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March Game Report Masai Mara

30 March, 2016 

Weather and grasslands

March this year has been warm and dry for most of the month; we have had hot then cool and sometimes humid days, strong easterly winds would cool the evening air, temperatures were as low as 19°c and high as 33°c. There has been a high humidity for most part of the month. Rainfall for the month was 126.4mm. The Musiara Marsh water level is low and some areas of the Marsh have now dried up. The silt layer in the Mara River is also clearing up. Grasslands are slowly drying out although good stands of grasses will be seen on Rhino Ridge, Paradise Plains and Musiara Plains. The Warburgia fruit are easing off now and likewise the quinine (Cinchona sp) tree fruit and these fruit brought in many Black and White Hornbills. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

On the plains 

There was huge influx of Zebra arriving on the plains of Masai Mara from the conservation areas in the north east. These zebra are from the Loita Migration and around 100,000 of them congregated on Topi plains and the southern Bila Shaka grasslands. Along with these Zebra there are some Wildebeest although in small herds and mainly males. Small herds of breeding Eland will be seen and also a few large dominant bulls. Thompson and Grants Gazelles both of which will be seen on these open plains. Topi seem to congregate in certain areas on these plains and amongst these Topi herds some males are been seen mating from these short term leks. Cokes Hartebeest are being seen in much smaller herds and quite spread-out, average herd sizes of Cokes hartebeest on Topi plains and southern Bila Shaka are 6-8. The resident Lion prides and Spotted Hyena have preyed heavily on the resident Zebra and Topi, often single or sometimes a clan of Hyena will take on the sleeping male Topi during even the heat of the day and while the Hyena whoop and laugh in the scurry of eating the animal the noise of which will draw in neighbouring Lion; particularly if a male lion happens to be in residence he will quickly and without hesitation take over the kill from the Hyena. Both these open plains predators compete strongly for survival, a phenomenon known as predator aggression. 

Photo courtesy of James Rogerson

Impala breeding herds and olive baboons are resident within the marsh and woodlands of the Mara River; the one resident Baboon troop is over 100 members with many young infants. Males come and go between these troops. Within the troop, there are several adult males, numerous adult females and their offspring of various ages. A Baboon troop is held together by females and this is a matrilineal society and whose females born within a troop will almost always remain in their natal group for their entire lives whereas males disperse in order to mate.

Since the Warburgia trees have eased off fruiting many Elephant have moved back across the river into the Trans Mara. Small breeding herds and larger males will cross back and feed within the Marsh itself and also within the riverine woodlands. A few bulls will frequent the camps and Blossom the large and well known male thrives in the camps and has become a resident. 

Photo courtesy of Rhys Latter and Sue Lawless

Giraffe males and small breeding herds with larger calves will come and go within the Musiara areas. Warthog and their 5-6 month old piglets will be seen well spread out across the open grassland plains, the resident lion prides prey on these warthog. Hippo are being seen coming back later in the morning after foraging during the night, grass levels are dense and Hippo prefer grass with more leaf structure. 

Photo courtesy of James Rogerson

A three legged Serval cat is very active on the Bila Shaka river bed grasslands, she is being seen nearly on a daily basis, and despite the missing front leg she is very active and negotiates the long grass well. It is quite amazing how mammals are able to compromise even when a piece of their anatomy is missing. Other Serval cats are also readily being seen and since the grass is still long in many areas of the Mara sightings and photography can sometimes be challenging in the long grass. A side-stripped Jackal has been seen again this month; this is a bonus sighting for side striped jackals; unfortunately compete with the Black Backed Jackals in the Musiara environs. The Side-striped Jackal tends to be less carnivorous than other jackal species, and is a highly adaptable omnivore/insectivore whose dietary habits change in accordance to seasonal and local variation. It tends to forage solitarily or occasionally in pairs, particularly females with young.

A pair of Aardwolves has been sighted again this month with a good sighting of them on the 27th and 29th seen below Rhino Ridge although the grass levels are still long clear sightings can be difficult to photograph. The Aardwolf looks most like the Striped Hyena, but is quite a bit smaller and as a more pointed muzzle, large round eyes and longer sharper ears which they use for listening for the larger termites or preferably the harvester termites, they have black vertical stripes on a coat of yellowish fur, they have a long, distinct mane down the middle line of the neck which they are able to raise to increase their body mass. 

