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A long overdue return to Zambia where it rained! Cats and Dogs


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I also really enjoyed the video. Good views of the Porcupines 

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I was lucky to see a porcupine at night in Nanzilha Plains in Kafue NP and you can see a photo of it in my recent report but this is in another league !

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Glad you all liked them. Sadly the baby was only seen the once. the observant among you will notice I shifted that darn branch in the foreground as well as re-aligned the unit up a little bit.

As to the make of Trail Cam.

I have had several, A Blackhawk that sadly died on me in Kenya after some really nice candid shots. the next make I think was similar and worked well but I 'sold' it to my host in Ladakh to capture the Snow Leopards that visit him in winter.

I currently have a Browning with an aggressive sounding name. It works fine but lacks one thing the other cameras had. Ability to select operating time. i.e. to work only between certain hours so it does not run in say daylight when you seek nocturnals.

It is either 'on' or 'off' as in the case of this trip I have a whole darn disk of bloody baboons and vervets so I must visit twice daily to switch on and off.

However it did catch some nice daytime ellie action which we would have missed whilst we were chasing leopards etc., elsewhere. Also the 'unit' does give off a faint red glow when operating in the dark so animals can see it.

Size wise the unit is only 5" x 3.5" x 2.25 so is easy to pack in your HAND luggage. I speak from experience as that size can look just like  a block of Semtex on an X Ray, particularly with the batteries still in, which did cause a bit of drama in Delhi last year on transfer to the Ladakh connection. Having come through MAN and IST without a problem. :lol:

When I swap this, soon, I am going to try a Bushnell that Chris McBride has at his camp in Kafue. It looked just the business.

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Thanks for the info on the trail cam. I suppose the last thing I need is one more thing to carry in carry on :rolleyes: so I probably won't get one but I could see where it would be fun to play with.


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5 hours ago, janzin said:

I suppose the last thing I need is one more thing to carry in carry on :rolleyes:

I agree. The modern clutter we all seem to accumulate reminds me why Livingstone and  Stanley hired porters!


However I feel the fun factor does tip the scales when staying in wildlife areas.

Here is a link to what happened 'back at the ranch' while we are seeking  them at their place.

https://youtu.be/k6w2JJqqIVo   When you have 20 minutes to spare take a look. The toto towards the end is fascinating.
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And so to the first and second day drives.

First the surprise evening one.


We made good time to the Gate on the bridge and entered the park and was surprised to be taken along the river drive. Normally too wet in December but lack of rain meant some usually wet drives were still usable.

A couple of birds.


Retz's Helmet Shrike.. Obviously ready for party time as she has made up with some cheap chinese eyelashes.


This next one was a puzzle.


We tried several species but nothing really fit. Then the penny dropped. We were looking at a brown bird that was a Black Eagle. Juveniles are brown and have that single distinctive white tip to the secondaries. Add in the crown and nape and a black tail. Verreaux's Black Eagle. Unless somebody knows different.


Then we met our first of Luangwa's friendly ellies. Gosh I remember how skittish and unreliable they used to be. Not now so we may have some enjoyable encounters.



Now to a problem I have found almost insoluable. Drivers seem to be fixated with lions. No matter where you are or how you express it, they WILL find lions. I can take em or leave em.  I have seen my fair share BUT nothing will stop a Driver Guide finding some lions for you to look at and praise his skills as a guide for finding the bloody things. It's like a darn kitten that brings you a dead bird or mouse at home because it just KNOWS you want it even when you admonish it and chuck it in the bin.:angry::angry::rolleyes:

But they mean well so you live with it. :D

So here are part of a lounging first pride of nine our kitten dragged home..



It's not as thought they do anything  "Very nice. Can we go now please?"


But them comes redemption.

We spy some nice looking Giraffe and ask 'Lion man' if we can pull over to get some nice family shots in the late afternoon light and as we do so I spot a movement in a nearby tree. Oh boy.




Leopard number 1. Our first of the trip and on our first drive too.

