The lion pride has been resident in our area for the last four months. It consists of four adult females, eight one-year old cubs and four young cubs of three months old. There has been an influx of buffalo and we have several good-sized herds which has kept the lions in our area. The two resident male lions are around eight years old and both are magnificent specimens. A lioness who spent time around the lodge had five cubs some time back but has moved further north to keep away from the main pride.
What is interesting is that the whole pride are tree climbers and this is not behaviour I have seen often in Botswana. We have started looking for them in trees as we do for leopards and the photo opportunities have been wonderful.
We have several habituated leopards in our area which all started with a single female called Madiphala. We estimate her to be around 13 but her condition is excellent for her age, and she has just had a new cub Thsameko, meaning ‘the playful one’ in Setswana. Over the years she has produced successive litters of cubs and four of her female cubs are still in the area. One of them regularly crosses the bridge to the lodge at the old Xigera Camp. They make for great viewing and we see them often.
We have a resident pair of young wild dogs and a bigger pack which denned to the south of us this year. We think the pair of dogs in our area will breed next year and then form our own resident pack. Wild dogs were not seen in the area for a long time. So much so that the guides told me when they first came back the impala and lechwe did not know what they were, and a good number were taken. Today the impala start running as soon as they see them - for good reason!
Elephants are seen around the lodge all year. We have resident bulls and breeding herds in our area. With the significant number of palms we have an influx of elephants around late July and August when the fruit is ripe. This year it took a month before the elephants had finished all of it.
Buffalo herds are to be found in our area and we have had a substantial influx this year. We have two to three breeding herds of 250 plus and many small groups of old bulls. They are the reason the lions have spent so much time around Xigera this year. They make for wonderful viewing and are all very relaxed around the safari vehicles.
We have seen tracks of rhinos, but we have no resident rhinos that I know about. They are seen regularly to the south of us, so it is only a matter of time before we see them in the area.
Lechwe is the dominant antelope of Xigera and we regularly see herds in excess of 200. The rooms on the east side of the island will all see the big herd that spends the night on the floodplain there. There is also the wonderful sound of them running through the water from time to time.
We have plenty of impala at Xigera and they are prime prey for our leopards. Our guides use the sound of their alarm calls as a means to find either lion, leopard or wild dogs. There are also many hippos and they prefer to use small lagoons off the main channels where they can relax in peace during the heat of the day.
We are lucky to have good sightings of sitatunga and these are best seen from the mokoros. They are part of the striped antelope family Tregalaphus, of which Eland is the largest.
We also have good numbers of Reedbuck in our area. We see them in small groups on the floodplains, along with Tssessebe. Bushbuck are found on Xigera island, usually feeding between the rooms, and herds of kudu are a regular sight on drives.
We have good numbers of zebra in the area and smaller numbers of wildebeest. We also have regular sightings of giraffes, both lone males and small breeding herds of females. Warthog are found on all the floodplain areas at Xigera.
Birdlife is prolific and our resident Pels fishing owl is a feature of the lodge. Out on the floodplains we see flocks of up to 30 wattled cranes and our water bird life is outstanding. When the water drops from the annual flood we get fish trapped and this attracts large numbers of pelicans, egrets, marabous and yellow billed stork. Truly one of the great sights at Xigera.
Over the summer we have an influx of migrants starting with yellow billed kites in August. I have just seen our first broad billed roller, and European and blue cheeked bee eaters are already in our area. We should soon see the first of the woodland kingfishers and flocks of barn swallows to let us know that summer is here. Red backed and lesser grey shrikes will be seen in numbers by December.