Hello to you all from the plains, rivers, thickets and valleys of the central Mara ecosystem- the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. The year has started well in this area and on all fronts- The wildlife is midst a time of plenty, the game viewing is at it’s best, skies are clear, mornings crisp, and the days warm leading to great ‘cat-naps’ mid afternoon awaiting the evening action. ‘Do as the wildlife does’, after all, they have had tens of thousands of years to work out the best schedule.
For the most part the month has been hot and dry though over the full moon mid-January we got around 22mm of rain in a few days. This served to settle the dust that has been building over the weeks and clear the air leading to stunning views and night skies. Towards the end of the month in the lead up to the no moon the mid-day temperatures are reaching highs of 32C and the mornings took on a chill we had not felt in the first part of the month- 13C.
As always the OMC is just incredible wildlife wise but more so this past January as finally the 3-4 month regional migration arrived in force. It was in the first ten days of the month when we started to see larger groups of zebra, wildebeest and topi arriving. Herds of between 300 and 500 individuals appeared on the plains around the conservancy over the course of a week. Next came the eland, as always (with the warthogs) one of the shyest species on these plains. Is has been so nice to see herds of up to 50 individuals regularly in the past weeks. One herd has a crèche of 9 young a great sign for the future.
With the time of plenty after the falling of the mid-month rains we started seeing large breeding herds of Elephant arriving in the OMC from the east (the largest group was around 30 together). Many of these families have very new borns in tow. There have also been groups of bulls passing through and doing their bit for the landscape of the conservancy.
Other special visitors this month- The Cuckoos arrived making their presence felt through the calls up and down the riparian forests. The ever-present Klasses sounded like he was going into overdrive when the Deidericks arrived, and then the Levaillant’s.
News on the big cat front, something the conservancy has become known for, recent reports from the Lion research shows the OMC has having the highest population density of Lions in the Mara ecosystem. (70). Since then we have had the Olkiombo pride come through and another lioness with three cubs.
The Moniko pride spent the days in the first part of the month up on Moniko hill but now, as the wildlife spreads towards the month end this pride is now moving around their range again. In the second half of the month one of the Moniko lionesses was found with one 5-day-old cub, a very exciting moment, but it leads to the question of what happened to the others as there would have been more than just the one. Could it be the double-crossing males pushing their eastern boundary or members from the lionesses own pride?
The Enkoyeni pride- this pride moved up into Motorogi following the resident wildebeest about a month ago, they are seen from time to time and evidence in the mornings shows that they may be hunting down around the gorge and the bottom part of the escarpment. As of this morning we are please to report that at least 3 lionesses (one with 2 two-month-old cubs), 6 sub-adult females and 2 sub-adult males were found near the saltlick below the gorge. Could this be them coming back south again?
The Eseketa pride- the newest of the conservancies prides has been quite scarce this month but this is due to the nature of the terrain they call home, mostly inaccessible to vehicles but great for those on sure feet. The times this pride has been seen they have been in the thickets on the valley walls. This is their diurnal refuge so as a result the managed grazing plan and cattle access routes have been careful to take the needs of this pride into consideration as much as possible. It is expected that there will be a little bit of movement due to the access route of the herds accessing the MGA but this route will not cut them off from seeking further safer refuge.
The seven young males, these boys have been scarce for much of the month but reports tell of them being up on Motorogi and on some occasions in the company of Enkoyeni lionesses.
The double-crossing pride- This pride have this past month moved north away from double-crossing into the river lines around Mara Plains and Mara Toto. They are a very successful pride with two big males and a number of cubs. One of the lionesses that was badly injured about six weeks ago is now looking much better and she still has two of her three cubs. It was one of these cubs that was killed by hyenas on the 19th January. The lioness was recently identified by the Mara Predator Project as being one of the Enkoyeni pride lionesses from 2010.
This month on the OMC the most regular Cheetah sightings have been of Narasha’s two youngsters, these two seem to have developed a specialty for scrub hares. They are currently behind Olare Camp.
Amani is back in the OMC after a brief absence, in the time she was away she lost two of her cubs but luckily she still has one (possibly a young male), who is starting to show signs of getting boisterous. She is currently on the plains below the Eseketa valley.
The big lone male cheetah is still around after about two months; this guy is showing no need to leave the fields of the OMC which is great news for us. He is currently sitting under a bush between Mara Toto and Mara Plains.
It has been a quiet (interestingly) month on the leopard front this January, Acacia and her cub Namynak have not been seen for over two weeks. Though we would love to have her around all the time it is expected that at certain times of the year she will disappear for a while (on holiday or maybe honeymoon). We will let you know when she is back and hopefully still with her little one.
Fig was a staple for the first part of the month, she was very pregnant at the beginning of January but around mid-month this was no longer the case. After scouring the area, watching her behavior and not seeing any swollen teats it was presumed that her first litter did not make it. This could very well be due to her tangle with the lioness last month causing her to miscarry. In the second part of the month Fig too, like her mother Acacia has also disappeared. It is hoped that she is off on ‘honeymoon’ with some good looker around the OMC.
Mystery- There has been a couple of brief sightings of this shy leopardess this month on the river lines around Mara Plains and Toto but true to her nature she is always gone in a matter of seconds. There is a leopard mating with Yellow these last few days just south of Mara Toto but we are not 100% sure if it is her. The photo ID’s don’t quite match up, could this be another leopardess on the scene and in the story?
Yellow- the big OMC dominant male shocked us all this month by adding another huge section to his known range. Previous records of him have his northern most sighting in the area around the lower Eseketa valley (overlapping with the young Eseketa male), in the second part of the month he was found near the salt lick way up on Motorogi. This suggests this stud of a leopard is covering the whole area from the salt lick south of Mara Toto in the reserve all the way up to Mahali Mzuri as well as the tributaries of the Ntiakitiak River.
Other great sightings of the month have been:
- serval cats, which may be becoming more regular and more relaxed with vehicles.
- The bat-eared fox den up on the plain above Olare camp has been very special to watch.
- The hyena den in the valley east of the kereput stream has a number of little black, bear like pups chasing one another, their mothers and sticks.
- Seeing the first steppe eagles of the season has also been very special, at first glance these big raptors may look like a tawny eagle until you see one beside its similar counterpart.
- The lesser-stripped swallows arrived in the first part of the month; many of them must have finished building their mud nests (or renovating) as in the second part of the month they have been watched collecting soft furnishings for the inner lining.
- On a number of occasions this month guests on the OMC have been lucky enough to witness ‘cat-tricks’ (three cats in one drive/day), we all know it is essential to see past the cats and look at the bigger picture but this area really is big cat heaven and seeing three in a drive (sometimes 4) is something not many parts of Africa can offer.
- Many of the Acacia Gerradii are once again in bloom leading to great backdrops in the green surroundings and also lovely scents in the light breezes of mornings and evenings.
- Watching Fig kill a large monitor lizard has to have been a highlight, she launched off the riverbank into a stream and after a frenzy of splashing emerged with a meter-long lizard that was desperately trying to get hold of her ear.
- Seeing the first flame lilies of the season as spots of red in a plain of greens and browns.
- Seeing the large herds of Elephant arriving back in the area.
- Finding the Enkoyeni pride moving back into their old haunt following the herds.
Now, at the months end the large groupings of plains game are still found scattered around the conservancy. In some areas one can count over five hundred zebra, hundreds of impala, eland, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, warthogs, topis and both gazelle species without turning ones head. Combine this, with incredible vistas, blood red sunsets and a predator population that is the envy of other surrounding conservancies, one basically has (arguably) one of the top African wildlife-viewing experiences on the continent.
P.S. Without the crowds.