Southern Africa Bush Tails

Botswana – Kwando Newsletter

Sightings – July 2019 Sightings Report

Kwara Private Reserve

A very unusual tale unfolded with two packs of wild dogs. Regular followers of these reports may recall that at the end of June the pack of eight and a smaller pack of four had a confrontation. In the days that followed the larger pack had taken to ambushing the den of the smaller pack and we feared for the lives of their puppies. But in an extraordinary twist at the start of July we found the three puppies of the smaller pack five kilometres from home at the pack of eight’s den – apparently kidnapped! We contacted researchers who explained that there are previous records of wild dogs adopting puppies from other packs and hypothesized that the smaller pack may in fact be a distantly related splinter group. The pack of eight continued to feed all fourteen puppies (eleven of their own and three from the other pack) via regurgitation and both sets were nursed by the alpha female. The two sets of puppies looked distinctly different at this stage because of their varied ages, the eleven from the pack of eight were still small and dark, whereas the adopted pups were much bigger and starting to develop their patterned coats. We were able to see the adult dogs hunting impala and reedbuck, usually finishing off the whole carcass in just twenty minutes, a strategy that helps to avoid competition with other predators. Once time we found the dogs being chased by lions who were attempting to scavenge, but luckily all the predators remained uninjured. Another time we found the pack taunting and chasing a herd of elephants, but the pachyderms grouped together to defend their calves.

To add to the wild dog excitement, at the end of the month we came across the Kwara pack of thirteen adults and followed them back to their den where we counted fourteen puppies. Having already seen the other pack we ended up seeing a total of 49 wild dogs that day!

The resident male cheetah known as Special still continued to be a big favourite with guests and we were able to follow him as he hunted impala and reedbuck. One time we saw him watching some common reedbuck who had young ones with them. The cheetah stalked to get closer before chasing and separating a lamb from its mother. The lamb was only a few days old and at that stage seemed to get confused as to who was its mother because it stopped running and turned straight to the cheetah. To everyone’s wonderment Special played with the lamb for about 10-15 minutes before, inevitably, killing it. Another time we found him close to Splash room 1 and followed him until he killed a common reedbuck. Some hyenas came and took away the kill, providing an exciting inter-species interaction.

We also found a female cheetah with three cubs a few times. They were feeding on different species such as impala, a kudu calf, warthog and steenbok and sometimes we were lucky enough to witness their hunt. It was interesting to watch the mother use a sub-adult reedbuck to train her cubs how to chase and kill.

A female honey badger and her young cub visited Splash camp every night, sometimes easily seen by guests as they enjoyed pre-dinner drinks around the open fire. We also saw many honey badgers during game drive.

A beautiful young female leopard, estimated to be about three years old, was very relaxed with our vehicles and we were able to spend quality time with her including watching her hunt impala. We found another female with a cub up a tree feeding on an impala.

Two lionesses with their six cubs were seen hunting to the east of the airstrip and we watched as they brought down and killed a young warthog. It took them just ten minutes to finish the piglet off. The two young resident male lions made a big deal of declaring their territory by roaring. We found them mating a lioness at the start of the month.

Two very bold spotted hyenas came quite close to the vehicle as we were stopped for sundowner drinks. Jackals were seen scavenging on the remains of a wild dog kill. We also saw African wild cat and civet.

Huge herds of elephant were in the area, attracted by the permanent channel that forms our border with the Moremi Game Reserve.

A very relaxed herd of five sable antelope could be seen near to the mokoro station and a roan antelope bull was seen more than once drinking from the waterhole in front of camp. Giraffe could be seen with splayed legs as they reached down to lick the minerals from the soil in a behaviour known as geophagia, commonly seen in many species during dry season.

Every day a large herd of buffalo could be seen moving to the west of camp. Once we saw them being followed by two lionesses from the Mother Eye Pride, the first time that we have seen this pride trying their luck on buffalo. In the end the buffalo won the day and the two lionesses walked away.

Cattle egrets and oxpeckers could be seen accompanying the herds of buffalo, some herds up to 200 strong. A flock of one hundred vultures were observed feeding on the leftovers of a cheetah kill. On the same morning we watched a fish eagle feed on a catfish and then a tawny eagle eating a monkey. Two fish eagles were also seen in front of Splash camp. Four bateleur eagles were seen on the ground drinking water neat to the mokoro station.

Lagoon

We were really pleased to see the resident pack of wild dogs back in the Lagoon area on 5th July as they had temporarily moved away after losing their puppies. They were drinking near to camp and had full bellies. The guides were able to follow them hunting and watched them bring down and kill an impala. They were also seen later in the month trying their luck on kudu. The alpha female seemed to have recovered well from the injuries that she sustained when she was attached by another pack in June.

One lioness was located with seven cubs walking and looking for the other females. We watched her as she hunted and killed a warthog which she shared with the cubs. This lioness specialises in warthogs and was managing to kill them regularly in order to feed her fast-growing youngsters. The two dominant male lions were nearby on the same island, one of the males bearing fresh scars from a fight the previous night. We eventually found the other two lionesses and followed them to the place where they were keeping their four young cubs. We saw the whole pride together many times with their eleven playful cubs providing entertainment for our guests.

The smaller Bonga pride were also in the Lagoon area and we found them feeding on a warthog at Second Lagoon. We saw them hunting buffalo unsuccessfully one morning but they managed to bring down a subadult sable antelope as a consolation prize. We also saw them hunting zebra and giraffe. At the end of the month they managed to kill a big buffalo which they feasted on for three days.

Two intruder male lions with collars were spotted, but they were shy.

One day we were driving along and heard red-billed francolins alarm calling so our guides started to look for a predator at ground level. After searching they found a female leopard feeding on an aardwolf and another near to the boat station. A female leopard was located a couple of times as she went up onto termite mounds to scan the area for prey.

The coalition of two male cheetah brothers were seen a few times, feeding on warthog twice and also trying to hunt red lechwe.

Guides were delighted to find an aardvark; this is a rare sighting and considered a good omen by the Batswana people. The aardwolf den was active and we saw the adults around the den, especially in the mornings. Once we had an unusual sighting of three aardwolves together; two males were fighting over a female. A female honey badger with her cub were seen foraging for beetle larvae and grasshoppers. Porcupine, African civet and spring hare were seen during night drive. Once we were lucky enough to spot an African wild cat whilst it was fishing.

Spotted hyenas were seen excavating a previous den site.

Huge herds of buffalo, up to 300 strong with eighty calves were attracted to the riverine areas to drink and could be seen massed between the airstrip and camp. Elephants were also in good numbers and we saw breeding herds arriving in a parade to drink and swim in the evenings.

Very good general game was seen in the Watercut and Muddy Waters areas. We saw roan and sable antelope, both with calves. Other general game included big herds of zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, eland, tsessebe, roan antelope and impala. A big, calm, herd of eland were located.

Lebala

Sightings were incredible at Lebala during July, and very close to home. We had four kills within the camp itself in the space of a week, once by lions and the rest by wild dogs.

(We do not usually get actual footage of the sightings in camp, but the guides and camp team were only too excited to share what went down in camp! Check our Sightings Report blog or the Facebook)

We managed to track the pack of two wild dogs after they made a kill in camp and were excited to discover that they had a den with seven puppies. One morning, just as we were enjoying porridge at the fireplace, we heard the distress call of an impala at the bridge right in front of camp and found the two wild dogs eating an impala. It took them 40 minutes to finish the carcass – a bit longer than usual because they were running back and forth to their den a kilometre away to regurgitate for their youngsters. This pack was feeding on impala most of the time, once being chased around by a sounder of four warthogs who were not at all happy about their presence. Another time we found the adults and puppies running towards a spot where the alpha pair had made an impala kill.

The resident pride of lions was located practically every day with the eleven playful cubs always providing entertainment even when the adults were sleeping. We were often lucky enough to see the pride hunting and more than once witnessed them making a kill right in front of the vehicle. One evening they came right through camp hunting as all the guests were having dinner, providing great excitement for our guests. A few days later they killed a huge old buffalo bull near to our manager’s house and the guides were quickly alerted to bring their guests back to Lebala to watch the whole pride including the cubs feasted. They stayed on this carcass for several days, causing us to have to put in place some additional security measures to keep staff and guests safe as we walked around camp.

Once the two males were found feeding on a kudu by themselves, but at the same time they flushed out a female leopard who bolted from the thick bush up a tree. It was incredible seeing the two different cat species in one sighting. The following day the rest of the pride joined the males to finish up the carcass. A lone intruder lion with an injured eye briefly appeared in the area during July.

We saw leopard a few times during July but sightings were relatively scarce, probably due to the heavy lion presence in the Kwando reserve at the moment.

The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers were located resting, but soon got up and were moving around as though to start a hunting mission.

Spotted hyenas were denning in the area and so were seen fairly regularly.

General game included sable antelope, giraffe, wildebeest, impala, kudu, red lechwe and warthog. A wonderful herd of twenty-six roan antelope including ten calves were in the area.

Now that the inland waterholes had dried up lots of elephants could be seen crossing the river to and from the marshes. Guests enjoyed watching them mud-bathing and listening to their vocalisations as they prepared to move along. We also saw buffalo in breeding herds of up to 50 individuals. The dust clouds that they created could be seen from a distance, attracting the attention of the Wapoka lions.

Smaller mammals encountered included honey badger, spring hare and porcupine. An aardwolf was seen foraging for termites during night drive.

Bird sightings included vultures, Verreaux’s eagle owl, tawny eagle, marabou storks and saddle-billed storks. Birds associated with water such as spurwing geese, white-faced duck, African jacana, African spoonbill, fish eagles, herons and ibis could be seen by the channels. Pink-backed pelicans delighted guests by flying in beautiful formations before landing in the pools.

Nxai Pan

With the continued dry weather many different species could be seen congregating around the waterholes in the late afternoons, especially as the afternoon temperatures started to get warmer. This included big herbivores such as elephants and buffalo who are very dependent on having good water availability.

A pride of four lions, a male with three lionesses, was located frequently. The cats were looked full-bellied and in good condition. During the month we found two of the lions mating.

A female leopard was spotted moving through camp by one of our housekeepers.

General game was great and included breeding herds of wildebeest and zebra on the pan. Giraffe were plentiful and could be seen browsing the thorn trees. Springbok herds with up to 100 individuals were located at the Department of Wildlife waterhole alongside a large pride of ostrich. Oryx were located feeding along the road to Baines Baobabs.

Small predators such as black-backed jackals and bat-eared foxes could be observed trotting around looking for food. Jackals have a very varied diet and through the month we saw them foraging for harvester termites, finishing off the carcass of an impala ram and following honey badgers who were digging for rodents. We also saw an aardwolf.

Spotted hyenas, up to five in number, were seen at the camp waterhole early on several mornings.

Large flocks of helmeted guineafowl and Cape turtle doves were seen feeding on grass seeds and harvester termites. Guests enjoyed seeing ostrich dust-bathing. Pale chanting goshawks were often found and one was feeding on a guinea fowl carcass. We also saw blacksmith lapwings mobbing a tawny eagle. Other bird sightings included Burchell’s sandgrouse, secretary birds, greater kestrels, kori bustards, chestnut-vented tit-babblers, black-chested snake eagles and yellow canaries.

Tau Pan

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

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

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

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

(Note: All the 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 – June 2019 Sightings Report

Kwara Private Reserve

The pack of eight wild dogs were denning close to Splash and were visiting camp almost every day to kill an impala and then go back to regurgitate for the alpha female. She was heavily pregnant at the start of the month and the guides think that she gave birth during the second week as then she stayed down in the den.  Sometimes the resident lions tried to come and steal kills from the dogs. On the 28th June we got our first glance of the eleven puppies that this pack had produced and continued to see them daily thereafter.

Towards the end of the month there was a conflict between the pack of eight and the smaller pack of four wild dogs. We saw the two packs fighting and although the four dogs managed to escape the larger pack went to their den and spent the whole day lying in ambush. Over the next few days they continued with this ambushing behaviour and we feared for the lives of the smaller pack’s puppies as we hadn’t seen them since the big confrontation, but right on the last day of the month we were relieved to see that the three puppies from the smaller pack were still alive and doing well. This story then took a very interesting turn in the weeks that followed – stay tuned to July’s sighting report for the next exciting instalment!

Big herds of elephant and buffalo could be seen coming down from the northern part of the concession to drink at the permanent water channels on the border of Moremi Game Reserve. Guests loved watching the elephant procession as they swam, fed and mud-bathed. One time we were lucky enough to witness the incredible sighting of an elephant giving birth. The big buffalo bulls were observed sun-bathing and wallowing in mud; some of the females were nursing their calves.

The Splash pride were seen at the waterhole in front of Kwara camp – perhaps looking for a sneak preview of the rebuilt camp which will be opening in September! We saw the pride feeding on a freshly killed warthog, but the prey was a sub-adult so there was not enough food to go around, leading to lots of exciting purrs and growls. On the east of the Kwara Reserve two intruder male lions killed a big male buffalo and we found them looking extremely full-bellied after their huge meal. We also saw the dominant males bring down a buffalo bull and they feasted on that carcass for a few days. We saw one of the resident males trying to court a lioness from the One Eye Pride, but she did not seem receptive.

The lion kills attracted many scavenging hyenas and jackals.

We were fortunate enough to find aardvark a couple of times during night drive, although the creature was quite shy. A very relaxed aardwolf was seen frequently on lechwe plains foraging on snouted termites and harvester termites. A honey badger with a young cub were to be found foraging along the pathways at Splash camp. Serval and genet were located on night drive.

The resident male cheetah known as Special was seen hunting often with prey species ranging from warthog to kudu calves. One time we were lucky enough to watch him stalking, then chasing and killing an impala. Another time we saw him losing a kudu carcass to a clan of hyenas. Right at the end of the month he killed a warthog piglet very close to Splash Room 1.

A young female leopard was seen stalking regularly near to Splash camp, one time being followed by a hyena hoping for the chance to steal a kill.

Other general game included roan antelope and sitatunga.

A pair of endangered wattled cranes were usually to be found on the Kwara flood plain. Four species of vulture were identified. Guests enjoyed photographing a goliath heron finish his kill of a frog with the amphibian’s legs dangling out of the bird’s bill. Other sightings included saddle-billed storks, ground hornbills, short-tailed eagles and tawny eagles.

Lagoon

Night drives at Lagoon were productive during June yielding sightings of African civet, serval, genet and porcupine. We were even lucky enough to see aardvark and even MATING aardwolf! There was also an active aardwolf den at Grass Pan where were able to see the cubs.

As the dry weather continued herds of buffalo up to 300 strong could be located near to the channels and the Bonga Pride of lions who have always enjoyed specialising on buffalo were never far behind them. We saw many kills, of which this is one example: we had stopped to admire a pearl-spotted owlet sunbathing when our guide heard vervet monkeys giving an alarm call. Moving in that direction he saw a huge cloud of dust caused by buffaloes stampeding. Then right in the middle of the herd he spotted a sub-adult male lion who was chasing them, but the buffaloes mobbed the cat and drove him away. Just when we thought it was all over, a lioness attacked the buffalo herd from the rear and managed to take down a calf as the buffalo scattered in confusion. The rest of the pride appeared and kept the buffaloes at bay whilst the lioness suffocated the calf. Eventually the buffaloes moved on and the rest of the lions came to join in the feast.

At the start of the month a single lioness who had isolated herself from the Holy Pride was seen lactating and so guides were excited that she might have cubs hidden somewhere. She is a warthog specialist and was often seen actively hunting or feeding on a kill. The rest of the pride comprised six lionesses with ten small cubs and we saw them nursing often, their cubs making adorable noises as they begged for milk. It Was interesting to observe how the lionesses cross-suckled each other’s young, a behaviour not seen in all predator species. The two resident male lions kept calling to mark their presence in their territory. One time we saw the pride feasting on a buffalo which they had killed at night. All the lions had very full bellies and the cubs were being extremely playful and climbing trees. The lions stayed on this huge carcass for three days before moving off.

A resident female leopard had been seen hunting in the morning. She kept going up into the trees to look for any possible danger as well as trying to find prey.

The resident pack of wild dogs had ten puppies at the start of the month and we were able to witness lovely scenes at the den site as the puppies played with each other and interacted with the adults. We also saw the adult dogs hunting as they went out without the alpha female to look for food. However unfortunately another pack came in and found the resident pack. A big fight ensued and the alpha female had so many injuries that she was unable to nurse the pups and they died. The pack then temporarily relocated out of the area

The two resident cheetah brothers were seen hunting, climbing up onto termite mounds to scan the area for prey. Eventually they killed a warthog and we found them with full bellies the following day. We watched as they rolled on the ground to leave their scent and then they moved off, stopping to spray bushes as part of their territorial markings. We saw them a few days later feeding on a fresh warthog kill.

A female spotted hyena was running around a former old den site with a piece of meat in her mouth so we hoped that they had also come back for denning. Two hyenas were located with full bellies after they stole a waterbuck kill from a lone lioness.

General game was excellent. We saw herds of zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala, wildebeest, especially near to the permanent channels. An extremely relaxed herd of fifteen sable antelope were enjoying the shorter grass on our firebreak and allowed vehicles much closer than this shyer species would usually accept. Roan antelope were also regularly sighted. There were plenty of hippos in front of the camp basking in the sun during the cold winter mornings. Elephants were seen very frequently, one time they came for a morning drink at Muddy Waters, ignoring the fifteen lions lying nearby!

Good numbers of hippo and crocodile were seen on the boat trips.

Birdlife was fantastic both on land and in the water. We had beautiful sightings of giant kingfishers, malachite kingfishers, storks, ibis, herons and egrets on the boat trip.

Lebala

The Wapoka pride’s six lionesses with their eleven cubs continued to delight guests. One time we saw clouds of dust in the distance and went to investigate only to find a huge herd of buffalo moving through the riverine area. We were not the only ones to see the dust because Wapoka pride arrived soon afterwards and started to chase the buffalo around.

The lionesses were looking after their growing family extremely well, making kills just about every day with prey species such as warthog and red lechwe. Sometimes they were accompanied by the big male lions known as Old Gun and Sebastian and we saw Old Gun successfully mating one of the younger lionesses. Another time Sebastian was found on his own on a sable antelope carcass. In one remarkable sighting we were lucky enough to see the cubs bravely chasing a honey badger. The cubs were at a very playful age providing guests with charming photo opportunities.

The resident pack of two wild dogs were still turning up fairly regularly in and around camp. One day they killed an impala right next to our hide. We also saw them hunting on Main Road. We also saw a larger pack of five a few times.

One morning we were trying to keep up with the wild dogs hunting when we spotted jackals and bateleur eagles moving towards camp. We changed direction to investigate and found the resident two male cheetah bothers on top of a termite mound. They still had blood stains on their faces from a recent kill. We found them again the next day, but they seemed nervous due to the close proximity of the lions. Right at the end of the month we found them hunting and witnessed them killing a kudu calf. They spent the whole day feeding on it before they were chased off by a lioness.

We found the resident female leopard hunting impala a few times and in one beautiful sighting we were saw her leap gracefully across a channel.

A clan of hyena was observed as the individuals were chasing each other around.

As the seasonal dry weather continued most of the game had moved out from the woodland areas towards the channels. Species included sable antelope, buffalo, zebra, kudu, giraffe, tsessebe, wildebeest, warthog and impala. A herd of six roan antelope were located near to the airstrip

Herds of elephant could be seen drinking along the channels and in one dramatic sighting we came across two bull elephants fighting. We also saw hippo in the riverine areas and pools.

A pair of aardwolf were denning to the southwest of camp and we were able to get good visuals of the female during the day.

We were lucky enough to spot the elusive pangolin again during June.

A colony of dwarf mongoose could be seen sunbathing to warm up after the cold winter nights. We came across African wild cat a few times, sometimes in hunting mode. Other smaller mammals located included baboons and monkeys.

Birds seen during the month included pied kingfishers, pied avocet, marabou storks, vultures, saddle-billed storks, fish eagles, pelicans, goliath herons and egrets.

Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan was closed for the month, but although there were no guests, the animals still came to visit us at the camp and waterhole.

Lions were seen frequently, and also heard as they called during the night. Once the lions made a kill of a warthog right in front of camp providing some entertainment for the maintenance team.

Elephants, on the other hand, seemed determined to make life harder for the maintenance crew, necessitating even more repairs to be made, but our team managed to prevail in the end. During the camp closure we made modifications to the waterhole to improve the supply of clean water in the hope that this will keep the elephants from looking for refreshment within the camp itself.

General game included big herds of wildebeest, but the regular zebra visitors had dwindled to just four individuals. We saw impala, warthog and many giraffes.

Black-backed jackals were usually around, and sometimes spotted hyena early in the mornings just after sunrise.

Birds seen at the waterhole included ostrich and yellow-billed storks. We observed a huge flock of vultures at the waterhole which made us go out and see if there was a carcass, but the vultures were just busy preening, bathing and drinking. A martial eagle was seen taking a guinea fowl. Black-breasted snake eagles, tawny eagles and pied crows were other regular visitors.

Dwarf mongoose and banded mongoose were seen in the camp grounds.

Tau Pan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Note: All the 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 – May 2019 Sightings Report

Kwara Private Reserve

During May the Kwara Reserve lived up to its well-deserved reputation for fantastic sightings, averaging a remarkable three predator sightings per day.

At the start of the month the pack of eight wild dogs made it almost a daily ritual to visit Splash camp, kill an impala and go back to the den to regurgitate for their pregnant alpha female.

We saw the resident male lions responding to the calls of wild dogs as they tried to steal their kills, sometimes successfully. Once they killed a kudu and it was interesting to see how they dragged it under a bush and covered the carcass with sand to prevent other predators being attracted by the smell. There were two new male lions to the east of Splash camp; we saw them laying with very full bellies after they had killed a big buffalo bull. Probably because of the new males being in the area, the resident lions put on some terrific roaring performances during the night to proclaim their territory. Once they were joined by two lionesses at the camp waterhole; the females then decided to rest directly under Room 11 so we needed to drive them off a little so that the guests could safely enter their room for their own siesta! We saw this pride of four lions being chased out into the open by a herd of elephants, but then a big herd of buffalo also came to join in the action and there was an awesome sighting of lions and buffalo chasing each other around.

The Splash Pride comprising two lionesses and six cubs had been on the Kwara side of the reserve for some months, moving even further west out of the area, so guides were happy to see them back with us at the waterhole in front of Kwara camp.

The male cheetah known as Special still continued to delight our guests and we saw cheetah on 29 out of 31 days! We saw Special try his luck on a warthog without success, but the same evening he managed to take down a kudu calf but as it was late in the day he lost the kill to hyenas. We also saw Special demonstrate his incredible acceleration to take down a common reedbuck, fortunately he got to keep his meal that time. The resident female cheetah was also spotted.

A young female leopard was seen looking relaxed and well-fed as we found her under spotlight on night drives. We saw a male leopard hunting during the day in the marsh area west of Kwara camp, although he was not successful.

An exceptionally relaxed aardwolf was seen regularly near to the mokoro station during night drive. Other smaller mammals observed included African wild cat and African civet.

Big herds of buffalo, up to 400 strong, were seen coming down from the northern part of the Kwara Reserve, heading towards the main channel. General game was concentrated in the areas near the channels and included giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest and large herds of elephant. This was breeding season for the impala and we observed how the males became vocal and highly territorial.

Despite the low rainfall in the Okavango Delta this season we are blessed to still have great access to water and the mokoro trips remained as popular as ever. Gliding through the water provided the chance to see creatures such as painted reed frogs, long reed frogs and we were even lucky enough to see a spotted necked otter.

