Heritage Hotels Big Cat and Migration Updates

Migration Update 2009: Issue 3

by Heritage

27 July 2009

The migration took a dramatic change at the end of last week. All the excitement at the crossing died out when most of the herds from the eastern side of the Mara River crossed west. Once in the Mara triangle (the western side of the park) most herds headed south into northern Serengeti. This was a quick exit, since they were expected to stay in the Mara till November which is always the case.

Our observations show that the change in the rain pattern and the burning of the grass in northern Serengeti has played a role in this change of events. Driving along the border shows that the herds have settled on the Serengeti side in the recently burnt plains. There is usually a massive burning of the grass in July in Northern Serengeti. When the short rains come in August, these plains flourish with lush nutritious grass thereby attracting many herbivores including the migrating herds.

Most of the central Mara is now quite empty of the wildebeest herds except for a high concentration of an isolated herd to the north between Rhino Ridge and Musiara Marsh and to the south just below the Look Out Hill. All is not lost because the movement of the herds inside Serengeti shows they are bound for the Mara again. Most of them once inside the Serengeti are heading east along the burnt grounds, feeding as they move and entering the Mara again just south of the Look Out Hill.

There have been sporadic crossings below the Look Out Hill and on the Paradise Plains crossing point. These crossings however, are not as dramatic as in the past because the water level is very low in the river making it easy for the wildebeest to walk through. The low level in the river can be attributed to the failure of the short rains at this time.

From experience, as was the case in 1998 and 2005, when the wildebeest herds disappeared only to return shortly, we expect the herds to be in the Mara soon. However the change in the rain patterns and the confusion brought by sporadic burning of the grass are expected to cause some changes in the concentration and duration of stay of the wildebeest in the Mara.

Big Cats

Lions

All the lion prides in our game viewing areas can be seen and have been giving our guests good sightings including day time hunts. There are six prides of lions in our area around Mara Intrepids and Mara Explorer. The lion prides are the Lookout pride, Olkeju-Rongai pride, Ridge pride, Paradise pride, Marsh pride and Olkiombo pride. With all these prides in our game viewing zone, you can’t ask for any better lion sightings.

Leopards

Leopards’ sightings have been good during the past week. There was however an unfortunate incident where a female leopard was killed by another due to territorial fights south of the Talek River.

Cheetahs

Cheetah sightings have been very good. We had a record of seeing 12 cheetahs in one day recently. With the concentration of plain game going up, we will have superb sightings in the coming weeks.

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Migration Update 2009: Issue 2

by Heritage

14 July 2009

Migration:

The movement of the wildebeest in the Mara over the past week progressed much faster than anticipated. With plenty of long grass all over the central Mara plains, we thought the animals would move slowly north and westwards as they usually do. However, in a departure from their normal routing over the years, all the herds headed north across the Meta plains and settled on Burrungat plains. They arrived at the Talek gate area, where they settled for a couple of days before heading west towards the lower Burrungat. Some animals on reaching Mtamaiyo lugga (an offshoot stream of Talek river) crossed north and have for the last few days settled on the higher grounds east of Mara Explorer.

The crossing over the Talek supplemented the main crossing at the Mara when the animals crossed the almost dry riverbed in such a rush that it resulted in a few casualties. The stampede was intense and created a cloud of dust in the area, making it quite a photogenic activity.


The rest of the herds proceeded west upto the Mara river where they crossed over in a couple of places, though these were not big herds. The main herd headed south to the Look Out hill area. These started crossing the Mara river onto the western side of the Mara. The crossing here is not yet as dramatic as the other points because there are only a few wildebeest crossing. The water level is also quite low and hence the animals just walk across the shallow river.

We now have wildebeest lining the east side of the Mara river from the hill upto the Talek-Mara junction. The rest of the herds are spread out on the plains behind this location.

The northern migration (Loita herds) is now spread across from Musiara gate down to Ntiakitiak River and Rhino ridge area. Since last week they have been streaming in small numbers towards Paradise plains with some crossing over to the west onto Mara Triangle.