She is finishing off an Impala and we have her all to ourselves for 30 minutes.

Here is even more on video. BY ers will have seen this already as one of my many excuses for a low bird score but she is worth another showing..



Sorry about the shutter noise from others but she was so photogenic and cooperative..

Later after sundowners we continued with spotlight but apart from a Bushpig and Common Genet it was relatively quiet and we had done well for our short trip so we returned for our dinner with a satisfied grin.

The Bushpig was not quite a Lifer for me, seen in Kafue earlier this trip but a first for South Luangwa. It looked a bit worse for wear so I show the best side.



And the Genet is cute but always hard to get one to pose.


Edited to insert the pictures in the right place. System overload or finger trouble?


Tomorrow would be another day and so it was.

We were treated to those bloody lions again TWICE!


OK. From the top. We met at 6.00 for cake and coffees before setting off for our drive. This time we start with a bird.


Southern Red-billed Hornbill. Distinguished from most other Red billed Hornbills by the yellow eye.


Down the Norman Carr drive we saw our first Zebra including the little chap shown here.



Then a Malachite Kingfisher posed nicely.



And a nice portrait of mother and son was observed.1-DSCN3943.JPG.1f083b555fc1dd5d094b3d1fcd7f54b5.JPG


And then surprise surprise our demon driver and guide stumbled upon the lion pride again just in case we had forgotten what they looked like since we last saw them yesterday.   Well I got them so you have to too. :o


Oh look. They are lying down. Is that how they got the name Li oN?



Even the Spotted Hyena was not laughing.


You need a bird.


Temminck's Courser.



Some friendly giraffe. Technically Maasai but we call them Thornicroft.

This was along Norman Carr driver again and on our return we turned onto the old OxBow known as Luangwa Wafwa and guess what?




Those darn cats again. They had moved all of a mile just so we could see them again.

But at least she had the decency to move for us. The other eight just lay around making the place look untidy. Our driver was pleased though. Two sightings in one morning. (Of the same nine cats as yesterday).

Must not grumble as I used the stop to snatch a shot of another bird.



Swallow-tailed BeeEater.


And later on we  saw a Red-billed Impalapecker.



The afternoon drive was a washout but we did see a nice rainbow over Luangwa Wafwa before the rain hit as we took tea.



And on the drive back we came across this splendid Bull Kudu in such poor light that it stretched my ISO setting to the limit.



But all in all not a bad day.


What will tomorrow bring?

If we see those bloody lions again I swear I will do time.:lol:




Edited by Galana
Correction of text and order of photos. Thanks @Caracal
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1 hour ago, Galana said:

Later after sundowners we continued with spotlight but apart from a Bushpig and Common Genet it was relatively quiet and we had done well for our short trip so we returned for our dinner with a satisfied grin.


I was getting quite perturbed at your oh so casual and passing mention of a bushpig @Galana - should have twigged you were having me on ''cos there at the end of your post is excellent evidence of that special sighting.

After seeing the Red-billed Impalapecker I've a feeling from hereon I'm going to be seeing Red or Yellow Billed Zebrapeckers, Hippopeckers etc.

Continuing to enjoy this ride.

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Most impressed by the Southern red-billed Hornbill and the genet at the end but thanks for some great photos !

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34 minutes ago, Caracal said:

I was getting quite perturbed at your oh so casual and passing mention of a bushpig @Galana - should have twigged you were having me on ''cos there at the end of your post is excellent evidence of that special sighting.

Sorry about that. I have corrected it. Purely an oversight of forgetting to insert the photos. I probably was just pleased to be shot of the lions.:P

Thanks for the comment and alert.

@BRACQUENE  Pleased you liked them. There may be more to come.

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That kudu bull is quite something. Just look at the width between the horn tips. :o

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Some great sightings Fred - the Bushpig is really remarkably close. I have also seen them in the Kafue but very distantly. And just wow to that Kudu - really impressive.

