild dogs looking were seen looking very hungry at the beginning of the month. One week we watched them fail more than once on impalas and greater kudus however eventually they were seen feeding on an impala near the airstrip, and will be able to feed more easily now that lambing season has started. The larger pack of 25 wild dogs, usually found to the south of the concession, were also seen towards Lagoon. The adults were looking full and were regurgitating food for their puppies after a successful morning’s hunting.

The resident female leopard with two cubs was tracked several times. There was an anxious morning where only one cub was with her and we worried as she called and called for her other baby. Both guests and guides were hugely relieved to find her later the same day accompanied by both youngsters. She has been hunting successfully to feed her fast-growing family and was seen feeding on a wildebeest calf as well as impala.

Birding was great during November. Summer visitors such as the broad-billed roller and woodland kingfisher arrived back to the area. The chicks hatched at the carmine bee-eater colony near John’s Pan, so we were able to see the adults feeding them. A black heron was frequently sighted near Watercut, an unusual and beautiful sighting for the area. A giant kingfisher was located more than once during the boat cruise, in addition to the more common pied and malachite kingfishers.

Within camp itself an African Barred Owl and a Scops Owl both chose to roost in the trees surrounding the main area. Sometimes the birds swoop into the main area during the evening, one time an owl perching comically on a bottle of wine. Sadly no one had their camera with them at the time to capture this unique sighting. A good reminder that you should have your photography equipment nearby at all times whilst on safari!

Elephants browsed within the camp surrounds after dark; the mesh windows of the rooms allowing guests to hear their contented munching and grunts of hippos throughout the night. An unusually relaxed wild cat was often seen just five minutes from camp.

Lebala

The most highly prized sighting of the month at Lebala was an encounter with a pangolin. The animal allowed us to view it well and when the guests saw the excitement of the guides and trackers they knew that they were seeing something very rare and special indeed.

November was full of predator action including some amazing inter-species battles. One morning we were enjoying the sight of a female leopard cooling off in some water when a lioness suddenly appeared and tried to corner the leopard who made a quick dash up the nearest tree. It was a thrilling and unusual encounter between the cats; competition between these animals always exists, but is not easy to see them face to face as the leopard knows full well that lions pose a grave danger, so they do their utmost to avoid them.

Lions were seen frequently in the area. Once, as we were driving, some herds of wildebeest and impala came running across the road. Our guides quickly went to see what had startled the animals and found six young male lions and one female lying down under a tree. The young males were approximately two years old and our guides suspected that they had been kicked of a pride by the dominant male. The following morning the the six boys were seen feeding on an impala; hyenas came from the bushes and tried their luck at stealing the kill, but the lions stood their ground and did not give the clan a chance. The resident clan of hyena were never far away once the pride had made a kill, though usually the lions managed to drive them away.

A pack of twenty-five wild dogs was making kill after kill and they were spending most of their time on the plains around camp. One afternoon, as guests were having their high tea, the huge pack appeared in front of the camp chasing a herd of wildebeest. In an exciting take-down they managed to kill two calves. As the dogs were busy feeding, the hyenas arrived and started milling around trying to take over the meal. The wild dogs attacked them in good number but hyenas did not surrender, they kept on coming until they managed to take the carcass. The same pack of wild dogs killed an impala at the back of the staff village and once again, the hyenas arrived right on time as the dogs were feeding.  This time the dogs did not back off, as they seemed to have had enough of the hyenas, and the pack managed to defend its meal.

Two cheetahs were located feeding on an impala and as soon as they finished they climbed up a tree. This was a very smart manoeuvre to try and outwit the hyenas who they knew could appear at any time. The most slenderly built of the big cats, cheetahs will usually do whatever it takes to avoid getting into a fight with other predators.

The resident female leopard known as Jane was seen hunting on several occasions; she has two growing cubs to feed so needs to kill regularly. A male leopard was spotted coming from the marsh with blood on his face but it was not possible for the guides to check on what he was feeding on as there was so much water. Another big male leopard was spotted very relaxed licking himself and went up a tree.

A very special sighting of a caracal was spotted in the area although it was very shy.  General game was still great with a good number of elephants, wildebeest, zebras and impalas. The Lebala area received some rainfall and the vegetation is starting to look very nice and green, making a beautiful background for photos.  Bird life is also very good, with the busy breeding season underway and summer migrants returning.

Nxai Pan

“New Life” was the theme of the month at Nxai Pan during November. Birds were nesting, antelope were dropping their young, jackals had puppies, but the discovery of the month was an aardwolf den with a single cub. Aardwolf resemble a slender hyena in build, but these remarkable insectivores are actually in a separate taxonomic family. They are a prized sighting for any safari-goer, but to see their adorable cub with its black muzzle, pink ears and striped coat was an amazing treat. We were able to see them at the den most days towards the end of the month.

Several dens of black-backed jackals were found by our guides and we watched the adults kill guinea fowl at the Wildlife watering hole on several occasions, sometimes with their puppies watching on. Once we were able to watch the adults regurgitating for their young. The bat-eared foxes were also seen with cubs and were enjoying the increase in beetles and other insects following the early rain showers.

Elephants were increasingly accumulating around our camp watering hole, with numbers upward of 100 individuals seen regularly. Females with young as well as solitary bulls and bachelor herds were all observed in a seemingly never-ending stream during the day. As always, they were extremely protective of their water source, preventing other animals from drinking. Towards the end of the month two wild dogs appeared at the camp watering hole. They looked tired and desperate for a drink, but the elephants refused to let them quench their thirst.

Other species, such as buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe, impala and springbok still came hoping for the opportunity to have a turn at the water, but only rarely given a chance by the stubborn pachyderms. Watching the procession of animals in front of the lodge, and the interaction between them, was described by a guest as being like “non-stop National Geographic channel”.

After having been absent from the area for a little while we were very happy to see two male lions appear next to the staff village and make their way to the watering hole whilst we were having breakfast with our guests. The next day, a single lioness who showed signs of nursing also came to try and drink at the watering hole, but once again, the elephants were having none of it so this mother went away thirsty. The pride of lions comprising two males, three lionesses and six cubs were also seen resting by the old wildlife watering hole. This second source of water had congregations of different kinds of species including springboks with their lambs, giraffe and ostriches. The wildebeest were heavily pregnant so we expect their calving season to start very soon.

The resident cheetah family of three were still doing well and were even seen drinking at the camp watering hole. Another time, we watched them chasing down some springbok more than once and mostly they were very successful, although the sub-adults were still having some problems learning how to make the final kill. On one occasion we saw the two sub-adult females chasing off some jackals who had been following them for some time. The resident male cheetah was also seen in the area and a couple of times he was seen resting with female and her two daughters making a wonderful photographic opportunity of the four cheetahs together.

There was rewarding birding all over the area. Some of the migratory species returned for the summer months including steppe buzzards, black-winged pratincoles, Abdim’s storks and white storks. The ostriches were seen nesting near to the road, proudly brooding 12 eggs.

Tau Pan

During November the Tau Pan pride were seen very regularly in the area near to camp, and made a magnificent sight when found together; the five black-maned males together with two females and their three cubs. Once there was a lovely sighting of the impressive males lying together bonding through grooming each other, showing their softer side. Their more aggressive nature came to the fore when a female came to the watering hole with two cubs. One of the males spotted the cub and chased after it, the other four in hot pursuit. The cub managed to dash for cover and disappeared – a very lucky escape for the little one who would very possibly have been killed in an act of infanticide. Other prides were located at Deception Valley and Sunday Pan. At the start of the month as the dry season came to an end they were looking lean and hungry, but after the first rain showers the antelope started to drop their young and food was suddenly easy to come by again.

The antelope species seen during November included oryx, kudu and springbok. The guests really enjoyed the lambing of the springbok. We were sometimes able to see the antelope giving birth and watched the youngsters wobbling to their feet to take their first steps. Within a few days they were chasing each other around and pronking. This was a time of easy pickings for the predators and we saw the resident male cheetah on springbok kills on successive days.

A few elephants were seen in the Tau Pan area, relishing the last of the Tsamma Melons. It was an indication of how good last years rains were that there were still many of these melons left at the end of the dry season, they would usually have mostly been consumed by now.

Leopard were not seen often, but were heard mating right inside camp, so we hope that a family will be produced in the months to come.

Bat-eared foxes were often seen foraging around Tau Pan. They were denning and had small cubs of about three months old who kept us entertained with their games of chase. The black-backed jackal also had young puppies; we saw them trying to pounce on ground squirrels. An African wildcat was seen on the western side of the pan hunting for birds, but didn’t succeed as the wide-open area didn’t have enough cover from which it the cat could launch its ambush.

Two honey badgers were seen digging for mice, but with no success. In an example of commensalism, Pale Chanting Goshawks were perched nearby hoping for the opportunity to snatch a lizard or rodent flushed from the ground by the honey badgers.

November was a very productive month for birding. Up to twelve secretary birds have been visiting the camp watering hole every lunchtime as well as yellow-billed kites, bateleur and tawny eagles.

During the first part of the month guests and guides saw the Central Kalahari at its most brutally harsh. Although there had been some small showers, they just seemed to increase the humidity. Temperatures rocketed as high as 42 degrees and although game drive sightings were still good, animals were quick to hide in the shade as the sun rose. Then, in the third week of November the heavens opened and heavy rains arrived to quench the thirsty earth, bringing a respite from the heat. There were currently plenty of plants in bloom including the umbrella thorn acacia and trumpet thorn giving guests the chance to experience the fragrant scents of the springtime bush.

Note: 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!

Sightings – October 2017 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

Guides at Kwara were delighted and relieved to see the return of the resident pack of wild dogs in October, although their numbers were a little depleted. When they left the area some three months before they had nine puppies, now they just have five survivors. They seemed to be doing extremely well now back in Kwara and were seen killing and feeding on impala several times during the month. On one occasion guests watched as the adults were interacting with their puppies near to the Kwara staff village. A hyena approached and was savagely attacked by the dogs for about five minutes, leaving the hyena half-dead. The dogs moved off about 300 metres and continued to rest. A second pack of 6 dogs were also still in the area and seen several times, once losing their kill to two male lions.

At Kwara we have come to expect the unexpected. We were enjoying breakfast around the camp fire when the early morning tranquillity was shattered by a pack of wild dogs chasing an impala straight through camp and into the lagoon. The impala escaped the dogs, but ran straight into the jaws of two large crocodiles who tore it apart, all right in front of the main building. What a start to the day!

A female leopard with her month-old cub continued to delight guests. She is an excellent mother and always seen coming to the den to nurse her offspring in the early morning and dusk. The cub was very healthy and energetic; we were entertained by seeing it learning to climb trees and towards the end of the month it was starting to make short walks away from the den with its mother. One morning a guide and tracker team picked up drag marks and blood stains; they followed up the tracks and were rewarded with a sighting of a magnificent male leopard still dragging his fresh kill. Already many vultures, kites and eagles were waiting in anticipation of a scavenging opportunity.

