“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
– Miriam Beard
‘Hamjambo’ (Greetings) to you all from the Mara and specifically the middle of the plains where, for the most part, it has been a month of clear, starry nights and cold mornings when our breath steams at the first sightings of the day. By midday the real dry heat of the season kicks in causing the layers to be peeled off. In just a month it has been amazing that we can almost see the plains around us turning colours into those of the African dry season browns, yellows, maroons and dark greens with the occasional flashes of white and orange coming through the bush from the crotons which have begun to turn their leaves showing the reflective undersides to minimize the loss of moisture.
As the seasons of the Mara move into the latter half of the year we have started seeing the tail end storms of the ‘migration rains’ around us. These are, as the name suggests, the storms that blow the smell of moisture and the promising rumbles of thunder to the noses and ears of the huge, dense herds of wildebeest which have, until recently, been stacked up rank after rank along the banks of Sand River in the southern Mara Reserve. The most recent feedback from this mass migration is that the main body of the wildebeest is now only days away from the camp. Another huge herd has been reported heading westwards past Lookout Hill towards the Talek-Mara confluence. There have already been a few crossings this month but these will now continue to grow in size and frequency into August as the herds follow whichever beest happens to be in front and wanting to go one way.
As is the norm when the massive influx of wildlife moves north into Kenya it is always the huge ‘dazzles’ of zebra that come first. These herds, made up of multiple family groups, are more often than not the ones who lead the way for the wildebeest by making the decisions for them. Interestingly it is not just their decision-making ability that makes the zebra come first. Unlike the wildebeest, zebra have a more complex stomach system which allows them to graze the longer, courser grass that the wildebeest and other smaller grazers struggle to digest. In the bigger picture this ensures that they occupy a niche in the seasonal grass growth on the African plains ensuring that the grazers that follow them will be able to eat the shorter and more nutritious grass that is exposed to sunlight after the ‘stripy donkeys’ pass through.
Despite the main migration having not arrived in the northern conservancies yet we still are surrounded by plenty of wildlife. As some of you know the Lloita migration arrived in the conservancies at the end of last month. Since then these large herds made up an amazing variety and have flooded into the greater region. They are now scattered around from Musiara, across the Topi and Paradise Plains right up to Double Crossing area and up into the northern conservancies.
Onto the soap opera of the OOC… Some of you may have seen our mid-month blog where we mentioned the opening up of Motorogi Conservancy to the north of the OOC. Well the Enkoyeni pride really have claimed this incredible area for their own. They are still now at the end of this month hanging out in the river line between the Motorogi salt lick and the OOC airstrip. Morning drives into this area in search of them often find these fat cats strewn about the ground between multiple carcasses of wildebeest. As a result of this area is now prime time real estate for hyenas, vultures and other creatures happy to scavenge off the prides ‘over kills’.
The Moniko lions, now 13 strong and continuing their intense breeding program, have now finally moved back into the eastern OOC occupying the area between OOC headquarters and Moniko Hill. In the last week of the month, as this pride returned to their regular hunting grounds, it has been wonderful to hear them in the evenings as the whole pride roars and choruses together in their united claim over the land.
Less regular visitors to the OOC this July have been two of Notch’s boys (the huge dark-maned one and his blonde, shy brother). In true bold fashion these two walked straight into the OOC across the front of the camp during breakfast one morning as they headed north calling threats to three young males who had taken up residence around the Lone Tree Hill spring. Needless to say the three youngsters did not need much persuasion to keep moving.
Onto the spotted cats of the OOC and starting with the leopards… Acacia and Fig have been seen regularly this month as they move up and down the river lines above, below and east of Olare. On one evening guests were fortunate to see not only these two but also the huge male ‘Yellow’ (Fig’s father) as they sat eating a dikdik on the rocks of the riverbed. It did not take long for the large male to steal the kill for himself and carry it into the crown of an Acacia tree where the other two would never get close enough for a bite. Such is life.
The mystery leopardess from around the camp has been ever present through the month but as always is still very shy and unsure of vehicles. The couple of times she has been found with her 4-5 month old cub she has made life difficult for those following her in true leopard fashion. Mid-month these two, like Acacia and Fig, were found on the Olare River just west of Mara Plains as part of a trio with an unknown male.
