Kwara, Nov 2017

YHernandez.new life.impala1 kwara

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.

(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, October 2017 Sightings

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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.

(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, September 2017 Sightings

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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.

(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!)

Kwara, July 2017

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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!)

Kwara, June 2017

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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.

(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, May 2017

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Once again, Kwara averaged more than 3 predator sightings per day during the month. The most dramatic event during May came after a single nomadic male lion successfully killed a baby giraffe near the Kwara staff village. As dinner was being served in the camp, a tremendous commotion broke out; hyenas started calling each other in to steal the lion’s hard-won meal. The guests were curious to see what was happening, so dinner was adjourned and the guests loaded in safari vehicles to take a closer look. On arrival, we found the lion feeding but surrounded by fifteen hyenas. A few minutes later, the aggression from the hyenas intensified and they started biting the lion from every direction. In the end, they won through sheer numbers and forced the lion to let go whereby he rested a few metres away from the carcass. The noisy fighting continued into the early hours, however by dawn the area was fully cleaned up as though nothing had happened.

The resident pack of seven wild dogs were often seen mobile and hunting; they successfully killed impala twice near to Little Kwara camp. The alpha female was heavily pregnant so it seems likely that she may den in the near future.

Various cheetah individuals and families were encountered during May. The most exciting sighting involved a resident male cheetah who was located by Jackal Den area, resting. All of a sudden, he was keenly focused on a warthog family. He climbed down from the mound and stalked before sprinting and catching one of the sub-adult warthogs. The squeaking of the prey alerted the mother warthog who appeared and jumped on the cheetah, fiercely biting and kicking until the cheetah ran away. Remarkably both prey and predator got away unscathed.

The mother cheetah with her two cubs, now 9 months old seems to have relocated to the Four rivers area where we found her on an impala kill. Towards the end of the month a male had joined the group and were all seen together resting on a termite mound. At one point, the male was testing the female’s urine to see if she was in oestrus.

We were happy to welcome back to the area Juda and Meruba, two magnificent black-maned male lions from the Marsh Boys pride who were last seen 6 months ago. They were joined by two females from the Solo Pride. A different pride of lions comprising one male and two females were seen often and although a small group they provided some dramatic action. On one occasion, they killed a warthog right in front of the game viewers. Another time they made an attempted kill of a young giraffe, missing by only a few inches.
Leopards were found many times, including a female feeding up on a tree with hyena lying in wait at the bottom, ready to snatch any falling bones. A pair of leopards were seen mating, so we hope that they will be successful.

The natural watering holes were drying out after the rains, so large breeding herds of elephants started to come down from the mophane woodlands in order to be closer to the main water channels. The groups included females with small calves. Some of the resident bull elephants were heavily in musth and searching around for females to mate with.

General game continued to be good including sable antelope, large herds of zebra, impala, tsessebe and red lechwe. Giraffe were seen in large numbers – up to fifty individuals in a single drive.

With the water levels dropping there were good sightings of Wattled Cranes, Saddle-billed storks and Yellow-billed storks feeding in and around in the shallow pools. A group of six endangered Southern Ground Hornbills were a regular sight around Double Crossing and could be heard calling in the mornings. Secretary Birds and Lappet-faced Vultures are both nesting in the concession at the current time.

(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, April 2017

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Once again Kwara lived up to its reputation for consistently great game viewing, averaging more than 3 predator sightings per day during the month of April.

Most frequently seen was the cheetah family of a female and her three cubs who were often found in the Bat Eared Fox Den area. This is a suitable location for cheetah due to the dense populations of impala combined with open space for hunting. We were fortunate enough to see this successful mother killing impala on more than one occasion. Some single male cheetah have also been seen and one appeared to be checking whether the female was in oestrus.

April was also a good month for leopard sightings and towards the end of the month they were located 6 days out of 7. One female leopard is frequently seen near camp where she has been trying to stalk impala. A different female and a male were located at the airstrip and look as though they could be pairing up. Although they were not seen mating, it is unusual to see a male and female leopard together unless they are breeding.

A small wild dog pack of three adults and four young was frequently seen in the Little Kwara area, especially towards the end of the month. They always seemed well-fed and were sometimes seen finishing up their kills. The Alpha female is heavily pregnant so we hope that she will choose to den nearby.

Honeymoon Pan was a good place to spot Spotted Hyena during April and on different days we were able to observe a wide range of behaviours being displayed by these fascinating mammals including hunting, scavenging, bathing, sunbathing, and also saw them engaging with each other in greeting rituals.

