Weather and grasslands
This month of August 2021, we have been blessed with a lot of sun and almost no rainfall throughout the month. There were some showers at the end of the month – total rainfall was 18.5mm. Average humidity was 70% with the early morning hours being the most humid by far. It has been quite chilly in the early mornings and temperatures could drop down to 12 ℃. Luckily however, the days would warm up not long after sunrise and we reached the hottest time of the day at around 2pm with a temperature of around 26 ℃.
Photo credit Felix Rome
Our most impressive Masai Mara sunrises were witnessed each morning at 06.34am. Colours in the sky usually change in a matter of seconds, from dark orange over pinkish-violet to bright yellow; these colour changes depend on the amount of dust particles as well as different kinds of clouds and the actual humidity existent in the air. Later in the evening, the sun would set at around 6.39pm – which of course, is most pleasing to watch with a sundowner drink in hand to recall another great day in the bush.
Sunrise in the Mara – August – photo credit Felix Rome
On the plains
Due to the very little rain and the fairly high temperatures during the day, the water level of the Mara River had dropped again and it is very low at the moment. While low river levels are beneficial for the migrating wildebeests and other herbivores, it can be a disadvantage to Africa’s largest freshwater predator – the Nile crocodile. If the water level is too low for them to fully submerge, possible prey species like wildebeests, zebras and smaller antelopes are able to see the lurking crocodiles from a far and might want to cross the river or a drink from somewhere else.
The overall lack of rain, which is so typical of the dry season, has caused the grass to go down again and big herds of Cape buffalo and African savanna elephant, which are roaming the plains of the Masai Mara National Reserve, are keeping it that way.
The shorter grass is great for smaller animals like Impala and warthogs, mostly for safety reasons – since their visibility over the vast plains increases and it can be quite difficult for predators to remain hidden and be able to stalk their prey. Big cats like lions, cheetahs or leopards need to get reasonably close to their prey in order to have the best chance of surprising them, and to make the final kill.
Impala take to higher ground for better visibility in long grass – Photo credit Felix Rome
Many Thomson’s gazelles and Topi gave birth during the month of August and so did warthogs. Female Thomson’s gazelles leave the herd to give birth to a single fawn after a gestation period of about 160 – 180 days. After the first few hours of their young life which is spent with the mother, the fawns spend most of the time hiding in the grass with the mother staying in the vicinity, returning to nurse them daily.
Grant’s gazelle – Photo credit Felix Rome
Mothers will defend their young against baboons or jackals, but not against larger predators. As fawns approach the age of two months old, they will spend more time standing alongside the mother while she grazes and less time hiding in the grass.
The Musiara Marsh has almost all but dried out, but there are still some significant movements and plenty of action taking place in and around this seasonal wetland. Elephant herds coming from the Mara Triangle will cross the Mara River in the morning at around 10am and spend most of their day feeding inside the Marsh. Later in the day, they can be observed moving back to the Mara Triangle around 5pm.
Elephants enjoying a sporadic rain shower in August – Photo credit Felix Rome
On the 31st of August, we had a wonderful sighting of a family of elephants crossing the river: “All eight safely navigated the river and seemed to enjoy the experience, with numerous crocodiles and hippos watching on – perhaps as bemused as we were, that it was elephants and not wildebeest making the journey” ~ Will Fortescue.
A family of elephants crosses the Mara River – Photo credit Will Fortescue
The Great Migration
The Great Wildebeest Migration is still in full swing. At the time of compiling this report, crossings of the bigger herds are still taking place around Sand River and Lookout area, but with more herbivores pushing in and with the slight rains we’ve had in the last week of the month, we hope that the herds will reach Main Crossing point in about a week’s time.
Gnus on the move – Photo credit Will Fortescue
The migration this year has been very unpredictable so far, although a lot of our guests have been able to witness some of the most sought after moments – that is the dramatic river crossings. There are also some big herds of wildebeest and zebra coming from the Talek area and they are heading towards the Kaboso – Double Crossing area and Topi Plains.
Migration river crossing – Photo credit Felix Rome
Big Cats of the Masai Mara
The Marsh Pride of lions was seen regularly in August with female Rembo and her three cubs (who are doing especially well) sighted on several occasions. She receives great support and additional protection from Dada who is part of the original grouping of the four Marsh females – Kito, Rembo, Dada and Kabibi. Sometimes, when a female lion has young cubs, she may breakaway from the pride for a little while and it is quite common for another female member to join her.
