Masai Mara Game Report: July 2019

Weather and grasslands

There has been generally good weather this month, although some over cast early mornings with temperatures being as low as 12°C while midday will average between 28-30°C. Sunrise is at 6.44am and sunset 6.48pm each day and on many occasions, there have been some spectacular sunrises this month. The Musiara region received 67.5mm in scattered showers throughout the month, while the Mara River has maintained a good level and flowing well.

Rain showers over the Mara Plains – photo credit Will Fortescue

Grass levels have improved since the good rain we had in June and July: the Musiara plains, south Bila Shaka and the east Rhino ridge grasslands are well covered, while the grass levels on the paradise plains are still long and dense. The prominent red oat grass and sporobolus grass found in low lying areas are a very resilient species.

On the plains:

Serengeti Wildebeest and Zebra.

The Serengeti Wildebeest have been crossing the Sand River area in large numbers since the 10th of July and again, just in the last week of July, more have been filing through into the southern plains. There have been some large crossings seen on the Mara River, west of the Mara Bridge. Wildebeest were crossing daily in large numbers below Look Out Hill – all of which were moving out from the Trans Mara and into the southern Reserve and the Triangle. On the 19th a large herd estimated at over 20,000 wildebeest crossed the Mara River below Look Out Hill and filed into the Reserve from the Triangle side. Since the 21st more large herds of wildebeest appear to have split in two groups and have moved up from the south and converged into the posse and Burangat plains.

Serengeti Wildebeest crossing into Kenya  – photo credit Will Fortescue

Recently, large numbers have also crossed the Talek River moving north East: Large herds continue to build up in the southern plains and on the 22nd at 10.30am, an estimated 8-10,000 wildebeest crossed the Talek River coming from the southern plains and once crossed into the northern Reserve, they quickly moved in a north easterly direction towards the conservancies in the north east of the Reserve. The movement up from the northern corridor has been a little delayed since rainfall patterns in May and June have staggered their movements.

Wildebeest crossing into the Mara Triangle  – photo credit Moses Manduku

Elephant continue to cross the Mara River and into the Reserve via the BBC campsite area. A good time to see elephant crossing is mid to late mornings when they move into the Musiara Marsh and riverine woodlands. A few of these elephant herds frequent the camps particularly when the Warburgia trees start to fruit. Earlier on in the month more than a few of the dominant Musth bulls were seen moving through the breeding herds and some cows were seen being mated. The most obvious signs of Musth are a sharp rise in aggressive behavior, copious secretions from and enlargement of the temporal glands and the continuous discharge of urine. Large dominant males who are in a stage of Musth are flooded with up to ten times testosterone than usual and bull elephants experience their first bout of being in Musth at about 25-30 years of age. For the young males, it is often a short-lived experience lasting perhaps a few days or maybe weeks, whereas in older males, Musth can last for a few months at the most.

Elephant crossing the Mara River  – photo credit Moses Manduku

We have had good sightings of giraffe throughout the Mara, with males of varying ages often being seen in bachelor herds within the riverine woodlands. Breeding herds which can be seen in large, form Crèches to look after their young calves. Older and larger dominant bulls will be seen moving between the breeding herds – some of these older bulls are well known amongst the Governors’ line of camps.

Giraffe bachelor herds  – photo credit Moses Manduku

Some of the Warbugia trees within the riverine woodlands are still fruiting which is common for this time of year, while the Teclea nobilis with the bright red berries are fruiting heavily. The common Bulbuls, Crowned hornbills and Violet backed starlings have been feeding off these berries. The recent rains have attracted good numbers of hawk moths (Sphingidae), whose large larvae have been seen around the camps latterly.

Many Hippo cows have been seen with very young calves – it would appear that many gave birth in July. This birthing is very noticeable and we have counted 10 very young hippo calves between the Toyota hippo pod and Il Moran Camp pods. Early on the 2nd of July, a male resident crocodile had killed a young hippo calf close by to Il Moran and later on two males fought over the remains. It seems to be a common phenomena that many hippo calves are eaten by the resident crocodiles and are more frequently seen. Another crocodile was seen with a young hippo calf in its jaws on the 14th July with a very young hippo calf in its jaws.

Two male crocodiles fighting over a hippo calf carcass  – photo credit Patrick Reynolds

To be continued!

Source: https://www.governorscamp.com/masai-mara-game-report-july-2019/