The Masai Mara had some heavy rain up until the end of the month then the weather dried out and we had a week of glorious weather. The temperature averaged about 28 degrees Celsius and we received 191.5mm of rainfall over the month of May. The Mara River rose almost to capacity a few times mostly due to rain at the source in the Mau forest on the western escarpment of the Rift Valley. All this rain followed by sunshine has caused a flurry of growth out on the plains and the savannah grasses are fantastically long, the red oats grasses are showing their fruiting seed, giving an orange tinge to the plains towards the Serengeti.
Birding has been great this month with a few species hatching young chicks and teaching their fledglings how to gather the abundant insects that are about. We still have hundreds of Open-Billed Storks in the marsh as well as a small flock of White Storks preparing for their flight back to Europe. The Jacksons Widow Bird male has been hopping up and down in the grass displaying to females, as well as many of the Fantailed and a few White-Winged Widow birds. Some of the less common birds seen were the Leviallant’s Cuckoo, Marshal Eagle, Dark-Chanting Goshawk, Grey-Headed Bush Shrike and Double-Toothed Barbet.
There are three herds of buffalo in our area at the moment, one herd is remaining close to the Marsh and it numbers around 600 individuals and two herds above the ridge numbering 300 and 200 individuals.
Massive herds of Elephants have been milling around the Musiara Marsh area and moving up to Rhino Ridge eating the grass on the plains. We have had a large presence of bull elephants, some a little testy and in musth, but mostly just content to eat alongside the female herds. A couple of mating sessions was witnessed, which is an incredible sight.
With all the elephant and buffalo manure to take care of we have had an influx of the larger species of dung beetle. They are not seen as regularly rolling their balls along, but simply dig below a prospective meal as the ground is soft in most places. The dung beetle will stash their ball below the surface and lay an egg, this will eventually hatch and the larvae will feed on the dung until it metamorphosis’s and digs its way up to the surface as an adult.
The hyena packs are fairly scattered as they are mostly scavenging at this time of year. There is one hyena den site close to the airstrip with three small black pups and two larger ones just changing colour now at about seven months or so. The scavenging took on a large scale this month when some of our guests had an incredible sighting of twenty three hyena chasing three lions off a buffalo kill, the noise and energy were unbelievable.
The Marsh Pride have scattered a bit this month, only being seen in two’s and three’s. At the beginning of the month they were spending their time in the plains close to the Marsh, and then they moved into Masai Land bordering the Masai Mara Game Reserve where their territory extends up to Leopard Gorge and to the west. In these areas the grass has been mostly grazed down by Masai cattle making perfect grazing conditions for plains game. Big herds of zebra have come in to these areas from the Loita Plains area in the east, all this game has been an attraction for the Marsh Pride. Towards the end of the month most of the pride headed back to the Musiara Marsh area.
The Ridge Pride have been seen more frequently in their usual, smaller territory. There seem to be the two pride males, three females and three cubs. They have had some lean times, but are doing well enough with the large numbers of warthog in the area.
The Paradise Pride are doing exceptionally well, they have spent more time as a pride as their hunting tactics differ. They have become specialist hippo hunters managing to take down three hippos during May. There is also plenty of plains game in their territory, as the grass is shorter in a few areas. The six males are still together, although sometimes spending time apart from each other. We are not certain which males, but certainly the younger ones cross the river to visit another pride of females. Having a coalition of six males, they most definitely call the shots in that area.
The three cheetah brothers have spent most of their time up on the high plains. This area has been slightly grazed down by the large herds of topi and other plains game that have continued to stay in this preferred area. This area gives them a great vantage point to see predators and they have added security of safety in numbers. The three boys have obviously been attracted by the bounty of prey on these plains. They have had some success hunting Topi on the shorter grass, but have mainly been concentrating on the warthog in the bordering longer grass.
There has been a single female cheetah in our area which we believe to be pregnant. A second lesser known female was also seen within our area with two cubs of about eight or nine months old.
Shakira and her cubs have not been sighted, we are sure they must still be on the west side of the Mara River. The river has been high for many months prohibiting her movement back onto our side.
This month we enjoyed some wonderful leopard sightings close to the camps with two leopards regularly making an appearance. The large male made his presence felt between the forest and the Marsh and the female leopard, which we have become well acquainted with, has frequented the Ilmoran area and the small patch of forest in the Marsh near ‘Lake Nakuru.’
Back in camp a family of giraffe have been regular night visitors sleeping on the grass in front of the plains tents giving guests a wonderful view in the early mornings.