Friday, 31 December 2010

The Hyena with eyes bigger than its stomach!

Both Andy and I are slowly getting better and it appears as if the symptoms we have suffered could have been attributed to Swine Flu, although we cannot be sure. Neither of us have been ill for the entire year and then BAM! it had to be when we went away didn’t it! 
For the last two nights we have been able to get back to bush camping which has been a tonic in itself. The plains at night have been fairly quiet, except for the giggle and whoops from the Hyenas and the occasional roar from what remains of the Serena Pride (Disney Lions)
Yesterday we took a trundle further south toward the Tanzanian border and soon came across a pair of  ‘Honeymooning Lions. Not even the scorching midday sun stopped ‘proceedings’ and you could practically set your watch by the regular 30 minute mating frequency. Neither Andy or I recognised this male, he looked to be only around 6 years old and the female a little younger at around 5.
We sat with them for a little under 4 hours and then felt it was appropriate to give them some privacy as the evening cooled. Not too far from the lions we ambled along a lugga to the look out for any additional lions. We soon came across 2 other cars, of which the occupants were contorting their bodies at angles that were pretty impressive. We enquired as to why they were practically doing yoga in the vehicle and soon found out the reason why......a Leopard, somewhere in the bush! 
Those of you familar with this blog will know that Leopards in the Mara Triangle are extremely shy, much more so than across the Narok area of the river. So any Leopard in the Triangle is worth staking out. However, sadly these vehicles decided patience was not an option and raced around the lugga to try and get a look. Andy and I stayed put, and although we could not see the leopard we felt that moving the vehicle every two minutes was not going to be conducive to encouraging the Leopard to be calm, so we pulled right back and watched the circus as the other vehicles sped about. If the Leopard was not happy he had space our side to make an exit and thats what we hoped for. The Leopard then darted up the tree and gave us a nice view just for a few moments. The incessant chatter from the other vehicle did not abate, the Leopard was non to impressed and sure as ‘eggs are eggs’ the Leopard decided it wanted some peace and rather conveniently jumped down the tree our side and as expected out over the lugga on our side. We barely got a chance to shoot any images but its always so awesome to see a Leopard.  We decided not to follow it, he was a big male, very shy and clearly did not want to be bothered so we left him be. 
Just as we thought seeing a Leopard was impressive this morning gave us something that was just plain crazy! Leaving as we do at first light we travelled slowly along by Mgoro lugga when Andy all of a sudden spots a Hippo running to the water. This is nothing unusual in itself and at first light its common to see them getting back to their comfort ground of the water. However, there was something about this Hippo running that was rather more frantic than normal and then we saw why....it was being chased by a Hyena! The Hippo was none to impressed as the cheeky Hyena was hot on its heels. Then they both stopped on the road and what ensued was probably one of the strangest things we have probably seen so far. The Hyena seemed to have desires that were not entirely innocent as it began circling the Hippo and a stand off took place. This went on for many minutes and fortunately I managed to video some of the scene (attached). A few minutes later another 3 Hyenas turned up and made attempts to again surround the Hippo, could they really be trying to hunt a Hippo?... the way in which they were encircling the creature seemed very much as if they were trying to wear it down and although not captured on the video at one point one of the Hyenas tried to latch on to the Hippos tail. The Hippo soon managed to escape, but just as he belted to the water suddenly Andy shouts ‘Leopard’....The Hippo jumping back into the water had obviously spooked a female Leopard and she darted in a flash along the river bank and back into the Croton thicket as quick as she had appeared. Sadly no photos or video of this but this morning is now imprinted on our brains as one of the best (and in a strange way most comical) sightings of this trip!! 
Back to now....The good news is we have FINALLY found our 4 Mgoro pride females together with some of the 13 month old cubs. The bad news is that only 4 cubs now remain (of the original 9) and have now moments ago just had confirmation through a reliable contact that not just one cub was killed a few weeks back but sadly 5 in total. We are really saddened to hear this news (although deep down I think we were both expecting to hear this given we have tried so hard to find them). At least some are still surviving, but we are deeply concerned for the one remaining young male cub left. ‘Killer Bogey’ and ‘Little Bogey’ are in the group we are sitting with now and what’s really interesting is one of the distinct marks below their noses (and why they have their names!) is also evident on one of the cubs, this confirms our original thoughts that the marks on the females are a hereditary trait. This little one has now been rather unimaginatively named ‘Baby Bogey’ and will later be recognised in life by the fact that the birth mark is on the opposite side of the nose to the other ‘bogeys’. Andy and I just hope that the 4 strong male coalition does not return and that Notch & sons do! 
It pains us to say we have only a very short of time left in the bush so its going to be time soon to say goodbye again to the Mara. We decided against going on a ‘lion hunt’ for Notch the other side of the river, one day we are going to have to break ties with our favourite lion and this is a way in which to make that a little easier, even though deep down we are both terribly sad not to have seen him. 
Thats it for today and we hope you enjoy the video of the gutsy Hyena, sorry for the poor quality but internet speeds in the bush are a tad limited!

