Weather and grasslands
The month of March was been hot, dusty and humid. Westerly winds brought in light rain earlier on in the month: on the 4th we received 21mm of rain. Humidity levels have been high and averaging at 29-67%. Recorded rainfall for the month was 64 mm.
The Mara River had dropped to a very low level since the 6th of the month; in some areas much further downstream from Serena it appeared to have almost stopped flowing. The marsh was also getting dry although still holding many elephant and can be seen in the north marsh byways.
Grass levels had started to look dry although still quite long in the west and east Marsh areas where more rain was recorded. In many areas on the open grasslands, grass levels have been grazed down very low by competing herbivores.
March in the Mara – dry with short grass levels – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
On the plains:
Common zebra have congregated on the short grass plains south of Bila Shaka, East Marsh, the Olare Orok and Double Crossing areas. Topi are being seen in small herds on Topi plains and east Musiara plains – many of the young bulls are being seen sparring. Coke’s Hartebeest or ‘Kongoni’ will be seen in smaller herds with an average size of 6 females and male. It has been seen and noticed recently that many of Coke’s Hartebeest calves don’t appear to reach the age of a few months.
Zebras congregating on the short grass plains – photo credit Moses Manduku
Topi, sparring males – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
More giraffe males are being seen particularly within the riparian woodlands of the Mara River and the west marsh grassland areas are a good place to see them. Impala breeding herds and bachelor herds can be seen within the woodlands verges or even on the open plains. There is a large bachelor herd of varying ages of males near Governors’ Camp in the west marsh. Defassa waterbuck are more commonly seen close to the vicinity of water; hence good places are the east marsh grasslands and the Lake Nakuru area of the centre Marsh.
Giraffe favouring the riparian woodlands of the Mara River – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Elephants in small breeding herds can be seen within the west marsh, many of these have again crossed over from the Trans Mara side as can be seen by the water marks on their torsos. There have also been some regular bulls in ‘Musth’ that have been seen moving between the breeding herds. The African elephant bull stays in Musth for more than a month while the Asian bull elephant stays longer than a month while in Musth. Much of the elephant’s diet that can be seen in their dung, is grass since the grass levels in the Trans Mara and west marsh are still favourable. A breeding herd of elephant still will come through the camps and can often be noticed sleeping within the camp grounds!
Hippo are being more vocal with the river level dwindling and the deeper pools are becoming congested. Hippo have a very poor epidermal layer so generally will suffer under direct ultraviolet light for any length of time – they do need the refuge of water to cool off in. Many of the older and less fortunate bulls have been seen to be taking refuge in thickets along the river banks.
A small herd of Grants’ gazelles are in residence within the marsh – some of the ewes have fawns. The Grant’s are not as numerous as the Thomson’s Gazelles who are well spread out across the short grass plains. Thomson’s and Grant’s are similar to many ungulates and caprine species that pellet their dung and hence most of their water they need comes from what they eat. It is true to say that if water is available, all mammals on land will readily drink. Dik Dik are the more tolerant of arid areas and will compensate by feeding at night.
A female Dik Dik – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Warthogs can be seen in sounders of between four and five members of which one of the older sows will be last year’s offspring acting as a nanny. Boars are beginning the rut and not uncommon to see and hear them clucking and grunting between sounders. The resident lion prides will often prey heavily off warthogs during hard times . There are two large herds of Cape buffalo – the larger and more commonly seen breeding herd is the Bila Shaka herd, there are many young calves in this herd, and these are latterly being seen within the river bed itself. One male Bushbuck has been seen along with the west marsh Olive baboon’s troop – Bush buck are not being seen that often in the last few years. This baboon troop is a large and successful troop all hinging on a strong matrilineal system of related females. Earlier on in the month, on the 2nd, a male baboon was taken and killed by a spotted Hyena – hyenas are not often seen killing baboons whom we would assume should be more vigilant. Although baboons are land dwellers and don’t have prehensile tails to hang onto branches, they do climb trees to keep a lookout for predators, eat, and sleep.
Pallid Harriers and a Martial Eagle near the lower Bila Shaka area had been seen to have killed a Grant’s Gazelle fawn and was seen feeding off it – these are not often seen these days, whereas they used to be a commonly seen large raptor along with the Bateleur Eagle. A large flock of open billed storks were seen on the 21st in the northern marsh areas.
A Tawny Eagle, seen East of Rhino Ridge – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
The Marsh lionesses are now nine in total. Yaya’s two subs (both female) have been named ‘Pamoja’ and ‘Nusu Mkia’ (which means ‘half a tail’). Lioness Spot has two cubs, a male and female that are seven months old and Little Red lost her one cub although we are not sure what happened. They are both being seen within the Bila Shaka river bed.
Yaya’s daughters, ‘Pamoja’ and ‘Nusu Mkia’ – photo credit Moses Manduku
A tragedy for the Marsh pride this month when the Bila Shaka buffalo herd earlier on in the month, killed two of Dada’s cubs and one of Kabibi’s. Sadly this behaviour is not uncommon for Cape Buffalo and it is commonly known as ‘predator prey aggression’. To worsen things, we discovered two nomadic male lions (Longface whom we know, plus his companion) came through from the trans Mara side and had killed and eaten one of lioness Kito’s cubs. This was a hugely sad moment in time for the Marsh Pride.
Three of the remaining Marsh cubs – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
The six male lion coalition are often seen between the Bila Shaka area and Topi Plains. Baba Yao was seen on Topi plains latterly and Chongo is more commonly seen in the Bila Shaka area. The other four were being seen near Kries river bed.
Five of the Marsh males have moved back to the Marsh Area – photo credit Moses Manduku
The Madomo/Ridge Pride have five lionesses and two three-month-old cubs – there are also two sub-adult lionesses. They are being seen hunting and residing near Emartii which is the south east fan of Rhino Ridge – they will hunt in upper areas of the Olare Orok River and the Double Crossing areas. This pride has been feeding of the resident Zebra and Topi.
The female leopard Saba of the Olare Orok has two young cubs estimated at four months old; these cubs are being seen now, whereas beforehand they were being hidden. She is still a much habituated leopard who is commonly seen weaving between a few quietly parked vehicles.
Romi the female leopard who has two cubs that are estimated at 8 months old, has been seen between the BBC campsite area and Lake Nakuru area. It is being noticed now that there are very few bushbuck in this area and we are suggesting that this is a result of leopard frequenting the riparian woodlands too often.
Romi, seen in the woodland area surrounding Governors’ Camp – photo credit Moses Manduku
Siri, another female leopard is still often being seen near the Chinese hill and also within the Serena pump house area of the Mara River. Her seventeen month old male sub-adult is more often seen on his own.
A large male Leopard is being seen in the west paradise plains woodlands and our guides are suggesting that he is the male called Sujaa. If this is correct, he has secured a large home range.
The five male cheetah coalitions have been seen often in the murram pit area of the Talek River – they have been hunting Impala here. Latterly they have been seen near the Hammerkop area in the southern reserve, and this indicates that these male cheetah travel great distances. They were seen on the 15th and 17th of March at the Double Crossing area – soon after this sighting they had moved across the Talek river into the southern reserve.
A single male and female cheetah have both been seen on separate occasions in the Paradise and Rhino Ridge grasslands – the female can been seen often within the east marsh grasslands and also the Bila Shaka areas.
Imani the female with three cubs estimated at ten months old, has been seen earlier on in the month in the east side of the Murram pits and deep into the Olare Orok conservancy. However she has been seldom seen by camp guides recently.
Masai Mara Game Report by Patrick Reynolds.