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November in the Masai Mara

29 November, 2016

Weather and grasslands

This month of November has been the driest we have had in many years with only 37mm of rain for the whole month, in November last year we received 206mm of rain.

Other areas have had heavier showers of rain with the short grass plains growing a green flush and moving the resident ungulates back and forth. Morning temperatures averaged out at 19°C with afternoons at 28°C, the humidity has been fluctuating between 40-75%. There is often a strong north-easterly wind that prevails in the morning and afternoons.

storms masai mara

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Grasslands are generally dry within Musiara; particularly within Bila Shaka, Musiara Plains and north fan of Rhino Ridge where grass levels are dry but still dense. The Mara River is also lower than normal for this time of year and the marsh is drying up.

On the plains

Earlier on in the month there were some large but scattered herds of resident wildebeest left behind on the Burrangat and Posse Plains and as far south as the Sand River. In the first week this area received some good rainfall, large areas of grasslands have been burnt earlier in the year and this has allowed these grassland areas to regenerate; this subsequently has kept these wildebeest and zebra in situ, within the first week of the month on the 6th on the south bank of the Sand River there was a large build up that crossed later in the afternoon. Towards the end of the month many of these resident wildebeest and zebra herds had crossed at Look Out Hill and have slowly made their way to the Burrangat Plains, some have crossed the Talek River and are scattered along Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains. Latterly in the month zebra have filtered through to the west side of the marsh and also on the southern Bila Shaka Plains and east Topi Plains.

wildebeest masai mara

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds 

We have had good sightings of ostriches on the Burrangat Plains and below Emartii hill close to the double crossing. The male ostriches are displaying, they are very pink in breeding plumage while females will flirt about close by with drooped and flapping wings, there is a hen and cock on the south Musiara plains with 11 chicks, to start with they had 13 and two are now missing and suspected to be have been taken by Black Backed Jackals. Many warthogs and two month old piglets will be seen running around across all open plains.

ostrich

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Topi have moved from Topi Plains to the Rhino Ridge Plains, there are some large herds of Topi and with many calves that are two to three months old, some of the dominant males seemed to be lekking which is very early, perhaps due to late rains. There are a few small herds of Cokes hartebeest on Topi Plains, South Bila Shaka and Paradise Plains.

Many Black Backed Jackals are being seen on Paradise Plains and Topi Plains. On the 22nd a pair of Jackals had eaten a young warthog piglet. Black Backed Jackals are very efficient predators whether hunting as a pair or individually. Large Nile monitor lizards are being within the Musiara Marsh; there are many monitor lizards in the Musiara Marsh byways.

Spotted Hyena area also active with three large clans being seen frequently, the paradise clan is over 70 members, the Rhino Ridge clan is approximately 40 members, the largest of them all operates between Bila Shaka and Topi Plains; this clan had fed heavily on buffalo calves earlier on in the year later hunting topi during February and March.

Cape buffalo herds are also well spread out; the Rhino Ridge herd is the smallest whereas the Topi Plains herd has over 300 animals similarly, the very large herd on Paradise Plains that is over 400 animals. The resident lion prides take a toll on Buffalo when other ungulate species are not present.

buffalo masai mara

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds 

There are large breeding herds of impala on the short grass plains of Malima Tatu, west marsh and the riverine woodlands between the camps; male bachelor herds will not be too far away. Olive Baboons are also being seen in large troops; with the dry period progressing troops of baboons are travelling further out to forage.

Elephant are spread out in small breeding herds across the open plains where the grasses are still thicker and denser; there are not many within the Musiara Marsh as it appears the elephant are now feeding more off the perennial grasses. Four black rhino were seen in the early hours of the morning of the 21st near Governors Private Camp in the west marsh grasslands. 

Giraffe will be found feeding in well scattered Acacia trees and wooded areas, recently the giraffe have been seen eating the Cucumis vines that trail within the grasslands, they will bend down with front legs splayed apart similar to the way they drink at a river or water course of any sort. Southern Ground Hornbills are present within all areas of Musiara, many have chicks of varying ages; they have been seen eating the Scarab Beetles that are affiliated with buffalo manure. White Storks have and Lesser Kestrels have arrived and the White Storks have been seen in the Trans Mara and within the reserve on Topi Plains. Pallid and Montagu Harriers have also been seen swooping low across the open plains. Steppe Eagles have also arrived in good numbers, on the Musiara and Topi Plains. Steppe Eagles have been seen in smaller numbers, near the southern areas of the reserve larger collections of them have been seen. The Northern Wheatear is also being sighted now.

giraffe masai mara

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds 

The Gardenia trees are in flower with many stands of Gardenia covered with scented flowers, Crinum Mucowanii the Pygama Lilly and the Fire Ball Lily are all in full bloom, which is lovely to see.

