Kwara, September 2017 Sightings

M.Nash-Mammals-Wild Dogs2.jpg

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

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!)

Kwara, June 2017

IvanaLjolje.Cat7.hyena-KWARA

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

COSullivan_Cat2_YoungGiraffe

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, 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.

Kwara, January 2017

AndyLibrande-CAT1-lionwarthog

Although the general game sightings were spectacular; the predators once again stole the limelight at Kwara. Carnivores were seen every day during January with lions in particular being sighted very regularly.

The greatest excitement of the month came when a male lion and three females appeared in front of Little Kwara camp during high tea.  Camp was abuzz as the guides quickly gathered their guests into the game viewers and followed the three females and a single male.  The beasts walked towards the main Kwara camp where they surprised a warthog with three piglets. The lions chased the piglets through the camp, finally one was taken down between the kitchen and room three and the other two were caught in front of the Kwara main area. An incredible sighting!

The wild dogs also made several appearances around camps. Firstly, they killed an impala fawn in front of Kwara camp, this scene was not quite as dramatic as the lions though.  On the second occasion the dogs passed by the front of both camps and were clearly hunting as they were moving very quickly.  Thirdly, the dogs managed to kill an impala behind the Kwara staff village.  On yet another occasion the dogs killed an impala fawn behind the staff village; proof that sometimes the action comes to you.

Leopards mark territory by scent-marking and calling, especially after a significant rainfall as has been the case.  Two male leopards were found in fierce a clash over territory. This altercation resulted in one of the leopards being badly injured.  Aggressive encounters have been observed on many occasions between male leopards, with death being the ultimate outcome for some; thankfully this time they parted ways, licking their wounds.

The cheetahs were all fat-bellied and clearly successful in their quests for food, except one male cheetah who had successfully killed a large reedbuck only to have his entire meal stolen by the lions. On another occasion a large male cheetah killed a female reedbuck right in front of the game drive vehicle; it was a spectacular chase and successful capture this time as there were no lazy lions around to steal his meal.

The hyenas have successfully bred cubs and it is a treat to be able to see them playing around their den area.

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.

Kwara, December 2016

Landscape2watermonitorlizard.101619-Kwara

When booking an African safari, more often than not you imagine driving across vast open plains teeming with game or sitting in a vehicle beside a waterhole surrounded by numerous different species. This is not always the case. Sometimes the action occurs right in camp without setting foot on a game drive vehicle. This is pretty much how December started at Kwara. Two nomadic male lions spent the night in camp roaring almost until dawn. For those who have experienced the roar of a lion at close range; the vibrations penetrate the walls of any room and can be felt deep within your chest. It is a distinct and unmistakable feeling of power that stirs our primeval instincts. The following morning these regal beasts were found resting on the road to the airstrip.

Despite the action in and around camp the sightings from the vehicles did not disappoint, on one occasion as the Mma Leitho Pride was enjoying the early morning sunshine a wildebeest appeared seemingly out of nowhere and walked right towards the resting pride. Being opportunistic by nature the lionesses stalked, ambushed and killed the wildebeest. Kwara’s three vehicles (the maximum permitted) were lucky enough to witness the experience. One other incredible sighting was when a lioness who had been away from the pride for more than a month was seen introducing her 6 week old cub to her home land. The cub was shy at first and scrambled into an aardvark hole afraid of the vehicle, but the lioness gently nudged the cub out with her front paw, carefully picked it up with a neck bite and carried her off. Such a tender and special moment for our guests to experience.

Two different packs of wild dog had a slight altercation. After the smaller pack had killed 2 baby impala and were busy regurgitating for their pups a larger pack came and chased them off; it was sad to see the adults abandon their pups as they ran for their lives but it all ended well and the smaller pack all managed to escape unharmed.

A female leopard was found earlier in the month as she moved from one island to another. Hunting, she climbed up trees for a better view. Excitement mounted as she spotted a bushbuck. She stalked and managed to get really close but just as she was about to pounce, the bushbuck managed to escape.