A pair of wattled cranes were seen regularly near to the flood plains. We are glad to report that endangered vultures are doing well in the Kwara Reserve and on one buffalo carcass we saw four different species: hooded, white-headed, white-backed and lappet-faced. Jackals were also seen scavenging. Two adult southern ground hornbills were seen feeding their chick. Trapped catfish in the drying pools attracted fish eagles looking for an easy meal.

Lagoon

At the start of the month the guides were thrilled to have found the resident pack of wild dogs denning and guests were able to enjoy first sightings of the ten puppies of which four were pale and six dark. It seemed that there were two females with litters; this is unusual for the species but has happened before within this particular pack. The pack moved 100 metres from the initial den to a much more open area and perhaps this was a big mistake on their part as a few days afterwards a different pack found the den site and a big confrontation ensued. A week or so later we saw the dogs chasing and biting hyenas away from the den site. They were hunting regularly and we located them chasing and killing a kudu. Another time they brought down a kudu which they lost to hyenas, immediately killed a second kudu only to lose that one too. On the 15th May the alpha female had a huge fight with the other subordinate female and she suffocated her almost to the point of death.

In addition to the wild dog den we were lucky enough to still have aardwolf denning in the area. Spotted hyena were seen mobile near to one of their old den sites so the guides were hopeful that they may also be having cubs soon.

The brown hyenas are now a lot more elusive than they used to be, but we are still seeing them from time to time. A very relaxed serval was located stalking some ground birds. Two honey badgers were spotted near to camp and an African civet was seen close to Watercut.

A pride of three lionesses with ten cubs, known as the Holy Pride, were seen in close proximity to a splinter group from the long-resident Bonga pride which the guides have now called the Marsh Pride. The Holy pride seemed to be specialising on kudu and guests were able to get some wonderful shots of the lionesses playing with the energetic cubs. The Marsh Pride were seen hunting near to the wild dog den and eventually they took down a buffalo calf. We saw a mating pair of lions, with the other resident male nearby. One time we were following a clan of four hyenas and they led us to lions feeding on a kudu bull. The hyenas tried to intimidate the big cats, but the male lion came to the rescue to defend his family. At the scene four cubs of 2-3 months old were licking blood off the carcass and playing with bones.

A tom leopard was seen stalking a herd of impala close to camp however the antelope spotted him and started to make alarm calls so eventually he gave up. Some fresh tracks led us to a female leopard hunting, but she was mobbed by baboons and eventually decided to rest up on a leadwood tree.

Large herds of elephant and buffalo were seen throughout the month as the seasonal dry and cool weather continued. Kwena Lagoon had good numbers of eland, roan and sable antelopes. Grass Pan was another hotspot for plains game including zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala and wildebeest.

Crocodiles were seen feeding on a hippo carcass near to the Namibian border.

African skimmers were seen near to Muddy Waters. We saw an African Fish Eagle swoop down on a snake which was devoured in less than five minutes.

Lebala

The Wapoka Pride was still resident in the area. One time we were following fresh tracks through the Kalahari apple leaf and a distance away we saw vultures descending, a good sign that there might be a kill. Sure enough we found the whole family of 19 lions including two big males, six females and eleven cubs. The lionesses were finishing off the zebra carcass whilst the cubs were amusing themselves playing with the bones. Nearby one of the resident males started roaring, whilst the other was drinking. We came across the pride many times during the month, one time finding them all with their faces dramatically covered in blood after they had clearly eaten well. Although the pride seemed to be specialising in zebra, we watched one of the lionesses stalking a wildebeest calf which had got separated from its herd. Unfortunately. one of the lion cubs came out into the open and thereby spoiled the hunt. The Bonga pride were also seen on the northern side of the area.

We had been seeing multiple tracks of a female leopard, but they always seem to head off and vanish into the marshes. However, one morning we got lucky and saw the tracks heading inland and to our delight there were also tiny cub tracks. Nearby there was a very relaxed herd of impala, but in the end it was the alarm call of a tree squirrel that gave the game away and we found an impala carcass in the thickets with the female and two cubs feeding on it. Everyone was astonished by the fact that there was a well-camouflaged leopard feeding just a couple of metres away from grazing impala who seemed oblivious to its presence. We saw the female leopard again a few days later, up on a leadwood tree with her cubs.

A pack of six wild dogs were located at Kubu Pan just as we were about to stop for sundowner drinks. In the pack there was one very striking pale female and we watched her drinking at the pan. The resident pack of two dogs killed an impala ram near to Room 8 and guests were able to quickly return back to camp to witness them feasting. Another time we saw these two dogs take down an impala close to the airstrip.

Bush walks continued to be a popular activity giving guests a chance to see species such as giraffe whilst on foot, as well as being able to study tracks of the other animals who had passed through the walking range. One of the sightings of the month was being able to view a pangolin from the ground and to watch it feeding on ants under the sage bushes.

The inland waterholes were very dry and the large herbivores were attracted to the riverine areas. Elephants were moving through the mopane woodland in large numbers, sometimes trumpeting, and herds of buffalo up to fifty strong were also seen coming to drink. We loved watching elephants drinking, swimming and mud-bathing at the river. Hippos were still resident in Twin Pools and guests were able to get some great shots of them yawning in a territorial display.

A lovely herd of 28 sable antelope, including ten calves were in the area. Once we were able to witness two of the bulls chasing each other in a battle for dominance. Other general game included zebra, impala, wildebeest, warthogs, kudu and lechwe.

We found both serval and aardwolf along Vlei Road, both of these smaller mammals digging in holes. A large colony of dwarf mongoose was found sunbathing at the base of a termite mound.

On night drive guests were impressed when a sharp-eyed guide was able to spot a chameleon up in a tree.

A huge flock of vultures were seen feeding on a zebra that had died of natural causes. It was fascinating to sit with them for a while and listen to their hissing and squabbling.

Nxai Pan

A male cheetah was located moving along but with a very full belly. Guides reported that this animal was looking very healthy due to the large herds of springbok in the area.

A nomadic male lion was in the area for 3-4 days and he managed to kill a wildebeest near the Wildlife Waterhole. This lion did not seem used to safari vehicles and was still a bit shy. A lone lioness was also seen at the same waterhole and eventually the two paired up and starting mating.

There was very good general game in the area, mostly congregated at the two waterholes. Large herds of elephant were seen drinking whilst springbok, wildebeest, impala, zebra, kudu and giraffe all had to wait their turn. Herds of oryx were grazing on Baobab Loop and herds of up to 300 springbok were grazing on the open plains.

A sub-adult elephant died near to the camp waterhole after we had reported it to the Wildlife Officers the day before as we observed a bad injury to its hind leg. This carcass attracted spotted hyenas and a flock of forty vultures, both white-backed and lappet-faced.

There were many black-backed jackals near to the waterholes where they hunted guinea fowl, scavenged and hunted through elephant dung for beetles. A family of four bat eared foxes were located and honey badgers were seen hunting rodents along West Road.

The day trip to see the massive trees at Baines Baobabs was still popular and along the way guests saw oryx, steenbok and other general game. One time we were lucky enough to see a male leopard basking in the sun at the junction of the Baines Baobab road.

Bird species encountered included kori bustard, secretary birds, helmeted guinea fowl and ostriches. Smaller passerines included marico and chat flycatchers, black-chested prinias as well as the colourful lilac-breasted rollers. There were many pale chanting goshawks and we found one feeding on a cape turtle dove. Another time the goshawks were seen flying along behind two foraging honey badgers, hoping to be able to snatch a rodent that the mammals might flush out from a hole.

Kwando’s desert camps are always a good place to observe some of the smaller dramas that play out daily and guests spent quite some time watching a dung beetle roll up a ball five times its own size. A highlight for others was watching a black mamba hunt and eat a striped skink.

Bird species identified included pale chanting goshawks, marico flycatchers, crimson-breasted shrikes, lanner falcons, pallid harriers, secretary birds and kori bustards. A flock of over 100 white-backed vultures along with a few lappet-faced vultures were seen bathing at the camp waterhole. Also at the waterhole there were large flocks of Burchell’s sandgrouse and cape turtle doves. Over 100 cattle egrets were seen following wildebeest; these birds taking advantage of the animals’ movement through the grass to disturb insects. Crowned lapwings were nesting and we were able to observe them camouflaging and defending their nests. Northern black korhaans were displaying to attract females.

Tau Pan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sightings – April 2019 Sightings Report

Kwara Private Reserve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We watched two adult spotted hyenas nursing their four cubs at the den towards the Kwara camp side of the reserve. Closer to Splash there were many hyenas concentrated in an area where last year there was an active den so we are hoping that they might use the same spot again.

There was plentiful general game including zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, reedbuck, tsessebe and impala. Guest enjoyed seeing big herds of elephant. Smaller mammals located included serval, aardwolf, genet, African wild cat and springhare. In a rare sighting, an aardvark was located during night drive on the way back to camp.

There were lots of summer visitor birds still on Kwara Reserve including European bee- eaters, carmine bee-eaters, European rollers, woodland kingfishers and Wahlbergs eagles who we saw feeding on harvester termites. Marabou storks were plentiful since the breeding season was over for them. The heronry island was less active as most of the chicks had flown, but some birds continued to use the area as a roosting site.

Lagoon

We were very fortunate to still have good amounts of water in the river at Lagoon camp, despite the drier than usual rainy season. Boat activities were able to continue as usual where we encountered hippos yawning in a territorial behaviour before ducking under the water as the boat approached closer. Elephants were drawn to the river for swimming and drinking and one in particular, nicknamed Pedro by the staff, spent a lot of time in camp enjoying the fruiting marula tree near to the main area.

Hippos were seen out of the water during game drive, one standing his ground very firmly and marking his territory causing our guide to wait at a safe distance until the animal relaxed.
We were excited to discover a breeding pair of aardwolves denning in the area. Other smaller mammals encountered during April included springhares and families of bat-eared foxes. Lesser bushbabies were observed leaping from branch to branch during night drive.

The sub-adult brown hyenas were still found to the east of camp, but tended to be seen at night on the move and not so much at the den compared to when they were cubs. Once one of the brown hyenas was flushed out by a lioness. Spotted hyenas were seen patrolling along the flood plains and also following the dogs whilst they were hunting

The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers were in the area; they looked hungry when we saw them at the start of the month and a couple of days later we saw them hunting although they were not successful.

The resident pack of wild dogs were playing as a pack and then suddenly started to look serious about getting on with some hunting. The following day we saw them finishing up a warthog kill. Some days later we saw them hunting again, but this time they were disturbed by a lioness prowling through. A few days later we found vultures feeding on the remains of a kudu carcass that appeared to have been killed by the dogs judging by the tracks. One time the pack ran straight through camp and appeared to be in a hunting mood.

A lioness with three cubs of about six months old provided an entertaining sighting for our guests with the cubs playing as they walked along. We saw them a few times during the month including a hunt of reedbuck. Another lioness was located hunting warthog unsuccessfully by herself and a few days later the pride together managed to kill a warthog. The two resident male lions were seen marking their territory and seemed to be well-fed. At one stage they were mating one of the lionesses. We saw the males feeding on an impala and one time we came across a dead aardvark that we believed had been killed by lions.

General game included eland, impala, kudu, giraffe, tsessebe, red lechwe, zebra, warthog as well as sable antelope. A lovely herd of fifteen roan antelope were seen near Watercut.

As the natural waterholes dried up we saw huge flocks of pelicans (up to 120 at a time), egrets,  herons, and vultures feeding on the trapped fish and amphibians. Many species of stork were observed in a feeding frenzy at Watercut including saddle-billed, openbilled, yellow-billed and over 200 marabou.

Lebala

A pack of five wild dogs killed a kudu calf right next to the staff village but before they could finish eating the carcass was stolen by a clan of three hyenas. Later in the month we found them chasing down and killing another young kudu which they quickly devoured. The usual resident pack of two dogs were also spotted in the area chasing medium sized antelope such as impala, red lechwe, bushbuck as well as warthog. They once killed an impala right in front of camp. Whilst they were still feasting a lone hyena came and ran away with the whole carcass.

One time the trumpeting of an elephant led our guides to investigate what was happening and he came across the Wapoka Pride which now has nine cubs, three older ones and six small cubs. One of the females was drinking water and the rest were lying in the shade. We found this fast-growing pride many times during the month, once their growls led us to find them enjoying a zebra kill. On another occasion three females and their six cubs were drinking at a waterhole when they quickly disappeared. All of a sudden, the two males known as Old Gun and Sebastian appeared and they seemed agitated as though they were worried about an intruder in the area. The next day the males were with the rest of the pride enjoying the last of a kudu carcass. The complete pride of sixteen were also seen feeding on sable, kudu and warthog, on the latter occasion the males kept the meat to themselves and wouldn’t let the lionesses or their cubs eat at all. Guests enjoyed watching the cubs nursing from their mothers.

Another resident lion family, the Bonga pride, was still roaming the Lebala area. One evening they caught a warthog very close to camp. We watched them eating and after finishing the carcass they went to the nearest water to drink with their cubs playing nearby. Two spotted hyenas came and started to gobble the carcass.  This pride was seen targeting a wide species of prey ranging from warthog to giraffe. Towards the end of the month the two lion prides came across each other and after a combat they retreated back from each other’s territories so that they were no longer overlapping.

Keen eyes by our guide and tracker team spotted the flicking tail of a leopard in the marsh area and discovered our resident tom, nicknamed Fisherman, hunting in his favourite habitat. The resident female known as Jane was also located hunting reedbuck, moving from tree to tree as she tried to stalk her quarry although she wasn’t successful on that occasion.

The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers was seen along the road stalking impala, but their prey spotted them from some distance away and bolted leaving the cats looking hungry. Later in the month we found them with an impala kill, but it was stolen by the ever-opportunistic hyenas.

The lack of rainfall in the area influenced the movement of certain species and elephants in particular. Individual herds of elephant could be seen coming out if the woodlands heading to the riverine areas where they congregated in huge numbers. Guests enjoyed watching elephants playing and bathing in the water.

General game included impala, wildebeest, zebra, warthog, red lechwe, kudu, warthog, bushbuck, giraffe roan and sable antelope.

Bird species identified included saddle-billed storks, wattled cranes, herons, African fish eagles, and egrets.

Nxai Pan

Lions were seen regularly at Nxai Pan during April, particularly during the second half of the month. The resident pride consisting of three females and three sub-adults favoured a shady spot close to Room 1 and were frequently located at both the camp and wildlife waterholes. We found a mating pair of lions which was particularly interesting as the male appeared to be new to the area.

The resident male cheetah was seen looking healthy and full-bellied.

A female leopard was seen stalking steenbok along the airstrip road before disappearing into the thickets.

A pack of five wild dogs was located along the main road near to the turnoff to Baines Baobabs. They were just finishing off the carcass of a steenbok.

As the weather dried up elephants started to return to both waterholes in large numbers and breeding herds up to 100 strong were seen. The elephants were often seen right inside camp, sometimes taking a cheeky drink of our swimming pool creating some amazing photo opportunities.

At the start of April there was still very good general game in the area including herds of zebras, springbok, wildebeest and kudu, but as the month progressed the numbers of zebra started to reduce as the annual migration headed back towards the Boteti area. A tower of giraffe was seen licking the soil, a behaviour that helps them to absorb vital minerals.

Lots of black-backed jackals were seen scattering around elephant dung in order to forage on dung beetles. There were several families of bat-eared foxes in the pan area. Honey badgers were also seen digging for mice a few times.

Kwando’s desert camps are always a good place to observe some of the smaller dramas that play out daily and guests spent quite some time watching a dung beetle roll up a ball five times its own size. A highlight for others was watching a black mamba hunt and eat a striped skink.

Bird species identified included pale chanting goshawks, marico flycatchers, crimson-breasted shrikes, lanner falcons, pallid harriers, secretary birds and kori bustards. A flock of over 100 white-backed vultures along with a few lappet-faced vultures were seen bathing at the camp waterhole. Also at the waterhole there were large flocks of Burchell’s sandgrouse and cape turtle doves. Over 100 cattle egrets were seen following wildebeest; these birds taking advantage of the animals’ movement through the grass to disturb insects. Crowned lapwings were nesting and we were able to observe them camouflaging and defending their nests. Northern black korhaans were displaying to attract females.

Tau Pan

As a dry spell of weather continued the animals started to disperse and for a while the Tau Pan pride appeared to have followed prey animals out of the area, but by the 9th April we found three of the lionesses back on the firebreak near to our airstrip and halfway through the month the whole Tau Pan pride was back in its usual territory near to camp. On one morning two of the males responded to a lioness who was roaring near to the camp waterhole and then they started to fight. At Deception Valley a healthy pride of four adults with three cubs was found relaxing in the shade and another time four males were feasting on a fresh oryx kill. Meanwhile at Passarge Valley some loud roaring led us to discovering a pride of nine lions who then stopped to drink giving us the opportunity to capture lovely photos of their reflections in the water. Another time we watched the same pride hunting although they were unlucky.

A very relaxed female leopard was seen more than once fairly near to camp.  This is a well-known individual in the area and she never seemed to be disturbed by the presence of the vehicle. A tom leopard was seen looking rather skittish as he ran away from the lion den.

A female cheetah was located feeding on a young springbok near to Phukwi Pan. Two male cheetahs were located at Deception Loop and were seemingly interested some oryx calves who were grazing with their herd. However there were plenty of eyes and ears to spot the predators and so a plethora of warning calls meant that the cats were unsuccessful. These two individuals are well known to us and we have seen how they travel long distances from Passarge Valley all the way to Deception Valley. At Passarge we found the carcass of a young oryx that we suspected the cheetahs may have killed.

As the prey species started to disperse the general game was grazing in mixed herds of springbok, oryx and wildebeest in order to still achieve safety in numbers. Breeding season was starting to get underway and so testosterone levels amongst the male antelope appeared to be running high. One day we were observing a large herd of gemsbok at Tau Pan when all of a sudden two bulls started a dramatic fight over a female. Male wildebeest were also fighting for dominancy and one individual came running the whole way across the pan before kneeling to graze, but seemingly the main reason for doing this was to assess his opponent and after a few minutes the two bulls started to fight. Giraffe bulls were also located fighting by swinging their necks at each other to land blows with their horns in a behaviour known as “necking”.  Other lovely giraffe sightings included herds drinking and also browsing the umbrella thorn trees in a classic African panorama.  A good-sized herd of red hartebeest were found by our guides and kudu were frequent visitors to the camp waterhole.

We were able to watch an African wild cat hunting a ground squirrel. Honey badgers were also found, sometimes being followed by pale chanting goshawks, the raptors hoping for an opportunity to swoop down on any prey that the honey badgers may have flushed out.  Bat eared foxes were also seen foraging. Towards the end of the month a brown hyena was briefly seen at the camp waterhole.

We were able to watch a flock of vultures finishing up an oryx carcass which appeared to be from the night before. Guests enjoyed watching a gabar goshawk taking a bath at the Tau Pan waterhole.  Other raptors observed drinking at the camp waterhole included tawny eagles, bateleurs and secretary birds.

(Note: All the 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 – March 2019 Sightings Report

Kwara Private Reserve

We were excited to find three new cheetah in the area, a female with her sub-adult cubs. The youngsters were apt to spend time chasing each other around whilst their mother was getting on with the serious business of hunting, moving from one vantage point to the next looking for their next meal. We saw these cheetahs bringing down and killing an impala, chasing away the jackals that were making a noise as the cats were trying to enjoy their feast. One day the resident male cheetah known as Mr Special was located marking his territory, but we were surprised to see him walk straight through one herd of impala after another without giving them a second glance. We wondered what he was up to but eventually we saw tracks of a female cheetah and her cub around Jackal Den area so we think he picked up their presence within the area. Towards the end of the month we saw Special pull off an amazing kill of an ostrich that he found walking along on the open plain.

A pack of 13 wild dogs (five adults and eight pups) were located deep in the mopane at Lion Pan. These animals were highly mobile and seemed to be in hunting mood. They were following routes along old denning sites so we hope that they will stick around for the next couple of months until this season’s pups are born. We also picked up fresh tracks of a pack of nine dogs and managed to follow up and find them hunting until they brought down and ate an impala. Guest loved the whole tracking experience, especially as it culminated in such an exciting finish. A third pack comprising just four dogs were seen from camp whilst we were having our breakfast. We followed them hunting but they were not successful.

The two resident lionesses of Splash pride and their six cubs were still in good condition but were staying more on the mopane woodland near to Kwara camp; it seems that they were still trying to avoid the new males on the Splash side of the reserve who would be a threat to their cubs. During the middle of the month these females looked nervous and were staying deep bushes with one lioness venturing out occasionally to look around. We suspected that the new males could have patrolled the area leaving their scent and we will have to hope that the mothers continue to do such a good job of hiding their cubs away. We saw that they had killed an adult kudu, so these lionesses are clearly good hunters. We also saw them near to New Bridge ambushing some red lechwe. Another time we watched them stalking a warthog, one of the lionesses edging along flat on her belly before springing for the kill. She was successful and soon two spotted hyenas, black-backed jackals and many vultures turned up to try and scavenge.

To the west of Splash a fully-grown male leopard was located at Green pan with a fresh kill of a reedbuck ram. The kill was really heavy for the predator so he fed on the ground before dragging it up onto a tree. It is a good job that he did this because two male lions were couple of kilometres east of the area and raptors such as bateleur, tawny eagles and yellow billed kites were starting to give away the location of the carcass.  A leopard was located a kilometre north of camp during morning game drive; the animal was identified as a young male. The animal was well fed, hardly surprising since there was plenty of prey in the area including lots of young antelopes.

We watched two adult spotted hyenas nursing their four cubs at the den towards the Kwara camp side of the reserve. Closer to Splash there were many hyenas concentrated in an area where last year there was an active den so we are hoping that they might use the same spot again.

There was plentiful general game including zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, reedbuck, tsessebe and impala. Guest enjoyed seeing big herds of elephant. Smaller mammals located included serval, aardwolf, genet, African wild cat and springhare. In a rare sighting, an aardvark was located during night drive on the way back to camp.

There were lots of summer visitor birds still on Kwara Reserve including European bee- eaters, carmine bee-eaters, European rollers, woodland kingfishers and Wahlbergs eagles who we saw feeding on harvester termites. Marabou storks were plentiful since the breeding season was over for them. The heronry island was less active as most of the chicks had flown, but some birds continued to use the area as a roosting site.

Lagoon

We were able to follow the resident pack of wild dogs they hunted. One time we saw them take down and kill a sub-adult warthog. Within five minutes their prey was completely devoured.

The two big resident male lions were seen often and also a pride of lionesses with cubs. One time we observed the lionesses stalking a herd of zebra, however they were spotted by a troop of keen-eyed baboons who started to make alarm calls until the lions gave up and lay down in the grass. The following day they tried their luck on some red lechwe near to the flood plain, but they saw one of the lionesses and ran off to safety. Finally, on the third day we were able to see them with their cubs full-bellied and crossing the channel back across from an island. Another time we followed them through tall grasses until they killed a warthog piglet from a sounder who had been feeding. Sometimes the cubs were left on their own whilst the lionesses went hunting and we were able to get some lovely photos of them playing on a fallen dry tree.

We picked up the tracks of the two resident cheetah brothers and after an exciting one and a half hour tracking mission we finally located them sleeping on top of a termite mound. Guests were able to take some beautiful photos. We also found them very close to some lionesses.

The brown hyena cubs who have thrilled us so much during the past year were still doing well and were seen playing outside their den area as well as returning from a drink at the channel. Spotted hyenas were also in the area and we saw a clan feeding hungrily on a wildebeest carcass.

There was good general game reported including zebra, kudu, impala, wildebeest, eland, roan and sable antelopes. A highlight for some guests was watching warthogs nursing their piglets. Another interesting sighting was watching young giraffe bulls playfighting by swinging their necks at each other to land blows with their horns.

