General News - June 2011
Game report Masai Mara - 6 June 2011
News from the Masai Mara courtesy Governor's Camps
We have enjoyed warm days this month with some humidity in the afternoons bringing light rain showers on some of the evenings. Midday temperatures averaged around 31°c with early morning temperatures at 21°c. The Musiara and adjacent grassland areas are showing good signs of grass growth, which has brought sizeable numbers of zebra, eland and resident gnu's in from the east.
There are good numbers of elephant and calves spread out within the Musiara Marsh, Bila Shaka and riverine woodlands of the Mara River. The swamp is still a good place to see elephant feeding and bathing. There were also some large males in Musth and a few matings. The Warburgia (African Green Heart) trees were fruiting and the elephant love these small apple shaped fruit and this brought many of them into the woodlands and into the camps.
Large numbers of giraffe with many calves in crèches are present within the Musiara area, near the Marsh and between the camps. Both male and female giraffes have horns, giraffe horns are formed from ossified cartilage (cartilage that has transformed into bone) and for that reason the horns of giraffes are also called ossicones. Within the riverine woodland verges and the marsh there are also good numbers of Defassa Waterbuck with young calves among these breeding herds, impala, bushbuck and large numbers of Olive Baboons.
There are lots of warthog around and the boars have been busy sparring for females, you can hear the boars 'cluck' as they approach the sows. Sadly a lioness at Little Governors Camp took two of our resident warthogs. Reedbucks are more commonly seen in the swamp and other areas of Bila Shaka particularly in areas of longer and coarser grasses. Earlier on this month a female cheetah took down a female reedbuck in the marsh in a spectacular chase, a guest at Little Governors skilfully photographed this episode. With the grasslands being shallow these reed bucks were becoming more visible and much more habituated; they favour flood plains and drainage areas where the coarse grasses are unpalatable to other antelopes.
There are good numbers of eland on the Musiara plains and in the conservation areas of Koiyaki; calves in these breeding herds can be seen in crèches and there are also some large dominant breeding bulls that flank the periphery of these breeding herds.
The large breeding herd of Cape Buffalo estimated at over 500 animals are on the Eastern grassland plains of rhino ridge and Bila Shaka; grasses here are a little longer and well suited for buffalo. Black Rhino have been near the Marsh and in the Paradise area and on one occasion three were seen together.
Two social mongooses can be seen within the camps, the banded mongoose and Dwarf mongoose, these two species are always busy getting up to mischief around the camps and we love having them around. A Marsh mongoose has been seen in the Marsh waterways. This little chap is a solitary mongoose that specializes in aquatic prey such as fresh water crabs and frogs etc. It is also crepuscular (evening), though some activity has been observed during the day. An excellent swimmer, the Marsh Mongoose prefers to keep its head above water, in very marshy surrounds it will frequently rest on patches of grass and floating vegetation.
Topi, with their six/seven month old calves, are up on Topi plains and Emarti which is the south end fan of Rhino Ridge; there are also herds of females in well used lekking areas of Paradise and the other side of the Talek River.
There are also many spotted Hyena about with their cubs. The hyena are spending lots of time up on Topi plains hunting Topi during the day. Spotted Hyena is one of the top predators in Africa. Hyenas and lions particularly in the Mara/Serengeti ecosystem compete directly for food and often scavenge each other's kills. This competition often leads to antagonistic encounters that may result in death.
Birds: Stripped swallows are nesting within the campgrounds, Caspian plovers are in the Koiyaki area and we have had some good sightings of white-headed Vultures, which are fairly uncommon.
Lion: The Bila Shaka/ marsh pride now numbers 15 individuals including five breeding females; six sub adults, two older cubs and two males. Another female has joined the pride and she has four cubs that are four months old. This pride remains at the heart of their territory and is feeding well off the many zebra that are now here.
The Paradise pride of four large males and an older male known as 'notch' (who is the uncle to these four males), remain a strong coalition, they stay at the heart of their territory on Paradise Plain and have become adept hippo hunters killing three in the last month.
The Ridge pride of three females, three sub adults and two males, earlier on this month they killed a large bull buffalo and fed off for a few days.
The double-crossing pride of three adult females and their four cubs that are almost 2 years old are without a territorial male. They have been seen feeding on warthog. One of these females is getting old and sadly she is struggling to hunt, her time could be nearly coming to an end.
Cheetah:Shakira and her six 12 month-old female cubs are in the Keekorok area and are feeding off Thomson Gazelles and reedbuck; they are all very healthy and looking well fed.
A single female cheetah has been spending the last week close to the Marsh and our airstrip, feeding off Thomson Gazelles and reedbuck.
The three male brother coalitions have latterly been spending their time beyond the Talek River. They have been actively feeding off young Topi and warthog. On the 26th finished off a whole female warthog, this shows that there was not other competition nearby.
Leopard:Leopards have remained fairly elusive this month. The large male leopard has been sighted frequently within the dry riverbed close to our airstrip and as far as Governors private camp. He has been feeding off young topi and impala. The Young male leopard of paradise has been seen latterly near the Serena pump house.
Walking Safaris in the Koiyaki Conservation Area.
With the little rain we received this month the grassland plains have greened up within the walking area of Koiyaki. This green flush has brought in a few more wildebeest with their 2-3 month old calves and many zebra which have been coming through from the east where grass lands outside the reserve are getting very short from lack of adequate rainfall and competition with livestock, these zebra are ending up in the Musiara area of the national reserve, where there is grazing for them.
Eland herds are being seen more readily now with a few large groups of breeding bulls. The breeding males are considerably larger than the females. Eland are successful ungulates in that they will both graze and browse when grasses are short and dry.
Thomson and Grants gazelles are residents on the short grass plains, along with impala and Defassa Waterbuck in the acacia woodlands. With a good view all around and no chance of a predator ambush, the short grass plains are a favourite for Thompson Gazelles.
We have enjoyed good sightings of Masai Giraffe within the acacia woodlands; Giraffe are strictly browser's and they love to feed on acacia. There has also been a resident herd of Cape Buffalo with many very young calves in the acacia woodlands, grasses here are a little longer and coarser which is ideal grazing for buffalo with their hard mouths and coarse tongues.
There are 14 lion in the Acacia pride including two nice males, and we sometimes see then on our walking safaris. On the 14th at 6.45am we came across eleven lion of which there were 3 breeding females and seven cubs of varying ages all feeding on a wildebeest, on the periphery there were 18 hyenas, hungrily looking on. After the lion moved away the hyena quickly took possession of what was left behind. When we went to inspect the site of the kill there was barely a blood smear on the ground making is apparent that the hyena had initially made this kill, which the lion then took over.