Weather and grasslands
Weather has been cool in the early mornings and warm to hot later in the day. The most exquisite pastel sunrises have opened the day on most early mornings. This month we had mist with light and scattered rainfall patterns; a total of 56mm recorded for October 2021. We experienced a heavy downpour on the 12th of the month. Magnificent fire ball lilies or (Scadoxus multiflorus) have started to bloom with the onset of the rains.
October pastel sunrise – photo credit Will Fortescue
Fire ball lilies have started protruding through the savannah grasses – photo credit Governors’ Camp guest Joelle Plisnier
Humidity has been high at 82 – 85% on most occasions. Early morning temperatures averaged at 16°c and midday temps were an average of 27°c. The warburgia trees have stopped flowering and are now full with lots of fruit; this now draws in elephant herds and olive baboons who like the hot cinnamon tasting fruit. The Mara River level is low and hippo pods are now closing in on one another. Some pod densities are particularly large such as that at Governors’ Private Camp.
A large hippo pod on the river bank below Private Camp – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
Olive baboons in the early morning sunlight – photo credit Will Fortescue
On the plains
Common resident zebras are being seen in the southern areas of the Reserve and near the main crossing in the Mara Triangle area. On 24th of the month, approximately 25 zebras crossed with four being taken crocodiles; these resident zebra then passed over Rhino ridge and moved into the Mara North Conservancy and Olare Orok Conservancy.
Quite a few herds of zebra are also being seen in Olare Orok Conservancy’s open plains; the grassland areas in the Mara Triangle were burnt again during June and July, and with reasonable rainfall taking place in September and October, the grass coverage now is very palatable for the wildebeest and large herds of Topi on the Posse plains.
Common zebra against a stormy Mara sky – photo credit Will Fortescue
A few large herds of resident wildebeests have also been seen crossing at the mortuary crossing point, on the Mara River – they were moving from West to East. From the 14th onwards, large herds of wildebeest have been crossing the Sand River and moving westwards, out of the Reserve. On the 27th of the month, a herd of resident wildebeest (approximately 2,000 animals), were seen in the north Bila shaka grasslands and were moving in a northeasterly direction.
Wildebeest crossing the Mara River in late October – photo credit Moses Manduku
Elephant herds and their calves have been coming through into the Musiara marsh and Bila Shaka areas; they continue to cross over at the BBC campsite river crossing and have done so for many years. We tend to see them in the late morning and they have mostly spread out across the marsh by the afternoon. Since the warburgia trees are fruiting, we have been able to enjoy one particular breeding herd of elephants that passes through almost daily.
Governors’ Camp guests enjoy the sight of a large herd of elephants – photo credit Felix Rome
Breeding herds of Masai giraffe and bachelor groups pass through the riparian woodlands surrounding our camps. It is not uncommon to see giraffes within the campgrounds, while some older and mature bulls are considered to be fairly resident.
Masai giraffe browse the forest surrounding our camps – photo credit Governors’ Camp guest Joelle Plisnier
The Topi females were calving last month and Coke’s hartebeest have also been seen with young calves; many more are giving birth this month. Coke’s hartebeest are found in small pockets, in the lower Bila Shaka area, while the East marsh and Topi Plains are also good places to see them.
A Topi with its ‘blue jeans’ stands tall on a mound – a classic Mara shot – with Governors’ Balloon Safaris taking off in the back ground – photo credit Felix Rome
Eland in small herds will be seen near Malima Tatu and recently again in the west marsh areas. Many young Thomson gazelle fawns are being seen on the open plains; Thomson ewes have a short gestation of 5 and 6 months, with the fawn hiding low for a while after birth.
Eland – photo credit Governors’ Camp guest Joelle Plisnier
We were lucky to find two species that are seldom seen these days – an Oribi and a side-striped jackal – both were found on Rhino Ridge this October. In fact, in the last week of October, there have been three sightings of these little antelope.
A female Oribi mixing amongst the wildebeest in the Southern Reserve – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
A rare sighting of a side-striped jackal – photo credit Patrick Reynolds
During October, the large herd of Cape buffalo could most often be seen in the long grasses of the southern and northern grasslands of the Bila Shaka area. The resident Marsh Pride of lions have been feeding off this buffalo herd, therefore some of the older, more vulnerable bulls, are found quite close to the camps – or even within the camps themselves – for security reasons.
Some of the Marsh Pride cubs climbing on a buffalo carcass – photo credit Moses Manduku
The spotted hyena clan in the silanga river bed area on Topi Plains have many young cubs. There is often friction between this hyena clan and the Marsh Pride of lions over prey species, but, we have to remember that 85% of the kills that spotted hyena consume within the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, may well be their own kills – indicating that they are more competitive than lions. For instance, often we will see lion feeding on a kill in the early morning, with hyena waiting on the side lines, and actually what is being eaten by the lions will have most likely been killed by hyena.
Serval cats are spotted with tremendous regularity these days – the southern grass plains of the Bila Shaka and the east marsh grassland plains being good places to find them.
