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.
We are happy to report that the two sub-adult cheetah brothers who left their mother earlier this year are going from strength to strength and appear to be very successful hunters. During March, we were able to follow them on hunts and witnessed them bringing down young zebras and impalas.
The Wapoka Pride of 14 lions were spotted regularly – this large pride comprising of 6 adults and 8 bouncy sub-adults are always entertaining to watch and photograph. The two dominant males in the area known as ‘Big Gun’ and ‘Sebastian’ were also seen regularly eating, sleeping or sniffing after the females. Towards the end of the month the Northern Pride were also seen in the area, with one exceptional sighting as the lions clambered up onto a dead tree, posing in perfect light. A lone lioness was successfully tracked. She appeared to be in hunting mode, so we stayed with her and in the end, she was successful in killing a warthog after an exciting chase.
The general game in the Kwando area was excellent with herds of giraffe, eland, impala, tsessebe, kudu and, wildebeest all being seen regularly. It is always interesting to revisit the same groups and observe how the behaviour of the animals can change from day to day. One overcast morning a large mixed group of zebra and tssessebe was found skittishly racing up and down Baruti Road for no apparent reason. The following day they were in the same area, lying down very relaxed in the sun. Each sighting produces a unique experience and different photographic opportunity. A successful game walk also located the herd of around 80 eland on foot, as well as a wealth of bird species.
Large breeding herds of elephants were seen in the woodland areas, feeding on different plant materials. Hippos were seen in outlying pans as well as in the river area.
Troops of baboons were often seen foraging and interacting with each other. Watching mothers nursing babies, youngsters romping or adults engaging in grooming rituals is always interesting.
Leopard were seen a few times. A persistent morning tracking paid off when a female was found relaxed and in hunting mode. Our guests were able to spend good time with her which they really appreciated.
Wild dogs and hyena were not seen as often as usual in the area for much of March, however towards the end of the month they seemed to return to some of their usual favourite spots, so hopefully we will be seeing more of them again during April.
Some notable sightings of smaller mammals sighted during night drive included honey badger and African wild cat.
The boat cruise from Lagoon camp always gives good opportunities to get close up sightings of hippos and crocodiles, as well as water birds such as cormorants, darters, herons, egrets, ibis and other waders. The aptly-named Goliath Heron, standing up to 5 feet (1 metre 50) tall was a popular favourite. Lechwes, kudus and waterbucks were often seen in the marshes during March. Beautiful white water lillies are out in full bloom and it is a treat to try and photograph African Jacanas amongst the flowers, stalking across the lily pads with their specially adapted long toes.
The guides were excited to find a set of small new prints when tracking the Wapoka Pride this month and sure enough, when they located the lions, there was a new cub of about 8 weeks old playing with a sub-adult. It is always a joy to see new life in our concessions. The mother and cub have also been seen apart from the pride, so it seems that she is managing her baby’s integration into family life slowly.
The large Northern Pride of lions were sighted regularly. On one memorable afternoon the adult lions lay resting whilst the 10 sub-adults played endlessly, climbing up fallen logs and pouncing on each other, to the great entertainment of the guests. Two male lions were also seen regularly, often full-bellied and sleepy, but were also seen in hunting mode stalking a big herd of wildebeest at the airstrip.
General game in the Kwando area continued to be very good and the impressive herd of over 80 eland was still in the area. Both sexes of the eland have horns, and we can already see that the twenty or so calves born this year are starting to grow theirs. Other species regularly seen included sable antelope, zebra, wildebeest, impala and warthog.
One rather notable sighting was when we found a hyena being chased by a large wildebeest bull on the airstrip – it is always rather amusing to witness the hunter turning tail and becoming the hunted.
The resident pack of wild dogs, consisting of 19 adults and 9 young were found eating a young male impala. The guides were also intrigued to follow a smaller group of two male and two female wild dogs who appeared in the area near Twin Pools. Time will tell if this a transient aciclovir buy over counter group or whether they will attempt to stay in the area and form a territory of their own.
A dead hippo was relished by the scavenging ‘clean-up crew’. Up to eight hyena at a time were seen feeding on this feast, as well as many vultures. The most common vulture in the Kwando area is the White-backed Vulture, however Lappet-faced, Hooded and White-headed Vultures can also be seen in the region.
Leopards were seen a few times, including a female with two sub-adult cubs. One day they were all found up a tree feeding on an impala kill, the following day the carcass had dropped to the ground where the two youngsters were enjoying finishing it off whilst their absent mother was no doubt hunting for their next meal. Towards the end of the month some guests were able to enjoy a wonderful photo opportunity of a leopard perched on top of a termite mound, staring intently at a herd of antelope.
Other smaller animals enjoyed by guests during the month were dwarf mongoose, African wild cats, honey badgers and occasionally a python basking in the sun.
The bird life in the Kwando area continued to be rewarding and some migrants who appeared included White Storks and White Storks, European Bee-eaters. One night drive gave a wonderful sighting of a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl.
Prize for sighting of the month across all the Kwando camps surely had to go to the surprise arrival of two hippos at the Nxai Pan watering hole. To find these highly water-dependant animals in a (normally) semi-arid desert environment is testament to the incredible rains throughout Botswana that the early part of 2017 will be remembered for. Bearing in mind that Nxai Pan is hundreds of kilometres from the nearest permanent river, these two animals must have had quite a journey, stopping at rain-filled pans and natural watering holes along the way. Many of our Kalahari-born staff had never seen a hippo before, so the arrival of these large, strange creatures caused great excitement. The bushman tracker was initially perplexed when he initially spotted the tracks, having never seen such a creature in the area before. Even when the guide identified the footprints there was a good deal of disbelief at the thought of desert-dwelling hippos. The animals stayed around for a couple of days before they headed off to their next destination. Now that the weather is drying up again we hope that they reach the safety of a permanent river soon.
