Masai Mara

November News Masai Mara

Weather and grasslands

With the short rains in progress the days have started cloudy, opening up to some lovely clear days. We have had some good rainfall, receiving 117mm over the month, the open grassland plains are looking green and lush. Early morning temperatures average out at 17°C with the sunrise at 6.20am and early evenings can be as high as 28°C with the sun setting at 6.33pm.

 Sunrise Masai Mara

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

There are good grass levels on Paradise Plains and the western areas of Rhino Ridge. The Musiara Marsh has again filled up with the north marsh area now full. The Warburgia Ugandensis (or Elephant pepper tree) trees have been fruiting heavily this month with the fruit being eaten by Olive Baboons, Green Pigeons, Brown Parrots and by the small herds of elephant that come through the forests around our camps. Ficus Sycomorus or the sycamore fig is also fruiting and these fruit draw many birds and primates as well; although this species of fig and also other species as well require the presence of the symbiotic wasp in the (family agaonidae) to reproduce.

On the plains

The open plains are covered with resident zebra and wildebeest, with the recent rains many species of ungulates have gathered on the open short grass plains within the Musiara regions. Topi are well spread out with good numbers of them being seen in the east and west marsh grasslands, South Bila Shaka and onto the Topi Plains, Malima Tatu area and on some areas of Rhino Ridge, many young topi calves that are between 1-2 months old will be seen in these congregated herds. Warthog sows also have many piglets that are 2-3 months old now, the piglet mortality rate rises due to sudden weather changes, average litter size range from 5-6 piglets. The piglets remain with their mother as well as a female from last year’s offspring who act as nannies. Cokes Hartebeest also have calves and these calves are the same age as the topi since they are all one tribe and have similar calving patterns here in the Mara.

wildebeest and zebra masai mara

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds 

Thomson Gazelles have also been giving birth and on one occasion we were lucky enough to capture the birth of a fawn. Normally the females give birth quite quickly and after a short labor the new born fawn will then go into hiding and lie low for a few days. Fawns may be born at any time of the year; females are pregnant for 5-6 months, after which a single fawn weighing about two to three kilograms is born

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds 

Many resident male wildebeest are being seen all across the plains, the males are now cavorting and sparring for short term territories. The heavy rains we received have brought the males into the reserve whilst the the herds of females and their calves remain on the hard panned plains within the Maasai conservation areas east and north of the reserve. The shorter grasses make spotting predators and keeping their young safe easier. 

Wildebeest Masai Mara

Large herds of zebra have been crossing the Mara River awakening the crocodiles who have been back in action at these crossings taking zebra where they can. On one day around 1,000 zebra crossed coming from the Trans Mara in the west to the Mara reserve in the east and  four zebra were taken by crocodile that afternoon.

zebras masai mara

Photo courtesy of Ian Francis 

Elephant have also been crossing the Mara River and moving into the Marsh areas, with smaller family units spread out across the open short grass plains, there are many very young calves in these breeding herds. A few large bull elephants that are in Musth have been seen crossing from the Trans Mara side and also some individuals have arrived in from the north east conservancies. These bulls can stay in Musth for some time.

elephants

Photo courtesy of Abi Leslie 

There are large breeding herds of Impala breeding herds within the west marsh and riverine woodlands; females and young males can be seen running around, flicking their rear legs high in the air and almost at 90°. Male Impala rams those that are not within the breeding herd live in bachelor herds of varying ages; it is not uncommon to see dominant males rushing around sparring with each other whilst ‘roaring’ at the same time, with a modified larynx the males are the only ungulate in Africa that has the ability to roar.

We have had lovely signtings of giraffe both in the woodlands and out on the plains. Small herds of eland are seen on the plains and breeding herds with calves will sometimes pass through the west and east marsh, with the recent rains the eland have been moving from habitat to habitat, they are varied feeders browsing and grazing on whatever they can find. 

giraffes

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku 

Hippos honk happily on the banks of the Mara River and the young male Hippos spar with each other on the best of the clear warm days.