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Yes. the Kudu was one of the biggest I have seen which is why I strained the camera to its limits to at least get an image. It posed as though it was a Landseer Stag before moving off.

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What is also remarkable about that Kudu apart from the magnificent horns is the elongated neck and the clearly defined musculature which I didn’t notice at first!



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On 1/15/2020 at 7:48 AM, Galana said:

The drought that has plagued some parts of Zambia seemed to be breaking.


I am so glad to hear that.  


Very cool that y'all saw Crocodiles eating the Hippo carcass.  And I love the photo of the diving hippo - looked like the White-crowned Lapwing barely got out of the way.

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4 hours ago, BRACQUENE said:

the elongated neck and the clearly defined musculature which I didn’t notice at first!

I think that musculature may be a result of the exposure at 1/25sec and a bit of handshake.

From where I was the animal was slightly higher than I was and the central neck marks are his dewlap and associated 'beard'. No doubt though he was a big fella.

@offshorebirder Hippos make a decent meal for Crocs.



They all come to the party. December 2007. Mfuwe.

Compare the size of the Hippo (pink) to some of those Crocs.


Now for our next day with some further surprises:-

Day 2. 21st December.

We entered the Park and caught two late rising Southern Ground Hornbills still in bed.



By now our driver knew I knew the park well so he asked me where I would like to head first. Quick as a flash I said "Head for Lupanga Loop and Spur!"  He said "it is far and there may not be any lions".

"Oh how sad about the lions but if we head down Wamilombe and the Mushilashi is still dry we can be there in no time at all!"

The river was still dry and crossable so we went. We did not see much on the way not even a lion!:D

A few birds.

We stopped for our usual morning coffee watching several family parties of ellies.

Then way south of the spur we heard Baboons barking very hard and spotted a leopard running for cover in some bushes. Coffee break ended and we set off to see if we could find it. And we did.

Hiding in a patch of bushes. The baboons were going berserk! As you will hear soon on the video.


Leopard number 2. Bingo. Not very visible but in view of what happened next we did not mind.


We noticed a small family group of ellies including a young mum with a small calf approaching and paying no heed to our vehicle but intent on feeding on the bushes where the leopard was.





He looks quite alert but sits tight. Only a foolish leopard would even think of taking a small ellie that must weigh more than it.


Mum and Toto come closer still.




The cat just cleans himself with the ellies moving ever closer as they feed on the bush where he is hiding.


The baby stops for refuelling.


Only a couple of yards separate the three animals now and the baboons are still yelling a warning.

I can pan right to show toto and the bush with the cat in it. All hell must break loose soon when mum smells the leopard.



I feel I should stop now and leave you in as much suspense as we were.

But I am not going too.

So just watch and wonder. I have never seen this before.



Here comes mum and......



Walks right by the cat who is sitting up now and ready to flee!


And NOTHING happens.



Although I swear that if cats could sweat he would be wringing wet.


Question:- was that ellie without a sense of smell or stone deaf??

Listen to the baboons on this short video of the event that my companion took.

As you saw eventually the cat was 'exposed' and asked to move by one of the Toto's aunties.
Phew. That should be enough for one morning but no. We had more coming.
As we headed back we sighted our first Hunting Dogs.
A short sequence follows as they move off from their resting place and pass directly in front of our truck.
A family of four adults and four yearling pups.
Not a bad morning at all.
The afternoon and evening were not bad either.
We had  a nice sundowner at Luangwa Wafwa and and as we drew blank on Norman Carr Drive we headed home only to see in quick succession three species of Owl.
First a lovely Pearl-spotted Owlet who for the non birders reading has a neat trick to confuse any prey.
Without moving his feet he can rotate his head 180 degrees and still appear to have  a pair of eyes.
The other two owls were an African Scops and a Giant (Verreaux's) Eagle Owl.
Oh and we did see lions after all but the melee of trucks had us leave in disgust as they were trying to hunt. I did photo the male trying to keep up.
We are not done yet as we found a very cooperative Greater Galago (  @Galago may like this!)
I did.
OK. We did see a lion but it was not a bad day at all..



