13 September 2005
As we predicted last week, the wildebeest have made a dramatic comeback over the past eight days ”“ filling the plains of the southern Mara in an amazing ‘second migration’. It appears that most of the herds have, in just over two weeks, made a complete cycle from the eastern Mara into the Mara Triangle, south into the northern Serengeti, and east from there before reentering the Mara near Sand River Gate ”“ for the second time since July! In fact, the pattern of the whole migration appears as it did at the very beginning, with the westbound herds spreading out over the Central Plains and some animals already crossing the Mara River near Lookout Hill.
A few herds are also heading north, with the first ones now just south of Mara Intrepids. At Musiara Gate, the northernmost herds have settled on the short, previously burned grass on the border of the reserve, where they are grazing side by side with the local Maasai cattle. The unseasonal rains have played a crucial role in the sprouting of the grass here. Although the crossing points around Paradise Plains have been almost empty for the past week, if what is going on in the south is anything to go by, it is just a matter of time before these crossing points come alive again.
The brief absence of migrating herds from much of the Mara had not stopped the predators from their hunting, particularly the local lion prides, which had already started to adjust to lean-period hunting tactics. However, the return of the herds has brought a period of bounty back for these and the other Big Cats. The Ridge pride has remained in its territory; two days ago, they were seen between the airstrip and Intrepids ”“ with the exception of two males, which have gone in pursuit of the females of the Olkiombo pride. This may place the Ridge pride’s cubs at risk should new males try to sneak in. Cheetah sightings were also fantastic, and Bella the leopard has also been performing like a true star, with regular appearances for most of our guests.Migration%20Map%2013-09-05%20Issue%209.jpg
5 September 2005
The migration took a dramatic new turn at the end of last week. Most of the excitement at the crossing points died out when almost all of the wildebeest herds from the eastern side of the Mara River crossed over to the west ”“ and turned south back into the northern Serengeti. It was a very speedy exit, as most of us had expected the wildebeest to stay in the Mara until November, as is usually the case.
We believe that the changing rain patterns and the burning of the grass in the northern Serengeti played a significant role in this change of events. Driving along the border showed a high concentration of animals on the recently burned plains, which last month’s rains have carpeted in nutritious new grass. Most of the central Mara is now almost empty of migrating animals, save for a few herds to the north around Musiara Marsh and to the south by Lookout Hill.
However, all is not lost! Many of the herds in the Serengeti may be bound back for the Mara, as some herds are already showing signs of returning via Sand River Gate once they have traversed the burned plains. Last Friday, in what may be the beginning of a ‘second migration’ like that witnessed in 1998, several herds crossed back into the Mara at the traditional points below Lookout Hill. However, the changes in rain patterns and the confusion brought by sporadic burning of the grass could cause yet more unexpected changes in the concentration and duration of the great migration.
Although the sudden departure of the large herbivores from most parts of the Mara has had a calming effect on the Big Cats, we have still had some good sightings in the past week. Bella the leopard and her two-year-old cub have both been witnessed several times along the Talek River, while Kike the cheetah was also sighted a few times ”“ and has been seen mating with a new male in the past two days. The Ridge and Bila Shaka lion prides, meanwhile, remain in their respective territories, where they are also undoubtedly hoping that fate will deliver a ‘second migration’”¦Migration%20Map%205-9-05%20Issue%208.jpg
26 August 2005
The wildebeest migration continued to intensify this week, as more herds crossed over from the Serengeti near Sand River Gate. Inside the Mara, the herds continue to fan out to the west and north, leaving the Central Plains looking emptier by the day. Many herds have crossed the Mara River west into the Mara Conservancy, or ‘Mara Triangle’, with particularly busy crossing-points at Paradise and west of Lookout Hill. Towards the end of last week, the crossings became a bit more adventurous, as water levels rose following rains in the Mau Hills. Sadly, several wildebeest drowned in suicidal attempts to cross the river on Thursday and Friday.
Most of the newly arrived herds have been concentrating on the recently burned areas of the Mara plains. On the Central Plains, the long, dry grass forced many animals to move on quickly, although last week’s unexpected showers may bring up some fresh new shoots over the coming days. In a typical mid-migration pattern, the herds are now all mixed up, and one can no longer tell the Loita herds from the Serengeti ones.
The plentiful wildebeest movements have been accompanied by the usual frenzy of hunting activity among the Big Cats, particularly the big lion prides. With dozens of untouched carcasses littering their territories, it seems a shame that our lions can’t store some of their kills for later! Bella the leopard and her son have only been seen once in the past week, although we know they are out there, busily hunting along the Talek River, close to the Mara Intrepids and Explorer camps. We have also been blessed with daily cheetah sightings ”“ with up to three individuals spotted on some game drives.Migration%20Map%2026-08-05%20Issue%207.jpg