Whilst warthogs are common to see, the bushpig is shy, nocturnal and rarely sighted. Our guides were therefore stunned to come across two male lions eating a bushpig one day. As always at Kwara there were several different prides of lions in the area, meaning that males were often seen scent marking and roaring to establish their territories. The prides were spotted hunting a range of different prey including zebra, buffalo and tsessebe. Two males were found feeding on a dead elephant, surrounded by hyenas, jackals and vultures all waiting for their turn at the carcass.

The familiar male cheetah known as “Special” disappeared for about a week, but then was seen back in the area, scent marking and patrolling his territory. We saw him chase and kill a fully-grown impala. The resident female cheetah and her sub-adult cub obligingly posed for photographic opportunities on a termite mound. These two animals specialise on reedbuck, but were also seen chasing tsessebe and impala who were starting to drop their young.

The hyena den was still very active and guests enjoyed seeing the healthy and energetic cubs playing.

The flood levels were receding and so large breeding herds of elephants were moving towards the main channels. We were lucky enough to see mating elephants on one occasion. A rare sitatunga antelope was found in the Kwara channel.

A favourite activity amongst guests is a mokoro trip combined with a short nature walk to look at some of the smaller creatures of the Okavango Delta. From the mokoros we were able to see tiny Painted Reed Frogs, enormous hippos and birds including the beautiful Malachite Kingfisher and fascinating African Jacana. Whilst walking we came across a group of dwarf mongoose feeding on snouted termites. On a nearby branch a fork-tailed drongo was eyeing up the insects. In a fascinating interaction we were able to observe the small bird mimic a martial eagle call in an effort to frighten the mongooses into hiding so that it could have the termites all to himself.

Lagoon

As temperatures soared during October, elephants in their hundreds started to congregate in the riverine area creating a magnificent spectacle for guests who were able to observe the herds throughout the day from the main area and their rooms. A very relaxed herd of sable antelope were also seen regularly in the afternoons as they ventured out of the woodlands down to the river to drink.

The coalition of two male cheetah brothers were seen very regularly, killing successfully every two days on species including impala and warthog. A mother cheetah and two cubs who were new to area were seen with the two cheetah brothers, although the mother and cubs were nervous of our vehicles.

One evening a guide came across an African Civet. As the guide was positioning the vehicle they startled two leopard cubs who had been hiding in the grass stalking the civet. Leopards were seen frequently, including three separate sightings in a single day. There was a female leopard seen near camp, although she was fairly shy, and a young male in the same area who was seen marking his territory. A different female leopard who had two cubs was seen feeding on a freshly killed roan antelope; one cub kept trying to sneak up on the carcass but time and again was rebuffed harshly by its mother. Yet another female leopard who was beautifully relaxed was seen on an impala kill.

Our guides were delighted to track down the resident pack of wild dogs, busy feasting on a waterbuck kill. They had been away from the area for a while. Later in the month we saw them again hunting, although not successful on that occasion.

October was a really successful month for sightings of the smaller predators. We saw two honey badgers interacting with black-backed jackal; in the end the honey badgers disappeared into a hole. Bat- eared foxes were seen very regularly; our guides have found five different dens in the area so the animals were located on most drives. One productive night drive produced two separate sightings of African Wild Cat, both cats were beautifully relaxed.

The Bonga pride were still split up into different groups, the largest comprising ten individuals. They killed an eland bull which kept them busy for two whole days before they eventually left the carcass for a clan of four hyenas to finish off. Two male lions were seen feeding on a buffalo calf. A young male lion and his sister were also in the spot, but they were chased away by the dominant males. A lioness with three cubs was seen with the two fathers. The pride were also seen on a wildebeest kill. Four new male lions were located north of the camp, two with manes and two without manes but the same size. They were extremely skittish and ran towards the Namibian border.

A family of four Verreaux’s Eagle Owls were found perched in a tree. Crowned Hornbills were also seen looking for food along the river, this is one of the less common hornbill species resident in the area. The Carmine Bee-eater breeding colony just north of the camp made an amazing spectacle as the brightly coloured birds set about making their nests in the river bank. The colony was very active first thing in the morning and late afternoon.

Lebala

The month of October was full of action at Lebala with the Wapoka pride often seen stalking and chasing their prey. This is a is a very experienced pride and highly successful when it comes to hunting. The sub-adult cub that was injured in a buffalo stampede the previous month in sadly did not survive. Buffalos were still in the area but during October the lions seemed to be more cautious and were waiting for the right moment to attack, having learned a hard lesson the previous month. Two new male lion intruders were seen in the concession. At one time they ventured too near the hyena den for the clan to be comfortable, resulting in a fight between these mighty predators. These two males did not linger in the area; they seemed to be avoiding the resident males of the Wapoka Pride and a potentially life-threatening confrontation.

The hyena den was still very active; some of the guests were lucky enough to see the females nursing their cubs. Every time the guides visited the den they saw least see one or two hyenas looking after the cubs to make sure they were safe. These hyenas were continuing their strategy of stealing carcasses from the leopards but the leopards were doing their best to out-manoeuvre their competition by taking their carcasses up trees wherever possible. Often the hyenas were seen waiting beneath the branches hoping for some meat to fall to the ground. Hyenas were also seen on several occasions scavenging on left-overs from lions.

Guests were treated to very special sightings after a familiar female leopard, known as Jane, gave birth to two cubs. Jane is a very good mother and the daughter who she successfully raised previously is still in the area and managing well now that she is independent. It will be interesting to see how Jane manages to look after two cubs in terms of feeding, protecting and training them. Jane was seen up a tree with her kill staying away well away from hyenas. She was also spotted five minutes from the camp with her cubs feeding on an impala. Jane’s daughter was also located not far from the camp hunting, she was investigating warthog burrows to search for prey, although unfortunately was not successful on that occasion.

There were good wild dog sightings. A pack of twenty-six dogs was seen on several occasions, successfully hunting and feeding on impala and warthogs on several occasions. One time, the pack was seen chasing an impala but the antelope evaded them by leaping into the river. The guides continued to follow the dogs who returned to the den. The poor puppies were begging for some food, but unfortunately this time the adults had nothing to regurgitate for them. On another occasion, two dogs were spotted chasing an impala but with no luck. Afterwards the pair came across a honey badger face to face but the dogs backed off. This was a very smart move by the dogs; honey badgers are one of the toughest animals and even female lions will not readily fight with them.

Two cheetahs were located one evening although the guides could not spend much time with them as it was getting dark. We do not use a spotlight on cheetahs in case it exposes them to the other predators.

General game was great as most animals are still concentrating on the riverside. There were a good number of elephant breeding herds, hundreds of buffalos, wildebeest and zebras.

The area was getting nice and green giving photographers an attractive backdrop for their pictures. Birdlife was becoming increasingly productive as returning migrants such as carmine bee- eaters, European rollers, lesser grey shrikes and red-backed shrikes were spotted in the area.and African wild cat. Birdlife was rich, including many water birds such as herons, yellow-billed storks and Egyptian geese. Birds of prey included bateleur, tawny eagle, brown snake-eagle, black-chested snake eagle, and Verreaux’s eagle-owl.

Nxai Pan

The month of October is the hottest month of the year in the desert. This year the first rain showers came earlier than usual, right at the end of September, so the trees started responding to the moisture by producing new green leaves. However, these small rainfalls were not sufficient to fill the natural pans, so the two watering holes artificially pumped with water by Kwando Safaris and Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) continued to be visited by huge numbers of animals.

Big herds of elephants from all directions came in every morning to the camp watering hole and stayed all day and most of the night, usually moving off to browse after midnight. The elephants were very protective over the water supply and rarely gave other animals a chance to drink, however we saw a new and interesting change in their behaviour. They were seen time and again giving way to a herd of buffalo who boldly came to drink, demanding respect from the elephants who allowed them complete access to the water until their thirst was quenched. The elephants were not as tolerant of the lions and one noisy night the elephants and lions roared at each other continuously as they debated drinking rights. In the morning we saw a pride of 11 lions still waiting for the elephants to move so that they could have access to water. The lions had the final word though; a few days later the two males were seen feasting on an elephant calf, surrounded by vultures. They stayed on this carcass for three days.

Because the camp watering hole continued to be the favourite place for the elephants to hang out, other animals were congregating at the Department of Wildlife watering hole. There we saw lots of springbok, impalas, kudu, wildebeest, zebras, ostriches and other birds. The springbok had started to drop their lambs. It was pleasant experience just to sit at this spot and watch the constant procession of creatures and birds coming to drink. Black-backed jackal were usually to be found in the area, chasing guinea fowl, occasionally with success.

One morning as we were at this watering hole there was a pride of 3 lionesses with 6 cubs. A few minutes later we saw springbok, wildebeest, zebras, impalas and ostriches coming to drink. The lionesses were alert and waiting for their moment to pounce. We watched for over an hour whilst they sized up the various prey animals and eventually they killed a zebra fifty metres away from the road. These lionesses stayed there for a day and the following morning we found different lionesses from the Nxai pride, two females with three larger cubs, on the same kill.

As we were watching the lionesses with cubs feeding on a zebra we saw some springbok running very fast about a kilometre away so we quickly drove that in that direction to see what was going on. We got there in time to see that 3 cheetah had managed to take down a springbok. This was a mother with her two sub-adult offspring. A different male cheetah was also seen during the month.

Day trips to Baines Baobabs continued to be rewarding and our guests always enjoy the salt pans, ancient trees and beautiful landscape. Game in the area included oryx, springbok, steenbok, warthogs, ostriches, kori bustards and many other birds.

Tau Pan

October is the hottest and driest month for the Central Kalahari region with scorching winds and extreme midday temperatures. The intensity of the conditions was building ahead of the forthcoming rainy season which will bring welcome relief to the desert animals.

The coalition of six magnificent black-maned male lions were seen often at the camp watering hole and more than once they serenaded our guests with impressive roaring performances during the night. As the dry season progressed, predators’ home ranges increased in size as the animals have to travel further and further to find food. This meant that we started to see some new individuals to the area who are not part of the Tau Pan pride. A nomadic lioness and cub were seen drinking at the watering hole. They were markedly less familiar with the safari vehicle than our resident lions, growling and snarling quite aggressively. Another new lioness and two young males were spotted on our northern fire break and also towards the airstrip.

Piper’s Pan is a stunning stretch of perfectly flat grass a few kilometres across. This area is difficult to access when it is wet, but very productive in the dry season. In October we located two male cheetah located resting under a bush, plus another female cheetah at San Pan. There were plenty of wildebeest, red hartebeest, oryx and a different pride of lions at Piper’s Pan.

As always, the desert provided a good chance to see some of the smaller predators. Honey badgers were seen being more aggressive than usual, perhaps because there is less availability of food. Bat-eared foxes were seen often as well as the much rarer Cape Fox.

The landscape around Tau Pan was verdant and green following the huge fire earlier in the year. The acacia trees were in flower and other plants were starting to bloom including the pink flowers of the Devil’s Claw, Botswana’s National flower.

Cape cobras were seen at Phukwe Pan and also at San Pan. Both times these large golden snakes were seen hunting, looking for prey species such as mice, lizards and ground squirrels.
Note: 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!