Edited by Galana
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Wow - incredible  Elephant-Leopard interaction (or non-interaction?) @Galana.


And what good  luck you had with the Galago.   Good photos of both and amazing video.  


And so nice to have the  dogs cross right in front of you.   


It sounds like you were "living right" on this safari.  


Thanks also for the additional photos of crocs eating the  hippo carcass.     And the photo of the  Ground-Hornbill is neat - what stubby toes they have.

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that tsiko island looks and sounds idyllic! i've got to tuck that down in the list somewhere - who knows some like-minded safarigoers could be interested to live remotely and all by ourselves ( @Sangeeta). 


you've just shown why SLNP is a hot favourite among some ST-ers  - what a thrilling (non-)interaction between the cat and elephant. amazing the mommy ele did not detect the leopard but we all know how tricky and sneaky that spotted cat can be. and not forgetting the dogs! everyone sees the dogs in SLNP, except us when we were there. 


and @Galana I don't know why you never write TRs - your narrative is so entertaining  and witty and tells us everything without saying so! I sincerely hope you will do more. as you know, I always love your postcards from the bush. :wub:

Edited by Kitsafari
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Woohoo! What a day! Lupunga Spur is a favourite place for me. Lovely dogs and thank you for the galago :D

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Just woke up with your new posting and I don ‘t know where to start ; it goes from strength to strength in my view and what struck me most  is that you had the elephant leopard close “encounter” and that pack of wild dogs in December , not the month with the easiest conditions and possibilities to travel in SLNP for sure  ; it clearly proves that everything can happen on safari at any time of the year ; the warning of the baboons for the leopard reminded me of one early morning in the Nanzilha Plains Kafue NP with the Cheetah reedbuck kill in front of us and that incredible intense sound in the bushes behind !

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14 hours ago, offshorebirder said:

 And the photo of the  Ground-Hornbill is neat - what stubby toes they have.

True. Hardly a Passerine equipped for perching but there again if a Spur-winged Goose can do it why not a "Ground" Hornbill?  Darwin deals with those that fall off.

Thanks for all the comments to date.

Most of my visits to South Luangwa have been in December and we usually find Dogs. My theory is that with the low lying places being waterlogged the dogs and their prey keep to the slightly higher ground which by happy coincidence is where the all weather Murram roads run. The opposite effect to seeking water in dry conditions.

Works for me!


Before I post the next days I will revert to my comment about the melee and harrassment by some safari trucks which spoilt the nocturnal lion encounter.

This is the male of the nine we have seen. Look at the headlights. I will comment further but the standard of guiding is not what it was.
Edited by Galana
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Interesting and new theory about the possibility of finding wild dogs at least for me but I see the logic in it ; the common belief  is that they are easier seen in the denning period and when they have young cubs as they are staying in the same spot which would be the end of may and June to august at latest ; I still hope to be lucky and see them in July though in SLNP but too places remain Mana Pools , the Selous and Northern Botswana 


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Off we go again.

Day 3.    22nd December.

A day of mixed feelings.

The usual start but on entering the Park my driver seemed to want to show us more of the area I knew and we were soon back in Lupunga. Birds were plentiful of course including a nice flyby by a Shikra. (Little Banded Goshawk) that refused to permit a close enough approach to get a decent picture.

No dogs or cats in evidence but a lone Cookson's Wildebeeste wandered by moving at a very determined pace in a northerly direction as though to make early contact with her kinfolk up north. I don't recall seeing Wildies down here before as the habitat is not good for them and wondered if she was lost.



Given the enthusiasm of our driver for pastures new (or was he still trying to show us more lions??) we then found ourselves heading for Chichele and Puku Ridge. I have happy memories of these places  which were the site where I made two New Year's Resolutions both of which I kept and one that I still keep to this day.

1. To walk through the park from east to west to the far Muchinga escarpment which I did the following June.

2. No alcohol before 16.00 except at lunch on occasional holidays. A meal without wine is like  a day without sunshine.

Also at the nearby "Big Bend" was the site of an early Christmas present on one visit.