One time the sound of a jackal’s alarm call drew us to find a female leopard lying on a termite mound. Nearby there were two hyenas feeding on a carcass that we suspected had originally been killed by the leopard. A male leopard was found up on a tree, but he was a little shy and jumped down as we approached.

Smaller mammals encountered included African wild cat, porcupine, jackals, bat-eared foxes, yellow mongoose and honey badgers. Towards the end of the month we saw an aardwolf near to a previously used den, so guides will be watching closely to see if they appear to be using it again.

Herds of elephant came to the Lagoon in front of camp and guests enjoyed watching them swimming alongside the resident hippos.

Bird species identified included white-fronted bee-eaters, martial eagle, marabou storks, fish eagles, pelicans and Verreaux’s (giant) eagle owl. White-backed vultures bathing made a spectacular sighting.

Lebala

The resident Bonga pride of two adults and six cubs were found frequently, and often near to camp or the airstrip. One time we saw them trying to hunt giraffe who were browsing nearby but a lack of cover meant that they were unsuccessful. The following day the lions covered a huge amount of ground by travelling to Halfway Pan where we found them feasting on a zebra. We saw them a few days later with the carcass of a big kudu bull which was finished up by spotted hyenas and jackals after the lions had left. This opportunistic pride showed great variety in their diet which ranged from wildebeest to warthog; one time the lions had treed a large male baboon who was looking very nervous, but he managed to escape. Sometimes the sub-adults were left on their own whilst the females were hunting, on one of these occasions the cubs were sitting on a termite mound having finished eating the carcass of a red lechwe. The male lions were seen patrolling often, sometimes on their own but calling for their coalition partner.

The female leopard known as Jane was located near to Twin Pools having caught a reedbuck. The next day she was still there, this time feeding on a civet. After a long tracking session a few days later the guides found Jane again; she had spotted her cub from last year and gave chase to it as though in territorial dispute. Meanwhile Jane’s older son was located with a kill of a tsessebe calf up on a tree. A few days later he was busy stalking reedbuck in the marsh area, this being his favourite territory and one that gives him his nickname “Fisherman”. A female leopard was found calling, as though looking for a mate.

One day our guide’s attention was drawn to a small herd of impala getting an elevated view from the top of a termite mound. We heard them make an alarm call and then the coalition of two cheetah brothers appeared. We also saw them stalking a dazzle of zebra, though they were not successful. Now that the foals were growing in size and strength they were getting harder to hunt.

We had quality sightings of elephants swimming across the deeper channels and they were present in good number at Twin Pools. Guests were able to enjoy seeing hippos grazing out of the water during the day. The was very good general game in the area. From time to time the big herds of red lechwe grazing at the edge of the marsh made a spectacular sight as they splashed through the water. Other species included sable antelope, wildebeest, zebra, impalas, giraffe and kudu.

A clan of hyenas was found devouring the carcass of an elephant calf; our guides suspected that it could have been killed by lightning. A couple of times we saw a lone hyena moving around near the camp searching for something to eat.

Sometimes the action happens right inside camp. One day we saw a water monitor moving near to the main area. We heard a squirrel make an alarm call and the next moment the lizard caught and killed the squirrel.

At Twin Pools and the marsh area there were lots of interesting birds including saddle-billed storks, cranes, ibises, egrets and eagles. Brightly coloured red bishops flocked in front of camp as they enjoyed eating seeds from the long grasses.

Nxai Pan

At the start of the month there were still a couple of spectacular thunderstorms, but overall this year’s rains were lower than previous years and so the animals started to congregate towards the artificial waterholes sooner than usual. A number of male elephants – up to fifty in one group – were witnessed drinking at the Department of Wildlife waterhole.

We watched as six of the lions, two lionesses and four sub-adults, tried to work as a team to split a zebra calf away from its mother but they were not successful and ended up giving up to lie down in the bushes. The next day a male lion tried to join this group, but the lionesses were not happy with him and chased him away roaring loudly. Another time the adult lionesses allowed three of the youngsters to try hunting some wildebeest on their own, but lack of cover meant that they were spotted too easily and the wildebeest ran away – another important lesson learned by the sub-adults. Later in the month we saw the same pride feeding on a wildebeest a few times and also on a zebra foal near to the camp staff village.

We saw the resident male cheetah fairly often, usually either with a springbok kill, or in the vicinity of these antelope as he eyed up his next meal.

Other smaller mammals included jackals and bat-eared foxes, some of whom had small cubs.

The Wildlife waterhole was a good spot to see general game including elephant, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, giraffe, steenbok and large herds of springbok. One time we watched as two zebra stallions had a vicious fight at the waterhole. Eleven buffalo were spotted grazing as part of a mixed herd with wildebeest.

Bird sightings included ostriches, kori bustards, secretary birds and pale chanting goshawks. There were plenty of vultures including white-backed and lappet-faced.

Tau Pan

The Tau Pan pride was located at the pan in a group of ten, five males, 2 adult lionesses and three sub-adults. One of the younger lions was already showing great enthusiasm for hunting and she was often found chasing some prey animal around the pan. The guides suspect that she will be an excellent provider for the pride in years to come.  One of the adult lionesses was been mated by a resident male at the end of February and the activities of this pair continued into the start of March. One morning the guests were enjoying the sound of nearby lion roars echoing across the plains when three lions, the “honeymoon couple” and another male, came into view at the camp waterhole. Sometimes the lions walked straight through camp and one day our bushman walk was interrupted by the arrival of a big male lion. A nomadic lioness who is not part of the resident pride was also spotted at the waterhole, but she looked scared and ran away when the Tau Pan lions approached. A few days later she appeared to be looking weak, had a swollen front leg and was bleeding from the mouth. This resident pride seemed to enjoy hanging out at the airstrip, resting under the shade of the guest luggage rack so we had to alert the pilots’ attention to the cats’ presence by flashing vehicle lights before they got down from the plane.

At Deception Valley a different pride of lions was found feeding on an oryx and at Passarge Pan a big pride of fourteen were near to the public campsite.

A leopard was seen hunting near to camp and was lucky enough to bring down a gemsbok calf which guests watched it eating.  A couple of other times we watched her leopard stalking steenbok, but she didn’t manage to make the kill. One time the leopard crawled right under out vehicle.

A female cheetah was encountered on Passarge Link road, but she was unsettled having been chased by lions. A couple of days we found her looking more relaxed and feeding on a Common Duiker lamb. At Deception Valley we saw a female cheetah running around, trying her luck on springbok.

A female brown hyena was seen drinking at the camp waterhole.

Tau Pan itself was very productive with plenty of general game including desert-adapted species such as oryx and springbok.  One day we watched two oryx bulls fighting for dominance for over twenty minutes until another male approached and appeared to split them up. Giraffes were seen browsing on the taller thorn trees.

Smaller mammals encountered included bat-eared fox, honey badger and back-backed jackal. A pair of worried looking African wild cats were nervously eyeing up two male lions who were lying nearby under a tree. We were lucky enough to see a Cape Fox, one of the less common species to spot, although it was quick to dart away.

Even within camp itself there are always interesting interactions between the smaller animals and birds. One day we watched as a yellow-billed hornbill was hunting a striped skink, but it was quickly snapped up by a yellow mongoose.

As usual there were plenty of sandgrouse at the camp waterhole, but some extremely surprising visitors included red-knobbed coot, lesser moorhen and painted snipe – it is very unusual to see these water birds in the Central Kalahari Desert.

(Note: All the 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 – February 2019 Sightings Report

Kwara Reserve

We were excited to find three new cheetah in the area, a female with her sub-adult cubs. The youngsters were apt to spend time chasing each other around whilst their mother was getting on with the serious business of hunting, moving from one vantage point to the next looking for their next meal. We saw these cheetahs bringing down and killing an impala, chasing away the jackals that were making a noise as the cats were trying to enjoy their feast. One day the resident male cheetah known as Mr Special was located marking his territory, but we were surprised to see him walk straight through one herd of impala after another without giving them a second glance. We wondered what he was up to but eventually we saw tracks of a female cheetah and her cub around Jackal Den area so we think he picked up their presence within the area. Towards the end of the month we saw Special pull off an amazing kill of an ostrich that he found walking along on the open plain.

A pack of 13 wild dogs (five adults and eight pups) were located deep in the mopane at Lion Pan. These animals were highly mobile and seemed to be in hunting mood. They were following routes along old denning sites so we hope that they will stick around for the next couple of months until this season’s pups are born. We also picked up fresh tracks of a pack of nine dogs and managed to follow up and find them hunting until they brought down and ate an impala. Guest loved the whole tracking experience, especially as it culminated in such an exciting finish. A third pack comprising just four dogs were seen from camp whilst we were having our breakfast. We followed them hunting but they were not successful.

The two resident lionesses of Splash pride and their six cubs were still in good condition but were staying more on the mopane woodland near to Kwara camp; it seems that they were still trying to avoid the new males on the Splash side of the reserve who would be a threat to their cubs. During the middle of the month these females looked nervous and were staying deep bushes with one lioness venturing out occasionally to look around. We suspected that the new males could have patrolled the area leaving their scent and we will have to hope that the mothers continue to do such a good job of hiding their cubs away. We saw that they had killed an adult kudu, so these lionesses are clearly good hunters. We also saw them near to New Bridge ambushing some red lechwe. Another time we watched them stalking a warthog, one of the lionesses edging along flat on her belly before springing for the kill. She was successful and soon two spotted hyenas, black-backed jackals and many vultures turned up to try and scavenge.

To the west of Splash a fully-grown male leopard was located at Green pan with a fresh kill of a reedbuck ram. The kill was really heavy for the predator so he fed on the ground before dragging it up onto a tree. It is a good job that he did this because two male lions were couple of kilometres east of the area and raptors such as bateleur, tawny eagles and yellow billed kites were starting to give away the location of the carcass.  A leopard was located a kilometre north of camp during morning game drive; the animal was identified as a young male. The animal was well fed, hardly surprising since there was plenty of prey in the area including lots of young antelopes.

We watched two adult spotted hyenas nursing their four cubs at the den towards the Kwara camp side of the reserve. Closer to Splash there were many hyenas concentrated in an area where last year there was an active den so we are hoping that they might use the same spot again.

There was plentiful general game including zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, reedbuck, tsessebe and impala. Guest enjoyed seeing big herds of elephant. Smaller mammals located included serval, aardwolf, genet, African wild cat and springhare. In a rare sighting, an aardvark was located during night drive on the way back to camp.

There were lots of summer visitor birds still on Kwara Reserve including European bee- eaters, carmine bee-eaters, European rollers, woodland kingfishers and Wahlbergs eagles who we saw feeding on harvester termites. Marabou storks were plentiful since the breeding season was over for them. The heronry island was less active as most of the chicks had flown, but some birds continued to use the area as a roosting site.

Lagoon

There was excellent general game around the inland pans including big herds of buffalo as well as zebra, giraffe, impala, tsessebe, sable and roan antelope. A magnificent herd of approximately 200 eland were found. These are the largest antelope species in the region with bulls standing to five to six feet tall at the shoulder (1.5-1.8 metres) and when massed together are a wonderful sight. One day we were investigating a burrow which showed some activity when we were startled by a warthog and four piglets who came bursting out and left the guides covered in a cloud of dust.

Three sister lionesses with three cubs were located a few times. These lionesses were mostly seen in the southern part of the area where they were dominated by two big brothers. The cubs were of a very playful age, making for some good photo opportunities as they gambolled around. We saw the lionesses hunting zebra during night drive and were able to see them feeding on their kill the following day. One morning we found extremely fresh tracks of a lioness and cubs. We followed up and sensing that we were nearby positioned the vehicle up on a mound to get a vantage point. The slightest movement in the sage grass gave the cats’ position away and the guiding team were delighted to have found them. As we approached there was a huge roar and the pride moved in that direction until they were reunited with the big male. The cubs were keen to play with him, but he did not seem amused by their antics.

The resident pack of wild dogs were successfully tracked and we followed them as they started hunting a herd of wildebeest, but then one dog disappeared behind a thicket and rounding the corner we saw an impala ewe fighting for its life as two dogs started to tear into it. Within ten minutes there was nothing left but bones. A couple of hyenas came to try and steal the carcass but the dogs ganged up on them and drove them away. Eventually the dogs lay down at the waterhole and relaxed.

A male leopard was found a couple of times, but he is still quite shy and was darting from one bush to another.

The brown hyenas were still regularly seen. By now they were occupying two dens and moving regularly between them. One morning we saw the cub’s eared pricked sharply forward and followed its gaze to see two lionesses resting nearby. As we approached the cats we saw that they were on a fresh wildebeest kill. The lionesses dragged the carcass towards the nearby bushes, probably to avoid the carcass being detected by aerial scavengers such as vultures which might in turn attract other predators. The brown hyena cub seemed tempted to approach the lionesses as he kept on going back and forth, but we breathed a sigh of relief when it eventually dashed into the den for safety.

Elephants were seen often, including within the camp as they came to the river for water. Guests enjoyed watching them swimming and drinking from the camp and during the boat cruise. One herd was seen working together to surround and protect a day-old calf. Fruiting trees at the river attracted troops of entertaining baboons as well as birds such as green pigeons and Meyer’s parrots. Some guests commented on how much they enjoyed being lulled to sleep by the grunting of hippos in the river that flows part the bedrooms.

We were able to spot animals such as porcupine, African wild cat and serval during night drive as well as different owl species ranging from the tiny scops owl to the huge Verreaux eagle owl. The mopane woodland was a birders paradise with species including broad-billed roller, European roller, golden oriole and Bradfield’s hornbill. Many bee-eater species (carmine, little and European) dominating the tree stumps in the open grasslands. A highlight for some guests was watching a hamerkop devouring a frog.

Lebala

The resident pack of six wild dogs were located near Halfway Pan and we were pleased to find that the alpha male and female were mating however in an interesting development of pack dynamics a few days later we noticed that the long-time alpha male was injured as if in a fight and the female was being mated by a different dog. Another pack entirely, one who had denned in the Kwando Reserve two years ago, was found after our sharp-eyed guide and tracker team had spotted kites and bateleurs at a distance. After following up they found the pack of ten dogs finishing up an impala who they had just killed. Let’s hope that they stay around for the next couple of months and choose to den nearby.

In a spectacular sighting the two dominant male lions known as Old Gun and Sebastian taking down a male buffalo. The bull tried to stand his ground but the two big lions were too strong for him and Old Gun started to feed whilst Sebastian was still suffocating the prey animal. The two male lions stayed on the kill for a few days, irritably chasing away the jackals and vultures who came to feed. A pride of two adults and six cubs were tracked from camp until we found them. In the evening we returned and found the cubs by themselves whilst the adults had apparently gone off to find food. The next day we discovered that the hunting mission had been successful and the whole pride was busy feasting on a sub-adult giraffe. There were plenty of hyenas and jackals hanging around and by the next day the scavengers, including many vultures, had taken over the carcass. On another occasion we found the pride feeding on a freshly killed wildebeest. We also followed the lionesses as they tried their luck on some red lechwe, but their stalking was spoiled by the noisy alarm call of the francolins. We also saw a pride of ten lions being chased by a herd of elephants.

Individual herds of elephants were seen heading towards the riverine areas and guests enjoyed watching them swimming and mud-bathing.  However seeing so many elephants by the river was unusual for the time of year and an indication that the natural pans in the mopane woodlands did not have as much water as would be the norm during rainy season. However, some rains meant that the area was lovely and green meaning plenty of food for the herbivores. We found good herds of eland, impala, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe with plenty of young animals still nursing from their mothers. Warthogs and baboons helped to make up some classic African landscapes.

The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers were seen rolling around in the ground seemingly to get rid of flies that were irritating them, but possibly to also scent mark their territory. We found them patrolling a couple of days later.

The smaller animals also produced their share of the action and we saw a mongoose chasing and finally killing a lizard. We were lucky enough to find a serval fishing along the marsh and watched as it pulled out a catfish. Honey badgers were seen digging for mice and we saw one feeding on a monitor lizard.

Hippos and crocodiles were seen at the larger pans and we also saw a big African python slithering up out of a waterhole.
Bird sightings were good, especially around the Halfway Pan area which had many wetland species including storks, pelicans, egrets and terns.

Nxai Pan

During February there were big herds of zebra, wildebeest and springbok, often grazing just in front of camp. Some of the zebra herds were 300 animals strong and they favoured the open pan which gave them good visibility against predators and nutritious grass to graze. One day we were lucky enough to see a zebra actually giving birth.  It was amazing to see how the mares worked together to protect the new foal from the stallion who was keen to get closer.

We were watching a tower of twenty one giraffe including five calves when we noticed that one of the giraffe had a broken horn which was hanging down at the side of its face, most likely as a result of fighting. Unlike European and North American deer species who drop their antlers annually, African antelope horns are permanent fixtures forming part of their skull so this injury was unusual and presumably very painful for the poor animal. Another time we were watching as fifteen giraffe were licking at the soil, a behaviour which helps them to ingest valuable minerals such as calcium and phosphorous.

Two adult steenbok were seen running across the road with a tiny lamb of only a few days old. This was a rare sighting because new born lambs, barely more than a couple of kilograms, are usually hidden out of sight for at least the first two weeks. Guests loved watching the springbok jumping and pronking in an excited fashion after a heavy rainfall. Other general game species seen included impala, red hartebeest, oryx and warthog.

Elephants were still visiting the camp waterhole and it was lovely to watch them bathing and splashing from the main area. One time we came across a bull elephant and explained to the guests that they could tell he was in musth from the strong smelling urine that the animal was dribbling all over his back legs.

The resident pride of six lions were seen drinking from the camp waterhole. In this group there were two adult females, one sub-adult female and three playful sub-adult males.  The dominant males were not always with the pride, but we came across one of them sitting on a termite mound roaring. One day we found the pride had killed a wildebeest and were still feeding on the carcass, surrounded by black-backed jackals and vultures.  The lions were also targeting the big zebra herds and we saw a zebra hobbling along with big claw marks as a result of a lucky escape.

The resident male cheetah was seen a couple of times and a lone spotted hyena was seen occasionally, including drinking at the camp waterhole.

Kwando guides enjoy showing guests all aspects of the ecosystems that they work in and one of the smaller, but no less interesting sightings included two tiny lizards of just five centimetres having a fight. Butterflies such as the brown-veined white and African monarch were seen settling in large numbers on fresh elephant dung where they were lapping up the moisture.

Smaller mammals found included bat eared foxes, black-backed jackals, honey badgers and wild cats.

White-backed and the scarcer white-headed vultures were seen bathing in one of the natural waterholes. Steppe buzzards, pale chanting goshawks, pallid harrier, yellow-billed kites and tawny eagles were amongst the raptor species identified. A secretary bird was seen chasing a mouse around until it caught and devoured it and we also watched a kori bustard killing and eating a small black mamba on the open plains. Brilliantly coloured blue-cheeked and swallow-tailed bee-eaters were located as well as three roller species (lilac-breasted, purple and European). A pride of ostrich was found dancing around in the pan, the adults were attempting to protect their chicks from jackal. It was also interesting to find a kori bustard displaying and inflating his neck pouch and fluffing up his feathers to attract females.

Tau Pan

The resident Tau Pan pride were located frequently throughout the month and they were often seen drinking at the camp waterhole. The lions regularly lazed at the airstrip providing arriving and departing guests with amazing Kalahari memories. One time we heard a male calling near to camp and followed his roars where we found the whole pride of 8 adults and three sub-adults together. We saw pair of lions mating repeatedly for more than a week, so hopefully there will be even more additions to the family in the near future.  They appeared to be hunting successfully and we saw them on kills including red hartebeest. One time we found a male eating something small whilst the rest of the pride looked on very hungrily. Another morning the adults were all sleeping at the pan whilst the sub-adults honed their skills by chasing oryx and springbok around.

A different pride of three females and a sub-adult male was located at San Pan and at Passarge Valley we found yet another group of 10 which included six youngsters of 1-2 years old. This latter pride was found a couple of times, once snoozing under a large umbrella thorn at the public campsite – we hoped that any arriving campers were vigilant!

A beautiful female leopard was back in the area after being absent for a couple of weeks. We were lucky enough to witness her stalking a steenbok lamb which she caught and ate. A couple of days later she was targeting the same species again and missed a couple of opportunities before she finally got her breakfast. One time we caught her running into the bushes carrying a bat-eared fox in her mouth. Another time we spotted a different female leopard walking along and then we saw that she was going to a kill that she had in a nearby tree. We watched as she fed for a while before she jumped down and went into the bushes.

Right at the start of the month we came across a pack of twenty wild dogs resting under a shady buffalo thorn tree at Deception Valley.

A single brown hyena came to drink at the camp waterhole in the early morning before we started our drive. Guests loved the time that we spent with this rare animal.

We saw cheetahs hunting often and as usual they were targeting their favourite species in the area, springbok.

General game species seen included springbok, oryx, red hartebeest and blue wildebeest. All of the antelope species had offspring who were still nursing from their mothers.

We had a very lucky sighting of two aardvark as we were driving along Passarge Valley. These nocturnal animals are very hard to see at the best of times and so it is an extremely rare encounter to find them out during the day. Other smaller mammals seen during the month were bat-eared foxes, black-backed jackals and lots of ground squirrels. Honey badgers were digging holes hunting for rodents and insects. We saw an African wild cat hunting mice in the long grass.

A lovely pride of ostrich including twenty chicks were seen at the Passarge waterhole. Other species which birders enjoyed ticking off included the iconic kori bustard, northern black korhaan, black-chested prinias and fawn-coloured larks. Palearctic migrants such as the pallid harrier were still in the area.

(Note: All the 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 – January 2019 Sightings Report

Kwara Reserve

The sweet short grass that sprang up after December’s fire continued to bring in substantial herds of general game, especially zebra which were present in huge numbers.

One time as soon as we left camp we picked up very fresh cheetah tracks and after following them for about 30 minutes we found the resident male cheetah known as Mr Special sitting up on a termite mound. Whilst watching we saw a dazzle of zebra approaching from the south. The cheetah got ready and when the herd was about 30 metres he burst forth to chase one of the foals out of the group. However the zebra stallion did his job well and was able to rescue the foal from the cat. After giving up the hunt Special started to mark his territory including climbing up and jumping on trees. During the month we saw the same cheetah also preying on impala and common reedbuck. One time we saw Special being chased by a lioness from the Mother Eye Pride. Initially it didn’t look like a serious situation for the cheetah, but when the lioness got close he burst into top speed to escape. The chase lasted about five minutes.

For about 6 weeks we have been seeing three young cheetahs, two sisters and a brother. As yet these youngsters were still a bit shy so the guides are patiently working to slowly let them get used to the vehicles.

A pack of nine wild dogs were seen often, one male of this pack was described as a “killing machine” by our guides and has been nicknamed Boko. When he is hunting the chances of seeing prey brought down is very high indeed. One time we were following for about 10 minutes when the chase started on a herd of impala with Boko in the lead. When we caught up with them Boko was fighting with a young ram. Immediately the rest of the pack arrived and disembowelled the antelope.

On another occasion the wild dog pack started chasing a full grown common waterbuck. Boko as ever was leading and putting pressure on the antelope which ran into a small pool of water. The pack tried to harass their prey out of the water until eventually Boko leapt into the water and attacked the waterbuck from the tail whereupon the buck ran out of the pool. He was chased by the pack but he escaped and went back to the same water again. This time three dogs chased him into the water and attached him at the same time. The waterbuck decided to sit down in the water and defend himself with his large horns, but Boko was still holding onto the antelope’s tail until he managed to cut it off and ate it. By this stage both predator and prey were exhausted so everyone seemed to decide to take a rest and after about 10-15 minutes the dogs gave up and moved on leaving the tailless buck still in the water.

