Game Reports Kenya Masai Mara

Masai Mara weather and wildlife November 2020

Weather and grasslands

Weather for November was moderate to cool in the early mornings, with temperatures averaging at 15°C. Most mornings saw a heavy low-lying mist whilst at the same time offering a pastel dawn as the first light of day begins to wake up. In the evenings we experienced strong north easterly and westerly winds which could be quite strong at times. Midday temperatures were between 27-28°C.

First light in the Mara, November – photo credit Patrick Reynolds

Rainfall patterns have been localized and not as heavy as we anticipated; total rain in the Musiara environs was 83mm. The Mara River level is also slowly receding now with bedrock now starting to show up. The Teclea Nobilis are fruiting and the Warburgia trees have started dropping fruit again. Perennial grass species found on the open plains are still long in many areas of the Bila Shaka, East Musiara plains and the Paradise plains. There were large movements in November, of the Ant genus ‘Dorylus’, who can live in very large colonies. They are often known as ‘driver ants’ or locally as ‘Siafu’, and are well recognized with powerful mandibles which are capable of a painful bite as we all know.

November: A month for elephants 

Large mixed herds of elephants have been feeding in the Musiara marsh and then scattered further out into the open grasslands. Elephants have a catholic diet with grass species being as much as 70% of what they require as a daily intake. Related family herds will still cross the Mara River at the BBC campsite at midday and head directly for the marsh.

Elephants this November – photo credit Moses Manduku

There is one particular family herd of 24 cows and 5 calves of varying ages; they will often pass through the Governors’ family of camps, while one particular older cow will walk directly through the reception and dining areas at Governors’ Il Moran! While the camps have been relatively quiet, she has been using this route quite regularly; she passed through the reception with her three year old calf, on the 4th, 15th and also the 23rd November.

Elephant passes through Il Moran’s reception area – photo credit Patrick Reynolds

On the plains

On November 9th, we had an incredibly special sighting of a male rhino who remained grazing right in front of Governors’ Camp for most of the morning!

Rhino sighting in front of Governors’ Camp – photo credit Moses Manduku

The Bila shaka Cape buffalo herds have moved around between the Bila shaka and east Marsh while the resident lion prides have been active on this particular herd. Warthogs, Impala and Olive Baboons are all with many new infants enjoying their prime habitat of the riparian tree line surrounding the Governors’ line of camps. In the late evenings, we can see Impala ewes running around in circles while kicking their back legs high in the air.

Female Impalas gathered in front of Little Governors’ Camp – photo credit Moses Manduku

Giraffes have been ever present within the riparian woodlands, where they can be seen feeding off shrubs and leaves. Some of the older, more dominant males will feed off the Warburgia leaves which are hot to taste on the tongue.

A few small herds of the common zebras are being seen in the south east Reserve along the Ngiatiak River areas and south of Olare Orok, while larger herd sizes will be seen in the Trans Mara on the short grass plains that were burnt earlier this year.

Topi with calves have been gathering in large herds on the North east marsh plains and around Malima Tatu; while Coke’s Hartebeest have calves of a similar age although they will be seen congregating in smaller herds. Eland in small herds or individual older males will be seen near Malima Tatu and recently in the west marsh areas.

Hippos in the Mara River have been more vocal as the water levels drop and pods gather closer together, often resulting in agitated males and some conflict. We had three very young calves seen at Il Moran although on the 24th one of them was snatched by the resident crocodile. Downstream on Paradise plains, an old male hippo was taken by the resident male lion and eaten by other pride members. Meanwhile another hippo had died at Governors’ Private Camp; it was impressive sight to watch as eight large crocodiles and the resident catfish cleaned the body up in two days.

Photo credit Moses Manduku

Spotted hyena clans and lion prides that are using the same habitats are forever at one another’s heels. There is a large hyena clan on Topi plains with many young cubs; on the 14th November, two male lions from the Trans Mara, crossed the Mara River and came charging though, killing a three month old pup and dispersing the rest of the clan.

A couple of black-backed jackals have been feeding off cape hares and grass rats, with their pups now old enough to travel along with them. A trio of jackals was seen mobbing a female Thomson gazelle; due to the long grass we were unable to see clearly but we presumed there must have been a fawn nearby.

Big Cats of the Masai Mara 

In the last week and across the river in the Trans Mara, the Oloololo pride has been feeding off buffalo, not without a tremendous battle with Hyena.