Sightings – September 2017 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

We were thrilled to see that wild dogs were back in abundance at Kwara, following the sad loss of a yearling killed by a hyena the previous month. Incredibly three separate packs were seen on the concession during September. The largest of these groups comprised 15 animals, 14 adults with just one pup, and they were often seen near to the Kwara camps. One morning they killed an impala next to Room 5 at Little Kwara and then chased another impala into the lagoon in front of Kwara. On a different occasion, the pack of fifteen ran through both camps followed by four hyenas. The dogs lost interest in the impala that they had been hunting and turned back to focus on their enemies. In the ensuing skirmish one hyena was badly bitten by the dogs. The hyenas headed back towards their den, pursued by the pack of dogs and once they arrived at the den the fight was on again. This time the hyena clan managed to drive off the dogs. From there, the pack moved out towards the boat station where they located a male impala and gave him a spectacular chase across the water towards the camps. Eventually they managed to bring down a yearling impala from another herd, not a large meal considering their exhausting morning’s efforts.

There were also two smaller packs, comprising 4 and 6 dogs respectively. At one time the pack of 6 was spotted next to a female cheetah and her sub-adult cub who were looking longingly at the carcass that they were devouring. We suspected that she had been driven off her kill by the dogs. Guests were amused one day to see the pack of six looking at our brand new bridge with intense curiosity, as if trying to figure out what on earth the construction was all about.

During September we saw various different prides of lion on the Kwara concession. A new male who has been seen in the area for a few months was found feeding on a wildebeest carcass, the nearby trees covered in vultures and bateleur eagles. He was still there the following day with 2 females, he was mating the sub-adult lioness whilst the older one was watching the honeymooners. The next day two other males walked into the area and busily declared it their territory in a display of scent marking, spraying, rolling and bonding. A familiar lion known as “Mr Limping” returned to the area and announced his arrival with a night long roar-a-thon between Little Kwara’s staff village and camp. This individual lost his territory a year and a half ago to the Zulu Boys, but in an unusual twist he seems to have recruited one of the latter males to form a coalition with him and they were seen patrolling together. The other Zulu Boys were found in the west of the concession in a pride which included five cubs aged 5-6 months old. All together there seemed to be five new male lions in the area, all bidding to win dominance over the One-Eyed Pride. It will be interesting to see what develops over the coming weeks.

Whilst watching two male lions devouring a kill one afternoon, our sharp-eared guide and tracker team heard the alarm call of a side-striped jackal. They decided to investigate and found a beautiful female leopard resting in a marula tree. She dropped down from the tree and walked about a kilometre where she sniffed at the base of a sausage tree. She climbed into a hole so deeply that only her back legs and tail were visible before clambering out with a tiny cub in her mouth. Our lucky guests watched as she gently carried her offspring back to the marula tree where she was first found and deposited it into a hole. The mother and cub were seen many times after that, conveniently choosing to live near to the airstrip. A male leopard was also seen in the area. Towards the end of the month, he was up a tree with his kill and we found him with 6 hyenas waiting at the base of the tree, hoping for some meat to fall down. A few minutes later the large pack of 15 wild dogs arrived and chased the hyena as the leopard nervously watched. Three sought-after predators in one sighting!

Guides were pleased to see a resident female cheetah return with her 8-month-old cub as she had not been in the area for a while. We followed her as she was hunting and she managed to kill a red lechwe. The following day the resident male known as Special was located as he took down a reedbuck, so those particular guests were lucky enough to see two cheetah kills in two days. Another male cheetah was tracked after making an incredibly long walk from the western side of the concession. He was eventually located right on our eastern boundary looking sadly at a hyena who was full-bellied and covered in blood; we suspected that the hyena had stolen his kill. The cheetah quietly sneaked away and ventured back west, scent marking all the way. In the end it was a fruitless and exhausting journey for the intruder.

The boat trips to the heronry provided a wonderful spectacle, with many different species of water birds preparing for the nesting season including pelicans, fish eagles, storks, herons and egrets. Ground Hornbills and Secretary Birds were viewed frequently and Verreaux’s Eagle Owls were often spotted on night drives.

Lagoon

Lions were sighted very frequently because for much of the month the Bonga Pride of 21 lions split up into four smaller groups. The largest of these groups comprised the two dominant males, three females and five sub-adults. Of these youngsters, there was one male who was older than the others and he started to pick fights with the dominant pride males. We were able to observe how the young upstart was quickly put in his place, even sustaining injuries. The two male lions were trying to actively evict him from the pride, but he had a habit of sneaking back to find his family when the lionesses were on their own. It will be a vulnerable time for the young lion unless he manages to band together in a coalition and it seemed that he still has a lot to learn. In one dangerous manoeuvre he was seen trying to single-handedly tackle a huge herd of buffalo; not a wise move for a newly independent young lion.

The Bonga Pride males are also facing competition from outside. We were following a new lion to the area who was sniffing the ground and grimacing in a ‘flehmen’ response as though he had picked up then scent of a female. All of a sudden, another big male came rushing out of the bushes grunting, accompanied by a female. The males started to fight and the lioness ran away, eventually joined by the new male who seemed to have won the battle.

One day we saw the lionesses try for a warthog which they missed, but during their hunt they managed to leave behind a small cub aged 3-4 months who was sleeping by a termite mound, later that day he was still not reunited with the pride.

Leopard were seen more often in the area than in previous months, mostly mobile or on the hunt. There was a female leopard with two cubs, each 6-7 months old. They were mainly seen feeding on impala. A male leopard apparently managed to kill a female kudu, though its meal was appropriated by a hyena. Leopard were also seen hunting and eating steenbok.

We managed to locate cheetah a few times during September, usually the resident brother coalition who are well known in the area. We saw them hunting, and on a different occasion feeding on a red lechwe. After they had finished the vultures came and finished up all the remains.
Wild dogs were located just twice during September, once resting and one on the move. When we saw them they were looking full-bellied and in good condition, although there were only 9 dogs compared to the usual 12 which was a little worrying.

The ongoing dry weather means that massive herds of elephants were congregating along the river, often drinking and swimming right opposite camp. Other species herding towards the water included a large number of zebra, wildebeest and tsessebe. Sable and roan antelope were located in the woodlands. One day we were watching the Bonga lions when two honey badgers came across the pride who attacked them. Living up to their fierce reputation the honey badgers managed to defend themselves against the 13 lions. At another time we saw a honey badger fighting back against a pack of wild dogs, growling at them.

Guests thoroughly enjoyed visiting the carmine bee-eater nesting colony, huge numbers of these richly coloured birds making a striking sight. We were able to see how they excavated their nesting holes in the soil, which give them protection from their many enemies including monitor lizards, raptors and the smaller cat species.

We watched a serval on the eastern side of the camp and he appeared to pounce on and catch a rodent. Wild cats were also seen on the hunting on more than one occasion during night drive.

Lebala

During September the resident Wapoka pride of lions were still hunting very successfully and we found them feeding on zebra carcasses on several occasions. However the big herds of buffalo were a tempting target as an adult buffalo would provide a substantial meal for this fast-growing pride. Towards the middle of the month the lions attacked a massive breeding herd which had calves enveloped in the middle and was being protected by some formidable bulls. Four females and five sub-adult cubs started to chase the buffaloes to the marsh. One of the females managed to bring down a calf, which was soon taken over by the male lions who started to feed. Unfortunately, two of the cubs were badly injured in the stampede. One of the cubs was found dead few days later, the other could not move for some days but luckily it survived and was seen with the rest of the pride later during the week. Following that incident, the lions were seen hunting easier prey such as kudu and wildebeest.

Hyenas have also continued their strategy of following leopards when hunting and as soon as a leopard has made a kill, then they come in good numbers to outnumber the cat and take the carcass. With the lions they did not dare to try and steal the kill, rather they waited for the lions to finish feeding before they scavenged on whatever was left. Hyenas were also seen gorging on an elephant carcass that the guides suspect died from an old age. The den was still active and guests were able to see female hyenas nursing their cubs.

A pack of nine wild dogs were seen from the middle of the middle of the month onwards. They looked well-fed and in good condition. One afternoon, as we were following them hunting, two nomadic dogs from a different pack came and killed an impala in camp, right in front of Room 2. The camp called in the remarkable sighting so that the guests could come and enjoy watching them feeding. On another occasion we heard the dogs making contact calls with each other. When we followed up we found the pack fighting with hyenas over an impala. Eventually the wild dogs were outnumbered and they had to give up their kill to the hyenas.

It was a very tough month for a resident female leopard called Jane as time and again she lost her hard-won meals to the hyenas, but when she had the opportunity she was quick to haul her kill up on trees, leaving the hyenas waiting underneath for any scraps that dropped onto the ground. Tawny Eagles and Bateleurs led our guides to find Jane devouring a female kudu, a large meal which kept her occupied for a couple of days. A tom leopard was also seen as well as Jane’s two sub-adult offspring who were increasingly seen on their own.

General game was very good as most of the natural water holes had dried out increasing the concentration of animals on the river, including breeding herds of elephant, big numbers of buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. A beautifully relaxed herd of sable antelope were seen. Guests enjoyed seeing three honey badgers hunting for mice.

September heralds the start of spring in the bush and several of the trees including acacia species and the Sausage Tree started to produce beautiful blossoms and fragrant scents. We are starting to see different species of birds as they come for breeding and good numbers of different vulture species feeding on the leftover carcasses.

The coalition of two young male cheetah were looking well-fed and in great condition. We saw them targeting wildebeest calves by bursting into herds trying to cause enough chaos to give them an opportunity to get to the youngsters. The wildebeest managed to outsmart the cats more than once, protecting their calves and eventually running into thick bushes where the cheetah could not use their speed.

There are large herds of elephant, buffalo and giraffe in the area as well as giraffe, kudu, zebra, wildebeest, impala, sable and warthogs. Smaller mammals seen included honey badger, civet and African wild cat. Birdlife was rich, including many water birds such as herons, yellow-billed storks and Egyptian geese. Birds of prey included bateleur, tawny eagle, brown snake-eagle, black-chested snake eagle, and Verreaux’s eagle-owl.

Nxai Pan

As the ongoing dry and hot season progressed, animal interactions were concentrated between the two water sources in the park, our own camp watering hole, right outside the main area, and the water point provided by the National Parks authority. Guests were able to enjoy relaxing drives watching the interactions between different species as they congregated to quench their thirst.

The Nxai Pan resident pride of lions were seen regularly during the month and were fifteen individuals in total including seven sisters, two dominant males and six cubs. Two of the females and the two large males were found on an elephant carcass near to camp. Our staff had been worried about the health of that particular elephant and had even called out the wildlife officers to check on it. We are not sure if it was eventually brought down by the lions, or died of natural causes, but the lions made the most of this enormous meal stayed on it for several days. It seems that they developed a taste for the meat because a few days later the same two males were found on an elephant baby kill. During the previous night we had heard roaring and screaming from the distressed herd. The three females with six cubs tended to stay near to the National Parks watering hole; the antelope species were congregated there since the elephants were being aggressively dominant at the camp watering hole. The lions were seen eating zebra and kudu; the fast-growing family seem to be doing very well.

