Tau Pan, August 2017 Sightings

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August was an interesting time in the Central Kalahari, with some dramatic changes to the landscape at the end of the month. As usual the Tau Pan pride of lions were often seen near to the lodge and increasingly at the waterhole since the natural pans were long dried up. More than once, two of the male lions spent the whole day by the watering hole sleeping off a big feast from the night before. The impressive black-maned male lions often called during the night and that helped us to locate them the next day. After they had been particularly vocal one night the guests and guides were amused to observe in the morning that without exception all the antelopes had migrated off to the opposite side of Tau Pan to avoid the lions or perhaps to get a more relaxing night’s rest. One of the resident lionesses was seen feeding with her cubs on an oryx calf. Her growing cubs were getting used to the safari vehicles; she also introduced them to the camp watering hole, so we hope we will see much more of them in the future.

Different cheetah and leopard individuals were located during the month. We watched a sub-adult female leopard trying her luck at Deception Valley, but she missed on that occasion. A coalition of cheetah brothers was spotted during a day trip. Initially they were hunting, but as the temperature rose they decided to rest in the shade. Some very patient guiding was rewarded when guests managed to get good photos of a male cheetah who is known to be particularly skittish. With time, the guides hope to can build his confidence and encourage him to be less camera-shy.

There were a good number of springbok herds around Tau Pan area and as in previous recent months they have developed a habit of pronking during the sunset hour making for spectacular images. Blue wildebeest were seen in large herds and oryx appear to be increasing in number. Red hartebeest were encountered at Phukwe Pan and also Tau Pan where they were close to the road enabling great memories for some very happy guests who were seeing these antelope for the first time despite having been on safari many times. Ostrich, bat-eared foxes and caracal were also seen in the Tau Pan area.

At the start of August, the vegetation was still dense and whilst the long golden waving grasses made for a stark and beautiful landscape, there were some occasions when we lost sight of animals as they went into the undergrowth. All that was about to change in a very dramatic way. Towards the end of the month a huge bush fire, some 20-30 kilometres across, swept through the area. Over the course of 6 days our team watched the glow on the horizon of the night sky getting ever closer. At the face of the fire the flames were 2-3 metres high, with whole trees burning like torches. As our staff were bravely ensuring that the fire did not threaten the camp itself, they noted the animal behaviour. These types of burns are very normal phenomenon in the Central Kalahari so it is by no means an unusual situation for the creatures who live here. The oryx stayed remarkably calm, wandering very close to the fire and sedately walking out of its way. The springbok kept themselves on the shorter grass of the pans. True to their nature, only the wildebeest seemed in the slightest bit distressed and spent some time galloping around. Even as the fire was raging, Tawny Eagles and Pale Chanting Goshawks stayed ahead of the flames, opportunistically snatching rodents who were fleeing. As soon as the fire had consumed its fuel and passed on by, black-backed jackals were quickly on the scene, picking through the ashes hoping to find some tasty toasted rodents.

Within days the pioneer grass was starting to push through new green shoots, much appreciated by the grazers who seemed to prefer the palatable young stems to the less nutritious dry stalks that the fire destroyed. We were fortunate that the area directly in front of the lodge did not burn, so the view was as beautiful as ever. Whilst the new growth was coming through we enjoyed a concentration of game in the Tau Pan area which was unaffected by the fire.

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

Nxai Pan, August 2017 Sightings

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The climate started to change during August, with night time temperatures increasing from lows of five degrees Celcius at the start of the month, to above fifteen degrees by the end of the month. Day time temperatures started to push above thirty degrees. The hotter days and lack of rainfall meant that game was heavily concentrated around sources of water, and our camp watering hole was by no means an exception.

Elephants tended to dominate the watering hole for the majority of every day – a spectacular sight for our guests to enjoy from the lodge, but rather problematic for the other animals who were forced to visit at first light before the pachyderms took over. Regular early morning visitors included kudu and a herd of eight buffalo. Spotted hyena were also seen at the camp watering hole, much to the consternation of some resident warthogs who finished their drinks very quickly before scurrying off into the bush with tails raised in alarm.

The Nxai Pan pride of 16 lions were also seen regularly and had divided into three groups:
Three females with three cubs aged thirteen months
Two females with four cubs of 6-8 months
Two sub-adult lionesses of approximately two years who are independent of the main pride.
The male lions moved between all three groups and were often seen near to camp.

The road that cuts through the middle of Nxai Pan was productive for smaller predators including regular sightings of the highly-prized aardwolf and numerous bat-eared foxes.

Cheetah sightings included a mother with her two offspring – now classified as sub-adults rather than cubs since they are more than a year old. A single male cheetah has also been located frequently. Both male and female leopard tracks were located in the camp area, though the cats themselves remained elusive.

The trip to Baines Baobabs was quieter in terms of game, but the view has changed. The trees have lost their leaves and are silhouetted against the dry, dusty pan. The landscape is much more open now that the lush summer vegetation has been grazed down.