We came upon some dogs, Painted Wolves is nicer, but dogs they are. Several adults and six half grown pups from the previous September denning. They were quite relaxed  with us. but the ultimate compliment was that when the adults moved off to hunt they left the pups with us.

The pups kept using the car as a focus in their chasing game. Here is a small pre-digital record.






I try to avoid Anthropomorphic comparisons but I cannot help thinking we were somehow appointed baby sitters to look out for the pups while the adults looked for supper. A thought that was borne out after 30 minutes or so when we, and the pups, heard a distant Adult bark. The pups made off at a run in the opposite direction to the bark and vanished. Shortly after they had gone the Chichele pride of lions arrived from the direction of the barking. Tell me I am wrong. Those  pups were told to make themselves scarce.

Back to the present.

We took our break up on Chichele Hill and a passing truck reported they had just seen dogs down on the flat in front of Puku ridge so we manipulated our vehicle down there as fast as the lay of the land would allow.

But the search proved abortive. After quartering the area we could find no sign and just managed to annoy some very touchy ellies who wanted to dispute right of way.

So back over the hill and our road home via Big Bend where on the flats by Nkwali loop we found a large herd of some 100 buffalo.


Most were quite relaxed and chewing cud but a couple of bulls were having a real set to!

This was not playing. I should have videoed to capture the noise.



The drive back to lunch was uneventful but the lunch was nice as usual.


The afternoon started on time with a nice Monitor Lizard hunting food.



We were birding so I asked the guide if he had ever seen Allen's Gallinule and if so where? He had never seen such a bird.

So my old grey cells were engaged in a test of memory and whilst I could visualise the place I could not remember its exact location.

I suggested it was near Big Baobab so we should drive around there a bit. Which we did. Not there but try over here and suddenly I spied a familiar spot and there was the pond where I remembered watching this bird in previous visits.

And there was a pair skulking in an overhanging bush.;)

It was hard to winkle them out but eventually the female emerged sufficiently for a half decent photo.


Allen's or Lesser Gallinule. My driver was really amazed (and so was I a little bit.)


We set off down the nearby Mopani Spur, got chased by a young elephant and took our sundowner in the company of two lovely Grey Crowned Cranes. Note the correct spelling. I wish I had a pound for the times I see this as  Grey-crowned Cranes. I can forgive Gray from our US friends but Grey-crowned never.

Anyway here they are.


Uganda's National bird in the Zambian sunlight.


The sundowners complete, note it is well after my cut off time of 16.00 local,



We headed off under the spotlight and after searching we came upon leopard #4 sitting all aloof under a bush.



Sadly the arrival of two more cars made him nervous and he moved into cover where I got one last picture before the poor beast was literally harassed almost to death by at least one truck from a lodge that should know better.



Just look at how close the cat came to being struck by a truck as it fled the scene. That truck was not stationary which would have been bad enough but moving to get "a selfish close view" for it's noisy passengers who were actually yelling instructions. Poor do altogether.


And I don't care if the Reg plate is in view!


We left the scene as by now more cars were arriving despite the rule of no more than four at a sighting.Grrr!


Our mood improved when on our way to the gate we found not one but two Pel's Fishing Owls. One on the ground with a catch at the far side of a lagoon which I did try for and one perched at our side but still a long shot at night as we  kept the spotlight off target in order not to disturb it. Still you know what they say about a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush. Well one in a tree is nearly as good!


Til tomorrow.


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Lovely shot of the Cranes. I meant to say earlier that your photo of the Scops is stunning.

And, goodness, how things have changed in the Valley. Bad behaviour like that would never have happened years ago. Do you think it's because people are relying on phone cameras that drivers move in too close? Certainly I've seen that happen in India and Sri Lanka.

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I’m enjoying a lot your TR, and I’m very curious to see if at the end you will change your leopard avatar for one with your beloved lions...

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