The camp watering hole was a popular spot for a wide range of species during March. A bachelor herd of six buffalo bulls were regularly seen, and two big breeding herds of buffalo used the watering hole before continuing on to the southern area of the pan. Elephant bulls showed up at brunch-time each day to drink and bathe. A large breeding herd of elephants also returned to the area, coming for water before disappearing into the bush. In the afternoons, zebra came to drink in massive numbers, as well as wildebeest, springbok and many giraffes.
With so many animals congregating in the region it is no surprise that predators were seen regularly. The resident lion pride of seven sisters and two dominant males were seen almost every day last month. The two males were mating with one of the lionesses for a week. Two separate lionesses showed off their 3 cubs during March, each family having two females and a male cub. These six cubs are all about 8 weeks old and were hidden in safety during their most vulnerable stage. A group of lucky guests were able to witness one of these lionesses moving her cubs to a new den site, carrying one in her mouth with the other two following behind. It appears that some of the other females of the pride are also pregnant, so we hope to have a very sizable pride at Nxai Pan soon.
This baby boom is not restricted to the lions. A female cheetah was seen with brand new cubs. Towards the end of the month cheetah were seen on every single drive. The regularly- seen mother cheetah with her two sub-adult cubs were making the most of the congregations of springbok in the middle of the pan and were in excellent condition. There was also a single male cheetah in the area who appeared to be doing well.
Bird watching was at its best during March, with many sightings of eagles, hawks and kestrels. There were lots of Kori Bustard in the area and ostriches with chicks in the Pan. Summer migrants included both Blue-cheeked and Southern Carmine Bee-eaters. Due to the abundant rain, waterbirds such as Abdim’s, Yellow-billed and Saddle-billed Storks were unusually in the area. A Spotted Eagle Owl was seen many times returning from evening game drive.
Guests making the day trip to Baines Baobabs were rewarded with spectacular view of the pans which were filled with water. The birdlife was incredible and oryx were resident in large numbers.
As always, our guides were keen to show guests a wide range of wildlife species and other notable sightings during March included honey badgers, black-backed jackals and bat-eared foxes. Basking snakes included black mambas and a rock python. A small spotted genet was sometimes encountered in the evening on the walkway when taking guests to their rooms.
The impressive Tau Pan pride were seen almost daily during March. They were mainly found towards the Pan area where there was the highest concentration of game and were often seen stalking oryx.
Seven lions, two lionesses and five males were seen finishing off an oryx carcass, apparently killed the previous night. They were surrounded by group of 13 jackals who were impatiently waiting for their turn, working together to try and make bold snatches at the kill whenever the opportunity arose. The lions became extremely irritated, chasing the jackals away repeatedly. Our guests were able to witness this spectacle for over 45 minutes, until eventually the lions moved off leaving just the skull and spine for the jackals and some waiting vultures to tussle over.
On another occasion, a guide called his guests through to the main area early as the pride had killed an oryx and were feeding right in front of camp. One evening, a large male lion was seen chasing a single oryx for over a kilometre all the way from the open plain into an area of thick vegetation.
As often seems to be the case with this dynamic pride, the number of individuals ranged considerably, but usually they were seen in groups of a range between four and eight. One of our guides’ interest was aroused when he found a lioness on her own, having already seen the rest of the pride together earlier in the drive. He followed this single female and sure enough his intuitive reading of her behaviour was correct; his guests were lucky enough to see her tenderly reunite with her tiny cub of just one month old and pick the cub up in her mouth.
Leopards were seen a few times, including one on a springbok kill at San Pan, and another posing beautifully up a tree. Cheetah were not seen often during the early part of the month, but were being picked up much more regularly during the last two weeks, including a female with two cubs.
In an interesting drive on the return from San Pan 2 jackals killing an adult springbok. The antelope appeared to be nursing a previous wound and thus could not run away.
A rather skittish Brown Hyena was spotted; though highly mobile and shy it was wonderful to see this threatened species. There were also some fabulous sightings of the smaller predators during March including a very relaxed Cape Fox close to the road. This is a beautiful silver-grey fox with a yellow belly and a black tip to its tail.
A caracal was also seen nonchalantly walking along one of the roads. These medium-sized cats with beautiful tufted ears are always a treat to see.
Oryx and springbok were in plentiful numbers in the Pan area and appeared to be enjoying the new shoots of the grasses. A small group of 3-4 red hartebeest was also seen as part of this mixed herd. Springboks congregated in large number and were often seen running spontaneously and ‘pronking’. Giraffe were found in the Tau Pan browsing on Acacia trees and in large numbers at San Pan on top of the sand ridge.
There was still lots of birdlife in the pan during March, many water species such as Saddle-billed Storks were attracted to the large puddles of water which remained after the rains. Southern Pale Chanting Goshawks were numerous in the area. These elegant grey raptors have a varied diet of rodents, lizards and insects; this month one individual was seen feeding on a juvenile African Rock Python. Other notable birds of prey seen during March were Tawny Eagles, Bateleur eagles, Blac-shouldered Kites, Amur Falcons and Lanner Falcons.
Article courtesy of Kwando Wildlife
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