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku

Many Rufus bellied herons will be seen particularly in the East side of the Marsh, also Open Billed Storks, Woolly Necked Storks and the larger Grey and Black Headed Herons. One Open Billed stork walked around with a quartz pebble in its bill for best part of the morning. Lesser Kestrels are also still being seen on flocks, with the Balanites trees being good places to see them as they perch to roost temporarily. The Saddle Bill Stork pair is building their nest on the west marsh woodlands; the male was seen on the morning of the 17th gathering grass and small sticks for their nest which is quite high up a Warburgia tree. Kori Bustard males are still displaying as was seen again on the southern Topi Plains and also near Malima Tatu. Many Rufus Bellied Herons will be seen particularly in the East side of the Marsh, also Open Billed Storks, Woolly Necked Storks and the larger Grey and Black Headed Herons. Lesser kestrels are also still being seen in smaller flocks, with the Balanites trees being good places to see them as they perch to roost temporarily. A few Abdims Storks have also been seen in the north east areas of Musiara and also within the Masai conservation areas. Black and White Casqued hornbills are being seen and heard throughout the woodlands of the river and camps within. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds


The Marsh pride with adult lioness Charm, three of Siena's sub-adult cubs a male and two females that are 27 months old and one is Charm's 20 months old female, these lion are spending much of their time in the south Bila Shaka grasslands and on the west fan of Rhino Ridge in the Silanga riverbed confluence. Male Marsh lions Red and Tatu were seen in the Bila Shaka earlier on in the month and now lately in the Malima Tatu area. It is apparent that they have moved away from their natal grounds of the Bila Shaka area for the two black maned Lion Blackie and Lipstick have now moved into the Bila Shaka area. These two black maned lion will be a challenge for the two marsh males. Charm and the four cubs have been feeding off Topi, resident Zebra and warthog. 

Photo courtesy of James Rogerson

Lipstick and Blackie both move back and forth from the south Topi Plains to the Bila Shaka river bed, the madomo pride with the three lionesses and four cubs are also in the southern Topi Plains. They have all been feeding of the resident Topi and Zebra, this is an active pride. Both Blackie and Lipstick have been seen mating with some of these lionesses.

The five marsh lionesses are being seen further south east of the Bila Shaka, earlier on in the month lioness. We finally had a sightings of Yaya's cubs towards the end of the month. After not seeing these cubs for many days we were very relieved when we caught sight of them deep in the thickets with their mother. The four male lion coalition the 'Musketeers' have been in and out of the southern paradise plains and becoming to be seen more recently this month. Scar was seen again this month and is still being seen more often in the Trans Mara; he seems to cross the river very frequently, Sikio, Morani and Hunter are the three other male lion that have been seen on and off in the Paradise Plains area, on the 17th, 19th and 28th they were seen altogether in the croton thicket close to the main crossing at paradise. 

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku

The Paradise Pride of three lionesses and six, 19 month old cubs are back in the Paradise Plain's area of the river crossings; earlier last month they had been as far as Bila Shaka which is well out of their home range. The four Musketeers have been seen with this pride and it is apparent that the four male coalitions do not venture further than Paradise Plains.

Lippy and Kini of the 2nd breakaway pride are being seen in the north Musiara Marsh, this is where many of their firsts litter of cubs were born, lionesses will often go back to natal breeding areas to have their litter of cubs. Lippy has one cub that is approximately two months old. There are three other three sub adult cubs that are either those of Kini and are approximately 23 months old. They have fed of Zebra and Buffalo; on the 17th they had killed a large male Buffalo in the north marsh reed beds. They also came with Akili, the lion who was spearated from her mother and survived an amazing 9 nights alone in the wild, before being reunited back with her mother back in 2014. It is great to see Akili all grown up and thriving after such a rocky start. 

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku

Romi the female Leopard who has two cubs that are eight months old were being seen again more frequently within the riverine woodlands in the north areas of the marsh. Lately she has been seen close to the northern area of the west marsh. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Siri the female Leopard near the Serena pump house area with her 21 month old male cub were being seen either close to the Serena pump house hill or the Chinese hill further south down the river, they are both very active within the boundaries of the river; the sub- adult male is a very active cat and has been since he was very young.

'Bahati' the female leopard on the Talek River area and on the confluence of the Talek and Ngiatiak rivers, she has two cubs that are approximately nine months old, she will also be been on the Talek river area and has been hunting impala ewes, warthog and Grants gazelles.

The female leopard 'Saba' who is a petite female has two 15 months old cubs a male and female who frequent the woodlands of the Olare Orok River. She preys on Impala, Warthog and Thompson gazelles; the grass levels here are short and with many Thompson, Grants Gazelles and warthog, she habituates in a prime rich area. The male sub-adult is now almost taller than his mother.

There is a large male that is often seen in her home range and we all suspect this male is the sire to her two cubs.


