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Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Governors Camp, Masai Mara
The first couple of weeks of February were hot, with temperatures reaching 34 degrees celsius and mostly dry. Uncharacteristically for this time of year, it started to rain, and a fair amount too. The mornings have been dry with a combination of sun and cloud with rain arriving in the evenings and at times late at night. The wonderful combination of rain and sun has caused the grass to shoot up to almost a metre in places. All this rain has caused the Marsh to flow and pour out some sizable cat fish which the Fish Eagles are gorging on. The whole of the Mara is looking amazingly lush, healthy and green.
There have been and continue to be huge groups of elephants moving over the plains, into the forest and through the Marsh. The elephant are content to feed on just the grass, sedge and fruit from the Greenheart trees, giving the acacia woodland in the surrounding areas a much needed break and time to re-grow.
The plains game have moved to where there is shorter grass mostly along the river line, leaving the large breeding herds of buffalo on the long grass plains.
The arrival of the rain has been wonderful for the resident birdlife. The abundance of life in the Musiara Marsh has drawn a crowd of water birds namely Herons, Storks and Hammerkops all hunting frogs and smaller catfish. The European Stork has recently made an entrance into the Mara, no doubt following the rain and the bounty of food which materialises with it. With food a-plenty many birds have nested and either have eggs or chicks at the moment. The weavers have built their nests hanging over the lush riverbanks, some are still building and some attending to chicks. Plovers, Longclaws and other ground nesting birds also have eggs and chicks in their nests hidden in the long grass and a Martial Eagle was seen killing a Wattled Plover near the Musiara airstrip.
The invasion of caterpillars we had in the camps and forest at the end of last month has now turned into the most brilliant display of thousands of different kinds of butterflies and moths. The Vernonia and Maerua plants along the riverside are flowering and are a big attraction for the butterlies and moths.
The lion prides are all well settled and thriving. The staple diet at this time of year is the unlucky warthog as there are plenty of piglets after the rain. However, they are just a snack for large prides of hungry lions. They risk not only injury but their lives hunting larger, more dangerous animals in order to feed their cubs.
The Marsh Pride has been seen feeding on a couple of buffalo kills first thing in the morning, although they mostly hunt at night as they have the advantage of better night vision. The lionesses and sub-adults were seen hunting a strong, young male buffalo. Three had jumped on it trying to hold on whilst the buffalo ran with them and into the deeper water of the marsh where he managed to face them off with his menacing horns.
The Paradise Pride males made a hippo kill not far from the river at night. The hippo may have been too far away from the water (where they normally seek safety) or it may have been injured or sick. The five males and cubs were able to feed first, followed by the lionesses. Three days later the hippo was reduced to bones and skin, which the hyena also fed on.
We have had some great sightings of the female leopard near the camps. She has been seen feeding on a monitor lizard and on a separate occasion a White Stork at the marsh.
The large male leopard was spotted with an impala kill near the Mara River.
Our resident leopard Olive and her cubs are found on most days near the river, her cubs still with her but happy to spend their day resting a little distance from her. They will become more and more independent as they learn how to hunt properly and both will go their separate ways.
The three cheetah brothers have been back in the area and are very well. The mother and cub are thriving, having been in an area with many hyena leaving us extremely worried, but so far nothing untoward has happened. They were last seen on a Thompson Gazelle kill and were able to relax and finish it without any interference. Shakira and her three cubs are still on the other side of the river, she presently has no chance of coming back across the river after all the recent rain, unless she knows where the bridge is.
Two Rhino were sighted on Paradise Plain. It is encouraging to see them in pairs, as they may be either a mother and older calf (often adopted at this stage) or a mating pair. This is a wonderful sighting since between the Mara and the northern Serengeti we only have an estimated 20 or so rhino.