Oktober 2012 Tiersichtungsreport der Kwando Safaris Camps
This month we actually had two different packs of wild dogs – the pack that has been with us for several months, which now consists of 7 adults and 6 puppies, and second pack that has been seen twice of 5 adults and 3 puppies. It’s likely that this is actually the original pack of 12, which has split into two packs. We witnessed them meet face to face, (or muzzle to muzzle) at Second Bridge on one occaision, and although the two packs chased around each other, there was not a large amount of animosity. The resident pack lost interest and went off to hunt impala.
There was also an interesting bit of hyena and wild dog activity where a solitary wild dog killed an impala and, before the rest of the pack could get there to assist, three hyenas moved in quickly and grabbed the remains. Another day, hyenas managed to steal an impala kill away from the dogs, only to be chased out when a lion arrived to claim the prize! Later in the month, the lions didn’t have it so lucky, when a lioness lost her reedbuck kill to a hyena who harassed her too much.
Three male cheetahs were also seen several times this month in the Splash area, as well as a cheetah mother and her sub-adult cub, feeding on a baby tsessebe. Late in the month, they were lucky enough to find a female cheetah in oestrous, and one of the brothers mated with her. It was also a lucky escape for one of the brothers, as when they were spread out looking for the female, two male lions caught the scent of the cheetah and started following. When the cheetah finally saw the lions, he ran off, with the lions giving chase for quite a distance. Eventually, the lions tired and gave up on the run.
At the beginning of the month four previously unknown male lions moved into the Four Rivers area, changing the movements of our resident pride, and forcing them to the eastern part of the concession. The resident male lions ‘kidnapped’ the solitary female lioness that frequents the central area of the Kwara concession, and are obviously waiting for her to come into oestrus, in the hopes of mating. Three Shindi females were also seen, one of which has two cubs of around 3 months old. Perhaps because of the prevalence of lion sightings this month, the leopard sightings were fewer, and seemingly a little shy.
Of the smaller cats, two servals were seen moving around together, hunting.
The heronry was overflowing with chicks, as well as parents that were busy feeding their hungry offspring. However, at the end of the month, elephants arrived on the scene to feed, and damaged a lot of the trees that the birds were nesting in. Sadly, many have had to move off, some leaving their chicks behind.
Early October saw the three cheetah brothers reunited for the first time in over a month! It was lovely to see them all together again – they looked well fed, and had just killed an impala. The rest of the month, the brothers stuck close to each other. However, their territory is huge, so it can be a long time between sightings of them, as they patrol and survey their domain
Hundreds of carmine bee eaters have arrived for the breeding season. These stunning birds are everywhere, but the most exciting place to see them is from the boat, as they nest in holes in the banks of the river.
Interesting combination of lions this month, with a female with three sub-adults being seen feeding on a kudu and buffalo, and then a female with 1 sub-adult feeding on a zebra. A few days later these two small prides met, and fed together on a small elephant. Late in the month, the pride of six (2 lionesses and four sub-adults) made an unusual kill: honey badger. These ferocious little beasts are rarely caught by predators, as even lions are a little hesitant around them, and they have a tendency to stand and fight rather than flee. Sadly, this one didn’t win the day, and provided a small meal for six lions. It was obviously only snack-size, as the next morning, the same lions were seen hunting for bigger game along the floodplains.
Several leopards have been seen this month, including the female with two young cubs. Although they are shy during the day, when found at night, they are much more relaxed. Four other females and two males have also been seen.
Early on in the month, the Lagoon pack of wild dogs were frequenting the area around Lebala, as the Southern pack have been able to take longer forays into their adjoining territory now that the water is receeding. However, in the middle of the month, the Lagoon pack appears to have lost one of the puppies – and the pack count is now 16 adults and 8 puppies – still not a bad number for a litter of 10, in a species that normally has a high infant mortality rate.
Huge herds of buffalos are still frequenting the area along the water-cut – herds of around 1000 individuals are being seen regularly, still waiting for the heavy rains so they can move further afield. Elephants have already caught wind of the impending rain, and although there are still a lot of breeding herds around, the numbers are slowly decreasing.
Hyenas are becoming the dominant predator in the area at the moment, ganging up and forcing lions off their kills numerous times. The den seems to be producing a never ending supply of hyena cubs! However, it would just take a couple of lions to hit upon the den at an inopportune time whilst the adults are away, to tip the balance in the other direction.
Late October, and the babies start arriving: first to be spotted – two new-born tsessebes finding their spindly legs, and having to learn fast how to BE fast, before any of the predators catch them!
Summer (or rainy season) is truly here with the arrival of the Woodland Kingfisher this month. One of the last migrants to arrive, they announce their appearance with a high chirp, followed by a liquid trill. Nothing evokes a change of season so much as that call, when it is has not been heard for more than seven months. It conjures up images of bright green leaves, green grass, beautiful scents and antelope babies - even though we have only had one quick thunderstorm so far!
Wild dogs this month showed their co-operative pack behaviour, when they decided to cross a lagoon which had crocodiles lurking around. Two members of the pack were encouraged across by the rest of the pack, to the safety of the far bank. Wild dogs have a strong sense of pack responsibility, to the point of supporting a member of the pack who cannot hunt.