Malaika the female with her two 21 month old sub-adult cubs a male and a female; these two sub-adults did leave Malaika and then were seen together again latterly, this phenomena is not uncommon but it is suggested that they will separate completely very soon. She has also been frequenting the murram pit areas of the southern Masai conservation areas. On the morning of the 29th she was seen with her two sub-adult cubs just on the border of the conservation areas and the Mara reserve, they had flushed a Thompson gazelle fawn and dispatched it very quickly.

Musiara the female cheetah with her three 9 month old cubs; she has been seen very frequently in the southern Masai conservation areas and often not far from that of Malaika and her two sub-adults; she has been hunting Thomson Gazelles and Impala. She lately has ventured into the matorogi conservancy in east Masai land; this area of Matorogi does not have the shorter grasses the Ngiatiak river area. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Amani the female cheetah has new cubs in the Matorogi conservancy, this is recent news for the month and we hope to hear more of her movements, she has hidden them in a rocky outcrop; these cubs are estimated at 5 weeks old.
Nora the single female has the one 7 month old male cub; they are being seen in the south east Matorogi conservation areas of Masai land grass levels are still quite high here with Impala, Thompson and Grants gazelles being more spread out . 

Governors Guide to April in the Masai Mara

10 April, 2014 

Flowers, Ellies and all those Birds, Governors Guide to April 
in the Masai Mara

Many people think of April as rainy season and whilst this is true the rain mostly falls in the evening and overnight leaving mornings and afternoons clear to explore the Masai Mara. Typically thunderstorms build in the late afternoons, bringing dramatic skies and wonderful photo opportunities and cosy nights are spent in camp tucked up in tents with the hypnotic pitter-patter of rain on a canvas roof. 

Photo courtesy of Katie McLellan

The combination of sunshine and rain brings on a burst of growth, grasses on the plains grow long and lush, the Marsh reeds begin to flower and there is a profusion of wild flowers amidst the savannah grass. Cycnium Tubolosum or the "Tissue Paper Flower" covers the grass verges and the forest edges nearby Abutilon Mauritanium, a yellow Hibiscus type flower blooms, in the gullies the beautiful blue Ipomoea Cairica bursts into flower we are treated to the magnificent sight of the flowers of the yellow and red Flame 

Lily (the aptly named Glorosia Superba). Out on the grasslands and hidden between the grasses the beautiful red Klennia Abysinnica flowers. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

With the arrival of the rains, the resident Marsh Pride male lions spring into action patrolling the boundaries of their territory continuously scent-marking the area as each rainstorm washes the previous scent marks off. Long grass makes their prey more difficult to find and they roam further in search of food. The lionesses and cubs tend to spend most of their time near the Marsh and airstrip feeding mostly off warthog, a staple food source at this time of year. As the males spend more and more time away patrolling the boundaries of their pride lands we often see new males appear at this time of year hovering on the edges in anticipation of a moment of weakness to exploit and challenge the resident males. 

Photo courtesy of Will Fortescue

We see large numbers of elephant throughout the Marsh and Bila Shaka plains. In the forests around camp the Warburgia trees stop fruiting bringing less elephant visitors to camp and the new growth on the grasslands draws the families of elephant out from the forests. Large herds of elephant with up to 30 members of related family units with very young calves feed on the tender young shoots on the plains whilst males in musth wander from one family herd to another mating with females in oestrus. The abundance of soft grass keeps the elephant herds well fed and provides them with a needed change of diet and a wealth of necessary minerals. This in turn gives the precious trees of the riverine forests and the acacia woodlands a much-needed respite. 

Photo courtesy of Will Fortescue

On the ground between the elephants legs cattle egrets busily feast off the rich pickings of insects disturbed by the elephant's mighty round feet as they trudge along the marsh edges and grassy plains.

Topis congregate on the short grass plains, there are heavily pregnant impala and new fawns and eland and waterbuck are resident in the marsh grasslands and plains. Thomson Gazelles also give birth at this time of year and we see lots of female warthogs with 2 or 3 piglets, warthogs also begin to mate at this time of year. As the ground gets wetter so the resident buffalo herd move to higher groumd with better drainage and coarser grasses which they love.

Rain fills up the Musiara Marsh and causes the Mara River to rise. Hippos bask on the edges of the Marsh drawn out from the river with the abundance of water in the Marsh and many hippos are born. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds


With the rains come a profusion of insect life, frogs and catfish and birding in April is often extraordinarily good. The Musiara Marsh is an important area for many bird species and in April they come out in force. Tens of thousands of European Barn Swallows on their migration to Europe roost in the swamp every evening, and at dusk we witness huge clouds of them diving and swooping over the grasslands hunting grass-hoppers, crickets and small insects. Fish eagles perch in the trees surrounding the Marsh and dive into the waters to catch their prey. Lesser Kestrels fly in large flocks over the plains hunting grasshoppers and mice. European White Storks and Cattle Egrets comb the fringes of the Marsh feeding on grasshoppers and frogs, Ground Hornbills are out on the plains feasting on frogs and grass snakes. Yellow-billed Storks, Saddle Billed Storks Grey Herons and Sacred Ibis' feast in the swamp.