Big cats of the Masai Mara
Marsh Pride females Dada, Kito, Rembo and Rembo’s adult daughter, together with their five cubs of varying ages, are still hugely resident within the Musiara marsh and Bila Shaka river bed environs. They are regularly feeding off the resident cape buffalo herd and also the passing zebras as they file north east. We have not seen the fourth lioness of this grouping, Kabibi, for quite some time now. They are a strong and powerful group and will often take lone or older buffalos that present themselves as easy prey.
Photo credit Moses Manduku
The male lion, Halftail, is thought to have sired these five cubs. He is often seen with his companion Logol and together they are deemed to be the current dominant males of the Marsh territory.
Male lion Halftail – photo credit Moses Manduku
And his companion ‘Logol’ – photo credit Moses Manduku
Lioness Yaya and her daughter Pamoja can be seen together co-raising their three cubs. These two lionesses are often seen in the lower Bila Shaka and have been feeding heartily off many warthogs in this area, so much so, that sightings of any warthogs in this very area are slim. Topi are also being taken often by them.
Yaya and Pamoja eyeing up some prey on the plains below – photo credit Moses Manduku
In the evening of the 29th October at around at around 16:00, Yaya had killed a young warthog piglet in the lower Bila Shaka and was seen taking it back to her daughter Pamoja and their young cubs, when Yaya suddenly came across the Paradise Pride of lionesses and cubs who were resting under a gardenia tree. After a quick scuffle, Yaya dropped the piglet and was chased by members of the Paradise Pride up towards Rhino ridge. Luckily, Yaya and Pamoja had reunited the following morning and were seen together on the northern side of Bila Shaka. Watch video.
Yaya, Pamoja and cubs feed on a warthog kill – photo credit Moses Manduku
One of Pamoja’s cubs tucks into their zebra kill which they took down during the night – photo credit Moses Manduku
The Topi Pride (also known as the Ridge Pride) of seven lionesses with five cubs of varying ages are seen residing on Rhino Ridge. Three male lions have been seen in this area and it is thought that the younger of these three male lions, has sired these five cubs. This pride mainly feeds off Topi, warthogs and buffalo
Within the Paradise Pride of lions there are four adult lionesses and nine youngsters. This pride is easy to identify given its size and one of the torn eared females. They are generally spotted at the main crossing point and the lower Paradise areas. The paradise buffalo herd is always under pressure from this lion pride and likewise the resident zebras that attempt to cross the river. Watch video.
The Paradise Pride feeding on a warthog kill – photo credit Moses Manduku
‘Doa’, one of the original Marsh males – photo credit Moses Manduku
Two young cheetahs, a male and a female (who are quite likely to be siblings), are often seen hunting on Rhino Ridge; they are feeding off the young Thomson gazelles found there. Together they are very active hunters and will take young wildebeest calves, Impala and Thomson gazelles from a high speed chase.
Photo credit Governors’ Camp guest Joelle Plisnier
The famous ‘Tano Bora’ coalition of four male cheetahs have been seen hunting in the Hamerkop, Ongata Ronkai, Posse plains and lookout hill areas. These four males move from one area to another within days, feeding on both young and adult Topi, young zebra and eland calves as well as adult wildebeest.
Tano Bora – photo credit Governors’ Camp guest Joelle Plisnier
The female leopard Kaboso and her one-year-old female subadult, are sometimes seen on the Olare Orok River crossing. Together they feed off the typical prey species of the short grass plains but during mid-month she had taken a young sheep with a bell still attached and it was reported that the bell could be heard ringing as she dragged her kill into the riverine woodlands.
The female leopard Romi has two very shy, sub-adult cubs, that are estimated at 15 months old now. Romi forms part of the Governors’ ‘cast of characters’ and is known to hold territory within the riverine woodlands between each of the camps.
Leopardess Romi – photo credit Moses Manduku
She was spotted hunting warthogs close to Governors’ Il Moran Camp; these residential warthogs – especially those animals that were born into the camps and their surroundings often become complacent and therefore become easy prey. We have a lovely sighting of Romi and her subadult walking in the long grass near Governors’ Private Camp on the evening of the 27th.
Romi feeding on male Impala that she took down in the Musiara Marsh – photo credit Moses Manduku
Birds of the Masai Mara
There were many European bee-eaters flocking overhead during the month of October. A pale phased Wahlberg’s eagle was seen earlier in the month close to the Mara River; there are both light and dark phases of this species – a morph that put many guides out, in identification. Crowned cranes in small flocks can be seen in most areas of the marsh and on the open grassland plains.
Crowned cranes – photo credit Governors’ Camp guest Joelle Plisnier
An immature African fish eagle spans the marsh for prey – photo credit Governors’ Camp guest Joelle Plisnier
Meanwhile, large flocks of European or barn swallows have been sighted on Paradise plains and on the western fan of Rhino ridge; they fly in front of the vehicles and feed off the many crickets and flies that get disturbed. Congregations of them are also being seen with buffalo herds and elephants as they move between grassland areas. On the Mara River, one can also observe migratory sand martins, in large flocks, often higher up in the air.
Barn swallows are aplenty – photo credit Governors’ Camp guest Joelle Plisnier
Our Masai Mara weather and wildlife for October 2021 is written by Patrick Reynolds, for Governors’ Camp Collection. Read other blogs by Governors’ HERE.
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