Weather for July was dry, dusty, and cool with low cloud cover on most mornings and only 8mm of rain. Each morning a mist hangs over the yellowing grass like a loose-fitting blanket. Within the riparian woodlands of the Mara River environs, the Teclea Nobilis trees are now fruiting.
July sunrises in the Mara – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Morning temperatures have been as low as 13°C, while midday temperatures averaged at 25°C. Humidity fluctuated between 51 – 85%. Perennial grass species such as the common red oat grass are slowly drying out and turning yellow. The Musiara Marsh water levels are also showing signs of receding and some of the shallower areas are now dry. The Mara River is low although holding up well with a continuous good flow.
The Mara River level has receded in July – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Within the first week of the month, the spearhead movement of the Mara/Serengeti Wildebeest migration had started crossing the Sand River a few kilometers above the Sand River gate. On the 12th of July, the wildebeest were coming through to Kenya in droves from the Serengeti, via the Sand River. Before this, there were many large crossings on the Mara River from the Tanzanian side of the river. Since the 18th large herds of wildebeest have been seen crossing the Sand River into the southern Reserve (WATCH VIDEO).
Mara Migration – photo credit Shaun Mousley
Huge herds of wildebeest will be seen near the Mara Bridge, Lookout Hill, and the southern plains of Observation Hill. On the 24th the wildebeest could be seen congregating at the Mara River and crossing below the Mara Bridge with a few being taken by crocodiles. By the 25th there were large herds to be found on the Posee Plains, Hammerkop and Kampi ya fisi areas south of the Talek River. On the 26th of July, the wildebeest and some Zebra were seen moving in large herds from the Ol Keju Ronkai depression and Possee Plains towards the Meta Plains in the southeast.
Many resident common Zebra have been coming down from the northeast conservancies since the 4th of July before crossing the Mara River at the main crossing points and heading westwards into the Trans Mara. Between the 18th – 25th a large herd of Zebra continued to file down from the northeast conservancies, then across the Paradise Plains and would eventually cross the Mara River at the main crossing point, heading from East to West. The water level is still at a height whereby the Zebra crossing will have to swim in some sections and this has brought in the abundant crocodiles that have almost aestivated (a state of dormancy) for the last few months. Many Zebra have fallen prey to the crocodiles at these crossing points.
Common zebra leaving Rhino Ridge – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Elephants with lots of young calves are crossing daily from the Trans Mara; they cross the Mara River at the Old BBC campsite in the early hours each morning and then move back in the same direction during the evenings. On the 18th of July, more elephants were seen crossing over from the Trans Mara and since the Musiara Marsh still has water in the centre pools, these breeding herds will spend much time here. Elephants like clean water when it is available and this marsh area is preferred location for many generations of families.
Photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Scattered herds of Topi will be seen on Malima Tatu, Topi Plains and even in the west Marsh; grass patterns that favor Topi will induce them to move from one habitat to another. There are two large breeding herds of Cape Buffalo: One on the Bila Shaka and Eastern Rhino Ridge Plains and a small breeding herd on Paradise Plains. The resident Marsh Pride of lion pride have fed off the Bila Shaka Buffalo herd. Small breeding herds of Eland passed through the west marsh grasslands in July; there is also the resident Defassa waterbuck within the East and West Marsh.
Topi in their ‘blue jeans’ – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Solitary male Cape Buffalo – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
There are large breeding herds of Impala using both open grasslands and riparian woodlands; along with the Impala are Olive baboons who will often be seen feeding together particularly in the tree line verges surrounding our camps. Both species have young infants with them. It is not uncommon for male Olive baboons to snatch and eat young Impala fawns and one dominant male baboon in particular has taken two young fawns from the BBC campsite Impala herd recently.
The Topi Pride of lionesses are still on the Olare Orok side of the double-crossing; on the 5th and 7th of July they were seen in the morning hours relaxing in the croton thickets. This pride has moved out of the Malima Tatu areas since the Purungat (Half Tail) male and his companion, the Iseketa male arrived, which has put significant pressure on the Topi Pride females. The Purungat male was also seen earlier in the month with the young lionesses between Topi Plains and Malima Tatu.
Purungat male – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
On the 25th the Topi Pride had killed a Zebra near the Olare Orok river bed; they were also battling ownership with a clan of Spotted hyena until Doa (one of the Marsh Males) turned up, and the hyenas quickly scattered. Later that morning, Doa was again seen close to the croton thickets in the lower areas of Topi Plains, however the other five males have not been seen by us for some time now.
Topi Pride lionesses – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Marsh Pride lionesses Kabibi, Dada, Kito, Rembo and their four sub-adult cubs, were recently seen in the west marsh and now can be seen in the Bila Shaka riverbed areas. This pride has been mostly feeding off the resident Zebra and Topi in the west marsh, while a male buffalo and a warthog were taken by this group near Governors’ Il Moran Camp.
Marsh Pride female tracks at Il Moran – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
We had a good sighting of the other Marsh Pride lionesses Yaya and her two adult daughters Pamoja and Nusu Mkia on the 18th July; they had just killed a Topi and were enjoying the feed. All three lionesses were reported as looking healthy and well fed.
Lioness Pamoja with Topi kill – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Nusu Mkia – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Martial eagles have been very active lately from the west marsh riverine woodlands to the Mara River; we found the feathered remains of a Grey Heron left on a termite mound close to the main crossing point. Black-Chested snake eagles are also being seen more frequently. On the early morning of the 27th a Black-necked spitting cobra was killed and eaten by a Brown snake eagle, nearby to this action was a Martial Eagle which had just taken an Impala fawn.
A Martial Eagle – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
A Tawny Eagle – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Masai Mara Weather and Wildlife in July 2020 is written by Patrick Reynolds, courtesy of Governors’ Camp Collection.