Our resident cheetahs, a single male and a mother with her sub-adult cubs were still in the area and appeared to be in very good shape. We watched the female taking down a springbok; it was an interesting sighting because the female cheetah did not kill the antelope outright. She paralysed it and waited for the sub adults to figure out how to finish the job. Time and again we watched them failing and coming mewing back to their mother for help but she was determined to make them learn from the experience, aggressively chasing off jackals who were impatiently waiting to scavenge. During September the youngsters were extremely energetic and curious, trying to practice their hunting skills on almost every animal they encountered including bat-eared foxes, jackals and wildebeest. However, at this stage they are lacking patience in stalking, bursting forward much too soon to be successful.

Just watching and waiting at the watering holes provided a continuous source of interesting action. Lanner falcons could be seen hunting doves, lions were stalking antelope and jackals were opportunistically looking for any opportunity to pounce or scavenge. On one occasion, a martial eagle managed to snatch a guinea fowl; it struggled to get airborne quickly with its heavy load and four jackals were seen running full speed hoping that the bird would drop its kill as it approached the trees.

Elephants were still seen in huge numbers, especially at the camp watering hole. Guests were thrilled to be able to watch the interaction between large bulls and breeding herds on a daily basis. As guests were enjoying breakfast one morning a jackal was chasing guinea fowl. As the birds flew up into the air, the jackals ran around the elephants who started to shake their ears in irritation. Somehow in the process one elephant accidentally swatted a guinea fowl to the ground and it was eagerly scooped up by the lucky jackal. On 29th September, just before Botswana’s Independence Day, Nxai Pan received some very welcome heavy showers which allowed the elephants some respite to look for water and food elsewhere.

Our day trips to Baines Baobabs continue to be a highlight for many guests. The birdlife is rewarding, with numerous species of passerines, including kestrels nesting in the acacia trees. After the rains at the end of the month we started to see some creatures, such as leopard tortoises, reappear after their hibernation.

Tau Pan

At the start of October the fire in the Tau Pan area was still raging, sweeping westwards in a wave some thirty kilometres across and leaving behind a very changed landscape. Tall golden grasses were replaced with scorched earth. However, by the middle of the month the new green shoots had come through and were these were much relished by the antelope species.

One morning we were conducting a bushman walk when we saw a small pride of 2 adults and a cub drinking at the camp watering hole. The camp was quickly radioed to bring a vehicle so that the guests could get some close-up photographs of the lions. We were surprised to see that the animals were not part of our regular Tau Pan pride as it is fairly unusual to see intruders in the area. The next day our resident pride was back to drink, this time two lionesses with three cubs. As if keen to reclaim their place at the heart of our operations they then spend the following day hanging out by Room 2. We found the five impressive black-maned lions resting nearby.

Cheetah were seen hunting springbok, but without much success. Jackals, bat-eared foxes were often seen foraging for insects around the Tau Pan area. On one lucky occasion we also saw two honey badgers snuffling around. General game was good including big herds of oryx and springbok.

In the afternoons, vultures and eagles were seen coming to the watering hole to drink.

Note: 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!

Sightings – August 2017 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

Kwara consistently averages over 3 predator sightings a day, but in July it was even higher than that! Wild dogs and spotted hyena both have active dens, lions were located every single day and we enjoyed very regular sightings of cheetah and leopard.

Towards the end of June the alpha female from the resident pack of wild dogs on the Kwara concession chose a den site. The guides paid tactful visits to check on progress every couple of days and on 8th July we had our first exciting sighting of the new puppies. Over the next week we were able to confirm that she had successfully produced a total of 9 new pups and although we were extremely careful to minimise disruption, we were able to enjoy some wonderful sightings of this young family suckling from their mother and playing outside the den. For some fortunate guests, there was the chance to see the whole pack together, interacting with the puppies as they socialised before setting off to search for food. We also witnessed the adults coming back from their hunting missions and regurgitating meat for the puppies to eat. The pack was seen chasing down and killing impala regularly; on one occasion three spotted hyenas tried to steal the hard-won meal, but the dogs were able to drive the bigger predators away.

The hyenas had their own mouths to feed as they also have an active den and we were able to see two females nursing their two cubs. On one occasion, the hyenas were seen at the staff village, sniffing to follow the scent of a leopard who had dragged a carcass through the area. Other interesting hyena behaviour observed during the month included watching their behaviour at a latrine site where they defecated and pawed the ground, marking their territory.

Lion sightings were plentiful and comprised a number of different prides and individuals. We found one of the males of the Marsh Pride, known as Judah, having a drink at a watering hole and followed him as he went back into the bush where he and his brother were feasting on a hippo. This particular coalition is well known for targeting the unusually large prey and the huge carcass kept the males busy for two days. As well as the hippo, lions were seen hunting and feeding on a variety of different species including giraffe, zebra, kudu and wildebeest. Three male lions were found on a kill near to the boat station; spotted hyena came in to try and steal, but the formidable lions managed to stand their ground and stayed in the area for two days. The Zulu Boys were still in the area and found mating with a female at Tsum Tsum. They were also seen scent-marking and roaring to proclaim their territory. Another three lions, Mma Leitho and her son and daughter, were spotted with blood all over their faces and full-bellied. The One-eyed pride was located and seem feeding on a freshly killed wildebeest, surrounded by a committee of hungry vultures waiting for their turn.

The resident male cheetah, known as “Special” was seen hunting impala and red lechwe without success, but had better luck with warthogs which he was seen eating more than once. He was often observed patrolling his territory and scent marking. A female cheetah and cub were also regularly located.

After disappearing for a month, a resident female leopard was back in the area and seen stalking the red lechwe on the marsh. Another time, she successfully killed an impala but unfortunately for her about ten spotted hyenas came and stole her prize; the interaction was amazing to see. A different female had a young cub and we were lucky to find them enjoying a carcass together up a tree. On a different occasion, the cub was spotted resting in an aardvark hole without its mother who had no doubt gone off in search of their next meal. A strong male leopard was seen feeding for two days on an impala carcass in a tree and the following day resting full-bellied on the ground nearby.

General game was excellent with large herds of elephants coming to eat fruits. They were often seen at pans drinking and mud-bathing. The plains had abundant herds of zebra, wildebeest, tssesebe, red lechwe and giraffe. Buffalo were also found grazing in the area. A male sitatunga was viewed from the boat – this rare water-adapted antelope a real highlight for our guests. Other smaller mammals spotted included serval and African civet.

The drying waterholes had trapped fish and frogs, eagerly snapped up by Saddle-billed Storks, Hammerkops and two different species of pelicans. Secretary Birds, Wattled Cranes, Slaty Egrets and Kori Bustards were other notable bird sightings for the month.

Lagoon

Lagoon had a great month for predator sightings, lions were seen every single day from the 9th onwards and towards the end of the month we were thrilled that the wild dogs chose a den site in the concession.

At the start of the month the dogs had not been seen for a couple of weeks, so we wondered if they had chosen to raise their pups elsewhere, but on the 17th they returned to their usual territory and upon arrival, the alpha female quickly started to clean out her den site. Before long, we were able to see the first appearance of 9 puppies and whilst we managed sightings carefully to avoid disturbing the young family, we were lucky enough to see them playing outside the den and also interacting with the rest of the pack before the adults set off for their hunts.

The Northern Pride of lions were seen located almost daily and we were pleased to see three new cubs with the pride for the first time. They have joined the two older cubs – now about 4 months old – so the pride now usually comprises a group of 4 lionesses and 5 young. From time to time the two impressive male lions join the rest of their family and their roaring often helps the guides to locate the group. Some lucky guests had the most incredible welcome to Lagoon Camp – as they were being driven from the airstrip on arrival they came across the whole pride of 11, followed them for a few minutes and were lucky enough to see them killing an impala. What a start to their safari!

We watched as two of the lionesses, together with the two older cubs, followed a medium sized herd of buffalo. Within the buffalo herd there was a calf with very fresh injuries and our guides suspected that it could be from the lions. As they were following, the lionesses saw some wildebeest and decided to try their luck with this less formidable prey, but missed on that occasion.

A very relaxed female leopard was in the area and was seen frequenting the area between the camp and the airstrip. A different leopard with two cubs was seen hiding her cubs before she went off to hunt. We followed her hunting and the next day found the two shy cubs still hiding in the place where she had left them.

A single male cheetah who hadn’t been seen in the area for a while returned to the area. The coalition of two young males, our usual resident cheetahs, were seen busily scent-marking, perhaps aware of the new intruder. They are both looking well fed and in great condition.

The general game in the Lagoon area continued to be very good. Elephants were coming every afternoon to drink water in the channel west of the camp, and sometimes on the other side of the river, directly opposite the lodge. Big herds of buffalo, up to 200 strong could be located from half a kilometre away due to the clouds of dust that they raised. Other plentiful game included zebra, wildebeest, tsessebe, giraffe, impala and eland. We saw a very relaxed herd of 17 sable antelopes two to three times a week, as well as less frequent sightings of roan antelope.
On night drives, guides were successful in locating black-backed jackals, scrub hares and honey badgers. We had lovely sightings of an African civet drinking from one of the natural watering holes and a group of 7 bat-eared foxes feeding on insects. An African wild cat was encountered along the road during one afternoon drive.

The Lagoon area continues to be a safe refuge for the endangered white-backed and lappet faced vultures. Other notable species recorded during the month included red crested korhaan, tawny eagle and bateleur. African barred owl and scops owl were both heard calling in the camp itself.

Lebala

Lebala’s sightings during July were incredible, and will be particularly remembered for the remarkable interactions between the different predator species. Lions, hyenas, wild dogs and leopards were all seen engaging with each other as rivals.

Guides located a number of different individual leopards during the month, and these elusive cats were at the centre of many of the sightings where inter-specific competition was displayed. One day, the Wapoka Pride chased two resident leopards, Jane and her son, up onto a tree. Two lionesses followed them up onto the tree and this game of chase progressed higher and higher up into the branches until the lionesses lost their balance or their nerve and eventually had to give up. They returned to ground, waiting some 50 metres away for their quarry to come back within striking distance. A different leopard was in a similar predicament a few days later as it was found up a tree surrounded by wild dogs. Hyenas were also seen following leopard to scavenge, at one point disturbing a male’s opportunity to stalk some warthogs. As ever, the prey animals were also determined to make life hard for the leopards – one morning we followed up on a jackal alarm call to find a leopard trying to catch a porcupine by its head. The two animals danced nervously around each other, porcupine trying to turn its quills towards the leopard and the cat darting back around to try and get to its head. Eventually the porcupine found a moment to dash into the undergrowth and escape.

The Wapoka Pride of 6 adults and 9 young were seen almost every day. Towards the end of the month, we were enjoying a relaxed game drive and were watching a big herd of buffalo from a distance. We spotted the pride of lions approaching the buffalo and, anticipating some action, the guide got into a good position. The lions started to surround the buffalo who fought back determinedly. The lions paused, came up with a new strategy and this time it worked as they managed to bring down a sub-adult buffalo. The young buffalo’s distress call attracted the attention of a clan of hyena who came in large numbers and after a fierce fight eventually managed to drive the outnumbered lions away.