Hippos Masai Mara

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds 

Spotted Hyenas are being seen in large clans; the Musiara clan is very big with lots of cubs of varying ages. This hyena clan competes strongly with the marsh pride although the presence of the six male lion does control them to some extent. Hyenas will overrun lionesses on a kill but not a male lion, pride males will kill hyena if they have the opportunity. Black Backed Jackals also have pups with the male playing an equal and important role in the rearing of the offspring; there are three pups estimated at 3-4 months old on the north Rhino Ridge fan. Black Backed Jackals play a large role on the high mortality rate of Thomson fawns along with cheetah and Spotted Hyena. Black Backed Jackals will also eat fruit of various trees such as the Balanites here in Masai Mara.

Hyena Masai Mara

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

European Bee-eaters have been seen and heard in many areas of the reserve, we have had good sightings of them over the west marsh as they fly high above on their southward passage. There was a short outbreak in the camps from the larvae from the Pieridae who are a large family of white butterflies, this short outbreak soon gave way after some heavy rainfall; These caterpillars were feeding of the hot leaves of the Warburgia Ugandensis tree.

Many species of Herons are feeding in the Marsh eating fish, frogs and snakes.

This month has brought on many young of all kinds of birds and mammals. Temminck’s coursers are out on the open plains, they have young chicks that look like miniature adults, three banded plovers have chicks close to the river crossing site. Secretary birds are seen in pairs across all the grasslands, they feed off grasshoppers and grass frogs which they flush out by shuffling their feet and stamping the ground. Tawny eagles scavenge with vultures at kill sites. Whilst Ruppel’s Griffon Vultures stand on termite mounds drying their outstretched wings from the previous night’s rain.

crowned lapwing

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds 

Lion

Marsh Pride lioness Yaya and her two 30 month old female sub adult cubs have been seen often hunting and resting on the fan of Rhino Ridge. Spot one of Siena’s daughters, we think gave birth to two cubs in the thickets behind Governors camp, but we think she has since abandonned them as by the 10th of the month she was seen with the coalition of six males and again on the 14th she was seen with her sister on the silanga river bed and appeared to show she was drying up, she is not a successful mother as this is the second time that she has abandoned her cubs. The six males have been mating with Yaya and her two subs as well as the other two marsh lionesses, the six males who originate from the Olare Orok conservancy now reside within the Marsh and Bila Shaka areas. Sometimes one or two of these males can be seen close to Governors Camp in the early hours of the morning, on the 26th three of them were resting up close to the entrance of the camp, on the 28th four of the males were seen walking from the lake Nakuru area of the Marsh and towards the BBC camp site area, their home range covers all the areas close to our camps.

lion

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku 

Eight members of the 3rd breakaway Marsh Pride; lioness Charm and the five lionesses were again seen very briefly in the north east marsh area mid month they then they moved back to the north east into the Masai conservancies, this is a similar pattern to last month. Since the arrival of the six OC male lion coalition the Marsh lionesses to move back and forward avoiding the males where they can. The original two marsh males Karibu and Bahati had not come down from the north gorge area and have stayed and mated with other lionesses in the Mara North Conservancy.

The Madomo Pride of 20 lions and cubs of varying ages are in the South Topi Plains areas. They are often seen deep in the croton thicket above the murram pits. The two males Blackie and Lipstick have been seen below Emartii and near the double crossing area. Cubs of this pride vary in ages with lioness madomo who has four 16 month old cubs, her sister lioness has three cubs that are now 9 months old, madomo’s daughter the pale lioness has two cubs that are 12 months old. Madomo’s other sister has one cub that is 8 months old; this solitary cub is still a very active and appears to be a solitary lion. Madomo’s older sister has two cubs a male and a female that are 4 months old. This is an active pride and they have all been feeding off wildebeest, buffalo and zebra.

lion

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku 

The Paradise Pride has seven adult lionesses and their cubs of varying ages, one of the lionesses has two cubs that are 11 months old. Three of the other lionesses have 9 cubs altogether of which three are 18 months old and five are now 21 months old, this pride of lionesses and their sub adult cubs are being seen within the Mara River and still roam between the crossing points on the Mara river. The older of the Paradise lionesses who showed to us last month that she was lactating has produced to the open world five cubs who are now 5-6 weeks old between the cul de sac and main crossing points, on the 27th the mother was leading them away from the main crossing point to a zebra that she had killed earlier that afternoon. These lionesses and their subs can often split up for periods of time within the Mara river area and will often get together again when there is a kill.

lion

Photo courtesy of Ian Fancis

Scar and the other musketeers were in and out of the Mara river basin area, Scar had crossed over into the Trans Mara when the river was lower and before the rains set in, Hunter is looking better although he had been treated by the mobile clinic for a wound that he acquired in his rump and paw.