There was a welcome return to the area of the four male lions known as the Zulu Boys who had been absent for about a month. Upon returning, they made sure that any competing males knew that they were firmly back in their usual territory by scent marking, roaring and patrolling the area. A small pride of 2 females and a male were also found in Kwara during April and we found them feeding on an impala as well as on an elephant carcass which kept them busy for two nights. Another group of 3 adult lionesses and four young were sighted hunting in the Bat Eared Fox area. Towards end of the month a solitary male lion, who is new to the area but very relaxed was located feeding on a wildebeest.

There were large herds of breeding elephants in the area and guests have enjoyed watching them bathing, drinking and nursing their young. Two bull elephants were seen daily in Little Kwara camp feeding on the ripening marula fruits.

General game in the Kwara concession continued to be plentiful with herds of zebra, impala, red lechwe, kudu, eland and wildebeest. Very large towers of giraffe were seen, for example, one had 17 adults and 7 young. This is breeding season for many of the animals, timed so that their young will be born when the new shoots of grass arrive later in the year. We therefore saw kudu mating, impala rutting and warthogs mating.

Special bird sightings in the last month including the highly prized Pel’s Fishing Owl and endangered Wattled Crane. Ground Hornbills were sighted in the trees right at the Kwara Camp main area.

As is often the case, night drives produced sightings of interesting smaller mammals such as porcupine, serval and Small Spotted Genet. A special highlight was of a female African Wild Cat with her kitten.

Kwara, March 2017

BMessinger.Cat4.Triumphant-kwara

A frequently seen female cheetah with her three cubs continued to be a highlight during March. This particular animal has always been relaxed and now it seems that her cubs have picked up on her confidence, using our vehicles for their games of hide and seek, to the delight of the guests. This entertaining family were often found in the Bat Eared Fox Den area where the female was successfully killing impalas, one after the other. Mostly the cubs accompanied her, but we noticed that sometimes she tired of their distracting play and left them behind so that she could get on with the serious job of hunting without them disturbing the prey. On one occasion this family group were seen wading through the flood water – in the Okavango Delta even the cats have to get their paws wet from time to time. A male cheetah, in great condition, was also been found in the area.

Lions were tracked and successfully located most days during March. On one occasion, the guide and tracker had picked up the tracks of 2 females and 4 cubs on the road. They followed the tracks and located the group whilst on foot only to find that they themselves were being tracked – by the young cubs who were making a playful attempt to stalk them. On a different day, a guide and his guests heard a troop of baboon making alarm calls. Upon following up, they found a lioness in the thickets who was killing a big male baboon. She then left the kill and ran to fetch her two shy cubs who seemed rather alarmed when they came face to face with this particular meal. Lions were also seen hunting red lechwe and zebra several times, the most spectacular chase included a stampede and hunt through the floodwater.

Leopards were seen very regularly, often enjoying cooling breezes as they rested on the branches of Marula or Sausage Trees. One beautiful female was very regularly sighted in and around Little Kwara camp where she seemed to have her eye on our resident herd of impala. Towards the end of the month a female leopard was tracked for over an hour, but patience was rewarded and she was located resting up on a sausage tree. Guests were offered very good photographic opportunities as she jumped from one branch to another scanning for prey species. Another lucky group of guests encountered a leopard at the airstrip as they were being collected from their flight, setting the bar very high for the rest of their stay at Kwara.

Wild dogs were seen many times, sometimes on the move or playing, other times looking full-bellied and sleepy. One of the best sightings in March was an incredible morning spent on one of the islands where seven wild dogs were found feeding on a kudu kill. The pack was being nervously watched by a large male leopard who had taken refuge in a nearby tree. We stayed with this intriguing scene for some time and eventually, after the dogs had eaten their fill and moved off, the leopard gingerly came down from the tree to eat the leftovers. On a different drive the wild dogs left their carcass to a small pride of lions.

General game in the Kwara area was abundant including giraffe in groups of up to seventeen. Large breeding herds of elephants have starting coming through the concession and there are plentiful numbers of zebra, tsessebe, wildebeest, reedbuck, red lechwe and impala.

The boat trips from Kwara continue to be rewarding. Hippos and large basking crocodiles are often seen, lucky guests may also have the chance to spot the elusive sitatunga antelope. On one cruise this month no less than five of these rare animals were seen at different points of the trip. The heronry is very busy at this time of year; before the winter season the chicks will be independent. Regular sightings included Pink-backed Pelicans, Black-crowned Night Heron, Rufous-bellied Heron, egrets and weavers. Fish Eagles are often hanging around watching for the opportunity to steal a nestling from the island.

Kwara, February 2017

SBrynes.Cat4Leopard Using Tail Being Careful

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.