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Masai Mara: November Game Report

3 December, 2018

Weather and grasslands:

It was very hot and dry in November, often with strong north easterly winds resulting in warm evenings and hot, dusty days. Relative humidity was as high as 90% and rainfall was 21.5mm received in the Musiara areas, although some areas of the Mara have had a little more rainfall than others, patterns have been localized. This November is dry compared with past years. The Mara River has dropped drastically in the last two weeks of the month and the marsh water levels have also more or less dried up.

Grass levels are still drying out although still quite long in certain areas particularly that of Paradise Plains and the west marsh. The west Rhino ridge plains that were burnt in the last week of the month have greened up considerably since the little rain we have had. Some of the Warburgia trees have been fruiting and this has induced Elephant and Olive Baboons

On the plains:

Elephant have been passing through, often coming in from the Trans Mara. Many of the herds of elephant are related herds with young and calves. One particular herd passes through all the camps regularly and will often be seen coming through between meal times. On the 5th of November, a young calf helped himself to a bowl of fruit salad on one of the breakfast tables, and then promptly dropped the bowl as he walked past the reception area!

Elephant visitors at Governors' Camp

Elephants arrive in time for lunch at Governors' Camp - photo credit Moses Manduku

Masai Giraffe are presently particularly young male herds, and often breeding herds who are more spread out. The solitary older and darker colored males can wander long distances between breeding herds; one or two of these males will frequent the campgrounds often while browsing on the Warburgia leaves (this is a common phenomenon with older dominant males).

Resident wildebeest and zebra are more often being seen within the north and east conservancies. Cape Buffalo are seen in three breeding herds and they also move around depending on grass levels suitable for a hard mouth. Many older and solitary bulls can be seen in the west Marsh grasslands and some even frequent close to the resident camps. The Bila Shaka herd has had young calves and cows taken by Spotted Hyenas and the resident lion prides.

Topi herds and smaller Hartebeest herds are spread out, with good Topi herds numbers being seen on Topi plains, Malima Tatu and south Bila Shaka. Earlier on in the month of November, good herd numbers were seen in the west marsh grasslands. Since rain patterns have been splintered in November - this pattern will move Topi and Hartebeest to areas of greener pastures. Small herds of Topi, zebra and wildebeest have latterly been in the west marsh for some days.

Thomson Gazelles and Grant's Gazelles are common residents within the Marsh and shorter grass areas. It is interesting to note that Thomson numbers have increased within the Marsh grasslands since the little rainfall we had has fallen specially in some areas more than others. Thomson’s Gazelle like short grass plains - the east marsh grasslands are now short and suitable for Thomson’s. Eland bulls move in and out with a small breeding herd seen on Topi plains and Malima Tatu.

Impala and Olive Baboons will be seen within the riverine woodlands and also on the open plains. During the dry times they are spread out and particularly with a little rain, which induces a green flush, they will graze. Impala and baboons will often coexist together with foraging habitats being similar. The resident west marsh Baboon troop is a large one with over 150 members.

Hippo pods have started closing up as water levels drop causing friction amongst resident males and also those migrating males that are coming in from outside water holes which have now dried up. The low water levels also causes friction amongst breeding pods. Some male hippos can still be seen wandering outside of water refuges during the day.

Hippo conflict Masai Mara

Hippo conflict is common due to water areas drying up - photo credit Alisa Bowen

Spotted Hyenas have continually been very active with the resident Topi and zebra and wildebeest that pass through here. The airstrip clan is a large clan with over 65 members, they will hunt and course the Bila Shaka river bed areas. Black Backed Jackals are also present on the short grass areas, often seen hunting in pairs, these canids are monogamous. Bat eared foxes, insectivore of the grasslands and canid species are more often seen when ungulate species are in greater numbers. A small den of two males and three females near Kries river bed are being seen.

With the low river and waterholes now dried up, African Fish eagles are being very vocal. The Narina Trogon - both a male and a female - are being seen frequently at Governors' Private Camp.


Larger Cats:

Lion:

Marsh Lioness ‘Yaya’ and her two seven-month-old young cubs (one male and one female), are still frequenting in the Bila Shaka river bed, Rhino Ridge and east marsh areas. They have still been actively hunting and feeding off the resident zebra, Topi and wildebeest. When in the Rhino Ridge area, Yaya is wearily on the lookout for the male lion ‘Chunga’ who has had an issue with her for some time.

Lioness and cubs Masai Mara

Yaya and cubs in the Governors' Concession Area - photo credit Moses Manduku

Lioness ‘Spot’ is also in Bila Shaka area - her two cubs (also a male and a female), are four months old and were sired by male lion Chunga. ‘Little Red’ is also in the Bila Shaka area and has also been seen with four young cubs who are estimated at only one month old. The other five male lions were last seen on the east side of Rhino ridge.

Lioness and cubs Masai Mara

Lioness 'Spot' and her cubs, photo credit Moses Manduku

The other Marsh Pride lionesses – ‘Rembo’, ‘Kito’ and ‘Kabibi’ - are still being seen within the East marsh area, the airstrip and Bila Shaka riverbed. Lionesses with a coalition of males to complete a home range like this, is a good sign of settling down. They have been feeding off young buffalo, Defassa waterbuck and zebra. They have all been seen latterly in the west marsh areas of the Lake Nakuru tree line.

Lioness Masai Mara

Lioness Kabibi and her warthog kill - photo credit Moses Manduku

The Madomo/Ridge Pride is a very successful pride of over twenty lions and sub-adults of varying ages. They spend much of their time on Topi Plains and Rhino Ridge area and another area called Emarttii. The dominant female of this pride is a 'breakaway' of the Marsh Pride. The six male coalition took over this pride when they chased off Lipstick and Blackie - when new males take over some pride females will disappear with their cubs to prevent infanticide and can keep away for a bit until they succumb. Subsequently two of the older females and their cubs left for Emartii on Rhino ridge but they have since been back now with pride members becoming more used to each other. They have equally been feeding off Topi, Zebra and Wildebeest.

The Monica Pride lionesses and their four 10-month old cubs were previously east of the double-crossing areas of the Ngiatiak River. They have not often been seen in November. The two males ‘Olbarnoti’ and the other, ‘Lolparpit’, are often with them. These two males are close to 11 years old now and they have sired the ‘Six Male Coalition that has now taken over the Marsh and Ridge prides.

The Paradise Pride which consists of seven adult lionesses and their cubs of varying ages, are still on Paradise Plains and will be seen again on the southern areas of the Mara River.

Leopard:

The female leopard ‘Saba’ of Olare Orok and her two 15-month old cubs are being seen frequently - she is habituated to vehicles and therefore an easy sighting.

‘Romi’, the female leopard of the Riverine woodlands by the old BBC campsite area, has been sighted and seen more frequently in November. She has two cubs that are estimated at just 4 months old and they are often seen with early mornings and late evenings being good times.

Cheetah:

The five male cheetah coalition have been seen in the Double Crossing and within the southern reserve - and as far as the Hammerkop grasslands of the southern reserve.

The single male has been seen hunting in the Bila Shaka area and also recently within the west marsh grasslands, he was seen recently near the Lake Nakuru area.

The female cheetah from the Ol Kiombo murram pit area has four cubs estimated at six months old. She had been reported to have been seen earlier on in the month in the east side of the Murram pits and deep inside a croton thicket and was only seen with two cubs at the time. Another female on her own was seen during mid-month on Paradise Plains, she seemed nervous and was seen for two days in roughly the same place, but she has not been seen since.

NOVEMBER GAME REPORT BY PATRICK REYNOLDS

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