The lionesses of the Marsh pride are still resident within the core marsh and its environs. Females Kabibi, Dada, Kito, Rembo along with their shared sub adult cubs are often seen on our game drives. Spot (the daughter of original Marsh Pride lioness ‘Siena’) and her female companion Little red are residing in the south grasslands of the Bila Shaka and the Krie river bed with their two adult offspring – a male and a female which are now over two years old.

In later weeks of November, lioness Rembo was seen mating with the Half Tail male in the north Bila shaka area.

Rembo with Half Tail – photo credit Moses Manduku

On the 16th November, the Paradise pride females along with Marsh male Doa, had killed a Topi and a female ostrich who had six eggs; both the ostrich and her eggs were eaten providing quite a protein fix. The following day they were still feeding off this ostrich and male lion Doa showed affection or altruistic behavior towards the cubs indicating that he has most likely sired the cubs.

Doa with cubs of the Paradise females and ostrich kill – photo credit Moses Manduku

On the 19th we saw Marsh Pride female Pamoja and Nusu Mkia (both daughters of Yaya) eating a young wildebeest in the west marsh grasslands while being watched by a tower of curious giraffe.

Pamoja with wildebeest kill – photo credit Moses Manduku

Meanwhile we had a lovely sighting of three of the Marsh Boys, Doa, Chongo and Kiok down resting on the small croton hill near the Mara River at Paradise Plains; they are spending more time in the southern areas of the Mara.

Doa – photo credit Moses Manduku

Chongo – photo credit Moses Manduku

Kiok and Chongo – photo credit Moses Manduku

On the 3rd November, Kibogoyo, another of the Marsh males, was seen keeping a watchful eye over Topi Pride lioness Summer and the Topi Pride subs who were resting nearby. Summer has moved the subs to the Paradise area since the male ‘Half Tail’ took over the Topi territory a little while ago.

Kibogoyo – photo credit Moses Manduku

Topi Pride lioness Summer and the Topi Pride subs

The two male cheetahs that we often mention in this wildlife report have been hunting recently on Paradise plains; they are very active hunters and will take young wildebeest calves, Impala and Thomson gazelles. On the 24th, they were seen feeding on a male Impala near the Jemarta area, but as the kill was too heavy to drag and hide in the thicket, they were forced feed out in the open. Not long after, one of the males from the Rekero Pride appeared and took over, closely followed by hyenas which were left to finish off the remains.

The two male cheetahs – photo credit Moses Manduku

The ‘Tano Bora’ coalition of five male cheetahs was seen regularly in November, mostly hunting in the Hammerkop and Lookout hill areas; during the morning of the 12th these five males had killed a Topi.

Imani the female cheetah and her four cubs, of about two and half months, were seen on the lookout for something to hunt later on in November; notice how the pale color and fluffy coat of the cheetah cubs provides them with good camouflage in the long grass.

Imani and cubs – photo credit Moses Manduku

Kaboso the female leopard and her cub of five months old has been sighted frequently this month on the Olare Orok River environs; on the 12th she had stashed the remains of a Thomson ewe in a sycamore fig tree, and by the afternoon of the same day she had killed a warthog piglet and her cub was enjoying a good feed. Kaboso’s homerange is in the Olare Orok River and surrounding areas, while her previous offspring (a female) is often seen in the same home range as well as a large male leopard that said to be the sire to the current young cub. In the last ten days of the month, four leopard could be seen on a morning’s drive within the Olare Orok River regions.

The small female leopard Romi has been passing by the BBC campsite and Governors’ Il Moran Camp often where there are Impala with young fawns, Dik Dik and warthog piglets. On the 13th we saw a large male leopard walking towards the oxbow near Governors’ Private Camp and the Olive baboons that were foraging nearby noticed this leopard and started to harass and mob him; he quickly ran into the Oxbow and disappeared into the tree line.

Birds of the Masai Mara

Recently, a white headed vulture was seen perched on a Ballanites tree near the main crossing on the Mara River at Paradise Plains, unfortunately this vulture species is seldom seen these days. Southern ground hornbills have also shown up either in pairs or trios, feeding off garden grasshoppers, snakes and frogs.

A rare white headed vulture – photo credit Patrick Reynolds

 

Masai Mara Weather and Wildlife for November 2020 is written by Patrick Reynolds, courtesy of Governors’ Camp Collection.

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