Another time the pack killed an impala right inside camp near to Room 8. Because lions were not far away they picked up the distress call of the antelope and chased the dogs off the kill. The two male lions started fighting over the kill and they, together with two lionesses, spent the whole day in camp including lying right in front of the main area during brunch time.

A different pack of four wild dogs  – two adults and two youngsters – were also seen hunting through the mopane woodlands.

The male lions known as “Big Man” and “Puffy” were located close to the boat station. We tracked them to find them posing beautifully on a termite mound. The Splash pride with their cubs were also successfully tracked.

After being missing in action for a while the resident lioness known as Mma Leitlho was located south of Splash camp feeding on a warthog. Our guides were alerted to the kill by the presence of a tawny eagle and hooded vulture who had been sitting in a branch above the carcass for a while. Once she started moving our guides noticed that she was lactating, so we suspected she had cubs hidden nearby.

Whilst we were enjoying bush dinner we heard two male lions roaring about a kilometre east of camp. Ten minutes later we saw a lioness followed by two males walk between the main area and where we were sitting. The  lions and the guests all remained calm and the guests even managed to get some photos to record this extraordinary moment.

A mother leopard with her cub seemed to be new to the area and were still quite shy. The female leopard had killed a reedbuck which was hanging in a tree, with hyena and jackals waiting underneath hoping for some meal to fall to the ground

There was an active spotted hyena den near to Kwara camp. We saw three adults and four cubs. The cubs were of a playful age and were coming over inquisitively to the vehicles, to the delight of the guests.

Termites flying out after the first rains made a feast for other species including giant bullfrogs, snakes, mongoose and many species of birds such as eagles, bee-eaters and swallows. We saw African rock pythons as well as tortoises.

Night drives were interesting with plenty of good sightings of the smaller mammals such as African wild cats, civets, aardwolf, servals and genets

There was very good birdlife in the area and we saw wattled cranes, secretary birds and southern ground hornbills almost every day.

Lagoon

The two lionesses to the north of the reserve are known to the guides as Litikazi and Mma Mosetha. As they were patrolling they found a dead wildebeest on the runway which had been killed by hyenas the previous night. They moved on from the carcass and promptly despatched the calf who was still looking for its mother. A couple of days later they were seen hunting warthogs. Further south the Bonga Pride were pushing back into the Lagoon side of the Kwando Reserve after spending the last few months closer to Lebala camp. This pride comprises seven females and two dominant males. One of the lionesses has three cubs of 3-4 months old; we found them feeding on a zebra that appeared to have been killed the previous night. Sometimes she was accompanied by one of the males and at the same time the other male was mating a different lioness nearby. One of the cubs is not faring as well as the others and it was sometimes left behind. Two new very shy male lions were found hunting and patrolling at Kwena Lagoon. Males from the new coalition were seen at Zebra Pan looking very restless.

The brown hyena den was still active and the cubs were seen playing nearby, but as the month progressed we noticed that they increasingly spent time away from the main den and moved to a new spot to the east of camp. They are now being seen less regularly and their behaviour is becoming more typical of the shy and elusive species. On several occasions we located solitary spotted hyenas mobile to and from a hippo carcass on a channel near to the army camp. A clan of four were also seen hunting.

The resident pack of wild dogs were seen feeding on an impala. Last time we saw the pack they numbered seven so they appear to have lost a female. The dogs did not appear to be calling for her, so our guides deduced that she must have been missing for a while.

The resident coalition of two male cheetahs was located and the animals looked well-fed. We watched them patrolling to the southern part of the Kwando Reserve.

A shy male leopard was seen a couple of times near to Second Lagoon.

There was very good general game in the area with 12 buffalo bulls hanging out north of Second Lagoon. Several breeding herds of elephant were located drinking and mudbathing at waterholes that had trapped rainwater and also at the river in front of camp. Guests enjoyed the excitement of the young elephants as they rolled around in the mud.  A huge herd of over 150 eland was grazing amongst zebra and wildebeest on the periphery of the mophane woodlands. Other antelope species seen included impala, tsessebe, red lechwe, common reedbuck, waterbuck, giraffe, roan and sable. Twelve kudu bulls made a magnificent sight, this being a larger than usual bachelor herd.

Several troops of baboon were seen along the edge of the river and we watched as a male baboon flushed out a newborn reedbuck from its hiding spot chased it for a long distance. We were not able to see the end of the action, but the guides suspected that the baboon killed the young antelope in the end.

Various families of bat-eared foxes with their young cubs of approximately six months old were seen. Other smaller mammals included different species of mongoose, jackals, servals, genets and African wild cats.

Crocodiles and hippos were seen along the river and flood plains. Hippos had also moved into inland waterholes now that they have been filled with rainwater. There was a particularly bad-tempered hippo at Zebra Pan.

Lots of vultures responded to a hippo carcass near to the army camp. All four species that we have resident in the area were seen, including the rare white-headed vulture. Raptors were seen feeding in large numbers on termites. We saw one feeding frenzy that included Wahlberg’s eagles, tawny eagles, kites, swallows and rollers. Other notable bird sightings included fish eagles, snake eagles, martial eagles, storks, cranes, hornbills and pelicans.  Summer migrants such as swallows and bee-eaters were present.

Lebala

Wapuka Pride was located near to the airstrip with a blue wildebeest carcass. The following day we found the ten lions on a giraffe that they had managed to kill overnight. As we came in there were lots of scavengers around. The next morning the pride’s two dominant males had moved into the kill and one of the males was mating a lioness. Later in the month we watched two of the females hunting down a large warthog boar, but the prey managed to escape. We also came across the pride hunting red lechwe, again without success.

Bonga Pride were also in the area, although they had pushed closer to the Lagoon side of the Kwando Reserve. We watched as they eyed up a herd of zebra, but chose not to make an attempt in the end. We saw them a couple of days later looking full-bellied and this time the five lionesses and three cubs were joined by the dominant males, Old Gun and Sebastian. The two male lions were seen patrolling and marking their territory by spraying urine on bushes.

A tom leopard was located in a tree but eventually climbed down

A pack of six wild dogs were located at Halfway Pan. They looked starving and we watched as they tried their luck but they didn’t catch anything.

We were fortunate enough to locate a wild cat after picking up some guests from the airstrip. Although the animal was a bit shy it was a treat to see this species during the day.  Black-backed jackals were observed sifting through elephant dung looking for beetles.

One morning drive we managed to come across a coalition of four cheetahs who were trying to hunt wildebeest, but they were still skittish to the vehicles and ran away. A few days later we saw them feeding on a warthog and were able to watch them from a distance. The guides will need to work patiently get these new animals to our area used to the vehicles.

Spotted hyenas were seen mobile, and one was running away holding onto a wildebeest skin. We also found a clan of eight in camp just as we were leaving for morning game drive.

A black mamba snake was observed sunbathing on a termite mound. And in other reptile action, guests enjoyed the rather comical mating of two tortoises.

We saw big herds of elephants coming through the area, moving from east to west as though they had a definite purpose in mind.

Lots of general game was seen in the area, especially around Nare Pan. Species recorded included giraffe, zebra, impala, wildebeest, tsessebe and red lechwe. Many of the antelopes had new offspring with them.

Birdlife was excellent, especially along the marsh. We saw three species of bee-eater (Little, Carmine and Blue-cheeked) as well as many different egrets and herons. Open-billed, saddle-billed and yellow-billed storks were all present. Raptors included tawny eagles, Wahlberg’s eagles and fish eagles. A special sighting was watching a martial eagle swooping down to take a banded mongoose, with the rest of the mongoose trying to rescue their family member..

Nxai Pan

As the rainy season got under way the sweet grasses in the pan came to life creating a beautiful green landscape.  This nutritionally important grass is what attracts huge of zebra and wildebeest herds to the Nxai Pan National Park in an annual migration. As expected, the numbers of animals multiplied rapidly as the month progressed.

We saw the resident pride of lions comprising two adult females, three sub-adult males and a sub-adult female. The cats appeared to be well-fed as you would expect during this time of plentiful game. One time they were hanging out in camp near to Room 1 and we watched them hunting zebra, but the prey species saw them in enough time and galloped away to safety. Another time the lions got luckier and killed a pregnant zebra close to camp. We saw the subadults on their own whilst their parents were away hunting. We watched them drinking and then one jumped up onto a termite mound posing beautifully for the cameras. That day they looked hungry, but we came across them the following day looking full-bellied and contented. We were pleased to find one of the lionesses who we had not seen for a while back in the area accompanied by three young cubs.

The resident male cheetah was located a few times, always looking well-fed.

There were still elephants in the area and guests enjoyed watching them drinking and bathing at the waterhole outside the camp.

Black-backed jackals were seen, often near to the lions where they were hoping to steal some scraps from their kills. One pair of jackals currently have six puppies aged approximately five months old.

Aside from the massive herds of zebra and wildebeest, other general game was good with lots of oryx, giraffe, impala and red hartebeest. Springbok were seen in herds up to 100

Guests enjoyed spending time dung beetles rolling their dung balls and African monarch butterflies getting moisture from the elephant dung.

Kori bustards were spotted regularly and guests photographed male masked weaver birds building their intricate nests. Flocks of Abdim storks and black storks were seen hanging out close to camp. A pied avocet which is a rare bird to see in the region was located at the Department of Wildlife waterhole. Pale chanting goshawks were feeding on other birds such as Cape turtle doves and once on a black-winged pratincole (we saw up to 500 pratincoles in a single day). Other raptors included martial eagle, tawny eagles, steppe buzzard, pallid harrier, yellow-billed kites and greater kestrels.  Different prides of ostrich were in the area, some with chicks. A mixed flock of white-backed and lappet-faced vultures were seen feeding on a zebra carcass.

Tau Pan

After some summer rains Tau Pan was transformed into a carpet of green and slowly attracted more animals into the area to take advantage of the nutritious grasses.

After the rain at the start of the month, the resident pride of lions seemed less reliant on the camp waterhole and we saw them drinking from the natural pans that had filled. However, as the month progressed, it was much dryer than usual for the time of year and so we saw the pride back at the camp waterhole more regularly, including a lovely sighting of three generations of lioness. For part of the month the lions were quite unusually in a group of 4-5 males with just one lioness, she seemed to be anxious to find the other three females who usually make up the family group and was doing a lot of sniffing, tracking and calling.  One night three males showed up in camp and their roared the whole night to the guests’ delight.

We watched the lions approach a group of jackals, but it turned out that the jackals were in that spot because there was a leopard with a kill behind a nearby bush. As the lions approached, one of the jackals made an alarm call and the leopard bolted away with its kill. Another time we saw a female leopard who has been known to us in the area for over nine years now. A rather shy tom leopard was found on the way to San Pan.

A female cheetah was seen relaxing at Phukwi Pan, a herd of springbok nearby seemed aware of the predator but did not seem unduly disturbed by being in the company of their natural enemy. A different female cheetah was observed at Piper Pan. A single male cheetah was located at Letia Hau; he was running back and forth calling as though looking for his coalition partner.

An enormous bull elephant was seen at Phukwi Pan moving easterly towards the camp.

Herds of springbok with their new lambs were enjoying the new shoots of green grass in Tau Pan. Red hartebeest were also found at the pan and guests enjoyed photographing their calves jumping around in the afternoon light. A large herd of wildebeest were seen running with their calves, apparently fleeing from some jackals although these small predators should not usually pose much of a threat to the much larger herbivores.  At Phukwi Pan we saw a large herd of oryx with calves together with red hartebeest and springbok. There were a big herds of giraffe on the western firebreak and around Tau Pan feeding on thorn trees. We enjoyed watching a tower of 15 giraffe, including five calves, drinking at Passarge waterhole. Other antelope species seen included common duiker and steenbok.

An adult aardwolf was seen at Tau Pan as well as some very relaxed bat-eared foxes with their cubs. We saw an interesting commotion between some bat-eared foxes and some black-backed jackals after they discovered a giant bullfrog. Although they both chased it and had a quick skirmish over it, the jackals as the larger more dominant predator took the prey. It was unusual to see the bat-eared foxes interested in such a large frog as they more typically feed on insects. An African wild cat was seen walking through the short grass at Tau Pan.

Raptors commonly seen during January included tawny eagles, bateleur eagles, yellow-billed kites and pale chanting goshawks. A summer migrant, the pallid harrier, was also still in the area. Ostriches, secretary birds and kori bustards were seen frequently as they walked the plains. Smaller notable passerines included fawn coloured larks, sabota larks and black-chested prinias.

(Note: All the 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 – December 2018 Sightings Report

Kwara Reserve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lagoon

At the start of the December our guides managed to find a lion den with two females looking after four cubs of approximately one month old, whilst another three lions were resting nearby. Initially the lionesses were keeping their young well hidden in the bushes, but later in the month we were able to see the females nursing their cubs. Occasionally we were lucky to catch them out in the open and playing. One lioness killed a tsessebe and we could tell that she dragged it a very long way to bring it nearer to the den site. Two male lions were seen mating females for much of the month, so hopefully there will be even more cubs soon. We found two lionesses on a tsessebe carcass that they had killed earlier in the morning. Male lions were seen hunting on hippos near to the channel.

The resident pack of six adult wild dogs with their 6-month-old puppy were located finishing an impala carcass one morning. In the afternoon they were hunting again, this time trying their luck on tsessebe and wildebeest. The following day we saw them kill two impalas. One time the puppy tried to chase a family of mongoose who balled up together to defend themselves.

We found a leopard near to camp, heading towards the brown hyena den and different tom leopard was seen a couple of times, once resting up on a tree, but he was shy and eventually he jumped down and ran into the blue bushes.

The brown hyena cubs continued to do well and were seen regularly. The cubs are still playful and guests were able to get lovely shots of them being active. We enjoyed watching them socialising and sometimes nibbling food that they had been brought by their mother the previous night.

Spotted hyena were also seen a few times, mainly patrolling and sometimes within five minutes of camp. They were seen near to the brown hyena den, one time two killed and ate an Egyptian goose right at the den entrance, we will just have to hope that our precious brown hyena cubs do not get attacked by the larger dominant species. Once the summer rains started in earnest towards the end of the month our guides noticed that the spotted hyenas were actively hunting on the rainy nights, specialising on wildebeest.

General game was reported to be very good, with elephants and giraffes crossing through the marshes, though after rains towards the end of the month the elephants started to head deeper into the mophane woodlands. A small bush fire followed by rain meant that grazers including roan antelope, tsessebe, eland, impala, kudu, zebra and reedbuck were in good numbers enjoying the new shoots of green grass. Baboons also enjoyed staying in the same area as these herds, presumably seeking protection amongst the plentiful eyes and ears. Many of the antelope species had given birth to their young. A batchelor herd of buffalo were found north of camp.

In terms of smaller mammals located, serval, civet, jackals, bat-eared foxes, honey badgers, spring hares and mongoose were all seen during December. We enjoyed a lovely sighting of an African wild cat pouncing on and killing a mouse.

There were four species of vultures in the area: white-headed, hooded, lappet-faced and white-backed. Migrants such as the woodland kingfishers, lesser spotted eagles, Wahlberg’s eagles all returned to the Kwando Reserve for the summer. At one point there was a feeding frenzy of some 120 lesser spotted eagles near to the brown hyena den. Saddle-billed storks and the elegant wattled cranes were favourites for some of our guests.

Lebala

The coalition of two male cheetah brothers were located next to Skimmer Pan. We watched them drinking and followed them as they tried to hunt, however unfortunately they bumped into a pride of eight lions and ran away in fright. Later in the month we were thrilled to see a new coalition of four male cheetahs; they were a bit shy but we were able to watch them from a distance.

The three cubs of Wapuka Pride were sometimes left behind whilst the adults were hunting. One time as we were watching the youngsters a clan of seven hyenas came around trying to kill the cubs, but the little ones were clever enough to climb up a tree and escape. One time we tracked the whole pride as it was moving along the woodland and saw them taking down a zebra foal. The two resident males, known as Sebastian and Old Gun, dominated the kill and chased away the females. We also saw the pride lying full-bellied after eating a wildebeest and a different time the males were found feeding on a warthog. Old Gun gave our team a good early morning wake-up call one morning by roaring right outside the staff village! We were quickly able to get out on morning drive to find him.

Bonga Pride were also in the area and these lions seemed to be specialising on blue wildebeest as we saw them a few times on different carcasses. One time the pride we were watching the lionesses and the two big males came in to take over the kill. The females started roaring and we heard other lions respond. We went to check on who was calling and found it was a different pride altogether who were busy hunting baboons.

A clan of three spotted hyena were scavenging on the remains of an elephant calf.

The resident pack of two wild dogs popped up one morning as guides and guests were enjoying a morning tea break. We quickly packed up and followed them hunting impala and red lechwe. Later in the month another pack of six adults and one puppy were tracked for almost three hours and we found them lying under the trees. We returned in the afternoon and the patient work of the morning was rewarded by a hunt, culminating in them bringing down and eating an impala lamb. We saw this larger pack hunting a few times and once finishing off a warthog.

The resident female leopard known as Jane was in the area. One time we followed her hunting, but she seemed reluctant as she was being followed by a hyena who seemed to be hoping to steal a kill from her. A few days later we were watching her as a warthog ran out of the bushes. Jane then investigated further and found a warthog burrow. She proceeded to kill all three piglets, one after another. The following day, we were thrilled to realise that she was nursing newborn cubs and we were able to see her carrying them from one den to another. Jane’s now adult son, known as Fisherman was tracked until we found him. It is so lovely to see different generations of this same leopard family continuing to thrive in the Lebala area.

Right along the airstrip road there was an active den for the black-backed jackals with four playful puppies. A serval was often seen stalking prey along the edge of the marsh and a couple of times we found an African wild cat hunting.

A fallen strangler fig near to Twin Pools attracted a very large herd of breeding elephants who seemed to loved feasting on the tree. Some of the elephants were lying down horizontally whilst still managing to feed.

A herd of twelve buffalo were grazing along the road being followed by lots of cattle egret who were snatching up grasshoppers and other insects disturbed by the large bovines.

At the start of the month there was extremely good general game in the marsh area; the animals were hanging near to the water as the natural waterholes dried up. Species seen at the time included elephant, giraffe, impala, red lechwe, wildebeest, zebra and hippo. A very relaxed herd of six adult roan antelopes and their two calves were found near to Baobab Pan. In the same area we also located a herd of eight sable, also with two calves.

We had lovely bird sightings near to the marsh including openbilled storks, black herons, kingfishers, egrets, swallows and steppe eagles. After some summer rains fell a large number of eagles were seen feeding on termite alates, also known as “flying ants”. We had a great sighting of two rosy-throated longclaws – a very prized sighting for keen birders. There were still a good number of carimine bee-eaters in the area.

Nxai Pan

The resident pride of six lions were seen trying their luck on wildebeest at the Wildlife waterhole. Unfortunately for them the lack of cover made it hard for them to launch a successful ambush. Black-backed jackal were skirting around the periphery of the action hoping to have the chance to scavenge. Two lionesses were also seen hunting springbok in front of the camp, but once again they did not manage. We saw them with three cubs looking very hungry. Later in the month their luck turned and we saw the same lionesses with their young feasting for two days on the carcass of an elephant calf which had died from natural causes. One morning we saw them trying to stalk springbok which were congregated in the vicinity of the waterhole, but failed because the area was too open. We saw the lionesses and cubs in camp one morning, they were calling and trying to locate the rest of the pride.

Three cheetah were seen together on the open plains, a male was feeding on a springbok and being watched by two females. The females tried to approach but the male made it very clear that he wanted the meal for himself. Later in the month we had a spectacular sighting of the two females taking down and killing a springbok. A few metres from camp we spotted a male cheetah hunting springbok. It was not successful and the cat lay panting in the shade of an umbrella-thorn tree after the chase. A few days later it seemed that he had had enough of trying to hunt solo and we saw him as he was calling his coalition partner; next time we came across him the two males were back teamed up again.

There were still plenty of elephants in the area, congregating at the camp waterhole during the days making for interesting viewing from the main area and the guest rooms.

The numbers of antelope increased during the month as they herded towards Nxai Pan to take advantage of the nutritious pan grasses which are so important to support lactation during their breeding season. At the camp waterhole we saw large herds of springbok with lambs. On the way to Baines Baobabs we encountered oryx, steenbok and springbok. Towards the end of the month the annual migration of zebras started to arrive at Nxai Pan.

A wonderful family of two adult black-backed jackals with six puppies were found on West Road and a female bat-eared fox with a single puppy was denning on Middle Road. We watched as lots of jackals worked the area around the waterhole, spreading out the elephant dung in search of dung beetles to eat. We were lucky enough to spot a brown hyena although as we were looking at it a black-backed jackal came rushing in from nowhere to chase the bigger predator away.

A rock monitor lizard was found foraging on millipedes and grasshoppers.

Lots of summer migrants were in the area including steppe buzzards, European bee-eaters, lesser grey shrikes and red-backed shrikes. A pride of ostrich was seen near the waterhole grazing. Lanner falcons were seen close to a termite mound feeding on the winged alates coming out to fly. We also saw many goshawks and kestrels.

Tau Pan

On one exciting morning we barely had to drive any distance from camp at all to have incredible sightings. We had just set out on drive when we came across three lions looking full-bellied as though they had enjoyed a big prey animal. Next, we found two cheetah brothers drinking at the camp waterhole whilst at the same time there were two lions mating close to the sleep out deck.

The Tau pride of lions comprising five big males, three sub-adults and two females were nearby throughout December. One time nine of them were seen attempting to hunt greater kudu and wildebeest near to the camp waterhole. A couple of days later they were lounging around at the airstrip looking well fed and relaxed. The pride followed this pattern of moving between the camp and the airstrip for most of the month. A different pair of lionesses with a single cub were also seen at the airstrip. These animals who are usually resident on the western side of the area never stayed long at the camp waterhole; guides suspected that they were respecting the dominance of the Tau Pan pride and trying to avoid them.

Two male cheetah were seen chasing and killing a springbok lamb and we were lucky enough to witness the whole hunt from start to finish. Black-backed jackals were hanging around hoping for some left-overs. Another time the two males were hunting at the firebreak near to camp, but they were spotted by their prey who managed to escape. A different group of cheetah, a mother with two sub-adult cubs, were located at Tau Pan. At first these animals were skittish, but soon settled down and relaxed under a tree allowing us to take good photos.

A large bull elephant was still frequenting the camp waterhole at the start of the month and we could see how the lions gave him space by moving away when he arrived.

After heavy rains during Christmas week a large tom leopard was stuck in the mud and was very difficult for him to get out. It was sad to see the big cat struggling so much. A female leopard was seen on the move near to camp and a male was hunting on Phukwi Road. Unfortunately he was not successful and we left him climbing a tree to take some rest.

A cape fox was located at San Pan and guests enjoyed watching this active and relatively rare animal. Bat-eared foxes and jackals were plentiful in the Tau Pan area feeding on harvester termites. We also had a lovely sighting of these bat-eared foxes near to San Pan; it was a beautiful encounter as we were able to watch the mother nursing her cubs. A very relaxed herd of springbok showed up at the same time – the perfect desert scene. Other smaller creatures sighted during December included ground squirrels, leopard tortoise, African wild cat and yellow mongoose. On a day trip to Deception valley we came across the interesting sight of an aardvark carcass which the guides suspected was killed by lions judging by the tracks in the area. Black-backed jackals were often found in the vicinity of the lion pride, hoping that they might be able to share in any kills that the cats made.

A pack of seven wild dogs were found a couple of times on trips out to Sunday Pan. We saw the dogs drinking at the waterhole, playing and resting.

