Wildebeest migration Update!Author: admin / Category: General
Wildebeest migration Update!
Our guests have enjoyed some spectacular and very unusual wildlife sightings this month including huge herds from the migration crossing the Mara River, a massive rock python devouring a fully grown male thomsons gazelle, a serval cat up a tree and a lioness giving birth!
Weather and grasslands:
We have enjoyed lovely weather over the past month with clear and warm days with a few cloudy mornings. Early morning temperatures have been a little chilly (around 15°C) but the days have warmed up nicely with late afternoons averaging 32°C. A little rain fell this month which has brought on a green flush to the plains and caused the blooming of the white paper flowers (Cycnium Tubelsum) on the plains, baboons love to feed on these delicate flowers. Towards the end of the month there was some heavy rainfall up stream which has brought the Mara river levels up.
Wildebeest migration Update!
At the end of last month and the beginning of this month large numbers of wildebeest covered the plains around our camps turning them black as far as the eye could see. Then towards mid month the big river crossings began, many wildebeest were taken by crocodile and many more died whilst crossing the Mara River. Wildebeest frequently cross the Mara River in extraordinary places, often leaping off high sided river banks into the swirling depths below, then fording the river they reach the other side where they find that the river bank is too high to climb out. With sheer numbers of them of piling up there, many get trampled and die. A good few get taken by crocodile, although many crocodile on the river are now saturated with all the feeding. Then towards the end of the month many wildebeest crossed over to the Trans Mara side and only a few pockets of them remained the in Musiara, Bila Shaka, Paradise and Rhino Ridge plains. However from Little Governors’ camp we enjoyed views over the great herds from camp.
Thomson and Grants Gazelles are abundant on the short grass plains. The strongest ‘Tommie’ males set up territories in home ranges using an exaggerated display posture and marking boundaries with their pre-orbital scent gland secretions. The females and their immature offspring form groups of 5 to 50 that wander through male territories. These groups change members and numbers from hour to hour, so no obvious patterns of hierarchy or leadership emerge. A few Thomson fawns being seen now and after a 5½ month gestation females are capable of producing two off spring per year.
A large herd of Impala and a big troop of olive baboons frequent the marsh and surrounding areas along with Defassa waterbuck. More elephant have been crossing back into the Musiara marsh, having crossed the Mara River to get here the elephants are two toned showing the high water mark on their bodies, the young calves would have had to swim and thankfully they are generally good swimmers.
There are female warthog on Rhino ridge and Topi plains with 3-5 very young piglets, this is a little early for warthog. The mortality rate for warthog piglets can be high as 45% before they are 5 months old, they are quite susceptible to rapid change in temperatures and predation plays a major role either from large birds of prey and the regular carnivores such as jackals, lion, cheetah and hyena.
Hippos are being seen more often during the day either they are evicted bulls, staying out late or they may be stressed for lack of fodder, they graze on the river banks during the day. Generally hippo’s spend all day in the water digesting what they have eaten during the night; they can eat in excess of 60kg of grass per night which they crop with their lips, with a relatively poor digestive system digestion is slow. Hippos release a substance called ‘hipposudoric acid’ in ultraviolet light or sunshine this substance turns pink. Hippos do not have sweat glands but much deeper glands or skin holes that release this secretion. Biologists suggest that ‘Hipposudoric’ acid functions both as a natural sunscreen and as an antimicrobial agent.
Rhino have been seen more frequently again with a male on Paradise plains and a female on the west side of rhino ridge.
On the 5th August at 4:30pm there was a truly awesome sighting on the Bila Shaka plains of a very large African Rock Python that was constricting and then swallowing a fully grown male Thomson Gazelle. This phenomenon is seldom seen and for such a large serpent to be seen out on the open plains is all most Jurassic. Pythons and Boas have backward facing teeth and with an elastic jaw a large python after constricting its prey is able to swallow sizeable prey to even that of humans. After the prey takes a breath the snake squeezes it in causing cardiac arrest. One of the major differences in the two constrictors is that pythons lay eggs and boas give birth to live young.