On another occasion the guides found a carcass with lion tracks around it so followed up and found the lions resting by a pan. As we watched, a herd of zebra come down to drink. The lionesses stealthily stalked into position and were lying flat on the ground ready to ambush when the male lion ruined everything by standing up and stretching for all to see. Not surprisingly the zebra herd bolted. The two pride males were located often, sometimes making our lives easier by calling very close to camp in the morning as they patrolled their territory. They seemed to enjoy warming up from the chilly winter nights by basking on termite mounds. Guests were able to get some stunning photos of them yawning, revealing impressive canines, in the early morning light. The lionesses and cubs were seen on other kills; the youngsters’ energetic play making for entertaining photographs.

There is currently a very active spotted hyena den on Lebala, with ten cubs. We were privileged to witness the mothers nursing their young. As the month progressed, the cubs became increasingly inquisitive, even coming right up to our vehicles to sniff the tyres whilst their parents were away hunting. The spotted hyena clan kept a close eye on the movements of the Wapoka Pride and were seen more than once finishing off the cats’ kill by crushing bones and eating the remaining scraps. Although well-known as scavengers, spotted hyena are successful predators in their own right and one individual was found disembowelling an old hippo at zebra pan. The hippo ran away into the pond, but did not manage to escape. The next day 20 hyenas were feasting on the carcass, including 3 cubs. Black-backed jackal and white-backed vultures were hungrily waiting for their chance to feed.

The coalition of two young male cheetah were looking well-fed and in great condition. We saw them targeting wildebeest calves by bursting into herds trying to cause enough chaos to give them an opportunity to get to the youngsters. The wildebeest managed to outsmart the cats more than once, protecting their calves and eventually running into thick bushes where the cheetah could not use their speed.

There are large herds of elephant, buffalo and giraffe in the area as well as giraffe, kudu, zebra, wildebeest, impala, sable and warthogs. Smaller mammals seen included honey badger, civet and African wild cat. Birdlife was rich, including many water birds such as herons, yellow-billed storks and Egyptian geese. Birds of prey included bateleur, tawny eagle, brown snake-eagle, black-chested snake eagle, and Verreaux’s eagle-owl.

Nxai Pan

The days of lush green grass were now a distant memory as Nxai Pan fully converted to its semi-arid winter state. The vegetation was now predominantly grey and gold, allowing animals such as elephant, lion, cheetah and oryx to blend in perfectly with the colours and textures of the desert landscape.

During July, elephants continued to favour the camp watering hole in large numbers and our water pumps were running overtime to keep up with their insatiable thirst. Elephants are however not the cleanest of visitors, so every day it was necessary for our staff to clear the watering hole of mud and dung so that the elephants would find it suitable for drinking. The camp staff were only too well aware that failing to keep the water clean would mean the elephants coming to drink from the camp infrastructure, with expensive consequences. Maintenance of the watering hole is a ‘housekeeping’ service on a massive scale, but it gives our guests the privileged opportunity to see these magnificent animals drinking, bathing and interacting close to the lodge.

Unusually for Nxai Pan, a clan of spotted hyena have also started to visit the watering hole each morning. Bat-eared foxes and black-backed jackal are still regularly sighted.

The resident female cheetah with two sub-adults was located regularly in a beautiful area near to Nxai Pan. Her offspring are now approximately 10 months old and that means that the male will most likely be with her until the beginning of 2018 and the female for about 6 months longer. Now is a critical time for them to hone their hunting skills. On one occasion, they were seen dashing around; we initially thought that they were playing, but in fact they were chasing a bat-eared fox. Occasionally cheetah will kill and eat the foxes, but mostly they are just trying to drive them away so that they can’t disturb their hunt. The two youngsters were seen to be extremely relaxed around our vehicles, testament to the fact that the guides have patiently earned their trust since they were small cubs.

The Nxai Pan pride has now split into three different groups: 4 lionesses with 5 cubs of 2-3 months old, another pair of lionesses with 3 cubs of a similar age and finally a single lioness who we suspect has a newborn cub hidden nearby – from her engorged teats it seems likely that she is nursing. The male lions move between the different groups. One time a male lion was seen very intently focused on some wildebeest. Our guests held their breath as he started to stalk…. and then he promptly flopped down and fell straight asleep. Food was clearly not his priority that particular day.

The general game is not as rich as during the green season, however wildebeest and springbok are still in the area. Oryx were seen near to Baines Baobabs area eating the tiger foot morning glory and digging for other sources of nutrients and moisture including the Kalahari water tuber. These desert-adapted antelope sensing that the dry season is where survival of the fittest is tested to the maximum.

Our guides were surprised to see a couple of bird species not usually seen at this time of year including the rufous-naped lark and yellow-billed kite. Ostriches were still plentiful and were just entering their breeding season, the males’ lower legs taking on a redder appearance during this important time of year. Other bird species commonly seen were helmeted guineafowl, kori bustard and northern black korhaan, the latter quiet when compared to the noisy summer displays that they produce.

Tau Pan

Tau Pan was closed for its annual maintenance during July, so we didn’t have the usual game drive reports, but that didn’t stop the animals from visiting. The Tau Pan pride, currently comprising five impressive black-maned male lions and two females, were often found near to the camp. The elevated position of the lodge gives a superb vantage point for the lions to look for game. More than once the they walked straight past our maintenance team as they crossed the ridge to visit the watering hole. One particular day, two of the male lions decided to take a long siesta in the exact spot where our maintenance manager needed to take some measurements. Needless to say, that particular job had to wait for another time.

From their tracks, we could see that leopard and jackal also passed through camp during the closed period.

We opened camp a couple of days before the end of the month and the highlights for those guests were sightings of cheetah and honey badger, as well as some lions close to camp.
Every morning there was a progression of birds flocking to the camp watering hole, first hundreds of doves, then dozens of guinea fowl and finally large numbers of sandgrouse flying in mesmerising formation. The camp is home to many passerine bird species such as crimson-breasted shrike, red-eyed bulbuls, groundscraper thrush and long-billed crombec. Out at the airstrip we saw double-banded coursers, fawn-coloured larks and blacksmith lapwings.

 

Sightings – April 2017 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

Once again Kwara averaged 3 predator sightings per day; this month these statistics were boosted by the exciting news that both spotted hyenas and wild dogs were denning in the area. In fact, one remarkable sighting included three predators all at the same time. We had been following the wild dogs who were mobile and hunting, just missing an impala. The dogs then chanced upon a hyena who they managed to corner and seemed intent on killing. As if this was not dramatic enough, the guides drew their guests’ attention to the fact that the whole scene was being observed from a tree above by a female leopard with a fresh impala carcass.

We had been observing the heavily pregnant alpha female wild dog for some time and as she started to be left behind from the pack’s hunting mission we realised that it would not long before she denned.  Towards the end of the month it seemed that she had picked out her spot and we look forward to the patter of tiny paws in due course. At this very sensitive time we do our utmost not to disturb her and restrict visits to the den to ensure that the animals are not harassed.

The spotted hyenas have been denning for longer and there appeared to be four cubs. Adults were seen at the den in numbers between two and twelve. One evening two large male lions came into camp and called all night long. In the morning, we located them not far from the staff village. We followed them to the hyena den where a big fight started as the clan defended their den against their mortal enemies.  It was fascinating to see the interaction of two male lion and about 14 hyena. Using their whooping call, the hyenas summoned reinforcements and were eventually successful in driving the lions away. Another time a group of 12 hyena were successful in stealing a waterbuck kill from a crocodile.

Several different groups of lions were seen during the month, often hunting or feeding. The groups included the One Eye pride, the Zulu Boys coalition of males, the Shinde Pride and a regular nomadic male known to the guides as “Mr Nose” due to a distinctive tear mark on his muzzle. The three Shinde lionesses were all lactating and we suspected that they had cubs hidden in the area.

The resident female cheetah and her three cubs appeared to be doing well and were seen on a fresh impala carcass, with jackals and vultures waiting impatiently for their turn. Two different male cheetah were also seen marking their territories and hunting, one travelling an unusual 30km return trip between Splash and Four Rivers in a single day.

The resident female leopard was most often spotted near to the boat station where she spent a couple of days on a reedbuck kill up a tree. She was also located in the marsh area where she was actively marking her territory. One of the more amusing sightings of the month was when guides found her jumping up and down on a tree squirrel which still somehow managed to escape the fierce predator.

Very large herds of elephants were encountered on regular basis due to the fact that the pans to the north were drying up. Buffalo were also seen as well as zebras, wildebeest, impala and red lechwe.

Despite the cooler weather, guests continued to enjoy mokoro trips where species ranged from tiny painted reed frogs to pods of curious hippos

Ostriches were a regular sight and two females were seen fighting aggressively. The resident Ground Hornbill family seemed to be thriving and guests were fascinated to see one of the females carrying a spotted bush snake. We followed the birds for almost half an hour, watching her deliberately dropping and picking up the reptile before eventually swallowing it whole. A beautiful flock of 9 Wattled Cranes were also seen in the area.

Lagoon

The Northern pack of 12 wild dogs were located a few times including on kills of roan and tssesebe. After leaving the area for a few days we next located them just a kilometre from camp apparently having just fed given the copious blood on their mouths and necks. The alpha female is pregnant and we believe that she is due to give birth towards the end of July so are hopeful of seeing her denning soon.

We have been following with interest the behaviour of the two male lions further to their dramatic fight at the end of May when the dominant male lion status changed hands from Old Gun to Sebastian.  At the start of the month the two huge lions were still trying to find peace, often hanging near camp with the female, Sebastian still dominating her.

The rest of the Wapoka pride were seen almost daily, usually in a group of 3 lionesses and 8 cubs.  We saw them kill a warthog right in front of the game viewers and at other times on kills that included zebra and wildebeest. The female with two younger cubs of 2-3 months sometimes split away from the main pride and was also found with the two males.  At one point, they fed together for 4 days on a buffalo carcass along the road to the airstrip. When she did decide to reunite with the main pride it was a noisy affair with lots of roaring from all the lions until they located each other. Drawn to the scene by the commotion, guests were able to watch the tender interactions and play as she and her cubs rejoined the rest of the pride.

Hyena were seen during the month, usually hanging near to the Wapoka Pride hoping for the opportunity to clean up their carcasses. One particular individual was seen patrolling through camp as the waiters were preparing for dinner. It seems that the animal got more of a fright than the staff as it skidded all over the place in its hurry to get away.

The coalition of two cheetah males were successfully tracked a few times and seem to be doing well. On one occasion we were busy tracking them when the guide and tracker heard the alarm calls of impala. They quickly made their way to the spot and found the two males with a freshly killed impala ram, dragging it under some bushes. Another time we found them eating a warthog piglet.

A female leopard was seen a few times often mobile and hunting but unsuccessful with her attempts to kill when we saw her.

Elephants were often seen moving through the woodland towards the river as temperatures warmed up during the day. Some herds numbered up to 100 individuals and elephants were often seem drinking from the river right in front of camp. One herd was seen swimming across the main Kwando River to reach the Zambezi region. Big herds of buffalo, some over 150 in size, were also moving through the mophane region. They were ever watchful for the Wapoka pride of lions who followed their movement.