Needless to say, our guests at the camps have had a week full of excitement on game drives.

Big Cats

Lions

It's also been a great week full of activities with the predators. We saw more lion kills than in the past months. The Olkiombo pride has settled along the Talek river at the spots where the wildebeest have been crossing. Some members of the pride have moved north and are now in Olare-Orok conservancy, just on the edge of Mara.

The Bila Shaka pride of lions has been around Musiara gate for the past week. They have been less mobile than the previous months, because there is now plenty to eat. The Ridge pride has been north of the Mara-Talek junction earlier in the week but has now moved across the river into the Mara Triangle. These lions have now extended their territory to across the Mara river.

Cheetahs

Shakira has settled along the Talek river since last week, sometimes crossing south to Maji Ya Fisi area. She gave us quite dramatic sightings over the week when she hunted gazelles in these areas. There were other cheetahs seen during the week.

Leopards

Olive
and Kali were at Mtamaiyo Lugga earlier in the week, where she was seen hunting wildebeest that were crossing there. However Kali is now back to their usual base by the Rock Fig after he was chased back by Big Boy who also moved to Mtamaiyo. With Kali now 14 months old, the big male is becoming less tolerant of him. I saw him yesterday trying to hunt wildebeest which were obviously too big for him. He had to give up. Binti was seen in the same location as Kali over the last few days, though not together

Other leopards seen were: the Olare-Orok female and her 2 sub adult cubs; Olkeju-Rongai female and her very aggressive mother. This particular female killed a gazelle and took it up the tree, but climbed down when she heard the vehicles approaching, leaving the carcass in the tree. A bateleur eagle landed on the tree and started feeding on carcass, which was really awesome.

Paul Kirui, Chief Safari Guide
Kindly contact: safariguide@mara-intrepids.co.ke for comments or inquiry on the migration and other interesting wildlifel sightings in the Mara, Rift Valley, Samburu and Tsavo West National Park

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Migration Update 2009: Issue 1

by Heritage

3 July 2009

The wildebeests have now entered the Mara! This has been confirmed today after a fact finding mission round the entry points along the Mara and Serengeti border. Though this is still in its’ initial stages, every indication shows that the stage is set for the world’s most fascinating wildlife spectacle.

A herd of almost 30,000 wildebeest have crossed the border near Sand River gate. They were seen this morning taking their traditional route towards Roan Hill, while some have already moved all the way up towards Talek gate. The plains now between Mara Sarova, Roan Hill and Talek gate is teeming with the first herds that have moved into the area.

The Loita population has also moved into the Mara. They came in about a week ago. A herd of about 4,000 zebras and wildebeest can be seen around Musiara gate in the north and others just south east of the Talek gate and this consist mainly of zebras. Their concentration however is still low but we expect a build up in the coming weeks.

The northern Serengeti national park patrol personnel have reliably informed us that the migrating herds have taken two wings ”“ one heading north from Grumeti area to the west, while an eastern wing is the one now moving into the Mara.

However, their movement is slower because of the amount of grass in their way. Since May we have continued having intermittent rains which has made the plains covered in long green grass. This is expected to slow the migration movement north. Looking onto the Serengeti from the sand river, one can see isolated herds of zebra and wildebeest heading north though reluctantly. We anticipate this concentration to build as the herds push up north into the Mara.

The Mara predators in the areas where the herds are concentrated have suddenly woken up to the season of plenty again. The Marsh pride lions have now established themselves along Bila Shaka stream where the wildebeest are coming for a drink. Since the entry of the migrating herds into the area, these lions have always had something to eat, and we expect to start seeing more hunts for the big cats within our game viewing areas.

Look out for more updates and coverage of the Official Migration in the Masai Mara.

Paul Kirui, Chief Safari Guide
Kindly contact: safariguide@mara-intrepids.co.ke for comments or inquiry on the migration and other interesting wildlifel sightings in the Mara, Rift Valley, Samburu and Tsavo West National Park

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