The rise in temperatures meant that we started to see birds who are more associated with warmer weather in the region, such as the yellow-billed kite, red-capped lark and rufous-naped lark.

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

Lebala, August 2017 Sightings

AFOWLER_action lion and buff

Once again, the Wapoka Pride of lions took first prize for sighting of the month at Lebala. The two pride males took down a baby buffalo right in front of the game viewer. Not content with killing their original target, the two males rather rashly decided to try and tackle another two adult buffaloes at the same time, pouncing on one each. Wapoka means “crazy” in Setswana and on this occasion, the lions lived up to their name. Rather than help each other out, each male stubbornly hung onto his own prey animal, but the buffalo managed to take advantage of this situation and were successful in standing their ground, chasing the lions away. The two buffalos stood up and rejoined the others as the herd ran away, leaving the lions to make do with the calf that they had originally killed. They were seen in another confrontation with buffalo later in the month with the hunter and hunted chasing each other for three hours. They were also located hunting along the river chasing red lechwe but were not successful. Whilst following the lions we saw them come across hyena and behave aggressively towards them.

The hyena den was very active and the puppies were getting ever more inquisitive, coming to inspect the vehicles closely and even trying to bite the tyres. The adult hyenas were now starting to bring meat to the den. At another time, two spotted hyenas had disembowelled a hippo outside one of the natural watering holes. The hippo escaped by running into the water where the hyenas couldn’t damage it further, but the hyenas waited for days on the periphery of the pan for the hippo to come back out. Even whilst the hippo was still alive some white-backed vultures started to feed on it.

The resident cheetah brothers, who have been working in a coalition since they left their mother last year, got more than they bargained for when they tried to take on a herd of wildebeest. They didn’t manage to single any one animal out and then the antelope turned on them, chasing them until they drove one cheetah up a tree in its desperate attempt to escape. A different single cheetah was found marking territory and enjoying a warthog kill before drinking and disappearing into the mopane woodlands.

Other notable sightings during August included a lovely view of a very relaxed African Wild cat and a huge African python seen at basking at Nare Pan

As the natural watering holes dried up in the mopane woodlands found to the west of the concession, large numbers of elephants started to herd towards the Kwando River which will provide their main source of water for the next few months. Breeding herds with several young elephants were often seen close to the lodge. As guests were eating dinner they enjoyed hearing elephants munching the vegetation nearby. One evening at a sundowner stop, a herd of elephants started to approach the vehicle. The guide advised the guests to get into the safari vehicle and stay still. As the herd passed, the guests were awe-inspired by the matriarch staring straight at them.

Other herbivores seen included herds of buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and impala. Following the good rains this year there was still plentiful grazing and the animals appeared to be in good condition.
Birdlife was also very rich, especially on the almost dried water catchments where storks, herons and other water species fed on insects and frogs stuck in the mud.

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

Lagoon, August 2017 Sightings

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August delivered spectacular lion sightings at Lagoon camp; the resident pride was keeping us busy and were seen on almost all game drives. Our guides noticed that the two lionesses mothering five cubs between them had a tendency to pull away from the rest of the pride as a way of trying to reduce competition for food. These two lionesses appeared to have a very successful kill ratio in their own right and we saw them feeding on a variety of prey including zebra, kudu and a wildebeest calf. All of their cubs seem to be in good health. The other part of the pride comprising three lionesses, 2 female sub-adults and 6 male sub-adults were seen together most of the time. This month we saw them on kills of hippo, giraffe, zebras and kudu. The two big male lions were sometimes with the pride, but very often seen on their own together, patrolling and scent marking their territory. We noticed that one of the sub-adult males had been ejected from the pride, but that didn’t stop him trying to sneak back into the family when the dominant males were not around. Once he tried to feed with the mothers and cubs, but was caught in the act and quickly dismissed by the adult males. On that occasion, the male lions sat back and let the mothers and cubs have the kill to themselves, since it was not enough to feed the whole pride.

As there had been an active wild dog den since July we had the chance of viewing the pack very regularly. We were extremely careful to minimise visits to the den itself to avoid disturbance to the alpha female and her puppies, but we also had great sightings of the adult dogs hunting and sometimes witnessed the kill itself. One day the pride of lions passed by the wild dog den and chased the pack away. From that time onwards, the dogs were very skittish, spending the whole day in the bush and only coming back to the den at night. On their third week, the puppies were allowed out of the den and introduced to the rest of the pack, but then this happy family tale took an unfortunate and dramatic turn. Seven lions came to the den one afternoon as the female was nursing the puppies with two other adult dogs in attendance. The lions surprised the mother and three of the nine pups were killed. All three adult dogs managed to run away and the remaining puppies dashed back to their den. That was the last we were to see of them. The following day the rest of the pack went hunting, but instead of coming to the den they stood about 30 metres away. The female was crying and she led the pack to the old den where they spent the whole day. We continued to check both dens in the hope of seeing the puppies, but three days later our worst fears were confirmed when we found leopard tracks and drag marks coming from the den where the puppies were last seen. After that the dogs left the area for a week and we feared for their safety, but towards the end of the month they reappeared and were found at their old den and on the hunt once more.