Rembo affectionately hugs one of her cubs – photo credit Moses Manduku
Dominant males Logol and Halftail can be seen patrolling the open plains, dominating the landscape and together creating a mighty force to be reckoned with, for any wandering males who show an interest in their territory.
Halftail – Photo credit Felix Rome
Logol – Photo credit Will Fortescue
Unfortunately, one of Pamoja’s three cubs has been missing for a couple of weeks now. On the 19th of August, Pamoja and her mother Yaya (who has two young cubs herself) had killed a zebra over on Paradise Plains. The Paradise Pride caught the scent of the kill and approached them rather aggressively; there was a clash and some of the lions were left with wounds.
We had originally speculated that Pamoja’s cubs had been possibly trampled or killed in this incident, as we could only count one cub in the final hours of that day, but a sighting of Pamoja and all three of her cubs was confirmed for the evening of the 20th, by one of our fellow Marsh Pride fans.
One of Pamoja’s cubs had wounds after the clash – as did Pamoja – photo credit Moses Manduku
Our head guide of Little Governors’ Camp, Moses Manduku, decided to head out each day and track the females in the preceding days, mostly to keep an eye on Pamoja who had wounds and also to determine how many of her cubs had actually been lost. Moses could only count one cub throughout the following week and Yaya had taken it upon herself to look after Pamoja’s remaining cub alongside her own.
Yaya walks along with her own cubs plus one of Pamoja’s older cubs – photo credit Moses Manduku
On the late afternoon of the 26th August, Moses came across the two lionesses laying low in the thicket and Pamoja was nursing two cubs! One cub had amazingly resurfaced which leaves us a little hopeful for the third cub – although it is quite some time now since its disappearance.
Yaya and Pamoja are found resting in the shade and two of Pamoja’s cubs are nursing – photo credit Moses Manduku
The Paradise Pride of lions are eagerly looking forward to the arrival of the big herds of herbivores. But being exceptional buffalo hunters, the females of this pride can provide food for their cubs all year round. Doa, of the original five Marsh Boys, has been seen with the four females of the Paradise Pride, together with the nine youngsters, quite often. The cubs are doing well, growing bigger and stronger each day and with the unbeatable protection that comes from four powerful females in the group – their chances of reaching adulthood are especially optimistic.
Some members of the Paradise Pride – Photo credit Felix Rome
Romi, our resident leopardess, was mostly seen in the stretch of riverine between Governors’ Camp and Governor’s Il Moran Camp, during the month of August. Some of our guests were lucky to see Kaboso, a well-known female leopard who is often regarded as the queen of all the Masai Mara’s leopards. She is almost always together with her cub – either feeding on a fresh kill or relaxing high up on a branch that offers them the perfect vantage point.
Birds of the Masai Mara
Birdlife in the Reserve, as well as around our camps, has been exceptional as always. With a bit of luck and patience, rare beauties like the Narina trogon, Schalow’s and Ross’s Turaco, Klaas’s Cuckoo or Double-toothed barbets can be found on a bird walk through the grounds of any of our Mara properties.
Yellow billed stork – Photo credit Felix Rome
A lesser striped swallow – Photo credit Felix Rome
The bird of the month for August has to be the Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus); a stocky cowl-headed and short-tailed, jet-black eagle. Adult birds are unmistakable, with black plumage, red facial skin, grey shoulder patches and long wings that extend past their very short tail, when perched.
Bateleur eagle – photo credit Simon Landolt
The wingspan of the Bateleur is about 1.8 meters and it can weigh up to 2.3 kilos. This bird both hunts and scavenges diurnally but can also forage during the night. It locates its prey aerially and sometimes attacks it with a violent downward swoop for several hundred meters, or with a slow parachute drop. Bateleurs are adept in finding small carcasses before other scavengers and they also follow the roads looking for road kills.
A breeding pair of Bateleur eagles – photo credit Simon Landolt
Masai Mara weather and wildlife for August 2021 is written by Simon Landolt, guiding intern with Governors’ Camp Collection. Read other blogs by Governors’ HERE.
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