Lots of plains game and woodland species were seen drinking at the waterholes including zebra, wildebeest, impala and giraffe. Sable herds were located in in very relaxed groups of up to 20, including 4 young. A herd of roan antelope were to be found in the mophane forest.

Smaller mammal sightings were excellent during June. Guests were lucky enough to get a good view of a caracal, although it was a little shy. Two serval cats were located hunting in tall grass to the north of the camp. Night drives successfully yielded civet, honey badger and small spotted genet. Four different mongoose species were seen during June, the slender mongoose, yellow mongoose, banded mongoose and smallest of them all, the dwarf mongoose.

Bird sightings included numerous raptors and vultures. Two Bateleur eagles were seen dramatically fighting a Giant Eagle Owl. Another time a Tawny Eagle and Bateleur were seen together scavenging on a carcass. A beautiful Giant kingfisher was spotted perching on a tree near the water, a more unusual species to add to the pied and malachite kingfishers which are more commonly seen in the area. Massive flocks of red-billed quelea are feasting on the abundance of grass seed produced following this year’s good rainfalls.

Lebala

Sightings at Lebala camp were excellent during the month of June, with lots of predator action as well as great general game sightings.

A female cheetah was located perched on termite mound to get a better vantage point of the game around her. As she started to hunt she disturbed a yellow mongoose who was searching for lizards in grass. This female was new to our area, but seemed very relaxed around the game viewers, so we believe that she may have moved across from a neighbouring concession. The coalition of two male cheetah also paid a visit to the area and were seen on an impala kill.

Two different packs of wild dogs were seen during June. There is a relatively new pair of dogs, alpha male and female, who seem to be settling in the area. During the month, they made a kill of a bushbuck within the lodge area; unfortunately for them their kill was taken by hyenas however the dogs spent their day at the camp sunbathing. The Southern Pack of fourteen dogs were also seen regularly, often hunting; we were lucky enough to see them bring down and feed upon a male impala, watched hungrily by two hooded vultures. We were also lucky enough to see their ritual greeting ceremony.

The hyena clan have now left their den, but single hyenas were frequently sighted, often on the move as they looked for food.

The Wapoka Pride of 4 female lions, 6 sub-adults and 3 small cubs were often found and were a favourite with guests as the cubs were often playing, or interacting tenderly with the females. In one exciting sighting, we had been following the lions as they stalked impala, then all of a sudden two of the sub-adults burst forward to chase the antelope. We lost sight of the action as the animals dashed into the long grass, but then as we stopped the vehicle to scan for activity an eerie and intense howling was heard nearby. We quickly responded and found the pride killing a wildebeest, watched on by several hyena. Their whooping calls drew in reinforcements and eventually they were able to overpower the lions through sheer numbers. Within 30 minutes the massive clan managed to clean up the entire carcass.

Leopards were often seen, usually the resident female known as Jane; her two strapping adult sons were also in the area.

General game was still plentiful; as the natural watering holes were drying up massive herds of elephant and buffalo were seen as they made their way towards the riverine areas. The large herd of eland was still in the area, as well as the beautiful roan and sable antelopes. Other resident antelope species included zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, impala, red lechwe, tsessebe, reedbuck and kudu.

Although the summer migrants had mostly moved on, some Carmine Bee-eaters were still in the area, unusual for this time of year. One of our trackers was commended for his sharp eyesight as he picked out the tiny and well-camouflaged Pearl Spotted Owlet. At the other end of the scale, the massive Verreaux’s Eagle Owl was also found. Wattled Crane, Ground Hornbill, Marabou Storks and three species of vulture were also seen during June.

Smaller mammals found during the month included a beautiful rare sighting of an aardwolf during a night drive. We were also successful in locating bush babies, honey badger, small spotted genet and African wild cat

As night-time temperatures dropped it was vital for endothermic animals such as reptiles to regulate their body temperature using the sun. Crocodiles and snakes were frequently observed during the warm days; species seen included puff adders, olive grass snakes and a massive African rock python basking on a termite mound.

Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan camp was closed during June for its scheduled annual maintenance. This meant that we didn’t get to explore our wider game drive areas in the usual way, however the sanding and drilling did not in any way deter the animals flocking to the camp watering hole to drink and wallow.

Elephants, both breeding herds and large bulls, are continuing to show up in huge numbers and are draining water as fast as we can pump it. One even came and drank our swimming pool dry before it was repainted. It is a challenge for the camp staff and maintenance team to keep these thirsty animals satisfied to the extent that they don’t come investigating into the camp itself for other water sources, but their presence is always a thrill.

Buffalo were also seen during the month, mainly bulls in the morning and a breeding herd in the afternoon.

Other species observed drinking at the watering hole during the month included 3 cheetah, lots of giraffe, wildebeest and zebra.

Tau Pan

Winter in the Kalahari has arrived and towards the end of the month the overnight temperature dipped below zero degrees Celsius for the first time this year. The verdant greens of the rainy season have now mellowed into a palette of golds, yellows and greys, creating the starkly beautiful landscape that the Kalahari is famed for.

The Tau Pan pride of 5 males and 2 females were looking healthy and well-fed. Oryx seemed to be the lions’ menu of choice during June and they were often seen stalking these desert antelope. In fact, the pride was seemingly so well-fed that on two occasions antelope were seen grazing fearlessly right next to the cats as they rested. It was quite a remarkable sight to see hunter and prey so relaxed in each other’s company. The lions were mainly to be found in the Tau Pan area and often in and around the camp where the slightly elevated terrain gave them a great view of the surrounding area as they scanned the wide horizon for their next likely meal.

The bushman walk conducted from the lodge is primarily aimed to demonstrate the hunter gatherer traditions of the San people. It is also an opportunity to take a closer look at smaller species of insects and plants. However, one walk last month gave a more adrenaline-fuelled experience when a male and female lion were spotted at the same time approaching from different directions. The female seemed to be heading towards the watering hole but waited when she saw the walkers. The guide sensibly decided to go back to camp and took the guests by vehicle to enjoy the lioness drinking at the watering hole. On another walk the guests were lucky enough to see a Cape Fox which was an unusual sighting to see on foot.

Leopards were seen a few times, mainly the resident female who was seen at the camp watering hole and on the road towards the airstrip. A male and female were heard calling each other in the Tau Pan area.

The cheetah female with her two sub-adult cubs still appeared to be healthy, though when we did see them hunting her youngsters lacked patience and startled the game, spoiling their hunt. The single resident male was also seen, but he tends to keep a low profile in order to avoid the other predators, notably the lions, in the area. A coalition of two male cheetah were also located in Deception Valley.

The drive to Deception Valley shows a change in geology and vegetation, with bigger trees becoming more common. Giraffe were seen browsing on the acacias and guests were able to observe how they moved upwind as they ate. This is because the acacia trees have remarkably evolved to release pheromones in to the air to ‘warn’ the other trees of danger causing them to release unpalatable tannins. In the valley itself guests enjoyed plentiful springbok, oryx and black-backed jackal.

There was also good general game in the Tau Pan area including herds of oryx, springbok and a group of 8 red hartebeest. In addition to jackals, different small families of bat-eared foxes were seen foraging for insects. Caracal, honey badger and the elusive aardwolf were amongst the smaller predators enjoyed by guests during June.

Tau Pan’s vast expanse makes it a great place to spot birds. Sightings this month included the Pale Chanting Goshawk, Gabar Goshawk and Black-chested Snake-eagle. Flocks of ostrich were commonly seen. There were lots of wild cucumbers and Tsamma melons on the edge of the pans, a vital source of nutrition and moisture for the desert animals during the arid winter months.

Sightings – February 2017 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

Once again Kwara lived up to its reputation for fantastic game viewing. For every single day of the month Kwando guides were able to find at least two predator sightings.

A male leopard was found highly mobile and seemingly defensive of his territory on the Shinde Main Road. He was calling, scent marking and sniffing as though another male had passed by. A different leopard gave guests a chance for great action shots as he gracefully leapt down from a tree.

One of the most underrated activities on safari is ‘staying in camp’ and sometimes those who choose to snooze can get very lucky. Such was the case at Kwara camp in February when two sets of guests had decided to take it easy one morning, only to be alerted by the management team that a leopard had killed a reedbuck in camp and hauled its prize up the sausage tree near to the guide tent. A smaller leopard was found circling the base of the tree. The in-camp guests were accompanied on foot so that they could photograph this spectacle and the game viewers on drive hastily beat a retreat to Kwara so that no-one missed out on the action. In the end, they needn’t have hurried. The leopard returned to the tree on and off for two whole days. In the end, the leopard lost interest in the now rather ‘ripe’ carcass, so it was relocated to the plains where no doubt finished off by the scavenger clean-up crew of vultures, jackal, hyena and many smaller birds and mammals.

The airstrip also delivered some exciting sightings of leopard and hyena, proving that you need to keep your eyes wide open from the minute that you land at Kwara, all the way until you board your return flight. The hyenas were feeding on a reedbuck that they had taken from the leopard. The next day a leopard was found in the area again with a fresh kill.

Lions were seen almost daily. The three females were seen with two of the Zulu boys. We followed them on a hunting expedition, but in the end their enthusiasm ran out and we left them sleeping. The Mma Mogata Pride were spotted hunting zebra but the cubs seemed a little nervous to get close to the action and in the end the zebra escaped unscathed. On another occasion a large male lion was found feasting on a zebra.

Across at Four Rivers, wild dogs were found hunting. They were successful in bringing down a young impala which was quickly devoured but apparently the dogs regarded this small lamb as being little more than an aperitif and they continued to look for larger prey that could satisfy the whole pack. It is always special to see two different species interacting so it was a thrilling to see a clan of hyenas baiting a wild dog pack as they tried in vain to rest in the long grass. Eventually the dogs gave up their attempted siesta and moved off.

A female cheetah and her three cubs has continued to delight the Kwara guests. She has been successful with her hunting missions and on one occasion, having satiated her own appetite with an impala, was very relaxed as her cubs playing around with the carcass. A few days later she was spotted having brought down a reedbuck. With three mouths to feed she needs to be a busy mum and it is great to see that her hunts are being successful. Male cheetah were also seen full-bellied so it appears that February was a successful month for these cats.

Elephants were often seen in the area feeding, and occasionally in camp too, whilst abundant general game included giraffe, zebra, kudu, tsessebe, waterbuck, reedbuck, red lechwe and impala.

Summer migrant bird species seen at Kwara during February included European Rollers, Broad-billed Rollers, European Bee-eaters and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters.

Keen birders were happy to see summer migrants in abundance. The trilling call of the Woodland Kingfisher was an integral part of the camp ambience during January.  Other migrants seen during January in Kwara included Ruffs, Abdim’s Storks, Carmine bee-eaters and Steppe Buzzards.

Lagoon

Currently there is a very majestic and impressive herd of over 100 eland moving around the woodland area with a similar sized group of zebra. Eland are the largest of the African antelope species, reaching 1.6 metres at the shoulder. It has been incredible to see these striking animals in such large numbers.

A persistent follow-up by a Kwando guide and tracker was rewarded when they followed lion tracks  and found the Southern pride of 7 adults and 10 cubs resting after a successful eland kill. A few days later we were able to follow this large pride for an hour whilst they were hunting, before they rested under some shady Kalahari Apple-leaf trees. Although looking hungry they were extremely relaxed and guests were able to get some wonderful pictures. Towards the end of the month two male lions were found on an eland kill and a single male eating a zebra.