A mother leopard and her two cubs have developed a convenient habit of living near our airstrip, making for some special arrival and departure memories for guests. Most often the female was located on her own whilst hunting, leaving the cubs hidden. One time we witnessed her having to rebuke the cubs strongly when they tried to follow her. There was also another female leopard seen in the area.

The two resident cheetah brothers were observed just once during August, but it was towards the end of the month so we hope to have better luck with them in September. These two young males cover a very large territory.

As the climate started to warm and the inland waterholes dried up, elephants were seen in massive numbers as they congregated towards the riverine areas – some herds were in excess of 100 individuals. From the lodge main area and rooms our guests were able to enjoy spectacular views of elephants drinking in the channel that flows past Lagoon Camp. Huge herds of buffalo were encountered as well as giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and kudu. A very relaxed herd of sable antelope were being seen approximately three times per week.

The African Scops Owl and African Barred Owlet which live around the tree in the main area were seen almost every day.

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

Kwara, August 2017 Sightings

Verreaux's Eagle-owl or Giant Eagle Owl (Bubo lacteus)

The hyena den at Kwara was very active during August with six females nursing cubs of varying ages. Spotted hyena cubs are born with a brownish-black coat and only start to get their adult markings at approximately three months old. There was just one cub still in its infant darker coat during the month and was already showing a cheeky character, becoming a favourite with guides and guests. We were able to see mothers nursing and cubs playing throughout the month.

However, we are sad to report that the success of the hyenas was at the expense of the wild dog pack. One morning, just after the adult dogs left for their morning hunt, a hyena was found killing one of the yearling dogs from last year’s litter. The hyena ate the whole carcass in an unusual act of inter-specific competition. After that rather grisly incident the pack abandoned the den and left the area for some time.

A resident female leopard appeared to be heavily pregnant and was often seen hunting reedbuck around Sable Island and near the boat station. She made an impressive sight as she walked through the tall grasses searching for prey species and climbing up the trees to get a better vantage point of her prey. She also walked through the camp at night, making the leopard’s distinctive sawing call.

Cheetah were also seen often during August. The female with cub with located on several occasions and we witnessed the youngster trying to stalk and chase a herd of tsessebe – a surprisingly ambitious prey species to start practicing on given that they are the fastest antelope of all. The resident male cheetah, known as Special, also thought he would try his luck with a tsessebe and singled out a calf, but the mother antelope fiercely defended her young and managed to save it from the cat. We saw Special having better luck with the red lechwe where we saw him killing a sub-adult. Our guides were especially pleased to see a young female cheetah who separated with her brother early this year when her mother was attacked by a leopard. She was located in the Splash area after being out of our area for 3 months. We followed her hunting but she didn’t manage to make the kill – she appeared to be lacking experience, probably because her mother died whilst her skills were still being honed. At least she has found a suitable area to live in; the Splash area has an abundance of medium-sized herbivores, and less competition from lions and hyenas, making it perfect cheetah country.

There continue to be many different prides of lion located within the Kwara concession. The magnificent male lion, known as Mr Nose due to his battle-scarred face, was seen mating with the young female of the Mma Leitho Pride. A younger nomadic lion came and challenged him in a battle for dominance, but Mr Nose’s experience showed and he was successful in driving the would-be usurper away. The whole pride is looking healthy and they have been seen on successive blue wildebeest kills. The Zulu Boys were seen travelling through the marshes with three lionesses giving an awesome sighting of six Okavango Delta habituated lions wading through water. The One-Eyed Pride were seen on a giraffe kill and another time trying their luck on red lechwe but without success.

As usual, the general game in the Kwara was very good. Big herds of elephant moved from north to south to access the main channels of the Moremi, creating wonderful photographic opportunities as they waded through the flooded channels. Giraffe and buffalo were plentiful, especially in the Splash area. There were lots of breeding herds from North to South. Giraffes and buffaloes were also seen in area near to Splash. Other species regularly seen included zebra, impala, blue wildebeest, led lechwe, warthogs and baboons.

Ground hornbills were frequently located on morning game drives and a pair of secretary birds were seen occasionally. After sunset, the large Verreaux’s eagle owls were often located using spotlight.

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

Tau Pan, July 2017

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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.

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

Nxai Pan, July 2017

jvarley.Cat5 Elephant at waterhole

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.

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

 

Lebala, July 2017

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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.

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

Lagoon, July 2017

Wild dogs (2) 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.

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

Kwara, July 2017

mvecht,action3,dogsfightinghyena kwara

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.

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