Masai Mara

October in the Masai Mara

Weather and grasslands

The last month began as hot, dusty and dry, then on the 8th the rain clouds began to build and we had a big rainstorm bringing 25mm. For the next two weeks there was a steady pattern of rain which has kept the grass green, on the 17th and 18th the area received a further 63mm and this volume brought the marsh levels high enough to spill out onto the east marsh grasslands, to date we have received a total of 116mm of ran. Humidity has been between 48-90%, the sun has been rising at 6.29am and setting at 6.20pm.

Sunrise Masai Mara

Photo courtesy of Tony Hammond

The Musiara Marsh has filled up considerably and has been flowing with water now spread out well into the west marsh. The Mara River has also risen with the recent rains but not more than 5 feet at a time and soon goes down.

On the plains

The mid month rainfall brought many of the resident zebra and a few wildebeest into the Bila Shaka, Malima Tatu and Topi Plains grasslands. As if timed to perfection to coincide with the rains and plentiful grazing the  Topi females and Cokes Hartebeest are calving in large numbers. Spotted Hyenas are now actively hunting topi and their calves. Warthog sows have also started to give birth, many sows now have one to two month old piglets. Even the warthogs that live in our camps have piglets and there are many little piglets running around camp witht their mothers and nannies. Three sows at Il Moran have 14 piglets between them, these warthog have become very accostomed to camp life and they love the security that camp offers, they rarely stray too far from the camp boundaries where they would fall easy prey to the resident lion prides. 

wildebeest and balloons masai mara

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku 

Giraffe herds move between the open plains and the riverine woodlands, some of these breeding herd females now have young calves; these calves will form crèches with one or two females in attendance although they can be quite spread out. Male giraffes in bachelor herds will also be seen feeding, we’ve had good sightings of them from Bila Shaka out as far as Paradise Plains.

giraffe

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku 

There are eland in small breeding herds in the Paradise grasslands with a few solitary bulls on the neighbouring plains. Hippo pods are still in large numbers and their vocal grunts are heard by many guests while staying in the Governors camps. On Monday the 23rd at 12.20pm two bulls were seen fighting on the river bank at Il Moran, this fight was between an older herd bull and a younger bull and it went on for two hours and was very vocal, the older dominant bull eventually chased the younger male off. There is a female crocodile on eggs at IL Moran on the west bank she has laid and hatched her eggs for many years in roughly the same area, it all depends on bank movement when the river floods each year so this year she has moved about 25 meters downstream of the bank and into a ocimum thicket, incubation is 85-90  days, she has been sitting on these eggs since 25th August.

Hippo fight

Photo courtesy of Dave Richards 

Elephant in small breeding herds are now being seen more spread out across the open plains, they are feeding off the young shoots of Acacia and Ballanites trees. 

elephant masai mara

Photo courtesy of Eric Chipping 

Thomson Gazelles are also being seen with young fawns; these gazelles are commonly seen on the short open grassland plains, cheetah and Black Backed Jackals will prey on these young fawns, a Thomson fawn is born after a 5½ month gestation. Impala herds will be seen in good numbers both on the open plains and also in the riverine woodlands; they are varied feeders and will utilize different habitats. In the late afternoons and early morning it is not uncommon to see females and young sub-adult males running in a wide circle while throwing their back legs high in the air, this is often known as ‘empty kicking’.

Cape Buffalo breeding herds are also now widespread with three large resident herds. One herd is seen on Paradise Plains the other smaller herd on Rhino Ridge and the Bila Shaka herd that can be seen feeding between the East Marsh and south Bila Shaka; resident lion prides on Paradise Plains and Bila Shaka will prey upon these herds taking young calves and cows.

Spotted hyenas have been very active with the Paradise and Bila Shaka clans being seen actively feeding off wildebeest and topi, the Mara/Serengeti Spotted Hyena are very competent predators with much of what they eat have been killed by themselves. The Bila Shaka clan that is not far from the Musiara airstrip this clan has many young cubs of varying ages.

A pair of Black Backed Jackals have four pups that are estimated at two months old, we see them on the south Bila Shaka plains, there is no sexual dimorphism shown between the sexes with the male or dog playing an important role in the rearing of pups. A pair of Side Stripped Jackals have also been seen in the south west areas of the Bila Shaka river bed, these Jackals are not often seen as they were some years back.

Serval Cats have also been seen on a few occasions, Bila Shaka and Paradise Plains being areas to see them, since some grass areas here are longer there is more scope for Serval Cats to hunt.

