Tag Archives: Moremi Game Reserve

African wild dogs in Moremi Game Reserve

One of the highlights of our visit to the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana’s Okavango Delta in September was a wonderful sighting of a pack of African wild dogs.  It’s not that common to come across these unusual animals, so when one does it’s a great privilege for game viewers.  We’d been driving around for a while without seeing much activity when we saw a flurry of movement in a clearing of Mopani woodland.  With great excitement we counted at least seventeen wild dogs in the pack, most of which were young pups chasing each other playfully around the area.

African wild dog near Xakanaka, Moremi

The adults, more sedate, lay down under the trees keeping an eye on the activity of the youngsters as they jumped over logs, ran through water or just chased each other around joyfully.  It’s great to be able to enjoy this sort of spectacle and even better to be ready, with cameras on hand, to capture it in detail.  It wasn’t long before we were joined by numerous other game vehicles, all jostling for the best situation for photography.  Fortunately the dogs weren’t phased by the onlookers and they continued to play as if no-one was there, or as if we didn’t deserve their attention!

If you go down to the woods today ....

Wild dog enjoying the water

The African wild dogs that we saw were within a few kilometers of our campsite at Xakanaxa.  With an abundance of small buck in the area, the dogs are never short of food to eat.  A few days before this we saw an alpha male run across the road in front of us with a blood-stained face – obviously having just partaken of a nice juicy meal.  We were disappointed that we didn’t have enough time to photograph him, but the pack of seventeen more than made up for that.

African wild dog near Xakanaka, Moremi

Botswana wildlife authorities spend a lot of time researching these unique animals and they are sometimes collared for tracking and monitoring purposes.  They are particularly concerned about them crossing busy main roads and it is not uncommon to see warning road signs as you near the game reserves.  We were glad that none of our dogs had collars on them – it kind of detracts from a wildlife photograph.

Look out for Wild Dogs

If you’d like more information about African wild dogs, click here for a blog we did on them about two years ago.

Young wild dogs playing

So, what could YOU get for a bread crumb?

Quite often when we are camping we toss a few bits of bread into the grass around the campsite to see what local  residents we can attract. Usually we get a few sparrows, weavers, bulbuls, finches, starlings, and hornbills dropping in for a feed; the more precocious of the local birds. Perhaps an occasional squirrel. And usually it’s a bit of a bun fight. Fly in (well, the squirrels run), gobble as much as you can and scram. Grab a beak-full before your neighbour gets it all.

But just sometimes the plot unfolds differently.

Coppery-tailed coucal

Our campsite at Xakanaka in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana was close to the thick undergrowth at the edge of the Okavango Delta, and we tossed a few bits of bread nearby. The usual birds were quick to arrive (and also a group of less usual birds – Yellow-throated petronias). But then, at a few minutes after four o’clock in the afternoon, out of the undergrowth strode a majestic Coppery-tailed coucal (Centropus cupreicaudus), one of the usually shy, skulking birds that is heard more often than it is seen, and when it is seen, it is most often glimpsed through a thickness of reeds or bushes into which it vanishes by magic.

But after a cautious initial look around, this fellow strode out into the open with supreme confidence. Ignoring us totally, he picked up a piece of bread, but instead of eating it as we expected him to do, he paraded with it in his bill along the edge of the bush.

Coppery-tailed coucal

Now we know that many courting rituals involve food, (even human rituals – many a courting couple’s first date is at a restaurant), but we were still surprised when a female coucal emerged from the dense undergrowth and joined him and his trophy in the relative open.

Her appearance brought the male’s display to an abrupt end. Without any further ado he proceeded, bread in bill, to mount her, handing over the bread mid-way through the performance. She accepted the bread and held it in her bill until the deed was done, after which she disappeared back into the bush from whence she had come, still clutching the bread.

Coppery-tailed coucal Coppery-tailed coucal Coppery-tailed coucal

The male walked a little way through the campsite, not quite as haughty as he had been earlier, and presumably his appetites were satisfied for the moment as he showed no further interest in the bread.

Coppery-tailed coucal