Lion

The Marsh Pride is residing in the North Marsh areas, Charm the oldest of the pride lost her two cubs last month. Dada or Smudge (to the BBC film crew) has given birth to two cubs that are hidden in the marsh reeds, she was seen moving them on the 18th and they have not been seen clearly since, these cubs are estimated at one month old. They had killed a zebra on the afternoon of the 24th and have been feeding off topi and warthog. Yaya and her two sub adult cubs; a male and female, that are 16 months old now, have since mid month moved out of the Musiara area and into the conservancy in the north east, she was very active whilst in the lower Bila Shaka and had been feeding off buffalo and topi. Earlier on in the month and there were six young male lion that had been residing in the lower Bila Shaka whether these lion had pushed Yaya and her two sub-adult cubs out is a possibility. Four of these young lion are nearly three years old and came from the Trans Mara and are the offspring of Lionesses Lippy and Kinni of the 2nd breakaway pride all of which were born in the Musiara area. Two of the males we don’t know exactly where they had come from, towards the latter week of mid month they had moved away from the Bila Shaka areas, on the 28th they had returned, apparently they had crossed the river from the Trans Mara side and were seen south of the Bila Shaka and were eating a warthog.

marsh pride lionessesPhoto courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

The Paradise Pride have added another four cubs to their pride, on the 19th, there were nine cubs being seen close to the main crossing point and these cubs have all come together, five are a little over two months old and the four are approximately six weeks old. The total number of young lion cubs ranging from 6 months to six weeks is now 14 cubs. The mother of the four cubs has a tendency to more her cubs away although all cubs get on well if they are together, feline politics amongst adults. The other two lionesses with the five cubs are being seen further downstream from the main crossing.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Madomo with her four, three month old cubs are also doing well below Emartii Hill on the east fan, she had killed a Topi close to where she has her cubs in the evening of the 19th. On the 22nd she was seen dragging a half eaten wildebeest back for her cubs. A report last month had mistaken the cubs of lioness madomo for her sister. The two prime males lion Blackie and Lipstick area also being seen south of Emartii Hill, the two sisters to Madomo with the four 14 month old sub-adult cubs three males and a female have moved from Kries river bed on Topi Plains and are now hunting wildebeest and zebra south of Emartii Hill and towards the double crossing area. One of the young males has the start of a very dark mane, all these sub-adults are the offspring of male lion lipstick.

lions masai mara

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds 

The three males of the Musketeers have been seen downstream from the Chinese hill and have been feeding off zebra, hippo and buffalo, on the 22nd three of them; Morani, Sikio and Scar were all together and were resting close to the remains of a half eaten zebra. All these three males are scared and limping, pressure builds up into a squabble when a lioness comes into estrus and fighting often erupts. Also in this area are two of the Paradise lionesses, a young lioness and the young sub-adult male, we have also noted that these lionesses and the sub-adult are perhaps Paradise Pride breakaway.

lions masai mara

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Leopard

Saba the female leopard of the Olare Orok River has been the highlight this month, her two cubs are four months old and the female cub is very adventurous with the male a little quieter. These is also a large male that hunts in the same haunts as the female Saba, he has been feeding off topi and impala. On the 21st he had killed a large female topi in the riverine woodlands.

leopard masai mara

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds 

Another female is being seen in a croton thicket close to the river crossing, she has been feeding of impala and young topi calves. She is very shy and the one boscia tree that she often frequents is littered with old dried out kills.

Romi the female leopard with the 16 month old female cub will be seen more often close to the BBC camps site and also as far as the lower Bila Shaka.

Cheetah

Malaika with her two cubs that are five months old are still being seen between Survey Hill and Keekorok, there are some expansive open plains in this area with many smaller ungulates like the Thompson Gazelles which Cheetah love to hunt.

‘Musiara’ the female cheetah with her three 18 month old cub’s; one male and two females are being seen between the Ol Keju river beds and Look Out Hill and the Ronkai depression. She is very active and her sub-adult cubs are very close to be going out on their own. 

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku

A young female who is the daughter of Malaika is also being seen near the double crossing and also towards the salt up on the Ngiatiak River, she was seen on the 16th and 22nd stalking Thompson Gazelles and both occasions was thwarted when a warthog family ran through the group of gazelles, disrupting the hunt.

Nora’ the single female has the one 11 month old male cub; she is still being seen on the short grass plains north east of the reserve, earlier on this month she moved down closer to the Talek River she has been seen eating warthog piglets and Thompson Gazelle fawns.

Patrick Reynolds, Governors Il Moran Camp Manager 

Comments

Submitted by Sabine Bayer (not verified) on

Dear friends at GOVERNORS;

many great thanks for your interesting report on all your animals around in Mara!

It's only about a month ago we could share your sightings and hospitality a second time already!!!!
Though we DID NOT see any elephants then, which is more than unnatural and unexplicable...
and many other participants wouldn't believe this bad joke...we loved your place and might be
thinking of coming back under better conditions!!!!
Congratulations to you, dear Patrick, for your excellent fotos you "shot"....!!!!!

Kind greetings to everyone there from
Sabine Bayer and Gudrun Petrowske ( Nov.3. - 5. 2016)

Please, say hello to MARCY, thanks!

Submitted by Jagadish Reddy (not verified) on

Looking forward to our visit in August'17

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