Part of the excitement of safari is the unpredictability of sightings. Even after you have waved goodbye to the camp staff and are on your way to fly home it pays to keep your eyes peeled. Such was the case for some lucky guests in February who came across the Lagoon pack of 18 wild dogs on their way to the airstrip to meet their plane. The dogs had just killed a kudu and were feeding on the fresh carcass. The next morning the pack were found just a few metres from camp, close to Room 9. The guests were able to stay with them for a long while and witnessed them regurgitating food for their pups. The dogs then moved off to hunt again and our vehicle was able to follow them as they tried to catch an impala.

The two subadult brother cheetahs who recently left their mother appear to be fending very well by themselves and were seen feeding on an impala in a relaxed fashion. Later in the month they were spotted sitting up on a termite mound, we stayed with them for a while, allowing plenty of time to get great photographs. All of a sudden, a group of zebra appeared and the cheetahs sprang into action managing to take down a foal. A brave kill for these opportunistic young brothers and a wonderful surprise for our thrilled guests.

Lions were seen frequently during February. The Northern pride of 2 males and 2 females and 3 cubs were seen interacting with elephants at Maheke Pans. The elephants successfully chased the lions from the waterhole.

About 10 minutes from camp leopard tracks were picked up and followed to find a female in hunting mode though she didn’t make a kill. Eventually she gave up and settled on a termite mound where guests were able to get some great photographs.

Hippos are congregating in large numbers on the Kwando River and guests are enjoying seeing them on the boat cruise. Many crocodiles have been seen from the boat, as well as large herds of impala and red lechwe. Guests have enjoyed the chance to get great close up shots of aquatic birds including darters, cormorants, Goliath Heron, African Jacana. African Fish Eagles are often seen perching on dead branches along the river.

Our guides have been surprised at the high population of elephants who have remained in the Kwando riverine area this rainy season. Often they move off deeper into the woodlands at this time of year, but there are a plenty of elephants who have decided to stay in the wetlands this year.

Lebala

The resident pack of 19 wild dogs were seen hunting on several occasions. At one point they were running all over the airstrip chasing impala when they came across a jackal and chased him into the waiting room. Fiercely, the little jackal stood his ground against the dogs, much bigger in size and number. To everyone’s surprise the dogs backed down and let him wander away.

The next day the dogs were once again hunting at the airstrip, but this time chanced upon a hyena. This time they were not so merciful and ganged up on the hyena attacking her until she came running and hid straight underneath one of the game viewers! Eventually the wild dogs moved on and she was able to come out from under the vehicle and the game drive could continue. An incredible sighting for our guests.

Kwando guide and tracker teams successfully found the resident pride of 7 adults lions and 10 cubs on numerous occasions in February. At the start of the month the lions did not appear to be very successful in their hunts and at one stage all looked very hungry. Towards the end of the month their luck picked up and we found them having gorged to bursting point on a baby giraffe.

The familiar males of the Northern Pride, known to the guides as Old Gun and Sebastian were seen checking out a lioness. By grimacing in a particular way (known as the ‘flehmen’ response) they were using an organ located behind their palate to test her urine for hormones that would let them know if she was coming into oestrus.

Guests enjoyed a relaxed sighting of a beautiful female leopard who is resident in the area. Frequently-sighted were two sub-adult cheetah males who are forming a territory and getting more habituated to the safari vehicles as they grow in confidence.

There are still large breeding herds of elephants in the Lebala region as well as solitary bulls. This is a change to previous years when elephant numbers have been less during the rainy season.

The watering holes have been extremely productive and are currently the best place to spot hippos, many of whom who have moved out of the riverine area to enjoy fresh grazing further afield. There are large congregations of zebra, eland and wildebeest with young at foot coming to drink in the afternoons.

Birding in the Lebala area is excellent at the current time. Summer migrants in the area include Thick-billed Rollers, Carmine Bee-eaters and Wahlberg’s Eagles.

Our guides have enjoyed taking bush walks, allowing guests the opportunity for great bird photography including close sightings of Saddle-billed Storks and Tawny Eagles and Egyptian Geese with babies. Black-backed and Side-striped jackals were also seen on these excursions.

We have had reports of dramatically beautiful sunsets at Lebala during February. The late summer sun has combined with thundery skies to produce the most astounding colours.

Nxai Pan

The whole of Botswana has experienced a bountiful rainy season and the Nxai Pan area was no exception. The pans have filled with water, attracting some species that would never usually be seen area. For instance, a breeding herd of buffalo with their calves who came to drink at the camp watering hole. Buffalo are highly water-dependent, so this is not a species that you would normally associate with the desert – proof that 2017 has been an extraordinary year for rains and foliage growth. In fact, there has been so much water in Nxai Pan that wading birds have even appeared including White Storks, Wooly-Necked Storks, Abdim’s Storks and Hamerkops.

From the start of February the numbers of zebras dramatically increased to a point where thousands of zebras were being seen all the way from the camp to the pans, travelling in large groups. At this point the migration is at its peak; guests sitting in the main area or enjoying siesta time in their rooms are treated to the spectacle of massed herds of zebra and wildebeest grazing and drinking from the camp watering hole. There are large numbers of babies within the herds. We have seen a number of zebra with big wounds that could well be from lion attacks.

Indeed, the resident pride of lions has been seen often in the area, the abundant food supply keeping them in close proximity to the zebra herds. During February, lions were heard calling nearly every day, sometimes close to camp. At the moment, the pride numbers seven lionesses with two dominant males. Two of the females are showing signs that they are nursing so we are hoping to get a glimpse of their cubs soon. They are always found in the same area, near to an island, so we think that they are hiding their cubs away from threats, including other male lions. Despite travelling in large herds for protection some zebra inevitably fall prey to the lions and it is not surprising that the lions were usually seen full-bellied or on kills given the availability of game. The collared male was seen mating with a young lioness of about 3 years.

The springbok herds have had their lambs and are concentrated towards the centre of the pans where the wide-open areas give them good visibility to spot predators. A female cheetah with two cubs is still frequently seen in the pan area, as well as two solitary males.

New journeys of giraffe are also arriving, with up to 15 being seen at a time, many with young babies.

A number of guests cited the trip to Baines Baobabs as being the highlight of their stay during February. The pan is full of water and spectacular herds numbering hundreds of oryx have been found near to the famous baobab trees. Other species seen in that area were red hartebeest, springbok and warthogs. Leopard tracks were also spotted by our keen-eyed tracker, although the cat itself proved elusive.

A few bull elephants have been visiting the pan area, but their densities are very much less than in the peak of the dry season and for now they seem content with the natural water available in the park. No doubt they will return en-masse to the camp watering hole (and occasionally the swimming pool) once the weather starts to dry up.

Honey badgers have been spotted and guests particularly enjoyed a spectacular sighting of different bat-eared fox families, including cubs, interacting near camp. Black-backed jackals are frequently seen.

The annual zebra migration brings thousands of animals into the area. While some zebras have migrated with their small foals, others are being born on the Nxai Pan plains. One of the most incredible things about a new born foal is the gangly length of their legs. A foals is born with such long legs that when it stands next to its mother its under belly is just about the same height as its mothers under belly. This, coupled with the disruptive colouration of the zebra stripes makes it incredibly difficult for a predator to target the young during an attack. It is easy to see why a group of zebras is sometimes called a ‘dazzle’.

The birdlife at Nxai Pan has also been very rewarding with plentiful sightings of Adbim’s Stork, Pale Chanting Goshawks, Yellow-billed Kites, Carmine Bee-eaters and Open-billed Storks. Nxai Pan is also home to the Kori Bustard, the largest flying bird in the world and the national bird of Botswana.

Tau Pan

Big herds of general game were congregated at the pan area. The palatable grasses in the pan provide nursing mothers with good nourishment for their milk production which is vital at this time of year when the lambs and calves are feeding hungrily. The wide, open vistas of the pan mean that many grazer species can be viewed at the same time including springbok, zebra, wildebeest and oryx. One evening a dramatic fight between two male oryx was witnessed as they went head to head with their long, pointed horns. On this occasion the intruder only suffered wounded pride before he was successfully chased off. On another occasion guests chuckled at an oryx walking around wearing a ‘hat’, having got a substantial bush hooked onto his horns. Maybe the fashion will catch on?

The Tau Pan pride was seen on a regular basis, generally there were 4 male lions accompanying the 2 lionesses although sometimes the pride was as large as 9. Some brawling was spotted between the male pride members so it will be interesting to see how the hierarchy of this pride plays out over the coming months. A pair of lions was found mating over a two-day period; this appears to have been a very active mating season for the Tau Pan lions, so we look forward to the patter of tiny paws in due course. Oryx seemed to be a popular menu choice for the lions in the area this month; the Tau Pan pride were found hunting these large desert antelope, stalking them through the long grasses. The following morning a different pride were discovered feasting on an oryx that they had killed along the road to Passarge Valley. This substantial kill was enjoyed by the pride for 3 days.

A frequently-seen resident female cheetah was spotted attempting to hunt in the Tau Pan area, unfortunately her youngster hindered rather than helped so the prey escaped. Across at San Pan the young cheetah family consisting of mother and two cubs seemed to be faring a little better and they were found full-bellied and in great condition. Cheetah were seen regularly on the day trips to Passarge Valley, some sightings being extremely close to the road. On one occasion a male cheetah was seen showing great interest in a young springbok, unfortunately the long grasses meant that we were unable to see how that particular hunt played out in the end.

On a different trip to Passarge Valley a large male leopard was found walking along the road although he was a little skittish. Later the same day a sub-adult was found up on a branch and was relaxed enough for great photos. To top off a great ‘cat’ day, a caracal was found hunting although on this occasion he was unlucky.

All in all, February was a great month for cat sightings. Another beautifully relaxed leopard was found treed-up in a picture-perfect Umbrella-thorn Acacia in the Tau Pan area. Guests were also happy to see the usually shy African Wild Cats in broad daylight.

Giraffe bulls were also seen fighting near Phukwe Pan, using their long necks as leverage to land blows on each other with their horns (or more correctly ‘ossicones’). The contestants will try to dodge each other’s blows and then get ready to counter. This behaviour is known as ‘necking’ and is used to establish dominance The rest of the journey seemed relaxed as they browsed acacia trees before elegantly walking off into the bush.

Many bird species are also in full breeding season and it is great to hear that Secretary Birds have been found nesting. Both male and female Secretary Birds visit a nest site for almost half a year before egg-laying takes place, incubation is approximately 45 days and then it will be a further couple of months before the chicks fledge, so we look forward to enjoying this family’s progress for some time to come.

Sightings – September 2016 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

wild-dogs-family

The tiny dog pack at Tsum Tsum were seen a few times this month at their den. The three adults with 8 puppies have been seen relaxing at the den, with the puppies playing around. It’s harder to follow the adults when they go hunting as the area still has water around, and with only three dogs to follow, they quickly move out of sight. We also had sightings of the other packs in the area: a pack of five with five puppies, and the larger pack of 14 with 8 puppies. Sightings were sporadic, as they are all now covering wide areas of territory.