There were many other incredible sightings of carnivores such as lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and wild dog, but possibly the most unusual predator sighting of December involved reptiles. A crocodile and a monitor lizard were found fighting just east of the airstrip, the left front leg of the monitor lizard was locked in the jaws of the crocodile. The monitor lizard had his entire body wrapped around the head of the crocodile as they both toughed it out. Eventually the crocodile surrendered and the two went their separate ways. Once again Kwara delivers an incredible and most unusual sighting.

Kwara, November 2016

E.Landmann.Cat4leopards

It’s rare to see two leopards together – generally only when it’s a mother and her cubs, or possibly a male and a female mating. On the last day of October, we were even luckier, with the chance to see two male leopards meeting, and the resulting fight! Male leopards are territorial, marking the boundaries of their territory regularly. Intruders are not welcome! Yet to establish a territory, a male must at some point have fought another for the right to be there. Witnessing the two predators tumbling and fighting, is truly awe inspiring. For those that missed out on the fighting leopards, the middle of the month provided another double leopard sighting – this time a male and a female mating!

The start of November led to regular sightings of the two female lions with four youngsters. We saw them for several days, resting up in the heat of the day, and then finishing off the remains of a kill. Meanwhile, two sub-adult males that had ventured off on their own also had luck with their hunting, and had managed to take down a zebra foal. A good learning experience for them.

Throughout the month, the lionesses and cubs were seen the most often, being seen on 16 days. They always look well-fed, and were seen with the remains of several kills including impala and tsessebe.

Safaris can take a fair bit of patience, a lot of waiting and waiting, perhaps for only a tiny bit of action. But patience paid off for Kwara guests watching a cheetah in the area around Splash. They followed the cheetah for over two hours, as he stalked through the area. Then suddenly, having stalked carefully, in a rush of action, he managed to kill a reedbuck in front of everyone.

But, having all the patience in the world isn’t always a guarantee of success, as a female leopard found out. Having just spent a long time carefully stalking her prey – a reedbuck – a hyena appeared adding mayhem to the scene, with the reedbuck dashing off into the distance, and the leopard taking flight and heading to the safety of a nearby tree.

The tiny wild dog pack that denned this year near Tsum Tsum were found along Xugana road, having just killed an impala. As we arrived, the pack were still feeding on it – enough to go around for three adults and four puppies.  Not long after, another pack – with 5 adults and two youngsters – were seen in the area around Buffalo Road, finishing off another impala. A few days later, and the pack arrived into Kwara camp, chasing the impala round and round, though not making an actual kill.

By mid November, life for the predators suddenly got quite a bit easier – the impalas gave birth to their new lambs. Certainly not as fast, agile, or aware as the adults, in any given herd they become the easiest target for any predator on a hunt. Wild dogs, leopards and cheetahs will slowly whittle down the numbers of the offspring, ensuring that the population is balanced and not over-populated.

And sometimes everyone is focussing so much on the available food, they don’t notice what is going on around them… a cheetah managed to catch a baby impala, just as the two lionesses also caught one very nearby. The cheetah, suddenly realising the lions were in the area, dropped her kill and ran!

Other interesting interactions – or see saws! – include the two lionesses with four cubs who killed a tsessebe. Soon after they had killed it, five hyenas arrived, and forced them off the kill. Then, in came a male lion, who proceeded to take the kill off the hyenas!

Kwara, October 2016

DGARRIDO.Action1.CheethaEating.192901A cheetah filled day at the start of the month. Two sub-adults were seen hunting along the Kwara floodplains, but they had no success. Sadly, these two youngsters have been left alone to fend for themselves, as their mother was recently killed in a fight with a leopard. A little later on in the same day, an adult female cheetah was found hunting, but she had better luck and caught a reedbuck near the southern section of the airstrip.