Towards the end of the month guests enjoyed a rather unusual sighting close to the Marsh, at the tree line they came across a female red buck who ran off and spooked a Serval Cat hiding in the grass, the reed buck gave chase and the surprised serval promptly shot up the trunk of a tall Warburgia tree. Warburgia trees have long fissured trunks which obviously assisted the Serval. A serval is a grass cat and not accustomed to climbing trees, they have large dish like ears which helps them pick up sounds of rodents and various ground and nesting birds, they are also able to jump readily.
Bila Shaka/ marsh pride now has around 15 members which includes five breeding females, six sub adults, two older cubs and two males (Romeo is younger and Claude who is quite old now). Joy’s four cubs are now six months old. One of the older females has two young 3 month old cubs, on the 14th these little cubs and their Mum crossed a watered passage way in the Musiara swamp while the mother jumped over the little cubs swam below.
In the first week of the month two lionesses gave given birth to 6 cubs of which one of them died and the remaining 5 are nearly one month old now. Some guests staying at Governors Camp witnessed and photographed the birth of three cubs and this is a very unusual sighting.
Since the last week the two lionesses have not been seen and we presume that they have moved these cubs into deeper cover. Lion cubs are born blind-their eyes do not open until roughly a week after birth. They can weigh 1-2kg’s at birth and are almost helpless, they will begin to crawl a day or two after birth and begin walking around at three weeks. A lioness will often move her cubs to a new den site several times a month, carrying them one by one by the nape of the neck; this will prevent scent from building up at a single den site and thus avoiding the attention of predators that may harm the cubs.
Wildebeest and Zebra that are within the Marsh and the Bila Shaka river bed are the main prey at the moment. On the 18th the lioness short tail and four of the sub adults came into IL Moran Camp at 8.30pm and killed a Bush buck and a warthog 20 meters behind tent 10. They were feeding off this until 9.00am the following morning. This pride can often be encountered on a daily basis resting up in the heat of the day under a tree close to the road that serves the Governors Camps and passes close to the Musiara Marsh.
The three males have been seen between Rhino Ridge and Paradise plains. On the 19th they killed and ate a young 5 month old wildebeest.
These males with the assistance of each other will feed on larger prey species than their female counter parts. Young wildebeest that were born this year are their main prey. A Female has been at Paradise and she has been preying on Thomson Gazelle and young warthog. There is another female on the west side of Rhino Ridge she is feeding off young Thomson fawns and young warthog piglets. Another lone female is being seen on Topi plains.
Olive and her 8 month old cub and her two year old son have been near the Talek River. ‘Olive’ has been feeding off young wildebeest and warthog. Her daughter was seen on the 25th and tried to hunt a sow warthog but the warthog got the better of them both. They were all seen again on the 30th.
A large male Leopard has been seen in riverine pockets of paradise plains. The male near the croton thickets opposite the Mara River has been seen more frequently now. The Female with two cubs who are about seven months old have been seen often now in the riverine tree line at the bottom end of the Bila Shaka river bed. On the 25th there was a young impala in a tree which they had been been feeding on.
Patrick the manager at Il Moran had a great sighting of an African Cuckoo Hawk female and two chicks, they were hunting in the grass near to Private Camp. This was a fantastic sighting as it hadn’t been seen before. A juvenile Western Banded Snake Eagle was also seen yesterday near to Paradise, a male African Paradise Fly-catcher is being seen within Private Camp spending a lot of its time around the dinning tent at lunch.
On any one day can easily identify about 15 species in about 10 minutes! This includes vultures flying over, weavers, Purple Grenadiers and all sorts. A striking fly catcher within the camps is the Blue fly Catcher; it shows itself as it fans its tail.
We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Mara with you sometime soon.
We also hope to share the magic of our corner of Africa with you sometime soon. We also have propeties in Rwanda where you can see Mountain Gorillas, Lake Naivasha from where you can explore the Great Rift Valley and Lake Victoria, where you can relax and explore one of the world’s great lakes.