Lions were seen almost every day – particularly the four males, and the two females with the four cubs. There didn’t appear to be a lot of territorial fighting going on this month, as everyone seemed to keep to themselves. However, the males were definitely more interested in the ladies this month, and one of the males broke away from the rest of his brothers to follow the two females. His attention was unwanted, and he was soon left on his own. Whilst he was away, the rest of the coalition turned their attention to zebra, and spent a day feasting on one they had killed. Unusually, they didn’t eat the entire thing, and left the remains to the vultures.

After a long time without seeing cheetahs, the female returned with her two sub-adults. They were seen resting in the area near buffalo pan, but were not as relaxed as they used to be. A male cheetah was also seen along baboon road, and made a reedbuck kill. By mid month, the cheetahs appeared to have settled back into their role as Kwara’s resident cats, and were seen hunting, relaxing, and posing. The cheetahs however, were not exactly welcomed back by the other predators, though they certainly benefited from having them around: the cheetahs had their kill stolen by lions, and then a day later, a leopard attacked them when they were feeding on a reedbuck!

The delta lions are not the only cats that will go through water if they need to – a female leopard was found near one of the water crossings, relaxing in the sun, with very wet fur, obviously having just been for a dip. We also had a wonderful sighting of a male leopard – we came upon him in the middle of dragging a reedbuck that he had killed that morning and partially fed on. The reedbuck weighed about twice the amount of the leopard, yet the leopard pulled it quite a distance into the marsh, to keep it safe from the roaming hyenas that are in the area.

Also a good sighting of a sitatunga this month, close to the boat station.

And a return visit from the slightly shy male rhino – he was found grazing around the Honeymoon Pan area!

And it seems rare fauna was around to stay, but of the feathered variety: only having been seen once before in approximately 8 years, a Pels Fishing Owl made an appearance. Or rather, set up camp. Literally. Seen roosting during the day in the tall trees over Little Kwara, he had chosen a particularly strange location: the noisy surrounds of the LK vehicle workshop… With occasional day visits to the Kwara trees – this exceptionally rare owl appeared quite content..

Lagoon

bird

September – winter was only 4 weeks ago, but the Botswana summer is quick to arrive. Knowing this, the summer migrants have started flying in from afar: the first ones in are the kites and bee-eaters, ready to start their breeding season again. Soon, the air will be filled with the calls and colours of all the visitors – for us, an easy way of telling the change of the seasons.

Great lion sightings this month, with the pride of 2 males, 2 lionesses and 3 cubs being sighted as well as the large pride of 17, which included 10 cubs. The pride of 7 were found feeding on a young elephant – estimated to be around four years old. The two males from the large pride were also found on a different elephant carcass. With so many elephants moving into the area, there are bound to be natural deaths from individuals – it’s not clear if the lions themselves have killed the elephants.

A few leopard sightings, a shy male, and a small female in the area around Half Way Pan. We also found a small cub hiding behind a tree. Later in the afternoon, her mother returned. We then saw this female and her cub several times through the rest of the month. Other predators include the regular visitors – the hyenas. They were regularly seen hanging around the dogs, waiting to try and get a free meal from the left overs, or to force them off a kill if they could. Their calls sounded through the camp at night – territorial, and calls of courtship.

The wild dog pack were seen regularly in the beginning of the month, as they were still at the den site. However, they soon left the site and spent the rest of the month moving around the area. As the month progressed, the pack was moving larger distances as the pups became more comfortable keeping up with the adults. The dogs remained fit and healthy, and hunted regularly. Four of the adults appeared to split away from the pack from time to time before rejoining, an indication that they may eventually split off on a more permanent basis.

Elephants are massing in large numbers, and every waterway or shady area seems to have a congregation waiting. Many are moving in from across the Caprivi strip, cutting across Namibia, seeking a safe haven in Botswana. Some will even have moved down from Angola. All are waiting eagerly for the first rains, as is the rest of Botswana.  Joining them are the large herds of buffalo, dotted over the marshes and floodplains throughout the concession.

Almost at the end of the month – a rare sighting of cheetah. This time, it was not the two brothers that made a foray through the area, but a shy female – with two young cubs in tow. We stayed with her for about 20 minutes, as they slowly moved along the edge of the bush line.

Lots of porcupine seen this month, as well as civet spotted regularly on the evening drives.
The most unusual sighting, probably for the year, was a lovely sighting of a big herd of buffalos, mingling with herds of elephants on the waters edge, not far from the edge. A nice enough sighting as it is, but whilst we were watching them, running through the middle of them all was a male sitatunga!
Another exciting and unusual sighting was of a martial eagle, that dove down and scooped up an ostrich chick, to the alarm of the parents!

Lebala

baby-leopard

At the beginning of the month, the dogs were seen every day, either hunting – most times successfully – or at the den site with their puppies. The adults passed through the camp several times, on their hunts. One of the adults managed to kill an impala, but with the rest of the pack too spread out, three hyenas made a beeline for him, and pushed him off his kill before the rest of the dog pack managed to catch up.

We spent a morning tracking the two young leopard cubs that are seen often near the camp. We eventually found one of the cubs at Old Hippo Pool, but there was no sign of his sibling or mother. Returning to the same location in the afternoon, we found the two cubs together. Two days later and we had a wonderful sighting of an adult male leopard – lying down near a pan. It is unusual for us to see a very relaxed male leopard – they are often quite shy – but this one was totally unbothered by our presence. The next day, and a relaxed female was found in the branches of a tree. She came down the tree, and began hunting, only to return to a tree to scan the area again for potential prey.

On the 13th of the month, we found the mother leopard with one of her cubs. The second cub was missing and was not seen for several days. The mother had bad wounds on her legs – we are not sure what occurred, but possibly she gained them as a result of fighting with warthogs or baboons. By the 18th, we managed to relocate the two cubs, but this time the mother was not around, and the cubs looked hungry.  It seemed to have a happy end to the month, as the mother was again found, and whilst we were watching she stalked and killed an impala.  When we returned to the kill later, she was feeding on it with one of the cubs.

A single male lion was found following a herd of buffalos along Fish Road. He soon left them, and began heading north, looking for the rest of his pride, sniffing for scent marks and calling regularly.  A few days later and he had rejoined his brother, they were feeding together on an elephant. The pride of 17 lions – without the males – also were seen in the area – looking a little skinny. A few days later, and the southern pride (5 lionesses and 7 youngsters) were seen attempting to hunt, with the cubs in tow. The two males were not far away.  Towards the end of the month, the pride males killed an adult buffalo near the camp.

Nxai Pan

lion

The large lion pride from prior months continues to remain apart. The two dominant males of the area are regularly seen around the main government waterhole. The rest of the pride are seen in small groupings, throughout the park, and do move through the camp waterhole to drink as well.

Good sightings of the lioness with the two cubs as well – the mum was relaxing under the tree, whilst the two youngsters played, and then flopped over when they got too hot. By mid month, the lionesses had regrouped, with three of them and the cubs spending a lot of time together, mostly close to the two water holes. The males joined from time to time.

The cheetah mother with two young cubs was also a regular sighting. She is frequenting the area around Middle Road, coming in to drink at the waterholes when the lions are not there.
The bachelor herd of buffalos (six or seven of them)  are still coming in to drink water at the camp water hole most mornings and later afternoon. They are now ‘stuck’ till the rainy season – they cannot travel the distance to any alternative water source, and will be reliant on the grass which follows the rains. What they are currently managing to survive on is a bit of a mystery.

Big big herds of elephants coming in and out of the waterholes. The camp is providing plenty of water for them to drink, and having made an industrial/elephant strength electric fence around the camp itself, has finally deterred those individuals that wanted their own personal watering station. There were a few surprised moments when the ‘regulars’ first tried to come back in – nothing damaging, other than to their pride. They are now ‘slumming’ it with the rest of the herds and bulls at the large watering holes in front of the camp.

Tau Pan

sunset

The Kalahari seems like a wide, flat place when you fly over it and look down. But on landing, you realise that it is a varied landscapes: a broad horizon, undulating low hills, and a mixture of plains and dry ancient valleys. At the moment, the dull colours are lifted with the first blooms of the acacias – camel thorn, blackthorns and the evergreen shepherds bush. The new colours bring a hint of what is to come when the rains finally arrive.

Finding tracks around room 1 of a male lion, we started the morning tracking the animals. We eventually found them not far from the camp water hole – three male lions lying down and relaxing There were also the main pride moving around the Tau Pan area  for most of the month. And on the 24thSeptember, the big coalition of males regrouped for the first time in several weeks – six males relaxed together by the camp waterhole!

Room 1 is obviously a popular place to be – two lionesses decided the area adjacent to the room would be a perfect place to begin a hunt for food. They managed to kill an oryx nearby, and then spent a day or two feasting on the large antelope.

We get a little blasé about lions at Tau Pan, so it’s good to bring things down to size a little and remember what else is around us that doesn’t have the same marketing. Not a relation, but a namesake, the antlion is a fierce creature in its own miniature world. We spent some time watching this predator build his trap in the sand, and sitting in wait for his prey. A fly wandered too close to the edge of the conical sand trap, and the antlion shot grains of sand at the fly to knock it into the centre of the pit. Waiting at the bottom was the antlion, ready to grab its latest meal.  Seeing a kill, does not always mean you have to be on safari in the safety of a car!

Good cheetah sightings this month too, with cheetah mother and her cub of 5 months old at Passarge Pan, another male cheetah frequenting the camp waterhole, and brown hyenas also wandering around the area. The male cheetah put on a great show one morning, trying to stalk a group of kudu near the waterhole. Each animal stayed frozen…. Eventually, the cheetah attempted to chase, but the kudu, having already seen him, fled without any problem.

And also a great sighting of a young leopard feeding on a springbok carcass near the airstrip. The carcass was hanging in a tree, and we could hear contact calls from the cub, so its likely the mother was in the bushes nearby, but she didn’t come out whilst we were there.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Our Dogs have Denned

 In previous years, the wild dogs have played games with us and made it impossible to predict which Linyanti camp guests should book to maximise their chances of seeing the puppies, as well as the amazing behaviour and dynamics associated with a wild dog den.

1

This year, we are excited to report that they have made it easier for Kwando guests – with not one but TWO dens, one at each camp, which guests can visit.

At Lagoon, the larger pack of 14 wild dogs have a den 10 minutes from camp while at Lebala, the pack of 13 have a den north of the air strip.

Lagoon is about 4 hours drive north of Lebala.

2
The guides expect to see the first glimpses of the puppies poking their heads out of the den within the next 2 weeks.

With two dens on our concession, guests staying with us have an increased chance of seeing the puppies (in keeping with our conservation ethos, we limit the number of cars at the den to just two).

3
Meanwhile down in the delta, in the Kwara concession, we also have a pack of three wild dogs that have been frequently seen near camp including one pregnant looking alpha female looking for a safe place to give birth to her little pups!

Fingers crossed for a hat-trick this year!

Previous post

Inviting your submissions to the 2018 Photo Competition

Next post

This is the most recent story.

No Comment

Leave a reply