The weather and grasslands
March has been a warm and humid month with sporadic rainfall pattern and heavy cloud cover most mornings. Humidity levels averaged between 67 and 96% and rainfall for the month was 137mm with a heavy downpour of 50mm on the 13th. In the last week of March the weather had turned for the best with clear mornings and windy days. The Mara River level was high on the 13th and water level is at a good flow. The Musiara Marsh is looking lush and has stopped flowing. The Warburgia trees are still fruiting; this year we have seen a heavy crop of fruit from them. Grass levels are still long in many open grassland areas. At the beginning of the month when we still had guests, game drives were a little restricted at times due to subsidiary rivers which were still flowing and low lying water holes in grassland areas, which are were still saturated.
March: sporadic rainfall and heavy cloud cover most mornings – photo credit Will Fortescue
On the grassland plains:
Elephants in small breeding herds are still residential within the Marsh and open grasslands; some large bulls, are coming through from the Trans Mara and the northeast conservancies. These herds and solitary bulls are often seen passing through the camp, attracted by the Warburgia trees which are still fruiting. Defassa waterbuck can be seen in small breeding herds around the West marsh area, with bulls often on the periphery.
Elephant breeding herds found on open grasslands – photo credit Will Fortescue
There is also a large troop of Olive baboons in the west marsh and BBC campsite areas; this troop has many infants; the Warburgia fruit are also liked by Olive Baboons.
Olive Baboons love the fruits of Warburgia Trees – photo credit Alberto Beltramello
The graceful herds of Impala ewes will be seen feeding and browsing within the same habitats while bachelor herds of males are not far away with two rams that have one horn each due to the pressure of ‘rutting’.
Impala ewe – photo credit Will Fortescue
Thomson Gazelle females will be seen in loose herds; they are more commonly seen on the shorter grass areas such as the north marsh and on the short open grass plains north of the Marsh escarpment. Some of the Thomson ewes are pregnant this month. Large herds of Topi can be more commonly seen on the East Musiara plains and then some smaller herds on Malima Tatu and east towards the conservancies – since grasses are shorter and more palatable here.
Warthogs and their 4-5-month-old piglets are well spread out and many have habituated themselves within our campgrounds. Lion and leopard will often close in on the camps for these habituated warthogs. Boars have started mating with sows in March; the piglets live with their mother and are weaned around 4 months old and will become mature at 20 months. Sows tend to stay with their mother as adults, while males as boars are known to go off on their own. During hard times the resident lion prides will feed heavily off warthogs.
Cape buffalo breeding herds are being seen in the long grass areas of the south Bila Shaka and East Musiara plains; the resident lion prides and the spotted hyena clans will feed off these buffalo. Solitary male bulls can be seen close to the riverine woodlands and around our campgrounds. Many species of ungulates can be seen in the open areas between the Olare Orok and Ngiatiak rivers.
A Flock of 20 young ostriches can be seen in the north marsh plains areas. Adult ostriches sit on their eggs (normally around 20 eggs) with the females guarding the eggs during the day and the males at night.
Scattered herds of female Eland are also being seen in small breeding herds on the open north marsh plains, while some Eland will also be seen in the Malima Tatu areas. The more dominant and solitary males have been seen in the north Marsh areas and Topi Plains.
Coke’s Hartebeest near the north Marsh and airstrip grasslands will be seen in small herds of just five or six individuals. More Dik Diks are now being seen in the Mara riverine woodlands; this is a sign of low predation activity.
Spotted Hyenas are still very active particularly in the East Musiara plains and there is also a large clan in the northeast marsh byways.
Crowned cranes with young chicks are being seen in the West marsh. African fish eagles have been seen mating and are calling frequently. Male Black Faced weavers are still frantically building nests; a good sighting of this activity is at the Little Governors crossing.
Crowned crane – photo credit Will Fortescue
Larger Cats of the Mara:
The five Marsh Pride lionesses, Kabibi, Dada, Kito, Rembo and their five sub-adult cubs are being seen latterly in the south Bila Shaka grasslands and also in the East Musiara grasslands plains. Three of the cubs are now 16 months old, one of which belongs to Rembo and two belong to Kabibi, while the other two are 14 months old and old belog to Kito. On the 18th March, they had killed a zebra; not long after they were robbed of this kill by a large clan of hyenas. The aggressive confrontation ended with Rembo’s daughter being attacked and bitten by the Hyena – luckily enough Rembo turned up in time and quickly dispatched a young Hyena, this is known as ‘predator aggression’.
Marsh Pride lioness – photo credit Will Fortescue
Male lion Koshoke is often seen close by to the Musiara Airstrip grasslands, we had a good sighting of him feeding off a Bohors Reedbuck in March. The other three males: Chongo, Kibogoyo & Kiok have been seen recently on the southern grasslands of Bila Shaka/Rhino Ridge where they have been feeding off warthog and buffalo.
Lioness Yaya and her two adult daughters, Pamoja and Nusu Mukia have been seen hunting in the east marsh grasslands close to the north marsh escarpment; they have been feeding off warthog, zebra and Topi. On the 18th March they had killed a male warthog boar north of the Marsh Windmill.
The Topi/Madomo Pride is now up to 16 members consisting of 5 adult lionesses, two 14-months-old cubs (a male and female) and five 2-months-old cubs. This lion pride resides near the Ngorbop River woodlands and on the Malima Tatu grassland plains; they have been feeding off buffalo and Topi. Male lion Doa is often seen with this pride.
The Double-Crossing Pride (also known as the Moniko Pride), has again been hunting and habituating in between the Olare Orok and Ngiatiak Rivers. There are five lionesses here with 13 cubs of varying ages; eight cubs are now sub-adults at 14-months-old and the other five are just four months old. They have been feeding off Eland and Zebra as well as other good plains game species which can be found in this area that they reside in.
There have been reports arriving that the legendary male lion ‘Scar’ is being seen in the Lookout area of the southern Reserve; he was not in good shape earlier on in the month and subsequently we are unsure of this comment. The other two males Sikio and Moran were also seen in the southern reserve in March.
A young male leopard which is the son of Romi, is being seen quite frequently near Lake Nakuru and North Marsh. A good sighting of this young male was on the evening of the 3rd March in the riverine woodlands near the Reserve boundary. He was mobbed by a troop of Olive baboons as he tried to get from the open grasslands and into the woodland thickets; the male baboons chased him into a warthog hole where they kept him at bay until an elephant passed by very close to the commotion. The baboons were momentarily distracted by the passing elephant which was just enough time for the Leopard to make a clear break.
Bahati the female leopard has been seen lately near the Talek River by our guides.
Leopard sighting – photo credit Alberto Beltramello
A young male cheetah is being seen frequently on the open plains close to north Marsh; we had a very good sighting of him on the 15th March when he had killed a reedbuck. ‘Tano Bora’, the five-male cheetah coalition are being sighted in the Olare Orok Conservancy although recently they have moved into the south Ngiatiak grassland plains. On the 14th and 15th we spotted them hunting Topi and Impala.
Cheetah sighting – photo credit Alberto Beltramello
By Patrick Reynolds, Manager at Governors’ Il Moran Camp.
Please note that due to the sudden closure of some of our Mara camps, we have had a very limited supply of images for this month and some images used have been taken from previous years in our photo bank. They do however, give a similar representation on the current weather conditions and wildlife scenarios for March 2020.