Serval Cat

Photo courtesy of Tony Hammond 

Lion

Marsh lioness Yaya and her two 29 month old female sub-adult cubs are the now the more commonly seen marsh lionesses and have been residing and hunting in the south Bila Shaka river bed and on some occasions will be seen hunting on the Silanga and northern Rhino Ridge plains. She and her two female offspring are mating with the six male coalition, they are also very active, hunting in the south Bila Shaka areas.

lioness masai mara

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku  

The two marsh lionesses who are the daughters to Marsh lioness Sienna have also been residing in the west and east marsh, both of them have been mated with one or two of the six male lion coalition, these six males are from the Olare Orok conservancy and from the same pride although of two different ages and two fathers one named Olbarnoti and the other Lolparpit. The two lionesses and  Yaya with her two females are the only remaining marsh lionesses living in the marsh at the moment. 

lion love

Photo courtesy of Jane Dunmall

The Madomo Pride of 18 lion including cubs and sub-adults are increasing in numbers with another two young cubs, they are hunting successively in the southern Topi Plains and as far as the double crossing. The cubs of this pride vary in ages with four 15 month old cubs, three cubs that are now 8 months old,  two cubs that are 11 months old. Madomo’s other sister has one cub that is seven months old; this solitary cub is still very active and appears to be a solitary lion. Madomo’s older sister has two cubs, a male and a female that are 3 months old, she had originally given birth to them in a culvert close to the double crossing on the Olare Orok side, they have joined up with the main pride now. This pride is very active feeding off the many resident wildebeest that recently passed through this area. The two males Lipstick and Blackie have been seen in the double crossing area and also as far as Kries river bed, Lipstick and Blackie have sired the cubs of the Madomo pride with Lipstick being the more dominant of the two. The four older sub adults who are 26 months old, (three females and a ) have been seen on the east rocky fan of Rhino Ridge and will also hunt along with the Madomo Pride on Topi Plains, on the 28th the male who has now a collar which was fitted in August was seen eating the remains of a zebra that they had killed, he also was being surrounded by a large number of Spotted Hyena, since hyena will often respect male lion they waited patiently until the male left the remains, they then all piled in and quickly finished off what remained.

lioness and cubs masai mara

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku 

The four male lion coalition of the Musketeers have been residing south of the Mara River and will be seen with the Paradise lionesses, Scar has been mating as well as Hunter. Sikio and Morani are often seen across the river while it was shallow before the onset of the rains; these males have been residing with the Paradise lionesses ever since they moved out from the Marsh environs.

The Paradise Pride of seven adult lionesses and their cubs of varying ages, one lioness has two cubs that are 10 months old. Three of the other lionesses have 9 cubs altogether of which three are 17 months old and five are 20 months old, these lionesses and their sub adult cubs are being seen within the Mara River and roam between the crossing points on the Mara River. These lionesses work the crossing points and have adapted a unique strategy of catching their prey whether zebra, wildebeest or even topi as they swim across the river, they will also move into west Paradise Plains as part of their home range; they spit up from time to time crossing the river into the Trans Mara, they have been feeding off zebra and wildebeest. The older of the Paradise lionesses is very pregnant and guides have suggested she could give birth very soon.

Leopard

Siri the female leopard has two 11 month old cubs; she has been seen near the rocky kopje that is close to the Serena pump house area.

The large male leopard Suja of the Mara River crossing area was seen a few times this month; he was last seen on the 19th with the remains of a Topi kill on the west Paradise Plains.

Saba of the Olare Orok and her two 15 month old sub-adult cubs a male and female have both been very active on the Olare Orok River; these sub-adults appear to have recently left the care of their mother for Saba has been seen with two very young cubs, estimated at 2 months old, the female may well still hunt in the same home range as her mother but the male will be forced to move on since there is a dominant male in this area. Saba was seen on the 26th and 27th although sightings of the cubs were difficult while she was still in thick croton. The large male was also seen on these dates with the remains of a largo topi that was partially eaten and then stashed deep into a riverine croton thicket.

leopard masai mara

Photo courtesy of Tony Hammond 

Bahati is the female leopard with two cubs (a male and a female) that are at least 14-15 months old now. The female has been seen on her own on the southern bank of the Talek River; Bahati has now been seen with two cubs that are estimated at 2 months old she is another leopard of this region that is relatively habituated to cars, and we often have great sightings of her.

Two other male leopards of the southern Talek River areas have been seen often this month, one of them is the older male and there is a younger male that is often seen not far apart.

The female leopard Ariana (the daughter to Romi) has been seen within the riverine woodlands of the old BBC campsite and IL Moran, she is often seen also near the Lake Nakuru area of the Marsh. On the 26th and 27th she was seen in the late afternoon close to the entrance into IL Moran Camp, there is the remains of an Impala kill up a Warburgia tree, we suspect that this is the area now that Ariana hunts in.

Cheetah

Malaika with her two cubs (a male and a female) who are now 16 months old; have been seen in the Olare Orok and Naibosho Conservancies with two sub-adult cubs. She has moved around quite some distance in the last month, she is a great mother and a successful hunter.

Two young female cheetahs (daughters of Imani) have been seen on Rhino Ridge hunting Thomson Gazelles, these two females have been within the Musiara environs for the last month which is a good sign since predator aggression from Spotted Hyena and lion affects their movements drastically.

cheetah sisters

Photo courtesy of Tony Hammond 

The five male cheetahs an all brother coalition have moved and are being seen actively hunting in the Olkeju 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 Olkeju Ronkai.

A young female cheetah has been seen hunting Thompson Gazelles on Paradise Plains and she latterly has been seen on the south of the Ngiatiak River hunting on the red laterite soils close to the murram pits, single cheetah like this don’t stay long in specific areas and will tend to keep moving when predator aggression from hyena and lion prevail.

Nora’s sub-adult male cub has now been on his own and was last seen south of Observation hill and perhaps has gone into the northern Serengeti. 

Patrick Reynolds, Governors Il Moran Camp Manager. 

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