The cheetah youngsters were seen several times, each time trying to make a kill, unsuccessfully. Eventually, they will learn the correct technique through necessity – or possibly just chance – but in the meantime, they will have to sustain themselves with smaller prey – mice and other small rodents, and anything else unsuspecting. Its tough days for them though – whilst they are trying to perfect their hunting skills, they bumped into a male leopard, who began chasing them. The cheetahs luckily managed to escape through the reeds.

The small Tsum Tsum pack of dogs have managed to take their youngsters on hunts with them. Even with 8 puppies bumbling after them, the three adults successfully took down an impala. Impressive skills for such a small pack. A different pack with five adults and four pups made a successful kill of impala on Sable Island, a few days after the Tsum Tsum pack were seen. A pack of 13 wild dogs – all adults – spent the late afternoon chasing reedbuck, impala and red lechwe around in circles, eventually managing to catch an impala right in front of Little Kwara camp.

Two lionesses and their four cubs were seen nearly every day of the month – they looked healthy and spent a lot of time sleeping and resting under trees, but must have been hunting at some point to maintain their healthy look! We did see them make a few attempts to hunt the nearby zebras, without success, but by mid month we found that they had managed to kill a tsessebe. Three of the Zulu boys were also found finishing of a different tsessebe carcass. Four males were also lucky enough to come across an elephant carcass (if they weren’t involved in the kill itself?) and needed a lot of resting up after gorging on so much meat.

We also had a great sighting this month of a male leopard hunting warthog on the road to the boat station. We enjoyed watching the hunting process for an extended period and the guests were amazed at how patient the leopard was, even though the stalking process took more than an hour. Then, nearby baboons noticed the leopard and started alarm calling, so the prey was warned off and escaped! The leopard then retired to a nearby termite mound, and allowed everyone to take magnificent photos of him.

Although the massive fire in the area in August appeared devastating at the time, it’s now that we and the animals are reaping the benefits: the new shoots of green grass (not even waiting for the first rainfalls) are coming through, providing a well needed boost of nourishment for the grazers. And where they congregate, so do the predators. Whole mornings have been spent seemingly doing ever decreasing circles around the area, as guides find cheetahs in this spot, lions not far away feeding on something else, and then dogs lounging around on the other side under the shade of a tree.

The heronry is at its peak at the moment, with lots of birds having new chicks. Some late arriving birds are still building their nests, and competing for space, which is getting ever tighter…

A lovely sighting this month of two honey badgers. Male and female honey badgers have very slight colour differences as well as size (both only really visible when there are two together.) Obviously, a female with a subadult may also present the similar differences, so there was a lot of discussion – was this mum and kid, or was this Mr & Mrs? The smaller one was lounging around whilst the larger one was busy digging. The smaller one helped by shoving its head down a hole for an extended period, whilst the larger one continued to furiously dig. The smaller one lay down for a rest. (Definitely a kid, at this point, we had all decided…) Suddenly a mouse jumped out of one of the holes and made a mad dash – there then appeared to be a game of ping pong as the mouse dashed bounced from one honeybadger paw to the other.

Put a few guides in a car together and what happens? LOTS of discussion and differing opinions, but lots of learning too. And a discovery that sometimes fables that we all disregard, have a scientific background. On a little training excursion we passed by a burnt area, and the discussion turned to how fires start in the Delta. The general concensus: man-made, lightning, friction, and ghosts. I’m sorry, repeat that last one again? Yes, ghost fires. An immediate image pops up of Casper running around with a box of matches, lighting in strategic places, but the ghost fires were described as fires that seem to start spontaneously, with no sign of any outside influence. This was put down as an old wives tale, but on researching with even more guides, more of these stories came out. And the description matches that of peat fires – something that does happen in certain areas of the delta where layers of peat can lie smouldering underground for years, until a small disturbance allows them to light dry grass above ground, creating a fire with a puff of smoke. And so, ghost fires do exist after all!