Oryx were located near to San Pan and also at Sunday Pan where we also found red hartebeest. Other antelope species for the month included giraffe, kudu, springbok, steenbok and wildebeest.

Notable bird sightings included the pallid harrier, banded coursers, greater kestrels and red-necked falcons. A gabar goshawk was found with the kill of a red-billed quelea. We were able to spot the nest for the lilac-breasted rollers, these colourful birds always a favourite with guests. A pair of secretary birds were seen. We observed a kori bustard displaying by puffing up its feathers to attract the female. Southern black korhaans were also in breeding season and two males were found fighting over a female. The male red-crested korhaans were displaying by shooting themselves up into air and then crashing down as if shot; it is a complete mystery as to why this spectacular feat should be so attractive, but seemingly it is very alluring if you are a female korhaan!

(Note: All the 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 2018 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

There was incredible predator action at Splash during October with lions being seen every single day.

On average our guides and trackers managed to find three predator sightings per day and on some dates there was a “full house” of lion, leopard, wild dogs, cheetah and hyena.

A pack of four wild dogs, two adults and two sub-adults, were seen chasing impala around camp and were successful in bringing down their prey making a fantastic end to the afternoon safari that day. They were seen often hunting around the camp after that, sometimes making kills. One time they interrupted early morning breakfast with a kill right by the front entrance, Another time they almost lost their kill to leopards. A different pack of five adults and four young were located near to Motswiri Pan where they had just finished devouring an impala.

A third pack of eighteen, the dogs who denned in June at Little Kwara, were seen one day resting next to the airstrip, much to the delight of departing guests who had mistakenly thought that their safari was finished. When staying on the Kwara Reserve you shouldn’t pack your camera away until the very last second!

An alarm call from a side-striped jackal alerted us to the presence of a predator one morning. We picked up cheetah tracks and followed them until we found the beautiful resident female looking relaxed and well-fed. A resident male was seen on the majority of days during October. He was mostly resting or patrolling his territory but a few times he was hunting and we were lucky enough to be able to see him make his kill.

The Splash pride of lions was seen in front of camp drinking water, making for a wonderful photographic opportunity. The pride consists of two males, two females and six cubs. The mothers were very protective of their cubs, always hiding them away in the Kalahari Apple Leaf during the days before venturing out to drink at the camp waterhole. A male lion was heard roaring north east of camp so we explored in that direction and came across him with two females relaxing in the early morning sun.

Two male lions known as ‘Puffie’ and ‘Big Man’ had killed a hippo but they were displaced from their hard-won carcass by the two resident males of the Splash pride. When we visited the area the next day all the lions had gone and been replaced by an impressive clan of twenty three hyena gorging themselves on the huge carcass, surrounded by vultures. We also came across spotted hyenas bathing in water, trying to find relief from the soaring temperatures.

We enjoyed tracking a leopard to New Bridge and our guests appreciated the effort taken to locate the handsome tom. After an hour and a half we found the cat in the process of killing a baboon. Spotted hyenas were also in the area as they had also been following the leopard, but the tom was successful in driving them away and hanging onto his carcass. Two female leopards, a mother and daughter, responded to the call of a side-striped jackal. We followed them as they discovered that the jackal was alarmed by wild dogs who had killed an impala, but the wild dogs had finished their kill by the time the leopards arrived and moved off.

General game in the area was rewarding, including beautiful roan antelope. Elephants, giraffe and buffalo were plentiful. Other plains game species included zebra, kudu, wildebeest, warthog, waterbuck, impala and red lechwe. Troops of baboons and vervet monkeys entertained guests with their playful antics.

We saw an encouraging number of vultures in the area including hooded, white-backed and a few white-headed. We were excited to see lappet-faced vultures nesting east of Splash camp. There were plenty of ground hornbills, some of whom had chicks. A pair of secretary birds was nesting near to Impala Pan.

Lagoon

The brown hyena cubs continued to be big favourites with our guests. They were mostly seen playing in the mornings. The youngsters are growing past and were starting to separate to occupy different dens. Their mother remains elusive, visiting them in the middle of the night to bring them food that this month included an impala carcass.

Bonga Pride were sometimes seen by John’s Pan and Lechwe Corner, but in general have been towards Lebala camp over the past few months. This has opened up the Lagoon territory for several new coalitions of males and during October we saw a group of four, a group of three and several pairs hunting buffaloes. Two very big males and a female were found at Kwena Lagoon feeding on an elephant carcass and mating. Several lionesses were roaming the area including three pregnant females who have broken away from the Bonga Pride.

Spotted hyenas were regularly sighted around the area, mostly at abandoned buffalo carcasses that the nomad males had killed, including some exciting interactions between lions and the hyena clan.

Other times spotted hyenas were seen patrolling the area or cooling themselves in the muddy waterholes which were drying out.

Female leopards were seen patrolling and hunting during afternoon drives. We had lovely sightings of a female with her kill up a tree and a male with a warthog kill on the airstrip road.

The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers were found resting under a tree.

The pack of six wild dogs (five adults and one sub-adult) were found well-fed and quenching their thirst after a successful hunting expedition. We tracked them hunting a couple of other times but they were not lucky on those occasions.

Smaller predators encountered included African wild cats, servals, mongoose (yellow, dwarf and banded), bat-eared foxes and honey badgers. Black-backed jackals were denning and guests were able to see the cubs.

General game was frequenting the hot spots along the flood plains. There were plenty of eland, sable, roan, buffalo and heavily pregnant plains game species, some of whom started dropping their young after a storm build-up in the middle of the month. There were big herds of elephants all over the area throughout the day. Other species included zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala, red lechwe, waterbuck, warthog and tsessebe.

Aquatic bird species were seen wading and foraging on the flood plains. Summer migrants continued to arrive in the area. Carmine bee-eaters were still nesting at Kwena Lagoon and John’s Pan. Guests enjoyed sightings of kingfishers, including giant and the colourful malachite. Four different species of vulture were identified feeding on the buffalo carcasses (hooded, white-backed, lappet and white-headed).
(Note: Accompanying image is a screen grab from a video that was sent to us from a guest who stayed at Lagoon earlier this year. Thank you Helen Apps for this amazing footage!)

Lebala

A young female leopard, named by our guides as Jenny, was seen walking on the road and we watched her as she started to hunt squirrels. She jumped up a tree to hunt the squirrel and was successful in catching and eating it, though this would be a very small snack indeed for a leopard! We watched a female leopard make a kill of an impala, but unfortunately two male lions came onto the scene and chased her up into a tree. She waited in the tree for quite some time, but eventually gave up on the kill and ran away. A very shy male leopard was picked up under spotlights on night drive. He was not one of the resident toms, but an intruder from another area. We saw him later in the month with a kudu kill up a tree.

Diligent work by the guide and tracker team led us to the Wapoka Pride of lions lying down on the road, we went back after a while and followed them hunting where they brought down a wildebeest – our guests rewarded for their patience by a spectacular kill sighting. The Wapoka Pride were then not around for couple of weeks, but returned towards the end of the month. They seemed nervous and were regularly climbing trees and mounds as they hunted; our guides suspected that they were being so vigilant because they knew that the Bonga Pride was also in the area. A couple of days later Wapoka Pride brought down a buffalo bull near to the camp at night. Our guides were flabbergasted when Bonga Pride also showed up at the carcass and the two prides ate side by side without any apparent friction. This was highly unusual behaviour and a fantastic sighting, to which was added hyenas and jackals trotting around and vultures roosted in the trees waiting patiently for their turn. By the next morning it was just Bonga Pride lying round-bellied at the carcass. The vultures came down and started to feed and hyenas tried to sneak a few mouthfuls but were too scared of the lions to feed properly.

We saw Bonga pride hunting and bringing down two wildebeest right in front of the vehicle and watched with interest as the two pride males refused to let the lionesses eat, only allowing the cubs to approach the carcass and join in the feeding. The following day the pride killed a big male warthog but once again one of the male lions took the carcass and ate it alone. Once we followed them as they were stalking a herd of kudu which were hidden in the bushes, but the antelope saw them in time and took off. The lions continued heading towards the marshes where they often hunt warthogs and aquatic species of antelope such as red lechwe. Another time we tracked the lions to Tsessebe Pan where we were able to get lovely shots of them lined up drinking, with reflections in the water.

The resident pack of just two wild dogs were seen lying down in a pool of wet mud to cool down before trying to hunt impala. Unfortunately for them the long grass impeded their hunt so they eventually gave up and went hungry. A different pack of six adults and one puppy were ranging between the Lebala and Lagoon sides of the Kwando Reserve and we found them a couple of times in the Halfway Pan area, always looking well fed with round bellies.

Big herds of red lechwe were in the area and our guests enjoyed photographing them as they splashed through the water in the marshes.

A huge herd of buffalo were seen grazing very close to camp. Elephants were also plentiful and guests enjoyed watching them mud-bathing. A lovely herd of endangered sable antelope comprising twelve adults and five calves was in the area.

A big number of carmine bee-eaters were still by their nests at John’s Pan and summer migrants, such as yellow-billed kites, were busy coming back into the area.

Nxai Pan

Huge herds of elephants made a spectacle at the camp waterhole every day, drinking and mud-bathing. Their antics continued through the night, with their noisy splashing and rumbling a constant sound track. Although elephants dominated, it was not uncommon to see a queue of up to seven mammal species at once waiting for their turn to quench their thirst. These animals commonly included giraffe, kudu, impala, springbok, zebra and wildebeest, but we were also lucky enough to find a male eland and some buffalo.

The resident pride of ten lions were seen most frequently at the wildlife waterhole. This is a favourite spot of theirs to ambush antelope as they come down to drink so we were often found watching the pride, who were watching their prey, in anticipation of some action. Our patience was rewarded and we saw them trying unsuccessfully to catch both wildebeest and kudu there on a few occasions. A pair of lionesses with three tiny cubs of about a month old were seen for the first time. We were able to enjoy a lovely sighting of them suckling their cubs.

A male cheetah was located more than once. The first time we saw him he was mobile and looked hungry, so it was good to find him on a springbok carcass a couple of days later. There were many jackals waiting for a chance to scavenge. The next day we saw the female cheetah drinking at the wildlife waterhole. This was the resident individual who the previous month had lost all three of her cubs to lions. We were pleased to find her on carcasses during the month and know that she was doing well.

A pair of spotted hyenas visited the camp waterhole for a drink more than once.

Honey badgers were seen in the middle of the pan digging for rodents and on occasion we were able to see them catch their prey. Bat eared foxes were also sighted regularly.

We managed to find a pair of ostrich accompanied by seventeen hatchlings. From birth ostrich chicks are able to accompany their parents as they graze. Some black-backed jackals were darting around hoping for the opportunity to snatch a chick, but the male ostrich defended his family vigorously.

A pair of secretary birds were seen foraging on the pan and could be seen roosting after sunset. It is a magnificent sight to see these huge birds perched in a tree. An unusual sighting was a dark chanting goshawk feeding on a cape turtle dove. An African cuckoo, which is a regional migrant, was spotted. Other notable ticks were sabota larks, marico flycatchers, Burchell’s sandgrouses and kori bustards.

Tau Pan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Note: Alnost all the 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 2018 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

Two lionesses had a den near to Mabala Dikgokong where they were raising six cubs. They were seen very often and our guiding team now fondly refer to them as the ‘Splash Pride’. They were often near to their den, feeding on impala, reedbuck, and zebra kills (the pride was so effective that they were collectively described by one guide as “a killing machine”!) The cubs were very active, usually playing around, and we enjoyed watching them nurse from their mothers. One day we had a gorgeous sighting of them drinking at a waterhole, their perfect reflection making for a wonderful photo opportunity. They were disturbed from their original den by two females from the Mma Leitho pride, but continued to be sighted most days. After chasing off the Splash Pride the females of Mma Leitho joined up with two resident males and ended up killing a tsessebe together. Two new male lions were seen to the east of Splash.

A big pack of twenty two wild dogs was seen on the eastern side of the Kwara reserve and were regularly targeting impala. The Kwara pack of wild dogs appeared again after about a month’s absence. During their time away they appeared to have lost one of their puppies, but still had ten youngsters, now hunting with the adults. We saw that they managed to kill a red lechwe, a reedbuck and also an impala, although lions drove them off the latter and took over the carcass. A third pack of just three adults with two puppies were found on the eastern side of the Kwara reserve and were seen feeding on an impala.

The resident male cheetah, affectionally known as “Special” was following his usual pattern of traversing the whole Kwara reserve from east to west. He was seen feeding on a warthog piglet and we also saw him chase down and kill and impala. He killed an adult warthog near to the Old Mokoro Station where we saw him feasting, surrounded by hungry vultures and side-striped jackals.

On one day we saw a fascinating intraspecific competition: the male cheetah killed an impala but was driven away by a leopard and in turn the carcass was stolen by the lions. We followed a new female cheetah as she hunted, although she was not lucky on that occasion. There was also a new male cheetah in the area.

To gain respite from the steadily-increasing daytime heat the leopards were enjoying resting on shady branches of the Sausage Trees which were now in full bloom displaying striking blood-red flowers. We found a male and female leopard together on such a tree, but the female was a little skittish and jumped down. A female leopard in the Splash area was gradually getting used to the safari vehicles and one day was seen drinking at the camp waterhole. We managed to drive around to take a closer look and after initially ducking into some bushes she came out and rested on a termite mound giving us a better opportunity to enjoy her. There was also a young male resident in the area.

Spotted hyena were often seen in the Splash area, and inside camp itself.

There were lots of elephants in the area, with a breeding herd coming to drink at the camp waterhole in the afternoons. Further afield we enjoyed watching elephants cross the channels and especially seeing how they worked together to help their calves climb up the steeper banks. Bachelor herds of buffalo bulls were seen regularly in the marsh where we watched them feeding and mud-bathing. Overall, the general game was very plentiful.
A honey badger was seen killing a rock python in an incredible tussle.

By the start of September the flood waters were high and had attracted lots of waterbirds to the area including herons, slaty egrets and carmine bee-eaters. The heronry sites at Xobega and Gadikwe were both active. Yellow-billed kites had returned to the area for the summer months.

Lagoon

The two brown hyena cubs at their den near to camp continued to be the star attraction at Lagoon during September. This incredibly rare opportunity to see a usually shy species romping around our vehicles in broad daylight was enjoyed by all of our guests. The cubs were extremely playful and starting to show dominance behaviours, such as neck wrestling, which will help them to establish their place in the clan as they get older. Their mother was still as elusive as ever, but continued to bring the pups meals at night including a warthog carcass.

Two lionesses were seen hunting red lechwe north of the camp. They didn’t manage to make a kill that time but a few days later they brought down a wildebeest not far from the airstrip. The next morning there was a big battle between these lionesses and a clan of six spotted hyenas. In the end strength in numbers won the day and the hyenas took over the kill. Both black-backed and side-striped jackals joined in the scavenging. A different pair of lionesses managed to catch a wildebeest near to Zebra Pan and once again spotted hyenas were around to make sure that they stole whatever they could. In the same area two male lions brought down a buffalo calf; we came across them just a few minutes after the kill. One morning there was a big roaring match between the coalition of four at Zebra Pan and a different pride of three towards the airstrip, their deep vocalisations echoing in the still morning air. Towards the end of the month we found two of the lions mating whilst their companions feasted on a nearby carcass.

As the season changed to hot, dry weather, herds of elephant and buffalo congregated in the riverine areas to bathe and drink every day. Sometimes different family groups came together to form a ‘superherd’ with up to 300 elephants being seen together at one time. Guests loved seeing the elephants crossing the river right in front of the camp and playing in the water. At night the elephants herded back towards the woodland areas to browse and graze. A breeding herd of over 200 buffalo were found drinking at Watercut.

The wild dog pack had been away for about a month so we were very relieved to see them when they appeared on the 12th. Sadly though, another three of the puppies were missing which means that there were now only two survivors of this year’s litter accompanying the six adults. They stayed in our area for the remainder of the month and we were able to see them hunting

Leopards were seen a few times. One morning a leopard was found sitting on a fallen log and as if that wasn’t a good enough photo opportunity it helpfully moved to the top of a termite mound to pose further. One morning we saw a male make an ambush on a herd of tsessebe, but they saw him just in time and managed to gallop away. Another time the tom was found resting up on a tree.
The resident coalition of two male cheetah brothers were seen enjoying an impala kill near to Zebra Pan

A very relaxed herd of ten sable antelope with seven calves were enjoyed by guests as well eland and roan antelope. Other general game included plentiful giraffe mixed with zebra, wildebeest, tsessebe, warthogs, red lechwe, baboons, waterbuck, kudu and impala.

African wild cats, honey badgers, servals, genets, porcupines, bat-eared foxes, scrub hare, springhare and African civet were all seen under spotlights during night drive.

Huge flocks of carmine bee-eaters were nesting at Kwena Lagoon. The spectacle and noise was incredible as the brilliantly coloured birds swooped and chattered in their hundreds. White-fronted bee -eaters were also seen by the river bank. Other great bird sightings included martial eagles, Verreaux’s (giant) eagle owls, secretary birds, slaty egrets and white-faced owls. We saw four types of vulture during September: lappet-faced, white-backed, hooded and white-headed. Hundreds of openbill storks were seen gathered at Second Lagoon feeding on snails.

Lebala

A pack of six wild dogs with their two puppies was located near to John’s Pan where they had a big confrontation with some honey badgers. A smaller pack of two wild dogs was in the area throughout the month. One day they came right into camp as we were having morning breakfast. We followed them hunting a couple of times and once they led us to the remains of an impala which had been previously killed by the resident tom leopard.

The same leopard was seen hunting red lechwe in the marshes (he is known by the guides as ‘Fisherman’ due to his preference for this habitat). A different male was located at John’s Pan where he was feeding on a red lechwe, surrounded by vultures.

One day we found a leopard cub sitting in a branch near to Motswiri Pan. We went back in the afternoon and found her mother lying nearby. The female is known as ‘Jane‘ and has been resident in the area for many years. A few days later we saw Jane and her cubs sharing a red lechwe kill with her adult son from a previous litter. It was unusual, but very heartwarming, to see the different generations together in this way.

The Bonga Pride of nine were seen hunting right in front of camp where they brought down and killed a blue wildebeest. The hot dry weather meant that buffalo were starting to come back towards the riverine areas, so they were also targeted. We watched the lions ambush a herd at Tsessebe Island, but they didn’t manage to make a kill before the buffaloes crossed the channel. Later in the month they had better luck and we came across them feasting on a buffalo carcass that they had just killed. In the same area we saw two lionesses with six cubs take down two warthogs right in front of the vehicle. We watched them for about an hour enjoying their first meal in days. The pride tried warthogs many times during the month. One time the prey dashed into a burrow and the pride of 10 lions determinedly dug it out, but it was a lot of effort for relatively small reward. Another time, elephants came to the rescue of the warthogs and succeeded in chasing the lions away.

At the moment both the Bonga and Wapoka prides’ territories are overlapping, right over Lebala camp itself. One day the Bonga Pride stretched out and rested all day at the camp. Two days later three lionesses from the Wapoka Pride were spotted walking right in front of the main area in the early morning. We quickly jumped into vehicles to follow them as they stalked a large warthog. That afternoon we found two spotted hyenas finishing up the carcass. We were lucky enough to find two of the Wapoka lionesses with three tiny cubs. This was the first time that we had seen the new litter. A big male lion, Sebastian, has was seen mating one of the females from the Wapoka Pride.

Large herds of elephant started to move into the marsh area. They were seen mudbathing and crossing the channel along with their very young calves. Hippos and elephants were heard munching vegetation around the rooms at night.

A herd of roan antelope and calves was a special sighting, with sable antelope and eland also being seen during the month. Big herds of red lechwe splashing as they ran through the water always makes for a beautiful photo opportunity. Other general game included giraffe, kudu, tsessebe, impala, zebra, wildebeest, warthog and baboon.

There was plenty of water in the pans and channels, attracting wetland birds such as spoonbills, whistling ducks, black-winged stilts, and openbilled storks. We saw a huge flock of pink-backed pelicans flying. Carmine bee-eaters have arrived for breeding at John’s Pan and it was amazing to watch them as they were busy excavating their nests.

Nxai Pan

Huge herds of elephants made a spectacle at the camp waterhole every day, drinking and mud-bathing. Their antics continued through the night, with their noisy splashing and rumbling a constant sound track. Although elephants dominated, it was not uncommon to see a queue of up to seven mammal species at once waiting for their turn to quench their thirst. These animals commonly included giraffe, kudu, impala, springbok, zebra and wildebeest, but we were also lucky enough to find a male eland and some buffalo.

The resident pride of ten lions were seen most frequently at the wildlife waterhole. This is a favourite spot of theirs to ambush antelope as they come down to drink so we were often found watching the pride, who were watching their prey, in anticipation of some action. Our patience was rewarded and we saw them trying unsuccessfully to catch both wildebeest and kudu there on a few occasions. A pair of lionesses with three tiny cubs of about a month old were seen for the first time. We were able to enjoy a lovely sighting of them suckling their cubs.

A male cheetah was located more than once. The first time we saw him he was mobile and looked hungry, so it was good to find him on a springbok carcass a couple of days later. There were many jackals waiting for a chance to scavenge. The next day we saw the female cheetah drinking at the wildlife waterhole. This was the resident individual who the previous month had lost all three of her cubs to lions. We were pleased to find her on carcasses during the month and know that she was doing well.

A pair of spotted hyenas visited the camp waterhole for a drink more than once.

Honey badgers were seen in the middle of the pan digging for rodents and on occasion we were able to see them catch their prey. Bat eared foxes were also sighted regularly.

We managed to find a pair of ostrich accompanied by seventeen hatchlings. From birth ostrich chicks are able to accompany their parents as they graze. Some black-backed jackals were darting around hoping for the opportunity to snatch a chick, but the male ostrich defended his family vigorously.

A pair of secretary birds were seen foraging on the pan and could be seen roosting after sunset. It is a magnificent sight to see these huge birds perched in a tree. An unusual sighting was a dark chanting goshawk feeding on a cape turtle dove. An African cuckoo, which is a regional migrant, was spotted. Other notable ticks were sabota larks, marico flycatchers, Burchell’s sandgrouses and kori bustards.

Tau Pan

The Tau Pan pride were seen very regularly, often giving away their location by roaring heartily as the sun rose. The pride had split into two with the main family comprising five males, two lionesses and three cubs. They were often seen full-bellied at the camp waterhole and appeared to be in great condition. The young cubs were sometimes left on their own at the waterhole whilst the pride went hunting. A smaller group of three lionesses, mother and her two sub-adults were seen away from the rest of the main pride most of the time but they were also doing well and managed to kill an oryx. We also managed to find the Passarge Pan pride of four adults and five cubs, though this group was notably more skittish than the lions who reside nearer to our camp. Four of the Letiahau lions were also located during a day trip.
A lone bull elephant continued to stay near to the camp, drinking and mudbathing at the waterhole. One day as we were watching him enjoy his daily ablutions we suddenly spotted a lone male wild dog. He was calling as though he had lost the rest of his pack. This is a very unusual sighting for us to have at the Tau Pan waterhole.

A sub-adult female leopard was seen a couple of times on our western firebreak. One time we saw her trying to hunt but the kudu spoiled her ambush by making alarm calls. A leopard was also seen in camp itself and dragged a steenbok kill under the deck of Room 9 to eat it. The pilot staying in the room that night was alerted to its presence by the sound of crunching bones during the night…..!
The resident male cheetah was seen a couple of times near to camp. One time he seemed to have his eye on a herd of kudu, but the prey animals, including some giraffe, herded together for protection. Towards the end of the month a coalition of two male cheetahs was seen trying to hunt springbok on the pan, although they were unsuccessful on the times that we saw them they were full-bellied a day or so later.
A shy aardwolf and many families of bat-eared foxes were found at Tau Pan.