Leopard

Siri the female leopard has two 12 month old cubs; she is still residing between the Serena pump house and the rocky Kopjes; she has been hunting impala and Grant’s Gazelles; on the 21st in the late evening she was seen with one cub as she moved across the mudflats and into the croton thickets a little downstream of the Kopjes.

The male leopard Suja has been sighted twice this month in the croton thickets near Mara River cul de sac crossing area.

Saba the female leopard of the Olare Orok and her two months old cubs is being seen more often on her own, she tucks the cubs into the croton thickets that bind the banks of the Olare Orok. Her two other sub-adults who are now at least 16 months old have moved on with the female being seen recently at the rocky crossing; Saba has been hunting and feeding off young topi calves and impala.

Bahati the female leopard of the Talek River area with her two cubs a male and female that are more likely to be estimated at 14 months old, the male is a very large specimen and can be mistaken for an adult male. The female leopard on the upper reaches of the Ngiatiak River has two cubs that are estimated at 3 months old, she has been seen often and likes resting up beneath fig trees.

The female leopard Ariana the daughter to Romi has also been seen often with her hunting impala and their fawns within the wooded areas of the BBC campsite and IL Moran camp; very often in the late evenings she is seen resting on a fallen Warburgia tree or walking through the riverine woodlands as far as the oxbow. 

Cheetah

Malaika with her two cubs (a male and female who are now 17 months old); have moved around a lot and recently they have been hunting the Thomson Gazelles and impalas that are in abundance within the double crossing, south Ngiatiak areas and on the east side of the Talek river.

Two young female cheetahs daughters of Imani have been seen often again on Rhino ridge, on the plains close to our camps and below Emartii near the double crossing areas hunting Thomson gazelles.

cheetah

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds 

The young solitary female cheetah has been seen hunting Thompson Gazelles on the open plains east of Paradise Plains and on the Talek River she looks well, and has been feeding off the many Thomson Gazelles in this area.

The five male cheetahs (an all brother coalition) have moved and are actively hunting in the Ol Keju Ronkai and Observation hill area, last month they were seen in the double crossing and Olare Orok conservancies and have latterly been seen in the southern areas of the Euclea divinorum thickets of the Ol Keju Ronkai.

Walking Safaris in North/East Masai land

The Lemek group ranch has a had a little rain this month although not the scale of the Mara Reserve which is undoubtedly influenced by the tectonic ridge. Early mornings began at 16°C,  a cool start to the day.

walking safaris masai mara

Photo courtesy of Dana Allen 

Large herds of wildebeest can be seen mainly on the eastern grasslands, the resident zebra are also in good numbers. Since there has not been much rain the seasonal riverbeds have very little water and we have been encountering solitary hippos periodically. Eland have been seen in the western plains near the euclea thickets and with a breeding herd of over 40 animals which is nice to see. There are good numbers of Topi with calves as well as warthogs and some very recent piglets, the birthing here in the conservation areas seemed to be a little behind the reserve.

There are large numbers of giraffe being seen with a breeding herd of over 30 animals being seen in the eastern grasslands, these giraffe have been feeding off the Gardenia and Warburgia leaves. Buffalo have moved deeper towards the Mara River where longer grasses are available; a small breeding herd was seen on the 16th close to the croton thickets in the north east of the eastern grasslands.

Spotted Hyena have been very active on the eastern grassland plains and have been feeding off the many resident wildebeest and zebra, Lion numbers fluctuate with the resident lion pride moving closer to the main river, on the 19th they had killed two zebra in the riverine woodlands that lie between the two grassland plains.

Patrick Reynolds, Governors Il Moran Camp Manager. 

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