October weather has generally been cool with light and scattered rainfall patterns. The first couple of weeks were dry and windy which resulted in some very colourful sunrises and sunsets. A total of 36mm was recorded while a particularly heavy downpour was had on the 20th of the month. Humidity has been high at 80% on most occasions. The Teclea Nobilis trees have stopped flowering and are now with red fruit; this will draw in the double-toothed barbets and other fruit-eating birds.
Impala against an October sunrise – photo credit Will Fortescue
Common resident zebras can be seen again on the Paradise plains; these grassland areas were subject to controlled burning over a month ago and have good grass coverage now. A few large herds of wildebeests have also been crossing below the Mara Bridge, coming in from the Trans Mara and moving southeast towards Lookout hill.
On the 17th and 20th, wildebeest were seen crossing below the Mara bridge – a few were taken by hungry crocodiles. There are many large herds of wildebeest scattered across the Ol Keju and Burangat plains in the southern Reserve. On the 24th of October, a large crossing took place and many of them died whilst crossing the Mara River.
Final wildebeest crossings for October – photo credit Will Fortescue
Elephants who had previously moved into the crotons and woodlands to escape the migration mayhem slowly return back to the open plains, especially the Musiara Marsh and in and around the Governors’ family of camps. They are crossing over at the BBC campsite river crossing point, as they have done for many years. They tend to come through in the late morning and are well spread out across the marsh by the afternoon.
Elephants have returned to the open plains – photo credit Will Fortescue
Cape buffalo breeding herds can be seen near the Bila shaka area and also on the Paradise plains. There are many calves in these two herds with Spotted Hyena and the resident lion prides feeding off them regularly.
Impala can be seen in large herds, with females congregating in numbers of up to a hundred individuals. They are not territorial and will roam and graze huge areas, preferring higher areas during the rainy season. Impalas are able to adapt their diet according to season; in the wet season they will enjoy fresh grass and in the dry season they will browse on any available foliage. Only the males carry the beautifully shaped horns – used mainly for asserting dominance or ‘rutting’ during the breeding season.
Female Impala clan – photo credit Will Fortescue
Giraffes in bachelor groups or in loose breeding herds are still being seen within the riparian woodlands between the camps. Eland in small herds will be seen near Malima Tatu and recently in again in the west marsh areas.
Giraffe calf with riparian woodland near Governors’ Camp – photo credit Will Fortescue
There is a Spotted Hyena clan of significant size on Topi plains with many young cubs. The nearby Black-backed jackal clan also has pups – in this species the males play an important role in the rearing of the pups.
Our resident photographer Will Fortescue, had a very rare but enjoyable sighting of two Caracals on the 15th October. This is Africa’s least known felid – and its numbers in the wild are not confirmed. This cat prefers to hunt at night but if you are lucky, as was Will, you can catch a quick glimpse of a caracal catching its prey in the very early morning hours of the day.
There are two caracals in this photo: Look closely and you will see a second set of ears just behind the first set of ears! Photo credit Will Fortescue.
We have had some really good sightings of the Marsh Pride this October – especially the females. Kabibi, Dada, Kito, Rembo and their four subs have had a few close calls with some larger herds of buffalo. Kabibi was spotted on 28th October mating with the young male of the Oloololo Pride known as ‘Blonde 2’ – he is the son of ‘Blonde’.
Kabibi and ‘Blond 2’ – photo credit Moses Manduku
The five males Kiok, Chongo, Koshoke, Doa and Kibogoyo have all been seen in different areas from one another; they all have been habituating and hunting between Paradise plains, the east fan of Rhino ridge and also at the Mara River crossing points whilst monitoring the last remaining wildebeest crossing over.
Our latest sighting was of Doa on the 28th October – he was spotted resting very close to the Paradise Pride females and their nursery of young cubs. He appears to be providing security and a watchful eye over them – ready to fend off any stray males that could be a potential threat to the tiny cubs.
Doa, one of the five Marsh Males – photo credit Moses Manduku
The two male cheetahs have been seen hunting recently on Paradise plains; they are very active hunters and will take young calves from Impala, Thomson’s gazelle and wildebeest herds. Earlier in the month they were very successful with a long, drawn out hunt of a female Thompson’s gazelle and followed by a young Topi calf.
October cheetah sighting – photo credit Will Fortescue
The ‘Tano bora’ coalition of five male cheetahs has been seen hunting in the Hammerkop and Lookout hill areas. These five males move huge distances in just a matter of days.
The female leopard Kaboso and her young cub of four months old is being seen often near the Olare Orok River: We had an excellent sighting of them on the 24th October as they stopped for a drink.
Kaboso leopard and cub – photo credit Moses Manduku
On the morning of the 19th, a female martial eagle had killed and eaten an Impala fawn near Governors’ Private Camp; this particular female raptor is very active and has snatched many Impala fawns as well as the Nile Monitor lizards in this area. She has a collar and transmitter which records her daily movements; there are a few other Martial eagles and as well as Tawny eagles in the Mara that have transmitters. It is amazing how far from their daily roosts they will travel, in order to hunt.
Masai Mara Weather and Wildlife for October 2020 is written by Patrick Reynolds, courtesy of Governors’ Camp Collection.