Weather and grasslands
Lovely cool mornings, often with a low-lying mist and light rain; by late mornings the low cloud lifts and opens to a hot and humid day. Persistent light rain fell on the morning of the 24th December and continued for a few hours. Rainfall for the month was 95mm and humidity levels were averaging out at 85-93%. Grasses are still long, specifically in areas of little ungulate pressure such as Paradise Plains, the north marsh and Rhino Ridge where there are still long and dense grasses.
A beautiful Mara morning in December – photo credit Alex McCafferty
The Musiara marsh water level has dropped considerably, although in the first week of the month there were some heavy short showers of rain that were specific to certain areas – this brought the water level high thus causing the culvert to flood over. The Mara River is still consistently low and was not high at all during December. Teclea nobilis trees are just beginning to lose their fruit while some Warbugia trees have started fruiting.
A December storm brewing on the open plains – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
On the plains
Small pockets of resident zebra were found in scattered herds, especially at the north end of the Bila Shaka riverbed, the Olare Orok Conservancy and at Malima Tatu. Topi are in good sized herds, mostly being seen on the short grass plains at Malima Tatu and also in the north Musiara marsh. Coke’s hartebeest were found in small herd sizes in the west marsh, while a breeding herd of about six females is often seen near Governors’ Private Camp.
Zebra crossing the Mara River – photo credit Moses Manduku
Elephants continue to cross the river and pass through the Governors’ line of camps and the Musiara marsh; breeding herds with young calves will be seen at around midday in the marsh and later in the morning out feeding in open long grass areas. A few older dominant bulls are now in ‘musth’, and these bulls can be seen moving around and feeding together.
Photo credit Moses Manduku
In the Olare Orok Conservancy there are are young Acacia drepanolobium saplings which elephants like; they will pick and uproot the shrub, shake the soil of the roots and eat them. Out in the open plains there are still pockets of water that are now turning into mud wallows – the elephants and buffalo revel in a mud bath!
Elephant mother and baby enjoying a mud bath – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Three black rhino were seen in the early morning of the 16th December near Governors’ Private Camp. The group consisted of a female and her young calf as well as her sub-adult offspring – they are often seen crossing from the Trans mara into the Reserve.
Rhino sighting – photo credit Moses Manduku
Large herds of giraffe were seen on the Olare Orok and also in the riparian woodlands around the Mara River; a herd of bachelor males often pass through the Governors’ camps.
The Cape buffalo breeding herd have been feeding off the long dense grass at Bila shaka as well as at Paradise Plains which also has long grass despite the area being burnt in July 2020. Six new calves have been seen in this herd; on the 26th December our guests saw a buffalo birth in the east marsh grasslands. A few older, more solitary bulls are gradually habituating closer to the camps while others are resident within the immediate camp grounds.
Spotted hyenas of the north Marsh and west marsh have been actively feeding off buffalo and cleaning up on the odd remains of hippo carcasses here and there. They have competed heavily with the Marsh Pride of lions, often robbing them of their kill.
Spotted hyena compete lions – photo credit Moses Manduku
Big Cats of the Masai Mara
The Marsh Pride lionesses Kabibi, dada, Kito, Rembo and four of their sub-adult cubs’ (ages of 22 and 24 months old), had killed a buffalo cow near the north end of Bila Shaka on the 19th December. Rembo has been seen mating with the two males Half Tail and his companion Logol over the last while. She had temporarily disconnected from her group with Dada, Kito and Kabibi and the subs, so as to keep their male subs out of danger from these adult dominant males.
Rembo and Logol – photo credit Moses Manduku
Half Tail keeping a respectable distance from the mating pair – photo credit Moses Manduku
It would seem that these two strong males are to be a permanent presence in the Marsh territory these days, which means that the two male subs of Dada, Rembo, Kito and Kabibi’s group have been pushed to the outskirts at an age when they are not quite old enough to look after themselves.
Marsh Pride subs with curious Topi keeping an eye on them – photo credit Moses Manduku
The cheetah males of the Tano Bora coalition are being seen in the southern areas of the Reserve in the maji ya fisi area; they are actively feeding of Topi calves and wildebeest yearlings. Two other males have been seen again either on the west marsh and again they have moved into the north marsh conservancy, on the 14th they were seen eating the remains of a female Thomson and 18th a Grant’s Gazelle fawn. These two males were last seen near Rhino ridge, they are always on the move, and there is a large clan of spotted hyena in the north areas of the west marsh. A female cheetah with two cubs at an estimate of 4 months old are also in the southern reserve close to the Maji ya fisia areas.
Kaboso the female leopard and her cub of six months old is a regular sighting on the Olare Orok River – she has been feeding off Thomson gazelles and warthog piglets. We had a great sighting of her in the late morning of the 24th, before she took herself deep in the Olare Orok river bed to tend to her cub.
Kaboso leopard – photo credit Moses Manduku
Imani the female cheetah, who is the daughter of Amani, was seen mid-December with her four three-month-old cubs. This was a wonderful sighting – she is very active and quite understandable with four cubs to feed. On the 26th December, she was seen with a freshly killed Thomson gazelle ewe in the Olare Orok conservancy; not long after she and her cubs started to feed, a pair of black-backed jackals tried very hard to rob her of her kill. She stood her ground well though, as her little ones depended hugely on the meal. Jackals are quite persistent and it is not uncommon to see a pair of jackals rob a solitary cheetah of its kill. A couple of days later, Imani had killed another Thomson gazelle, on the Narok side of the Reserve; this time she had the kill to herself and ate heartedly with her cubs – she is a successful mother.
Imani and her four cubs on the lookout – photo credit Moses Manduku
Birds of the Masai Mara
An Ovambo sparrow hawk had taken a Rufous-naped lark from the tall grass in the early morning of 24th December. A resident female Martial eagle that roosts near Governors’ Private Camp has been actively feeding off Impala fawns, warthog piglets and Nile monitor lizards that are abundant close to the Musiara marsh. In the morning hours of the 18th this resident Martial eagle had killed and eaten partially an Impala fawn close to the Governors’ Camp in the west marsh area. Grey crowned cranes are also being seen in congregations of adult pairs together with their grown up chicks.
An Ovambo sparrowhawk – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Grey crowned cranes with their adult offspring photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Masai Mara weather and wildlife for December 2020 is written by Patrick Reynolds, courtesy of Governors’ Camp Collection.