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

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

Ground squirrels were observed popping out of their burrows and searching the skies for threats from raptors. Smaller birds, such as queleas and finches flocked around looking for seeds that the ground squirrels might have left behind. Unusual behaviour from a flock of black-faced waxbills alerted our guide that there might be a predator in the vicinity and all of a sudden an African wild cat sprang out from the bushes.
Birdwatchers enjoyed colourful species such as the lilac-breasted roller, crimson-breasted shrike and black-faced waxbills. Raptors such as the tawny eagle, bateleur and gabar goshawk could be seen hunting sandgrouse at the camp waterhole in the mornings.

The sleep out deck at Tau Pan was enjoyed by many guests during September. The temperatures were extremely comfortable and the clear night skies made for incredible stargazing. Guests told us how it was to wake in the early hours and see the milky way spread above as a dazzling ribbon of light, complete with shooting stars. The deck faces east so they loved the intense orange glow on the horizon just before sunrise, accompanied by the distant roar of a lion. Africa at it’s finest.
(Note: Alnost all the 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 2018 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

As is often the case in the Kwara Reserve, the fierce intra-specific competition between predators led to some interesting sightings. One morning a sub-adult female leopard was located feeding on an impala carcass up a tree. Whilst we were watching her a pack of wild dogs appeared opposite her and then a male lion came along the same road. The lion killed one of the puppies meaning that there are only eight left with four adults. Although the guests were sad at the way the morning turned out for the dogs, it was a fascinating to witness the interaction between three of the major predators in the region.

The same sub-adult female leopard was located on a giraffe carcass. She leapt up into a nearby tree and started to eat a kill she had previously stashed there of a side-striped jackal. Two sub-adult leopards who are brother and sister were seen in the Machaba area for over two weeks. They were very relaxed around the game viewers and we were able to enjoy watching them stalking francolins.

We were blessed with separate packs of wild dogs during August, a pack of two with three puppies were often hunting impala around Splash camp and we found them on their kills. Another pack comprising four adults with eight puppies (having lost one to the lions). They also came right through the middle of Splash camp just as the guests were finishing their tea. We immediately dashed to the vehicles and were lucky enough to see the dogs make a kill east of camp. Each time we saw this pack and their puppies they seemed a little bit more relaxed around the vehicles than the previous time.

A female cheetah with two cubs was seen moving away from a troop of baboons; she was being followed by the resident male known as “Mr Special”. We left them looking well fed and resting under the Kalahari apple-leaf trees. It was a busy month for the male cheetah as he traversed huge areas from west to east and was seen actively marking his territory. Towards the end of the month he was tending to stay on the west of the Kwara Reserve, the guides thought that this was perhaps because of the increased lion activity on the eastern side. We saw the cheetahs regularly on impala kills. On one particularly rewarding morning we saw both Special and the female with two cubs on two separate kills.

The resident pride of lions near to Splash comprised two males and two females. The younger male was seen mating with a female with the others resting about seventy metres away. We found two of them scavenging on a carcass that they stole from the wild dogs. In another area two lionesses with their six cubs were having a productive time, successfully killing two kudus on two consecutive days. For the first times we saw this pride together with the two males who had fathered the cubs and it was great to see them all socialising together. On another game drive we found the pride of eight on a fresh impala kill. A few minutes later a clan of eight spotted hyena came and stole the kill from the lions. On a different day we discovered the hyenas looking well-fed and covered in blood. We back-tracked and found a giraffe carcass loaded with vultures.

Big breeding herds of elephant could be seen feeding and bathing near to Lechwe Plains.

Two honey badgers made themselves at home foraging around the camp paths on a daily basis. A relaxed serval was discovered twice in one week at Lechwe Plains.

Wildcat were also hunting around Splash Hippos.

A Slaty Egret was resident east of the airstrip at the bridge crossing. Ground hornbills were encountered at the Splash Camp walking range.

Lagoon

The sighting of the month, if not the year, at Lagoon was the discovery of a brown hyena den just five minutes from the camp. Initially the brief glances that we had of the cubs had us scratching our heads as brown hyena are not even shown on the species distribution maps for the area, so the possibility of aardwolf still seemed more likely. However once the cubs became bold enough to let us have a good look at them we were thrilled to be able to announce definitively that we had brown hyena resident in the Kwando Reserve. Our guides were very patient in terms of getting the youngsters habituated to the vehicles, and their efforts were rewarded by the cubs allowing incredibly relaxed sightings of them playing at the den site. The mother was still very shy and only seen fleetingly by the trackers. We believed that she was visiting the den between midnight and 6am, the only sign of her appearance being the carcasses that she delivered for her cubs. Her meal offerings included a goliath heron, an aged caracal carcass (previously killed by lions) and a piece of buffalo skin. One time a female spotted hyena came and started digging at the brown hyena den, but luckily she didn’t harm the cubs.

The Lagoon resident pack of wild dogs were seen regularly at the start of the month; the six adults and five puppies all seemed to be in good shape. We were able to follow them hunting near to camp and saw them having some commotion with spotted hyenas. One of their more spectacular hunts saw them chase an impala into the river where it was promptly caught and eaten by a crocodile. Not a successful day for the dogs, but an incredible safari experience for our guests. As the month progressed the puppies started to join the adults on hunts and therefore the pack became more nomadic.

The spotted hyena clan comprising more than ten adults and eight cubs moved to a new den site after one of the cubs was killed, most likely by a lion. The adult hyenas took in turns to be at the den, usually no more than six individuals at a time. As well as suckling from their mothers we were able to watch the youngsters tussling over a buffalo leg which had been brought to the den by one of the adults.

Two different coalitions of male lions were located during drives, six individuals in total. Two females, a mother and daughter, appeared to be excellent hunters and we found them feeding on zebra and wildebeest carcasses. One time we witnessed them killing a small warthog, but their meal was snatched up by hyenas. Another time we were able to follow them hunting a wildebeest and making the kill. We picked up the tracks of a lioness with three cubs on the western part of the camp; we followed up into the mopane woodland and found her feasting on a buffalo. This was the first time that we were able to see her cubs in plain view. Another time we saw her on a wildebeest kill. The Bonga pride of ten lions were back into the Lagoon side of the Kwando Reserve and we watched them following the buffalo herds.

The two cheetah brothers were only occasionally spotted but seemed to be doing well.

A shy tom leopard was located near to the airstrip and the resident young male seen at the riverside. There were also two female leopards in the area, mother and daughter but now separated. We found them hunting at saw that they were each making successful kills of impala.

Sable and roan antelope were seen feeding together as a mixed herd. Giraffe, wildebeest, red lechwe. tsessebe, impala, warthog, baboon and zebra were all present in plentiful numbers. Big herds of buffalo and elephant (up to 100 strong) were in the area, with many elephants swimming and drinking at camp. Sitatunga were seen during the boat cruise.

A lioness was seen stalking a caracal and eventually ended up killing the smaller cat. A mother porcupine was walking down the road accompanied by her baby. Honey badgers were located digging for mice, and one time they were following a honeyguide bird through the bush. A serval was found hunting in the marsh areas a couple of times. Other smaller mammals seen by guests included African wildcat and bat-eared fox.

An African scops owl was seen at the camp almost every day at the start of the month. Brightly coloured carmine bee-eaters were starting to arrive earlier than usual at the Kwena Lagoon – a nesting site which they use annually. Another summer migrant, yellow-billed kites, have also started to be spotted again. Slaty egrets, black herons and ground hornbills were found near to Watercut. There was a great sighting of a martial eagle killing a helmeted guinea fowl and taking it up a tree to eat it.
(Note: Accompanying picture is from a guest who sent us their photo of their brown hyena sighting when they stayed at our camp recently)

Lebala

At the start of the month we could hear a big commotion between lions at night. In the morning we found Sebastian, one of the resident males, with a big scar on his face and it appeared that he had fought with his brother lion, Old Gun, over the mating rights to one of the females from the Wapoka Pride. They had been together for a week and were both looking very skinny having had other things on their mind apart from food. Old Gun appeared to be the winner of the battle for dominance and was growling at his brother when we saw them the next day. We watched a sensational kill on an impala by the Wapoka Pride; one female circled around and drove the impala right into the mouths of the rest of the lionesses. The same pride also killed a wildebeest and we saw one of the young males on an elephant carcass.

The Bonga pride of nine lions were found close to camp and one time fighting with a honey badger, although the smaller creature managed to get away. One of the Bonga lionesses who has cubs of 3-4 months old was discovered feeding on a fresh warthog carcass and was also seen hunting lechwe along the marsh. At one stage this young family was joined by the two big resident males. Four new lions, three young males and a female, were located seen feeding on a buffalo. These animals haven’t been seen in our area before and were quite shy.

Our resident female leopard, Jane, reappeared back in the area after having been absent for a long while. When she left she had two cubs, but there now appears to be just one remaining. When we first saw them they were feeding on a red lechwe carcass that seemed to be a few days old. Some lionesses came and took the kill from them, but they seemed like they had a good feast before they were robbed. A few days later they were hunting in camp and managed to kill a bushbuck and drag it under some bushes to eat. A tom leopard was located very close to camp and we followed him as he was hunting along the edge of the marshes. A male leopard who is a brother to the resident Fisherman was identified as he was found finishing up a reedbuck that he had killed a couple of days previously.

One afternoon we were lucky enough to come across an elephant who had only just given birth. The calf was still covered in blood and helplessly trying to get up. The rest of the herd gathered around to help. A truly magical time was had watching a huge herd of elephants bathing and splashing in the marshes.

The resident pack of two wild dogs came through the camp a couple of times hunting bushbucks but didn’t manage to make a kill.

The two cheetah brothers were seen in the Lebala side of the Kwando Reserve, sometimes posing beautifully on termite mounds or on their marking trees. One time we were following them and they came across mating lions who chased them away. Luckily the cheetah managed to escape.

On evening drive we were lucky enough to find a pangolin; an incredibly rare species that we are doing well to find a few times already in Lebala this year. Two honey badgers were seen chasing mice near to the airstrip. Black-backed jackals were also in the area.

A large number of carmine bee-eaters started to flock into the area for breeding season and could be seen gathering at John’s Pan.

Nxai Pan

At the start of the August a female cheetah with her three cubs were seen hunting. Or at least that was the mother’s plan – the three cubs were more interested in playing than stalking, meaning that their chases were unsuccessful. A couple of days later they tried again and the female successfully brought down and killed an impala but this was not a story with a happy ending for the cheetah family. The Nxai Pan pride of lions were hunting nearby and took over the carcass, killing one of the cubs on the spot. The next day the mother appeared to still be calling for her dead cub when they bumped into the lions for a second time and once again they killed a cub. The female bolted with her sole remaining baby but sadly in a weak and hungry state she then abandoned her youngster for a couple of days. It was seen surrounded by black-backed jackal and eventually disappeared, our guides suspecting that the jackal killed it in the end. For the rest of the week the mother was mainly seen mobile, behaving as though she was still seeking her cubs. We were glad to see her looking full-bellied and more relaxed a few days later. A male cheetah was seen north of the lodge trying his luck on impala but didn’t manage to succeed.

Three lionesses with their six sub-adult cubs were seen a few times. One night they came into camp whilst we were serving dinner and started calling. Two males arrived, but seemingly not the ones that the lionesses had been expecting or wanting as a noisy fight ensued which continued throughout the night. Eventually the male lions were chased away. The pride spent a lot of time near the Wildlife Department waterhole where they laid in the shade, but always with an eye on the possibility of making an opportunistic kill of antelope coming to drink. We were able to watch them make a kill of a kudu in this way after waiting patiently for one and a half hours. A new lioness accompanied by a sub-adult male were seen on Middle Road. They were extremely skittish, hiding when vehicles approached and even charging.

A brown hyena was located near to the Wildlife Department waterhole just after sunset. Two spotted hyena were seen at the camp waterhole. Tracks from a male leopard were found in camp a couple of times, though the cat remained elusive.

As the temperatures rose the herds of elephants coming to the camp waterhole started getting larger and larger. The elephants continued to assert their dominance over this precious resource. Even a lone bull elephant refused to let the pride of nine lions come to drink. Such was the competition for water at the waterhole that many elephants came into camp looking for alternative sources. They eyed up the camp swimming pool making for some spectacular photo opportunities.

There were good herds of mixed game species such as wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala, springbok and steenbok at the Wildlife Department waterhole. Bat-eared foxes, honey badgers, scrub hares and black-baked jackals were smaller mammals observed.

In the early mornings lots of doves and guinea fowl came to the camp waterhole to drink. Black-backed jackals were usually there as well hoping to snatch breakfast from the flocks. Ostrich, secretary birds and kori bustards were regularly seen striding across the pans. Smaller birds identified included the marico flycatcher, capped wheatear, black-eared waxbills, crimson-breasted shrike and southern white-crowned shrike.

Tau Pan

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

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

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

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

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

Kwara Concession

The wild dog pack of 8 adults and 11 puppies were denning close to Little Kwara camp. We were able to witness them making successful kills and then returning to the den to regurgitate food for the alpha female. Guests really enjoyed seeing the mother nursing her pups. From the 10th of June the pack relocated to an old hyena den nearby and by that stage the puppies were also starting to eat the meat that the adult pack members were providing.
The spotted hyena den was also very active with five young cubs. Guests enjoyed watching them playing with their siblings and the adults. The cubs also seemed to take a liking to our vehicles and came close trying to chew the tyres.
A female leopard with her two cubs was located very often at her den site and the cubs appeared to be in good condition. Hyenas stole reedbuck kills from her a couple of times, but we also saw her with impala carcasses, taken up the tree for safety. Her cubs were about two months old and very playful. We had delightful sightings of them climbing trees and playing with their mother’s tail.
The resident male cheetah known as “Special” was seen throughout the month. At the start of the June we saw him by the old mokoro station trying to hunt a warthog, but in a dramatic encounter the warthog fiercely fought him and he suffered an injury. Luckily he was not hurt too badly and to everyone’s relief we saw him the following evening chasing red lechwes though he was not successful that time or the next day. By the end of the month he seemed to be back on form and we saw him eating well on impala.
Four male lions had formed a coalition, although often seen in pairs. They appeared to be in good condition. One day we saw two of them in a stand-off with one of the Zulu Boy males. They were fighting over the carcass of a baby hippo and roaring at each other. Two lioness sisters were located nursing cubs of about 3-4 months old and were seen again feasting on a tsessebe carcass. The six cubs were initially nervous, but were getting used to the vehicles and settling quickly after the engine was switched off. There was another lioness seen often at Splash drinking from the waterhole in front of camp. The guides suspected that she was lactating so perhaps had cubs nearby.
Guests enjoyed watching a very relaxed honey badger who was digging for mice. Aardwolf, porcupine, serval and African civet were all seen during night drives.
General game included plentiful giraffe, zebra, tsessebe and wildebeest. Elephants were seen in good numbers, especially towards Splash hippos. A breeding herd of forty buffalo was located.
At Splash the general game and birdlife in front of camp was excellent, with many species coming to the waterhole to drink. Lions and hyenas could frequently be heard at night calling from within camp. Elephant and buffalo were also seen nearby.
Bird species seen during the month included martial eagle, saddle-billed storks, marabou storks, secretary birds and the endangered ground hornbill. A Verreaux’s (giant) eagle owl was roosting every night in the camp island. A large flock of pelicans were seen at Splash camp. The boat cruises continued to provide lovely bird sightings including African fish eagle herons and spoonbills.

Lagoon

Wild dogs were still denning near to Lagoon camp in June giving incredible sightings of the mother nursing and the whole pack interacting, including their “greeting rituals”. The pack comprised six adults and they hunted every day to give the alpha female and her puppies sufficient food. Towards the end of the month the eleven puppies were getting quite bold and were curiously approaching our vehicles. The female who lost her puppies to the alpha female the previous month appeared to have recovered well from their fight. The dogs had good success hunting in the riverine area where they were seen feeding on a female kudu and sub-adult waterbuck.Spotted hyenas also had a den in the area with seven cubs of varying ages. Most appeared to be doing well, though towards the end of the month we noticed that one youngster was getting weaker and was being bullied by the other cubs; this is quite normal dominance behaviour within the clan. There were usually a few adults left behind to guard the den site and guests enjoyed watching the mothers tenderly nursing their young. The cubs were being very playful and one day we watched them having a tug of war over a warthog skull which the adults had brought back to the den.
Two sub-adult leopard cubs aged 10-11 months are now more independent and were seen increasingly on their own, as well as with their mother. The cubs were now at a stage where they were practicing their hunting skills on mice and birds meanwhile their mother was keeping their bellies full with impala, warthog and baboon carcasses. The young male appeared to be splitting away from his sister and mother completely and one day paid us a visit at camp, passing between Room 1 and the main area. The female leopard came into oestrus and then was seen together with a very nervous adult male.
A group of five lions were seen in Lagoon during the month consisting of three males and two females. One of the males is markedly more skittish than the others and tends to keep himself a bit more separate, especially when vehicles are around. The other two brothers were patrolling huge distances to mark their territories, sometimes splitting apart to cover different areas. One of the females came into oestrus during the month and was duly mated. As a pride, they seemed to be specialising in wildebeest as a favourite prey species, but the lionesses were also seen visiting warthog burrows in the late afternoons as the temperature cooled down.
The coalition of two cheetah brothers were seen occasionally. On one occasion they were hunting a huge male warthog, but he stood his ground and eventually chased the cats away. They were also seen hunting red lechwe.
Aardwolves were located more than once during night drives. We saw a caracal successfully hunting mice through the grasses and it eventually moved into a more open area giving everyone a good view. Other smaller mammals located included African wild cat, honey badger, African civet, genets, bat-eared fox and side-striped jackal.
General game was very good throughout the month including large herds of elephant, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, impala, kudu, red lechwe, tsessebe, eland and waterbuck. Endangered roan and sable antelopes were also enjoyed by our guests. Large buffalo herds have come back out of the mopane woodlands and were often found drinking by the river.
Notable bird sightings included saddle-billed storks, ground hornbills, secretary birds, pearl-spotted owlet, Verreaux’s eagle owl and black herons. Short-tailed and tawny eagles could be viewed following the hunting wild dogs, hoping to be able to scavenge the carcass. A large group of vultures were seen at their bathing spot.

Lebala

The Bonga Pride of lions comprising eleven adults and three cubs of about nine months were still in the area. One of the lionesses had split away from the rest of the family whilst she was nursing her two smaller cubs. We found the pride together enjoying kills of buffalo, wildebeest, warthog and zebra on numerous occasions. They spent time during the day at the various waterholes, always with an eye on the opportunity to ambush prey coming down to drink. The two big dominant males, Old Gun and Sebastian, were starting to give the two-year-old males a hard time, injuring one of the youngsters, and our guides feel sure that they will soon be driven out of the family group. Another time two of the boys were seen fighting with a honey badger. True to its reputation the honey badger put up a ferocious defence and it took almost an hour for the lions to eventually kill it but after all that effort they decided not to eat the honey badger’s remains.  The Wapoka Pride were also seen including two of the lionesses hunting warthogs near to the river.

As usual for the Lebala area, hyenas were often found near to the lion prides hoping for the chance to steal a kill. We also found a clan of twelve hyena on a kudu carcass which we suspected had died of natural causes. They were eating vigorously and didn’t take long to finish the meat off. Vultures were nearby to pick the bones clean, giving our guests a wonderful opportunity to see nature’s clean-up crews in action.

A leopard was located near to the staff village and guests were lucky enough to watch him kill a civet right as we followed him. This beautiful tom, known to the guides as The Fisherman, was seen often in the marsh area.

African wild cat was located on night drive hunting and more unusually also seen in the open during the day.

Elephants were seen crossing the river and it was fun to see them playing and bathing in the water. Herds of buffalo were also starting to come back out of the mopane woodlands and back towards the wetter areas. A lovely herd of ten sable adults with six calves were located. As the floods started to come into the Kwando Reserve we had fantastic sightings of red lechwe herds splashing through the water. Other general game species located often included giraffe, zebra and kudu.

A resident pair of two wild dogs came into the camp one morning and seemed to be in a hunting mood as they were running around the camp. Eventually they seemed to decide that luck was not on their side and they spend the day lounging by Room 9. Another time they were managed to kill a kudu calf and we were delighted to see that they had a puppy trailing along behind them. All of a sudden, a hyena appeared and managed to confiscate the carcass from the pack. The dogs were also found feeding on an impala east of our airfield.

The coalition of cheetah brothers spent time on the Lebala side of the Kwando reserve where they were seen spraying on trees to mark their territory. This lovely pair of cats can be quite playful with each other as they scamper up and down trees.

Birding was good, especially by the river where we saw saddle-billed storks, egrets and ibis. A remarkable sighting of twenty wattled cranes shows that the Kwando reserve is doing well in augmenting the Okavango Delta as a stronghold for these endangered birds. Guests also enjoyed a lovely sighting of a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl.

Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan camp was closed for refurbishment during June, but although there were no human visitors, the animals continued to make full use of our facilities. As the dry weather continued, our maintenance team saw many species flocking to our waterhole to drink including lion, buffalo, kudu, impala, giraffe, wildebeest and springbok. As always, elephants visited in large numbers, some coming into camp to browse and ostriches could be seen striding out across the pans.

Tau Pan

A couple of extremely unusual sightings happened in Tau Pan during June, the first of which involved no animals at all. On 2nd of June an asteroid collided with earth over western Botswana and our team at Tau Pan were some of the last humans to witness the huge flash it as it turned into a meteor fireball. Hearing the loud explosions our guests came running out of their rooms thinking that our generator had blown up, only to find very startled staff looking at a trail of smoke across the sky. Experts descended on the area from all over the world and partly helped by our team’s eye-witness accounts were able to retrieve fragments of the asteroid. This was only the second time in history that remains have been able to be recovered from a meteorite hitting earth.
Closer to home, another extraordinary sighting at Tau Pan was a leopard who approached our vehicle and then decided to crawl straight underneath it. Guests held their breath as the animal could be heard underneath banging against the metal. It eventually came out and then lay down to sleep right next to the game viewer in a most unconcerned way. A really incredible encounter which thrilled the guests.
Another complete surprise was the appearance of a bull elephant at Tau Pan camp who was frequently seen by the rooms and at the camp waterhole. Elephants are not common in the area and definitely not something our team expected to come across as they walked to the rooms. It goes to show you never know what will happen next in the bush!
The Tau Pan pride of lions were doing well. They were seen regularly at the camp waterhole and seen feeding on wildebeest carcasses.
An aardwolf was located in the evenings heading southwards across the pan. Honey badgers were seen much more regularly than they had been during the summer months and could be viewed digging at the pan for rodents and barking geckos most days. Bat-eared foxes and black-backed jackals were also regular sightings. Guests enjoyed watching ground squirrels digging and foraging around their burrows, always keenly checking the skies to ensure that a raptor wasn’t about to swoop down on them.
The resident cheetah was seen towards the west of Tau Pan and another cheetah mother with two cubs was seen on day trip to Deception Valley.
General game included oryx, red lechwe, wildebeest, steenbok, springbok and large numbers of giraffe.
Every morning huge flocks of birds were descending on the camp waterhole. At around eight o clock it was hundreds of doves and then by nine o clock it was the turn of Burchell’s sandgrouse. Ostriches were seen often during game drive as well as white-backed vultures and white-headed vultures.
The weather in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve during June was exceptionally clear and cold, making for very beautiful star-gazing conditions in the wide open skies.(Note: Accompanying 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 – May 2018 Sightings Report

Puppies: Wild Dog Update

It’s that time of the year again!