The first rains bring on a growth of grass which then matures and produces seed, drawing in the seedeaters to feed and breed. The abundance of nutritious food heralds the mating season as the chances of conception are increased, and we have been privileged to witness Red Collared Widow-birds, Fan Tailed Widow-birds, Pin Tailed Whydah's and Yellow Bishop all transformed from their dull plumage into their magnificent breeding plumage. 

With the growth of the long grass the Village Weaver birds come out to harvest grass to build their new nests. If the hen doesn't like the new nest she dismantles it and makes the male rebuild it until she is happy with it and agrees to be his mate. The Widow birds do the same and the females also inspect the male's long breeding plumage tails to identify a good mate. 

We often see a solitary European Roller, a migrant from Europe and Asia; they visit this area between October and April before beginning their long migration north. This small bird has a magnificent bright blue head, throat, belly and wings.

The ants and termites begin to reproduce. The king and queen mate, then the queen lays the eggs, some of which are reproductive's, some soldiers, and some are workers for the colony. The reproductives have wings and when they are ready they fly out of the nest, find a partner and then dig down into the ground to start their own colony. During the rainy season the ground is softer and for this reason the ants fly out during a rainstorm and then dig down into the soft earth. This whole reproductive cycle provides a feast for the birds, and we see lots of Sooty Chats parked on termite mounds waiting for these ants and termite reproductive's to emerge.

The butterflies come out and we have had lovely recent sightings of the Narrow green- banded swallow tales and Citrus swallowtails, whilst back in camp fireflies light up the night 

Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year 2016 

An elephant takes a dust bath at the main waterhole in Nxai Pan, Botswana ©Denis Roschlau 

A portrait of a majestic rhino ©Björn Persson

Zooming in on a wild dog in Selous Game Reserve ©Jeff Trollop 

Cuddling crocodiles in Tanzania 

Hyenas stare at a remote controlled camera 

A gorilla and her baby in Rwanda 

Leopard with its impala kill 

A black rhino in Kenya 

Scavengers in Tanzania 

An elephant matriarch with her family in Etosha National Park, Namibia ©Björn Persson 

Hippos drifting down the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe ©Andy Lowe 

A leopard fixates on a bee-eater in Naboisho Conservancy, Kenya ©Samantha van Eldik 

A baby elephant in Savute, Botswana ©Jack Hochfeld 

Here's looking at you in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda ©Cohan Zarnoch 

Soul of the leopard in Okonjima Game Reserve, Namibia ©Björn Persson 

A hippo suddenly emerges from a pool in South Luangwa, Zambia, ©Graham Love 

Verreaux's eagle in flight at Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden ©Ernest Porter 

A male leopard with his wildebeest kill at one of the river crossings in the Maasai Mara 
©Garry Mills 

A meerkat pyramid ©Brigitta Moser 

Hippo yawning as the sun sets in the Greater Kruger Region ©Stephan Griese

Lion walking into a Kalahari dust storm ©Corlette Wessels 

Tawny eagle cooling off in Kruger National Park ©Chris Larkin 

A lion and his pet wildebeest

Written by: Sherry McKelvie

Travelling back to our lodge after enjoying the wildebeest migration on a game drive in the Serengeti National Park, we came across an unusual sight.

A large male lion was lying with a little wildebeest calf between his front paws. The calf was only one or two days old, and was still very much alive. 

As we approached, the lion got up, picked up the calf, and moved a little further away. 

He stopped to stare challengingly at us. We could see that his belly was already tight with food. 

Then he slumped back down, looking pleased with himself. 

The calf got up and tried to run away but the lion wasn't having any of it! 

The poor little thing was bleating pathetically as it tried to move off several times, but each time a huge paw would reach out lazily and haul it back. 

The lion acted much the same as a domestic cat would act with a mouse. It was enjoying the game of catch and release - pulling it close and putting his great jaws around its neck while kicking gently with his back legs. In the process, the lion seemed to not be harming the calf, although it did have a few small wounds, which were probably from the initial capture. 

The lion would then proceed to wash the calf, licking it as a mother would lick a cub, and the calf would settle back down. 

Sadly it was getting dark and we had to leave the unlikely pair. Did the calf survive?

doubt it, but I don't think the lion would have eaten it either - there wasn't a lot of meat on it and food was abundant. Our guide told us he had seen a similar thing once before. On that occasion the lion kept his 'pet' for three days before it quietly wandered off while he was asleep!