Once this month the shy leopardess from the top end of the Kereput stream was found with first light as she emerged from an ambush spot overlooking a spring. True to her nature she made herself scarce very fast once she had been noticed. We expect that she may be spending much of her time in the Eseketa Valley and on the escarpment recently due to the Moniko pride moving into her home range along the stream bed just north of Moniko Hill.
As mentioned in previous reports, with Motorogi Conservancy now having come on board as the newest wildlife dispersal area on the OOC’s northern boundary this has come with a number of new characters for the conservancy dramas. One most worth a mention would be the large, relaxed female leopard who has been found a few times this month around the salt licks. It was originally thought after a report from a foot patrol that she may have cubs, however, recent reports suggest this may not be the case. The patrol is not to blame for this as it is generally considered unhealthy practice looking for leopard cubs on foot! Genetics for this kind of behavior was removed by natural selection some time in the past.
With all the long grass all over the Mara it can be said that the numbers of cheetah spotted at this time of year falls short of the average but this is not to say that they are not there. They are around, just hidden away like a needle in a haystack. In so saying we have been seeing cheetah around both the reserve and the conservancies. The female mentioned last month with two cubs has now unfortunately only one cub remaining having lost one to hyenas – a sad but natural outcome. She has spent the month on either side of the Ntiakitiak River between Mara Plains and Double Crossing where she does her bit to dent the populations of Thompson’s gazelles in the long grass.
The two cheetah brothers have been around, trying to keep up their patrols and markings, while at the same time avoiding the larger cats that would go out of their way to kill them.
A new coalition of three huge, beautiful male cheetahs has arrived in the OOC and Motogogi this month having come in from Naboisho to the east. These three have been found on a few occasions as they are creating their own circuit and home range stretching from Naboisho conservancy, into Motorogi, past the OOC airstrip before heading back eastwards down the Eseketa Valley. We are so happy to welcome these three as, when there are three mouths to feed on three very healthy cheetah, the chances of catching these cats in action is relatively high. We will keep you posted.
In other news Bonnie and Clyde, the pair of camp crocodiles, have finally put their differences behind them and tied the knot (again). We hope to have lots of little mini-thems in the future. Whether these baby crocs are male or female will depend on how deep Bonnie buries the eggs, which in turn affects the temperature of the incubation.
We are happy to report the three striated heron chicks are all still with us on the fallen tree in front of tent number 8. We have seen Clyde lurking and eyeing these little morsels day in and day out so we wish them all the best of luck… ‘Don’t slip’!
Twice this month guests have been fortunate enough to see a couple of the very rare and shy rhino of the Masai Mara. On one of these occasions the rhino decided it wanted to have a closer….much closer….look at one of the new Mara Plains game viewers. Lucky for the car and the rhino, Land Cruiser proved to have a higher speed over rough terrain.
A slightly sadder report but with a positive outcome was when, towards the end of this month, our head guide, Ping, found and called in a young bull elephant who appeared to have a spear wound in his side. After the vet was called in and the elephant was sedated (with much drama while trying to persuade the other family members to move away) it turned out the wound was due to three poisoned arrows that had caused massive tissue damage and septicemia. We are happy to announce that with an elephant-sized dose of penicillin the young bull woke up with a huge hang over and is now fast on his way to recovery. We expect the arrows belonged to poachers in the northeastern Mara area where there has been a rise in incidents over the past year.
Well, that’s about it for now. Follow our blogs if you want to keep up with the goings on. And by the way, we expect to be completely surrounded by Wildebeest by the 6th August at the rate they are moving. All reports coming in are that this year the number of wildebeest in the migration may be up to 2 MILLION!
See you on the plains.
PHOTOGRAPHY CREDIT/ COPYRIGHT:
Grey Crowned Cranes: Richard Pye
Migration: Richard Pye
Hyena: Richard Pye
Lions playing: Richard Pye
Egyptian Geese: Lorna Buchanan-Jardine
Cheetah brothers: Lorna Buchanan-Jardine
Striated Heron: Richard Pye
Grey Crowned Cranes: Richard Pye
This entry was posted on Monday, August 6th, 2012 at 1:03 pm
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