We are thrilled to provide an update on the wild dog dens in our reserves.

In the Kwara Reserve, the alpha female has given birth. The puppies are still inside the den at present moment. Guests at Kwara and Little Kwara have enjoyed wonderful sightings of the pack in and around the camp.

In the Kwando Reserve, the pack is denning at Lagoon and there were two females who were pregnant – an uncommon occurrence – and denning just 15 metres away from each other. Previously reported to be rather skittish with an active hyena den in the vicinity, as well as a lot of lion activity nearby two weeks ago due to an elephant carcass, the guides are happy to report the pack is now relaxed. One of the females had given birth some weeks ago, and 4 puppies were seen for the first time this morning. There are likely more puppies inside the den.

At Lebala, a small pack of two have been spotted and the female is believed to be pregnant (though unconfirmed).

Please remember that wild dogs are endangered and although they are predators, they are susceptible to attack by other larger predators such as lions, leopards and hyenas. Frequent visits to the denning site open up the bush area around the den which makes the den, and the puppies, vulnerable to being found and eliminated by their competitors. Kwando Safaris’ key concern is for the survival of these beautiful animals and as such we restrict the number of vehicles we have at the den (our guides are briefed on correct protocol). However we do realise these are highly-sought-after sightings and we always seek to balance the satisfaction of our guests aongside our conservation policies.

Sightings – April 2018 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

We were excited to see that the alpha female of the wild dog pack of eight was heavily pregnant and that she was busy digging around termite mounds as though looking for a den site. Her chosen location appeared to be very close to Little Kwara’s staff village, so the dogs were seen hunting impala in and around the camp island very regularly. Right at the start of April they came into conflict with a smaller pack of three dogs and a big fight ensued. Luckily none of the dogs suffered fatal injuries, although one of the dogs from the pack of eight lost half a tail. After this, the pack of three moved further to the west of the concession, but the larger pack stayed close to the camps and we stayed hopeful that they would den nearby. Watch this space….

Spotted hyenas had already started denning and in April we were able have lovely sightings of the mothers suckling their cubs. The two cubs were believed to be a couple of months old and were starting to be playful.

A resident female leopard was also believed to be pregnant; this individual was relaxed and in great condition. She was seen stalking reedbuck through the marshes and on another remarkable occasion was seen killing a civet right in front of the vehicle. Towards the end of the month, after not seeing her for a couple of weeks, we picked up her tracks and found her walking along the side of the runway. We were delighted to see that she was lactating, so hopefully we will have some new leopard cub sightings soon. There was a different female on the east of the concession, towards Splash and we were able to watch her hunting a few times. A handsome male leopard killed a female impala and dragged it up a sausage tree where he stayed for at least three days. Very conveniently, this was on the road between the camp and the airstrip, creating some special first and last impressions for guests. The kill attracted hyenas who waited at the bottom of the tree, hoping that some juicy morsels might fall to the ground.

At the start of the month guests were lucky enough to see the resident male cheetah, known as “Special” mating with a female. They stayed together for three days. This individual regularly clambers up onto a large rain tree as part of his territorial marking and it is always a remarkable sight to see this tree-climbing behaviour. We also saw him hunting both zebra and impala. A mother cheetah with two cubs was seen regularly, but the guides were worried for them as she didn’t seem to be having much success with her hunts and the cubs looked hungry.

As always, there was plenty of lion action at Kwara. The Mma Mogotla Pride killed a zebra in broad daylight. Our guides noted that the sub-adult males were growing their manes and fighting with their sisters to get first share of the kill. On the eastern side of the concession near Splash there was a pride of two males and two females in great condition. They were found on a zebra kill and the males were roaring the whole night.

Big breeding herds of elephant were seen and guests enjoyed watching them feeding and bathing. Giraffe were plentiful and mothers could be observed suckling their calves. Impala started their rutting season with the males vocally advertising their territories and vigorously defending their harems of females.

The sunset boat cruise produced beautiful sightings of malachite and pied kingfishers, different bee-eaters species, crocodiles, hippos and water monitors.

Right at the end of the month we had a lucky sighting of a female aardwolf.

Lagoon

A pack of six wild dogs were seen in the area and the guides were excited to note that two of the females were pregnant. This is heard of from time to time, but quite unusual as generally it is just the alpha female who gives birth to pups. We tracked the pack until we discovered them them feeding on a young kudu by the airstrip at the middle of the month and they were seen very regularly thereafter. We saw them hunting impala, warthogs and kudu and witnessed them making kills more than once.

We found a highly active spotted hyena den towards the end of the month. During April we saw six adults and two cubs, but from the tracks we suspected that there were more who were still in the den. We had a lovely sighting of a cub being suckled by its mother before the two started playing a great came of chase around the den site. Eventually the female lifted the pup in her powerful jaws and took it back down inside the burrow.

The resident female leopard and her two sub-adult cubs were seen often, sometimes just 100 metres from camp. The cubs were getting more independent and we encountered them singly as well as with their mother. We enjoyed some fun sightings of them playing together on their own. One time the young female made a brave, or perhaps silly, chase of a hippo that she saw outside the water. Luckily for her the hippo ran into the waterhole rather than attack her. A different female leopard with cubs of 3-4 months old was seen in the Cheetah Valley where she had made a kill.

We were pleased to see the coalition of cheetah brothers in the area and saw them every day in the middle of the month. At one stage we tracked them to discover that they were feeding on a female ostrich, a dangerous and difficult prey for a cheetah as ostriches kick forward viciously to defend themselves and their long claws can do a great deal of damage. When we observed them the following day we noticed that one of them had a fresh scar under his belly, possibly from the ostrich encounter, but it didn’t seem to deter them as a few days later we found them feeding on yet another female ostrich.

Four male lions who recently moved into the area were seen at the start of the month, though their movement was not predictable as they were covering large distances marking their territory. At one point two of them feasted on a buffalo kill for a couple of days. A different pair of male lions was also seen near to the airstrip. One of the two had fresh scars and the guides wondered if they had come into contact with the larger coalition. This pair linked up with two lionesses, one of whom appeared to be pregnant. These lionesses were seen stalking and hunting zebra without success but they did manage to bring down a warthog whilst we were watching. Unfortunately for them, the clan of hyenas heard the commotion of the warthog squealing and came to steal it from the lionesses. After staying towards Lebala for several months now, the Bonga Pride were occasionally seen at Halfway Pan, getting closer towards their old territory again.

There were plenty of elephants in the area; one day we heard a loud commotion and were lucky enough to see two of them mating. There are some lovely relaxed herds of sable and roan antelope in the area, including calves. Other general game sightings included hippo, giraffe, eland, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, impala, warthog, ostrich and giraffe. We had wonderful sightings of the smaller carnivores including African wildcat, bat-eared foxes, small spotted genets, large spotted genet and jackals.

An African harrier-hawk was observed feeding on the chicks of a Burchell’s startling, having discovered its nest in the hole of a tree. A family of four ground hornbills was seen hunting for frogs at the pans. Raptors seen during the month included martial eagle, tawny eagle, brown snake eagle, African hawk-eagles, secretary birds and bateleur eagles. In an unusual sighting more than ten black herons were seen at one waterhole. We also located a pair of Verreaux’s (giant) eagle owls regularly. Large numbers of vultures were seen on a carcass of a young wildebeest.

Lebala

The Bonga Pride of thirteen adults and three young were seen extremely regularly throughout the month. These lions are beautifully relaxed around our vehicles meaning that we can spend great quality time with them. Although this is a large pride, it is mainly made up of sub-adults and their inexperience with hunting can make it a challenge for the lions to catch enough food to feed the fast-growing youngsters. Luckily, one of the older more experienced females is an expert hunter and she seemed to be specialising in targeting giraffes so the family were seen feasting on these large carcasses more than once. We also found them feeding on other prey species including zebra, kudu, warthog, wildebeest and hippo. One time the pride chased a male wildebeest which ran into a waterhole to escape them. They surrounded the pan and spent the whole day waiting for him to come back out straight into their teeth and claws. It seemed as though our resident prides were starting to move back towards their more usual territories with the Bonga Pride moving towards Halfway Pan and the Wapoka Pride coming back to the concession from the south. The two territories were starting to overlap and towards the end of the month, the two males from the Bonga Pride were seen chasing away one of the females from the Wapoka Pride.

A female leopard with two very young cubs was discovered and seen more than once. At the end of the month they had an impala kill beneath a Feverberry Tree, but a hyena came and took the carcass from them. The following day, the mother was not around and there was only one cub waiting for her up on the tree, so we will have to wait and see if the second cub reappears. We saw a leopard hunting lechwe through the marshes, but unfortunately, he was unlucky. A sub-adult was seen trying his luck with impala a couple of times, but he didn’t succeed. In any event, he was being closely tailed by two hyenas who would have stood a good chance of overpowering him to steal the kill.

A pair of two wild dogs were back in the area and returned in style, chasing down and disembowelling an impala right in front of the safari vehicle. After eating their fill, they moved off to a nearby waterhole to drink.

There was an active hyena den near to Skimmer Pan and we were able to see two cubs. The hyenas were seen following lions as well as leopard, though they were keeping a respectful distance from the formidable Bonga Pride.

Guests were pleased with sightings of sable and roan antelope, as well as eland. There were large herds of zebra and wildebeest in the area as well as red lechwe who were enjoying the flooded pans. Other plains game species seen included giraffe, warthogs, impala and kudu.

The tall grasses made it a little harder than usual to see some of the smaller mammals, but we managed to spot species such as dwarf mongoose and yellow mongoose. Both back-backed and side-striped jackals were commonly seen. There was an interesting sighting of an olive grass snake eating a lizard.

Some of the migratory birds were starting to depart for warmer climes, but we still had plenty of ticks for keen birders including wattled cranes, kori bustard, tawny eagles, bateleur eagles. There were large flocks of wading birds such as yellow-billed storks and spoonbills. Black-winged pratincoles were seen in significant numbers.

Nxai Pan

The Nxai Pan pride were seen extremely regularly during April and were looking in great condition, which is to be expected at this time of year as they have just enjoyed the benefit of the annual zebra migration. There were still plenty of zebra herds in the area and the lions were seen stalking them. Usually we saw them as a pride of 9, three lionesses together with their six very playful cubs. Occasionally they were joined by a male – especially when there was food to be eaten. The pride of ten were seen feasting on a wildebeest carcass for a couple of days. Another time they were all together on a giraffe kill. Despite the size of the carcass, the male refused to let the rest of the lions eat. When the lionesses were without food, the male lion tended to be seen on his own.

A mother cheetah with her two sub-adult cubs was seen hunting right in front of camp however the herd of zebras that she was targeting stood together to chase the cats off. We observed that the female cheetah seems to be teaching the two youngsters to be more independent and they were sometimes seen on their own, but still calling for their mother. A male cheetah was seen hunting between the Department of Wildlife camp and the main waterhole. A different female was seen resting along the main waterhole road before heading east into the woodlands. This is a particularly relaxed individual and we saw her more than once during the month.

Some elephant bulls were still in residence, although less in number whilst the natural waterholes elsewhere were still full. Giraffe were seen feeding on the acacia trees. Plains game species included springbok and oryx who seemed to enjoy feeding under the trees. In an adorable sighting two steenbok were seen playing with their young lamb. Most unusually a bushbuck was spotted outside the camp gate; this is unusual as this species tend to be found in more riverine areas.

Some interesting smaller animals were seen on the way to Baines Baobabs including bat-eared foxes, jackals, steenbok and slender mongoose. The pan by the historic trees still shimmered with water and although it was starting to dry up there were still aquatic birds such as African spoonbill, red-billed teal, glossy ibis and back-winged stilt. The baobabs themselves were still adorned with a crown of green leaves.

At Nxai Pan other bird species identified included northern black korhaan, ostrich, kori bustard and pale chanting goshawks.

Tau Pan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sightings – February 2018 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

There was a new female cheetah in the area who had two cubs in great condition. We located her for the first time as she was hunting close to Honeymoon Pan and we were able to see her successfully kill an impala. Two days later we found her again and once more she brought down an impala in front of the vehicle. She appeared to be a very skilful hunter.  The two cheetah males in the area seemed to be doing well and managing to actively avoid all the lions. One of them seemed a very active hunter who was specialising on warthogs, though on one occasion we watched him being driven off ferociously by a sow protecting her piglets. Another time, we had a wonderful sighting where he was rolling over and over on the same area of a termite mound.

The number of lions in the Kwara concession appeared to be growing and two big new males were actively patrolling and marking the eastern area from Splash, all the way to the Kwara airstrip. The two brothers have formed a coalition and were very vocal when separated from each other – to the delight of our guests who were thrilled with the spine-tingling experience of having lions roaring very close to the game drive vehicle. The new males were seen mating with two lionesses so hopefully they will be successful in holding onto their territory for the arrival of the cubs.

A pride of three lionesses in the 4 Rivers area with their five cubs was doing well. We followed them hunting and watched them kill a warthog, on another occasion they came close to pulling down a wildebeest in front of the vehicle, but just missed. One time we were watching them interacting and grooming each other, with one of the Zulu Boys a short distance away keeping an eye on his females. Whilst we were still watching the lions, we saw some impalas springing out of the bush pursued by a pack of 8 wild dogs. We quickly drove around to follow them and saw that they had managed to kill one of the impala and were busy feeding. Very soon afterwards jackals, hyenas and vultures arrived seeking their opportunity to scavenge. There’s never a dull moment at Kwara!

The pack of 8 wild dogs were seen hunting often, although sometimes the long grasses seemed to be impeding their ability to pursue their prey. Nevertheless, we found them on successful kills including a young kudu and a common reedbuck.

There was a new female cheetah in the area who had two cubs in great condition. We located her for the first time as she was hunting close to Honeymoon Pan and we were able to see her successfully kill an impala. Two days later we found her again and once more she brought down an impala in front of the vehicle. She appeared to be a very skilful hunter.  The two cheetah males in the area seemed to be doing well and managing to actively avoid all the lions. One of them seemed a very active hunter who was specialising on warthogs, though on one occasion we watched him being driven off ferociously by a sow protecting her piglets. Another time, we had a wonderful sighting where he was rolling over and over on the same area of a termite mound.

The female leopard who lost her cub earlier this year was still in the area. One day she was spotted moving through long grass, almost invisibly due to her camouflage, but then obligingly climbed up a tree where guests were able to get some great photos. On the western side of the concession there was a new female leopard. At one stage she had killed an impala and could be seen feeding on the carcass up a tree for three consecutive days. There was also a new male leopard who was beautifully relaxed. One day jackal alarm calls alerted us to the presence of a large predator and we discovered the tom holding a male impala’s neck in the act of suffocating it. Another time, we found him on the kill of a waterbuck calf.

The cooler, rainy weather during February was favoured by the hyenas who were active patrolling during the day. A giraffe carcass in the north east of the concession which appeared to have been killed by the two new male lions was a particularly favoured meal. This large carcass also attracted side-striped and back-backed jackals.

Large herds of elephants were still in the area and guests enjoyed watching them browse and mud-bathe. As the water levels dropped at the start of the month, the hippos changed their feeding habits and were noticeably more aggressive in protecting their territory. No doubt they welcomed the heavy deluges of rain that finally appeared as the month progressed.

Three species of vultures were regularly seen – lappet-faced, hooded and white-backed – true wilderness areas such as the Kwara concession are becoming increasingly vital for the safe future of these endangered birds. The heronry was still active and a highlight for guests during the boat cruises.

Lagoon

A new pride of four male lions have continued to do well in the area and were located in different parts of the concession as they explored their new territory. Sometimes they were seen patrolling alone, each taking a different route to cover the maximum ground, before meeting again. Some of the guests were very lucky to see them roaring, which is also part of marking their presence in the area to other lions. A female was also located with one of the male lions the guides suspected that they might be mating. The male lions were also seen stalking zebras but unfortunately not being successful. The Bonga pride were located resting on a termite mound.

The resident female leopard appeared to be doing well raising her two cubs, it takes a very experienced leopard to raise two cubs in an area where there are so many hyenas and lions. She was seen hunting and her biggest target seemed to be baboons; she was spending most of her time around the area where the baboons spend their night. The two cubs were seen playing around chasing each other around the trees. This female leopard was also seen stalking impalas but not being successful. She was also spotted resting on top of the sausage trees during the day, making for great photo opportunities.

A pack of six wild dogs were still in the area and seen often. One afternoon the guides followed them as they were hunting and guests were lucky enough to see them bring down and devour an impala. Another time the wild dogs were found feeding on a warthog carcass. The pack was also seen stalking impala on different occasions.

The two male cheetahs were located in the area during the month of February, the two male cheetahs spend most of their time in the area between our two camps Lebala and Lagoon. The male two brothers were seen patrolling their area to make sure there were no intruders. A serval cat was located one of the afternoons and the lucky guests managed to take good daytime pictures of this species who is more usually seen at dawn or dusk. Six bat eared foxes were seen busy hunting feeding on insects and going into the holes looking for beetles and other insects.

Spotted hyenas were seen in different location feeding on the left-overs from other predators; hyenas could not keep up with the wild dogs to try steal their carcass.

General game was great and we saw good number of zebras, wildebeest, impalas and breeding elephants. A massive herd of over 150 eland were seen often and made an impressive sight; this is the largest of the antelope species and to see them in such numbers is a wonderful sighting. A herd of roan antelope were also located more than once.

There were some good rains end of February and the vegetation was nice and green. The river channel in front of the lodge filled nicely and grunting hippos were always wallowing in front of the rooms.

Bird life was also good as we still have birds coming for breeding including carmine bee-eaters and African skimmers. The African fish eagle was always regularly seen, and a real favourite with guests.

Lebala

February was a great month for spotting some of the more elusive animals. One evening as a game drive was returning to camp and we thought that all the action was over, the sharp-eyed tracker suddenly asked the guide to stop and reverse, whereby he proudly pointed out a pangolin – a highly prized sighting. An aardwolf was also spotted on a night drive as the guides were game driving back to the camp; the aardwolf was very relaxed and going into the termite mounds looking for food. An African wildcat was also seen.

During February the Wapoka pride split into three separate groups, but the majority of the lions were still in the Lebala area. The guides frequently located one female with three cubs and two male lions, as well as a different group of six males with one female. The rest of the pride were not located during the month of February. One of the main reasons why big prides split is if they do not get well fed, or possibly the six sub-adult males were now old enough for the dominant male to eject them from the family group. All two different prides located were being very successful with their hunting, the mother with three cubs and two males was spotted one of the morning feeding on kudu. The same pride was also seen feeding on a zebra carcass, making for some great photographs for our guests. The six boys were found feeding on a giraffe carcass, and they were also seen stalking wildebeest.

A pack of sixteen wild dogs were seen regularly and appeared to be doing well in the area as they were seen hunting and feeding on impala on more than one occasion.

Resident female leopard Jane and her two cubs were back in the area which was very good news as she has been not around for some time. Having been located, she immediately thrilled the guests by chasing and killing a warthog. She took that up a tree where she stayed for a day feeding along with her two cubs. Guests were able to get some fantastic photos. A male leopard was also located feeding on an impala carcass one of the afternoon.

Two male cheetahs were located resting as they were on a mission of patrolling the area, it was getting dark so the guides did not spend much time with them.

The hyenas moved from their den after the lions spent most of their time nearby and posing a great threat to the hyena cubs. The clan were spotted feeding on left over carcasses, and there was one hyena who regularly came through the camp at night.

General game was good and there were large numbers of wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, kudu and breeding herds of elephant. Honey badgers were also located in the area busy looking for something to eat. Hippos could be seen enjoying the natural pans which had filled with water after the rains.

Bird life was abundant due to the summer migrants. Species seen included a breeding pair of endangered wattled cranes, carmine bee-eaters and African skimmers.

Nxai Pan

After an exceptionally dry January which appeared to stop the usual zebra and wildebeest migration, we were hoping for late rains to arrive in February and we were not in the least disappointed. The gathering afternoon thunderclouds made for memorable sundowner stops with the different shaped clouds and colours giving some incredible photo opportunities.

Right from the start of the month we experienced very regular rainfall at Nxai Pan and as the wet weather continued the game started to return in large numbers. Every day, the herds of zebra, wildebeest and giraffe increased, congregating at the natural watering holes which had filled up at last.

With the return of the prey species, came the predators. The dominant male lions had not been seen for a while, they had probably followed the herds as they moved away, so we were delighted to find them back in Nxai Pan on 5th February, full bellied and resting after enjoying a good meal. They announced their return with plenty of calling that night and the following day were found reunited with the rest of the Nxai Pan pride comprising three females and six cubs. The young lions are at a very playful stage, engaging in games of chase and pulling each other down, all good practice in terms of learning essential hunting skills, but making for some charming photographs as well. The lions were making the most of the zebra herds and were seen feasting on kills.

Also back in the area after having been away for a little while was the resident male cheetah. He was looking in great condition. He is a very mobile individual, covering the whole area from the west to the east of the pan. A female cheetah with two sub-adult cubs were seen at the wildlife waterhole, surrounded by some very nervous zebras who were alarm calling.

Two wild dogs, an alpha male and alpha female were seen in front of the camp more than once, but were chased away by a breeding herd of elephants from the waterhole. They were also seen hunting springboks in the pan area.

A family of four bat eared foxes were seen regularly along the Middle Road of Nxai Pan. They could be seen looking for food such as grasshoppers and other insects amongst the grasses. Black-backed jackal were often seen near to the larger predators, hoping for the opportunity to scavenge from their carcasses.

Elephants were still in the area, but not in the huge numbers that we see at Nxai Pan during the dry season. Now that the natural pans had filled, they were using the opportunity to browse vegetation further away from the permanent water sources that they rely on at other times of the year.

Cooler weather provided good birding conditions and we had some exciting summer visitors to admire. Two Denham’s bustards were located during the month. This was an exciting sighting of an uncommon seasonal migrant to the area which has been classified as ‘near threatened’. Big flocks of black-winged pratincoles could be found near to the natural pans and the two permanent waterholes. Lots of vultures were in the area, waiting for the predators to make inroads in to the migrating herds.

Tau Pan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Note: Accompanying 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 – January 2018 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

Many different prides of lion were seen on Kwara during January. A group of eight were seen feeding on a zebra foal. A smaller pride was also seen eating zebra. At the end of the month two lions took down and killed a large male warthog, right in front of the vehicle. A male and female lion were mating at Pelican Pan for several days and towards the end of the month the guides noticed that another two lionesses had moved away from their pride and suspected that one of them had cubs in the area.

The New Year started with a sighting of a female cheetah desperately calling for her sub-adult daughter. Our worst suspicions were confirmed when the next day we found the younger cheetah’s carcass. Judging by the bite marks on the animal’s neck, we suspect that she was killed by lions. Whilst sad to lose much a magnificent animal, inter-species competition is an important part of the natural world. Despite this incident the adult female was still spending a good deal of time in the same area, but regularly lost her kills to lions. Near Splash camp we found another female cheetah with her cub, feeding on an impala lamb and they were also seen chasing common reedbuck. The resident male cheetah is doing well and usually seen full-bellied. We watched him chase and bring down a common reedbuck, with tremendous views of him accelerating across the open floodplain. He was also seen with a female testing to see whether she was in oestrus.

One morning leopard tracks were found in camp and after following the prints for two hours we heard the alarm calls of a common reedbuck. Rounding the corner, we found a female leopard playing with a newly-born reedbuck lamb whilst its mother looked on helplessly. We then followed the leopard into the marshes. After the female leopard lost her cub in December, she changed her movement pattern and was spending more time in the mopane woodlands where she was seen doing some territorial marking. One time we saw her stalking a herd of tsessebe and seemed to be focused on their calves, but a troop of baboons spotted her and raised the alarm, sending the antelopes bolting. A male and female leopard were seen together on a tree and as we watched they climbed down to mate.

