Weather and grasslands
January saw light rain showers that were very much localized for the most part, although some areas received quite heavy showers. Rainfall for the month was 46mm with an average humidity of 82%. Early mornings saw low cloud across the plains, before lifting later in the morning. Safari ants (of the genus Dorylus), also known as driver ants or ‘siafu’, are still in plentiful swarms; they are more active at night and in the early mornings. This year these ants appear to be more active.
A January rainstorm – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Grass levels in the Bila shaka, Rhino Ridge as well as the east and west marsh are still long with particular emphasis to the species Themeda and Hyparrhenia – the latter which can grow over six feet tall. There is good coverage at the Musiara airstrip of this species of grass.
Grass levels in January are high – photo credit Joelle Plisnier
The Musiara Marsh water level had risen high on some occasions, due to rainfall coming in from the north East conservancy and flowing over the road and causeway. Catfish have been a-plenty, swimming out with the extra water flow, which has attracted many Fish eagles who could be seen swooping to snatch them.
Photo credit – Moses Manduku
On the shorter grass plains, there is a beautiful carpet of wildflowers such as Cycnium tubulosum, also known as tissue paper; there are two colors forms of pink and white and the petals are actually edible.
On the plains
Elephants are in good herd numbers with larger concentrations of them being seen in the Musiara Marsh, while some herds will still cross daily back and forth at the BBC campsite areas. Small habitual breeding herds of elephants continue to pass directly through the Governors’ camps. There are many young calves in these breeding herds and some are within just a month of age. Large bulls in ‘musth’ are frequenting the breeding herds; this is a good sign of stability when young calves are evident.
Breeding herd of elephants – photo credit Moses Manduku
Strong elephant numbers just outside Governors’ Camp – photo credit Harrison Nampaso
Masai giraffe can be seen in good numbers, both out on the open plains and also within the camp grounds. There are still a few older, more dominant bulls that are considered resident within the Governors camps – along with the resident and habituated warthogs and their many piglets that are currently between 4-5 months old. If the warthogs were residing outside of the campgrounds, the piglet mortality rate would be adversely affected.
Masai giraffe – photo credit Joelle Plisnier
Resident warthogs at Governors’ Camp
At our Mara camps, guests can watch the warthogs being groomed by the dwarf and banded mongooses that are also camp residents. This is a very special and unique, symbiotic relationship that takes places between the two species; it is very rarely documented elsewhere as both species need to be completely relaxed in order for it to happen.
Photo credit Alisa Karstad
Topi herds have moved from the north east conservancies and into the Reserve; movements between the west marsh and north marsh were in quite large numbers for January. The resident Topi Pride of lions has been feeding heavily off these Topi herds. Coke’s hartebeest in smaller herd sizes, are also being seen in similar habitats.
Big Cats of the Masai Mara
The long grass has kept the Cape buffalo looking healthy and well and there are many young calves around. Hyenas take the opportunity and have preyed on these buffalo calves readily; the Topi Plains spotted hyena clan in particular, is very active and they are renowned for taking down sleeping Topi.
The four Marsh Pride lionesses, that is Kabibi, Dada, Kito, Rembo together with their subs have been seen looking well and healthy; they have been feeding off zebra, Topi and buffalo mostly in the east and north marsh areas – and even as far as the eastern conservancies. The four youngsters are also very active hunters and are very much involved in the hunts.
Photo credit Moses Manduku
Lioness Yaya and her two daughters Nusu Mkia (which means ‘half a tail’) and Pamoja were last seen hunting on Paradise Plains for buffalo; the Paradise and Rhino ridge breeding herds of buffalo pass through from the south of the Bila Shaka and as far as the riparian tree line of Paradise Plains. On the 7th January, we saw Pamoja mating with a male from the Riverline Pride.
Pamoja and Riverline male – photo credit Moses Manduku
Lioness Spot and Little Red (who are both the daughters of original Marsh Pride female ‘Siena’), and their two adult offspring, have mostly been seen resting up in the Krie riverbed which flows east to west from Topi Plains. In mid-January, Spot was seen mating with the roaming male Half Tail; it seems this male and his companion, Logol, are covering most of the Marsh Pride females while the five Marsh males are out of the territory.
Spot mating with Half Tail – photo credit Moses Manduku
Half Tail – photo credit Moses Manduku
Our guides have had many great sightings of the Paradise Pride which consists of four lionesses and five cubs; two are about three months old and three are estimated at five months old. They have been resident at the main river crossing area of Paradise Plains, for most of January. Early on in January, they had killed a zebra and this will have been one of the first introductions of meat for these young cubs.
The Paradise Pride and cubs – photo credit Moses Manduku
The two male cheetahs have been seen again hunting on Rhino Ridge; these two males cover a lot of ground which is typical of males in a coalition of sorts. On the 11th January they had killed and eaten a male Thomson’s gazelle. The cheetah males of the Tano Bora coalition are being seen in the southern areas of the Reserve, typically around the Maji ya fisi area; they are a very active coalition feeding off Topi calves and wildebeest yearlings.
Imani, the female cheetah, who previously had four young cubs, has been seen lately in the Olare Orok Conservancy with only three cubs. Imani like many other cheetahs with cubs, or as a single parent, will be more successful in the conservancies with the shorter grass plains where more prey species are available. On the 12th she had taken a male Thomson’s gazelle and then on the 14th she was seen hunting Impala and was partially successful, only to have her prey sadly robbed by the nearby spotted hyena. This kind of ‘predatory aggression’ is one of the main reasons as to why cheetahs will readily sacrifice their kill if threatened, or noticeably to cheetah researchers in the Mara ecosystem, they will hunt later in the day.
Birds of the Masai Mara
The resident female Martial eagle in the west marsh has been feeding off Impala fawns and Nile monitor lizards. European bee eaters have been seen and heard flying high above, catching high flying insects; since the recent rains there are many different insects about. Ovambo sparrow hawks are also seen in the early mornings as they fly low, hoping for grass birds such as larks and cisticolas to rise off from their grass stem. A black-shouldered kite is often seen perched on the causeway rail which has provided many photographic opportunities.
Black shouldered kite – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Masai Mara weather and wildlife for January 2021 is written by Patrick Reynolds, courtesy of Governors’ Camp Collection. Read other blogs by Governors’ HERE.
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