Three leopards in one day was the record this month for the ‘elusive cat’. It began with a very relaxed male seen at John’s Pan, then a female was found hunting along Mogotho Road, and lastly, a second female was seen at sunset attempting to hunt impalas. Late in the month, a male and female leopard were found together, relaxing on top of a termite mound, admiring the view.
The lionesses weren’t so lucky this month, having kills stolen from them on the same day – having killed a kudu, a hyena clan came and chased off the lionesses, and then a warthog kill was stolen by a large male.
It was a luckier time for a slightly smaller cat – and the guests that saw it – a caracal managed to kill a female impala. These beautiful cats, with tufted ears similar to the lynx, are amazingly strong, and can overpower prey that is larger than itself. An impala is a good meal for the caracal, at about twice its own body weight!
With all the action happening out and about, and great predator sights to see, its also wonderful to note that a guest recorded one of the remarkable sightings as the painted reed frog. These tiny frogs (not much bigger than a fingernail) are beautifully coloured, but hard to spot, sitting motionless on the reeds. Another motionless frog, is the foam nest tree frog: these frogs are easily seen in, of all places, Lebala bar. Pale cream in colour and looking like ceramic ornaments, they spend the day sitting on top of picture frames, or resting alongside the bottles. They can make astounding leaps to catch insects near the lights, though perhaps not as astounding as the leap that is then made when they inadvertently land on someone!
Nxai Pan Camp
There are large numbers of springbok in the area, with the females heavily pregnant, just waiting hopefully for the rains to come so that they will be able to feed their offspring well enough. A couple of males were still seen sparring – though it’s a little late in the day to be fighting over females when the deed is already done!
Black backed jackals are seen all over the pan, foraging, laying down and making frequent contact calls to each other.
On the 4th of October, a male and female lion were seen mating at the waterhole within the pan. On the same day, two male cheetahs came into the camp waterhole to drink.
Accountants don’t get out of the office much, but once in a while, a journey from the Maun to the Nxai Pan Park headquarters to sort out the park fees payments is necessary. Unable to have much more time than driving straight into camp, spending the night and driving out the next morning, our nature-loving administrator was excited to see anything at all. Hitching a ride into camp with her were three guides and the guide-co-ordinator, who were heading into Nxai for a training session. Perhaps they bought some luck, or perhaps it was their skills coming into action, as in the short time she was there, our lucky Accountant managed to see elephants and two cheetahs drinking at the waterhole, lions feeding on an oryx, and last but not least, a leopard that was relaxing next to the ‘main’ road. And on her way out of the park, closer to the Baines Baobab side, the first few hundreds of zebra from the start of the migration were spotted! – early indeed!
The rest of the month, the lions and the cheetahs did not disappoint, and were seen many days. As all the animals are now waiting for the good rains to fall, they are still reliant on the waterholes that dot the park. For the predators, this means an easy source of food as the desperate animals come in to drink.
Tau Pan Camp
The start of the month saw the three adult lions (now comprising of two females and one male, since the other male left to pursue his own agenda) and six sub-adults drinking at the camp water hole with full bellies. They then proceeded to the western side of the waterhole where there is nice shade, and spend the whole day snoozing.
Later that day there was some drama, as the six sub-adults came face to face with a very thirsty looking cheetah at the waterhole. Thanks to his speed, he managed to outrun the lions, and returned the waterhole later when the lions had left. Normally, this particular cheetah runs when he sees the vehicle, but this time around he allowed us to view him for almost an hour as he drank, before marking his territory on a nearby bush and leaving.
The six sub-adult lion cubs are still trying to fine-tune their hunting skills against the prey species animals that come to drink – but still no luck! The two lionesses then take over from the cubs on a serious note as they try to take something down for the family. Even they are struggling to succeed, as every time they try to stalk something, the cubs are always first to launch an attack, at completely the wrong moment!
When the sub-adults are not busy stuffing up their chance of getting something to eat, they spend quite a bit of time wrestling one another. This helps build their muscles, and they do learn some techniques for how to bring down prey. The more they practice, the better they will get in the future, especially important for the two young males who are facing eviction in the near future.
Yet another sighting of the brown hyena, sneaking into the waterhole to drink just as dawn arrived. Realising he was out late, he quickly trotted off into the distance to await the night falling again.
A very photogenic leopardess was found twice in one day – first at the waterhole in front of camp, quenching her thirst, and then relaxing in an umbrella thorn. She kept changing positions, seemingly in order to ensure that everyone could get her ‘best angle’.
Although we have been seeing plenty of honey badgers out on our drives, sniffing around and digging for food such as rodents, reptiles and invertebrates, the camp staff are less than enamoured with these cheeky animals. Several times during the last month they have broken into our dry goods store (which is on deck, raised up off the ground) and had a fat and happy time having a midnight feast. Their sharp claws easily break into sealed plastic tubs, and they are even able to climb the shelves. The camp staff have always been very careful to ensure that everything is carefully locked away and out of animals reach – even the waste that returns by truck to Maun – but the badgers always seem to be one step ahead. An additional application of corrugated iron to the outside walls of the storeroom is hoped to keep them at bay – for a while at least.