The wild dog pack of 7 has lost one of the two pups from the litter of 2017 – there is now only one pup left from the original nine. Towards the end of the month they were seen hunting and chasing impalas through Kwara camp. The pack of six is doing well and even the limping male is back on his feet. Guests enjoyed seeing them engage in playful interactions and successfully taking down and devouring an impala.

The spotted hyena clan started to take their cubs out and about on their hunting missions.

A very relaxed mother serval with her young kitten were seen more than once and we were even lucky enough to find them feeding on a fresh kill. We were also lucky enough to get great sightings of honey badgers.

The weather during the first half of January was unusually dry for the time of year and as a result large breeding herds of elephants were seen regularly in the afternoons as they made their way towards the main channels of Moremi Game Reserve to drink, feed and dust-bathe. Guests enjoyed watching teenagers playfighting and swimming.

The general game was very good with plentiful herds of zebra, tsessebe, wildebeest, impala, lechwe, reedbuck and giraffe. In addition to the more usual species we were fortunate enough to see sitatunga and bushbuck, the latter not as commonly seen in the Okavango Delta as in wooded areas.

The water levels were receding towards the end of the month and so many water birds could be seen feeding on the fish trapped in drying waterholes. In a most unusual sighting, a flap-necked chameleon was seen swimming across a channel.

Lagoon

At the start of the month the guides were thrilled to find an aardwolf den with three cubs in residence. This very rare sighting was a delight for our guests. Bat-eared foxes also had den sites in the area and were seen on almost every drive as well as both black-backed and side-striped jackals.

Four male lions who were new to the area were initially a bit shy towards our game viewers, but the guides’ patience was rewarded and the lions seemed to get more relaxed as the month progressed. Their presence seems to be influencing the Bonga Pride of 10 who are spending more time in the south of the area whilst the intruders occupy their usual territory. The Bonga pride were seen feeding on a baby giraffe; as they later walking up to the watering hole for a drink some spotted hyenas lying in wait, but keeping their distance at the lion’s kill. The Bonga pride were also seen hunting zebras and a male warthog, but without success. A young male lion who was pushed out of the pride was sometimes seen with his sister and together they managed to catch a warthog piglet. Another time the make was located feeding on old wildebeest carcass.

The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers were in the concession and found feeding on an impala.

A female leopard with two cubs had been missing from the area for a while, so our guides were pleased to find her back in the concession and feeding well on two kills at the same time – a zebra foal and warthog piglet. A male leopard was located a couple of times as he patrolled his territory, though he was still quite shy.

Hyena sightings were more common than usual during January and were often seen morning and afternoon as they frequented carcasses along the woodlands and floodplains. A hippo carcass in the marshes at Watercut attracted scavengers including hyenas and many vultures. Another single hyena was seen feeding on an old elephant carcass that was been soaked by the previous day’s rain.

The general game was excellent with a phenomenal influx of zebra and giraffe throughout the area. Large herds of eland moved in from the north west of the concession, grazing in a mixed herd with the zebra. Wildebeest were also spotted in large numbers and we also had wonderful sightings of shy roan and sable antelope herds. All of the plains game including impala, tsessebe and warthogs have babies, making for delightful photographs. As the unusually dry weather continued during January, elephants started to return back towards the river area from the mopane woodlands where they would usually be found at this time of year.

The resident pack of wild dogs has reduced in number over time from 12 individuals to just 6 at the moment, although the remaining dogs were looking well-fed and healthy. They were often hunting at the airstrip area, one time flushing out a group of three leopards, a mother with her one-year-old cubs. We saw them making other kills including an impala and warthog piglet.

In terms of smaller mammals, we saw included slender, yellow and dwarf mongoose. Wild cats were seen from time to time.

There were plentiful ostrich and many had chicks following them as they grazed – up to 12 at a time trotting along behind their parents. One time, hundreds of vultures were seen by the river having a bath. Four species of vulture were still being seen in the area; white-backed, hooded, lappet-faced and white-headed, some of them had nest sites. Secretary birds and ground hornbills were also breeding in the area and wattled cranes were seen with nestlings were found at the inland waterholes. Following the first heavy rains insectivores such as bee-eaters were attracted to the alates, sometimes known as flying ants, that took to the wing in huge numbers. Raptors identified included tawny eagles, bataleurs, wahlberg’s eagles and lesser-spotted eagles.

Lebala

One morning, a reedbuck made its alarm call while the guests were having early morning breakfast, so the guides went to check and found a resident male leopard in the bushes. The guides went back to the main area and told the guests, who quickly jumped in the vehicles and drove around to the rooms. When they got there, to their amazement, they found that the leopard had killed a bushbuck in front of room seven. There was no sign of the main resident female, known as Jane, in the area and the guides thought that she moved to a new location to raise her two baby cubs. However, a different female leopard (one of Jane’s daughters from a previous year) was seen stalking impalas though not successfully. She was also observed seen resting on top of the trees on several occasions. The resident male leopard was also seen stalking game and posing beautifully for photographs on branches.

The Wapoka resident pride of lions were kept on top of their game during the month of January, as there was another pride of lions in the area known as the Bonga pride, who were moving down from the north of the concession. This affected the behaviour of the Wapoka Pride who spent most of their time in the southern woodland to avoid coming face to face with the Bonga Pride. Having lost two of their cubs this year already, the Wapoka Pride were being very cautious and they know that if the two prides were to meet then there would likely be a big fight over the territory.

A male and female from Wapoka pride were found mating which was regarded as one of the special sightings of the month, some of the guests were lucky to see the courting couple in action. It was a very busy month because of the two prides of lions in the area stalking the herds of zebra and wildebeest. These antelope were still dropping their young. The Wapoka pride was found feeding on a kudu carcass in the woodland after the guide and tracker tracked them for more than an hour.

The pack of ten wild dogs was been located in the area both hunting and on kills. They were targeting different species, but mostly impalas. It was still a good time for the dogs when it came to hunting as there were so many young antelopes, however the size of the pack means that they need to kill frequently in order for all the dogs to have sufficient food.

Two male cheetahs were spotted hunting by the airstrip; we did not see the two cheetahs for some weeks and it was nice to see them again. The guides and trackers followed them for some time and the cheetahs started stalking some wildebeest but without luck.

The hyena den was still active and some of the guests were able to watch the cubs playing. Hyenas were also found feeding on leftover carcasses from the other predators. The clan was often seen waiting for the lions to finish feeding so that they could scavenge.

An African wild cat was spotted one afternoon walking around the termite mounds looking for mice and small rodents. An African civet was also seen during one evening game drive just after the sundowner drink.

General game was very good at Lebala during January which is one of the reasons why we had more predators in the area. There were a good number of wildebeest, impalas and breeding herds of elephants. Bird life was also excellent as we still had carmine bee – eaters in the area, African skimmers, wattled cranes and flocks of beautiful red bishops.

Nxai Pan

After some good early rains in November and December, January was much drier than expected and as the natural watering holes dried up, the game started to concentrate once again on the two man-made watering holes. The camp watering hole was extremely productive with lots of elephants and mixed herds of giraffe, zebra, impala, buffalo and wildebeest, many accompanied by their new offspring. Jackals were often seen active in front of the camp. At the wildlife watering hole, the mix of game was a little different including kudu, springboks and oryx.

The unexpected dry spell in January seemed to confuse the zebra, wildebeest and giraffe herds who usually congregate in their thousands at this time of the year. The animals had started to arrive, but as the heat continued we saw their numbers decline again. Eventually towards the end of January the rains started in earnest, so it will be interesting to see what the herds decide to do next. There have been occasions in the past when the migration has returned for a second time in similar circumstances.

Three lionesses with six cubs were located trying to hunt some zebras, but as the area was so open they were not able to stalk close enough to launch a successful ambush. A couple of days later they obviously had more luck and were seen feasting on a zebra kill, surrounded by vultures and about twenty black-backed jackals. One time these cubs provided delightful photo opportunities by climbing some trees, to make the experience even better their three mothers started roaring.

One afternoon the guides spotted a single lioness who was previously known to us as part of the “Seven Sisters” walking from the middle of the pan to some bushes when all of a sudden two tiny lion cubs came out of the undergrowth to greet her. We were delighted to find this unexpected little family in Nxai Pan. The new additions brought the total number in the Nxai Pan pride to twenty, although they were most often seen in smaller sub-groups.

The resident male cheetah was seen looking in very good condition. Meanwhile the female cheetah with her two sub-adult offspring was venturing further afield and even seen towards Baines Baobabs.

At the start of January we started to see migratory birds in the area such as Abdim’s storks, steppe buzzards and blue-cheeked bee-eaters. Once the rains recommenced towards the end of the month we started to see new birds in the area that we would usually associate more with wetter areas such as African jacanas, black-winged practincoles and spurwing geese.

The increase in herbs and flowers in the area made for some interesting explanations during the bushman cultural walks. Along the road to Baines Baobabs there were lots of berries for the trackers to talk about in terms of their value to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the San tribe. In this area, the guides and trackers were also able to show guests some of the smaller points of interest such as dung beetles rolling their balls, and aardvark tracks. The famous baobab trees themselves were looking beautiful with seed pods and leaves.

Tau Pan

The Tau Pan pride was seen regularly as they spent a lot of time moving between the camp watering hole and their nearby den. The five impressive males were often baby-sitting the youngsters – presumably whilst the lionesses were out looking for food. Two of the lionesses often joined the pride, but halfway through the month the third lioness went missing and the guides though that perhaps she had gone to give birth. Different prides were seen at Passarge Valley and Deception Valley during full day trips.

A brown hyena was visiting the camp watering hole from time to time, usually at dawn or dusk. It was a really special treat to see this usually nocturnal animal in good natural light.

The resident female cheetah was seen hunting springbok at Tau Pan, but the antelopes’ strategy of staying in the middle of the wide-open pan helped them to spot the cat in enough time to thwart her attempts. A male cheetah was having good success in Tau Pan and was seen feasting on a wildebeest calf. A family of three cheetahs were located at Letitia Hau.

General game at Tau Pan included springbok, oryx, kudu and wildebeest. This particular herd of wildebeest are always resident in the area, although they move quite considerable distances within the vicinity to find the best grazing, according to where the most rain has fallen. We saw a big herd of 30 oryx, including 10 calves feeding alongside two male red hartebeest at Makgoa Pan. Guests enjoyed seeing large journeys of giraffes with their young calves browsing on the acacia trees and drinking from the camp watering hole.

Bat-eared foxes, honey badgers and black-backed jackals were all smaller mammals seen frequently around the edges of Tau Pan.

As the dry weather continued, massive flocks of red-billed queleas in their thousands came to drink at the watering hole, their combined weight breaking branches of the nearby trees.

The bushes in the area seemed to be made of feathers rather than leaves as the little birds huddled together. Raptors including lanner falcons, steppe buzzards, yellow-billed kites, Gabar goshawks and pale chanting-goshawk swooped in and out of the flocks of quelea, snatching their prey. Guests enjoyed seeing secretary birds and kori bustards stride out across the open grasslands as they searched for food.

(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 – December 2017 Sightings Report

Kwara Concession

Guests at Kwara enjoyed some remarkable leopard sightings during December, the most notable of which was when two males were fighting over the right to mate with a female. We were able to watch the amazing interaction between these three cats for over an hour. This same female was often seen with her young cub and guests enjoyed scenes of them nursing and playing together. However, towards the end of the month the female leopard was seen plaintively calling around the Sable Island area and it was feared that she may have lost her cub.
A different female with two cubs was found with an impala kill on a leadwood tree.

A female cheetah with a cub posed on top of a termite mound looking intently at a mixed herd of impala and tsessebe, all with newly born young at foot. We watched as the cheetahs stalked, chased and caught a tsessebe calf, but then the female antelope came back and drove the cats away. Once again, the sub-adult cheetah attacked the same calf but the heroic tsessebe cow returned to the fray to save her baby from the claws and jaws of the cheetah. A magnificent sighting which was the highlight of our guests’ safari.

In another dramatic encounter we watched the two females hunt and kill an impala lamb. Whilst they were finishing their meal a pack of wild dogs arrived and started fighting with the cheetahs. Everyone anxiously held their breath as they feared for the worst, but were relieved to see the two cats manage to escape and run for their lives. Another time we watched their kill being stolen by a hungry hyena looking for an easy meal. The resident male cheetah known as Special was seen often and seemed to be targeting tsessebes making for some lightning quick pursuits between the fastest predator and the fastest antelope. He was not always successful, but managed to grab a calf to eat on more than one occasion.

The clan of hyenas were still using their den, although the cubs were now big enough to follow the adults on their hunting missions. Up to twelve adults and four cubs were being seen, sometimes showing interesting interactions with mothers feeding their offspring and the young members of the clan playing together. A female hyena was located hunting alone and she managed to bring down and kill an impala lamb as we were watching.

Two packs of wild dogs were in the concession, a pack of six towards Splash and the usual resident pack of seven seen often nearer to camp. Both packs were seen making kills and devouring carcasses, making the most of the plentiful impala lambs. One time a noisy interaction between the wild dogs and some hyena was heard during the sundowner stop. We quickly packed up the drinks and followed the sounds to find that the clan of hyenas had managed to overpower the dogs through strength in numbers and were busy stealing the impala kill.

As is often the case on Kwara, there were many different prides of lions in the concession, leading to some impressive displays of territorial roaring and marking. The four big male lions known as the Zulu Boys were still in the area, one of them scavenging on a dead hippo for three days. A pride of three lionesses and a sub-adult were seen hunting and killing a warthog piglet, though such a small meal would barely count as a starter for these huge cats. The next day they brought down an adult impala right in front of the vehicle, a much more satisfying meal for the pride. A male and female lion were seen mating – this was a surprise to our guides as last time we saw that particular lioness she was heavily pregnant, so it was unusual to see her mating so soon. Unfortunately, it was an indication that she may have lost her cubs.

Of the smaller predators, we saw honey badgers digging for food, black-backed jackals foraging, African wild cat and serval hunting frogs and water mongoose in the marsh.

General game in the area continued to be excellent, with large herds of elephant feeding, dust-bathing and debarking the mopane shrubs. There were plentiful zebra, many with foals at foot, and lots of giraffe. The temperatures were hot, causing large pods of hippos to congregate in the Kwara lagoon. During the boat cruises we were fortunate enough to see relaxed male sitatungas and huge Nile crocodiles.

Endangered bird species continued to find Kwara a safe haven, including saddle-billed storks, wattled cranes, ground hornbills and four species of vulture (white-headed, lappet-faced, hooded and white-backed). A pair of secretary birds was seen nesting in the concession.

Lagoon

The Bonga pride of lions were seen in the Halfway Pan for the first few weeks of December, but decided to move closer to Lagoon camp in time for the Christmas festivities, attracted by the huge mixed herds of eland and zebra which moved into the area. They had a kill of a sub-adult giraffe 4 kilometres from camp and were also seen feeding on wildebeest. A young male lion evicted from the pride has now been joined by his sister. A different lioness with three cubs was seen regularly near to John’s Pan, they all looked in great condition and one time were seen killing a pair of warthog piglets. The two dominant male lions were sometimes seen with the pride, however they spent much of their time patrolling and marking their territory as three new males have moved into the area and were seen mating with a lioness towards the end of the month near to Kwena Lagoon.

The resident female leopard with two cubs was seen a few times near to the airstrip where she was preying on baboons. She was frequently moving her offspring from one spot to another to try and ensure that they did not become a targeted by another predator. One time, guests had a lovely view of the mother taking her cubs to a kill which she had dragged up a nearby tree. The male cub decided that he preferred his dinner served at ground level and brought his portion down to enjoy underneath the tree. This little chap seems to be quite independent for his age and was seen another time on the move without his mother and sister, but appeared to be in good condition.

A pack of six wild dogs was seen hunting more than once. Although they failed to make a kill when we were watching them, they were in good condition.

The resident two cheetah brothers were seen chasing wildebeest on more than one occasion. They were targeting the calves, but did not manage to succeed in bringing down their prey. A new male cheetah to the area was found lying next to the road, but he was very skittish.

In addition to the large herds of zebra and eland, we also had great sightings of sable and roan antelope. There are good numbers of giraffe, wildebeest, kudu and tsessebe, but fewer elephants and buffalos as they started to move deeper into the Mopane woodlands. During night drives we saw servals, genets, springhares and honey badgers as well as a great sighting of an African wild cat hunting. The elusive aardwolf was seen more than once.

Endangered birds continue to thrive in the Kwando concession including a new family of ground hornbills, wattled cranes and black egrets. The blue-cheeked bee eaters have arrived back in the area and were seen feeding. An African scops owl is living in camp and often seen near to the main area.

The start of the rainy season brought some spectacular late afternoon lightning storms providing an authentic African light show to awe our guests. These welcome short but sharp storms freshened up the air and produced the most amazing scents.

Lebala

The resident Wapoka pride of lions were still hunting very successfully. Over recently months they have mainly been hunting buffalo, but interestingly they seem to have recently changed their focus. They were found feeding on wildebeest carcasses most of the time, though also killed zebra and buffalo during the month. Some guests were lucky enough to see them stalking and pouncing. They seem to have gained experience in taking down buffalo and are now managing to make the kills more easily and without injury. It was the time of the year when most of the antelopes had given birth and the lions were deliberately targeting the easier prey. The pride was also seen feeding on smaller mammals such as warthog and more unusually with a honey badger carcass. Sadly, we have not seen one of lionesses with her two cubs recently; the last time the guides saw the lioness she was not in a good condition as she was getting too old to keep up with the rest of the pride. Guides suspected that the cubs were involved in a fight with the hyenas and were killed as they have seen the pride several times and the cubs were not there.

A pack of twenty-five wild dogs was seen hunting and successfully making a kill, these dogs were specializing in young antelope such as impala, tsessebe and wildebeest. The ongoing war between this pack of wild dogs and the resident hyenas is not over; they were found fighting for carcasses, but the large wild dog pack seems to be winning most of the battle through strength in numbers. This pack of wild dogs was doing very well, the adults seem to be doing a great job of feeding their eleven puppies and well making sure that they are protected from the other predators.

Hyenas were also seen trying to take a meal from a lioness but she managed to fend them off, although during the month the clan was seen scavenging on different carcasses. Some of the guests were lucky enough to see hyena cubs playing around their den.

A male leopard was seen going into burrows searching for warthogs and other small mammals; he was also found feeding on lechwe. He was being smart, most of the time immediately after making a kill taking it up a tree before the hyenas could arrive. He was also seen resting on top of the trees during the day in a very relaxed manner. Unfortunately we did not see the resident female leopard Jane and her cubs in the month of December; we suspected that she moved away from this predator-dominated area to raise her two cubs and she will return once they are old enough to survive encounters with lions and hyenas.

General game sightings were very good as most of the antelopes were giving birth, and they spent most of their time in open pans so that they could see predators from a distance. Some of the guests watched a fight between two hornbills and wild cat, but in the end the wild cat lost a fight and ran away. They also watched two hippos fighting; initially the encounter started in the water but the massive animals came bursting out of the channel and started chasing each other through the bushes.

The bird life was very interesting as we had different species of birds such as African skimmers and bee- eaters in good numbers. True to their name, African skimmers are entertaining to watch as they fly just over the water with their lower bill ‘skimming’ the surface to feed. Guests also saw different species of vultures feeding on leftover carcasses.

Nxai Pan

December was a month of change in Nxai Pan. At the start of the month we were still receiving enormous numbers of elephants at the camp watering hole. Old bulls, younger bachelors and breeding herds congregated in their hundreds, together with wildebeest, buffalo and jackals. The desperately thirsty animals had to compete hard for their turn to drink, making for amazing game viewing from the main lodge area. One day, a young elephant climbed into the camp watering hole and then got itself very confused as to where the exit was. It’s elephant family and the camp staff watched nervously for a while as the calf tried in vain to clamber out. Eventually the matriarch elephant and her sisters worked together to show the youngster how it should be done.

Then, on the 4th December the first of the heavy rains arrived filling the natural watering holes. The trees, including the magnificent baobabs, all came into leaf, with many other species showing spring blossoms. These changes finally allowed the elephants to relocate to other areas of the National Park to drink and browse.

Nxai Pan is well known for the seasonal migration of zebras and wildebeest who move into the area because of the highly palatable and nutritious grasses that grow in the pan once the rains have fallen. The number of zebras started increasing day and night in the pan and viewings were easy due to the short grass and wide open spaces. Lots of giraffe were arriving to the region as well.

The two dominant male lions and three lionesses with six cubs were seen together regularly in the area and seemed to be making the most of the zebras arriving into the area for their diet.

The resident cheetah family of three were located frequently and in some cases hunting. One day we watched them for an hour trying to catch a baby wildebeest, however they didn’t manage because it was too open for them to get within close range. The Nxai Pan male cheetah was also seen, especially on Baobab loop, and we witnessed him killing a male springbok.

The alpha male wild dog with a female were spotted with full bellies near to the National Park watering hole.

With the start of the rains some water birds arrived to the area including African jacana, black-winged pratincoles, Abdim’s storks, yellow-billed storks, painted snipes, egrets, white-faced ducks and black-winged stilts.

Tau Pan

The watering hole in front of Tau Pan always attracts a good deal of game and we were thrilled to get an early Christmas present in the form of an elusive brown hyena drinking right in front of camp.

As always, there was lots of lion action at the watering hole too. One day, three of the resident males were resting there together with a female and her three cubs. Whilst they were there, two nomadic lions to the area came to drink but were aggressively driven away. A few days later, this drama was repeated, this time they were chased by all five males of the Tau Pan pride. This pattern continued for the rest of the month, with the intruders continuing to try and gain access to the watering hole despite opposition from the formidable resident coalition. All of these exciting events could be clearly viewed from the camp’s main deck.

We saw a number of different cheetah individuals during December, but the most commonly sighted was a female cheetah and two sub-adults who were great condition. Their mother is a very successful hunter who changes areas frequently in order to find food. Towards the end of the month these three cheetahs had moved to Tau Pan where often seen hunting and feeding on springbok lambs. Once they were seen trying to separate wildebeest calves from their mothers, but these bigger antelope were too clever at defending their young.

A large male leopard was located with an oryx kill up on a tree branch. He was skittish when he saw our vehicle during the day, but returned to the carcass and finished everything apart from the antelope’s head.

Numbers of general game were increasing during December. There were plentiful herds of springbok with lambs at Tau Pan. At Passarge Valley we found oryx and red hartebeest with calves. A herd of six kudu were regularly visiting the watering hole, keenly keeping an eye out for predators. On one remarkable occasion we came across a large herd of wildebeest herding into Tau Pan, when all of a sudden two males started to fight for dominance. This fierce battle lasted about 30 minutes during which time the young calves started to run around behind the herd, seemingly confused as to what was happening.

One day the guides spotted a honey badger devouring a puff adder. In a remarkable interaction between the species, a tawny eagle bravely tried to steal the dead snake from the formidable honey badger, but he was not successful. A few days later two honey badgers were seen trying to hunt down jackal puppies, but they were not successful. Another time we found the jackals trying to take something away from the honey badger, but the honey badger was aggressively defending himself and a fight between the two predators ensued.

Both jackals and bat-eared foxes have dens in the area, and their small pups have delighted guests with their antics.

Red-billed queleas have been flocking in their tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands around the camp watering hole and camp itself. The density of these small finch-like birds was so great that the branches of the surrounding trees were breaking under their weight – despite the fact that each little bird only accounted for about 20 grams. The huge flocks attracted birds of prey such as yellow-billed kites, red-necked falcons and harriers who swooped back and forth feasting on the bounty.

(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 – 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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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