Happy New Year to all


Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Solitude in the bush....

So finally I (Sarah) have started to improve from feeling pretty terrible in the last few days and have managed to get out most of the time and enjoy some nice game viewing. Sadly, whatever virus I managed to acquire has now passed to Andy (and embarrassingly so onto a few of our friends in the Mara - I am REALLY sorry guys!) Fortunately its not stopped us game viewing too much and we have both battled through.

We have still yet to find the Mgoro cubs, which is all very odd and suggests they may still be split or just choosing to be hidden and Mzee Notch & Co are still yet to revisit the pride. Bogie and the girls are certainly capable of looking after themselves but a bit of territory affirmation from the boys would not go a miss!! 

We found 'Killer Bogie' alone yesterday morning and looking somewhat shattered and with a few superficial wounds on her back, but no sign of the other females or indeed the cubs.  We later heard that a dead Hyena was found nearby and given 'KB's' exhausted state later wandered if she was possibly involved in an interaction between the two species which resulted in not such a positive outcome for the Hyena.

Later that afternoon we again found the two cheetahs, laid out resting in the long grass. As other vehicles at the sighting left the female soon turned to hunting mode and roamed through the grass looking for an opportune scrub hare or hopefully something larger on the horizon that may give them a hearty meal. However, in the time in which we with them before the sun disappeared behind thick clouds and night fell they had no luck and so they looked to bed down for the night.

On returning to the lodge (where we had extended the stay due to Andy becoming sick) the rain pelted down with ferocity and the thunder felt like it was shaking the ground beneath. Andy soon tumbled down a metaphoric hill and turned into a walking, talking 'Lemsip advert. At this point it clearly become apparent that he was not going to be making a 5.30am start for the next day and the best place for him to be was the comfort of the huge bed. We agreed that it was pointless for me to also be holed up in the lodge for the morning so permission granted for Mrs Skinner to take the landy keys and the cameras and set off on my own in the morning, happy days!

Waking early the next morning I was looking forward to the drive, whilst its lovely to both go out together its also really nice to have some quality 1:1 bush time so off I went at 6am. I decided again to look for the Cheetah pair and started where I had left the night before. There were no other cars on the tracks around, something thats always a special treat! Only 20-30 minutes after leaving the lodge I was rewarded with making the right decision and found the cheetahs in tall grass not too far from the previous 12 hours. The male still followed the female with intent, stopping to sniff where she had sat and then flehmen. She led the way, it was obvious again that she wanted to hunt and would turn and glance at the male as if to say "Are you still here?". She moved from termite mound to termite mound and then they both peacefully and totally relaxed walked closely past the Land Rover. I could see they were headed to higher ground so I decided I would wait until they were well away from the vehicle to start the engine and move far ahead of where I felt they would go. Just as I could see they were 100metres or so away and behind me I went to reposition. Before I could even have the chance to move (or grab the camera!) suddenly an Oribi darted out of the thicket, suprising the cheetah as much as I. With lightening fast reactions an impressive chase ensued and almost out of sight. Into the long grass they ran and then it was clear, they had been successful. I watched out of the hatch as the Oribi was dispatched and decided that despite my current poor position for photography to just sit and watch. Any movement  from me in starting the engine, even at this distance could spook the cheetah. This was one of the moments when putting the animals first is absolutely critical. I sat feeling content, happy knowing that: 1) I was still alone and no-one else had managed to find me or the Cheetahs and 2) they had acquired a good meal. 

However, point number 2 was short lived. Just minutes after they had successfully suffocated the animal a male Hyena appears on the horizon, it must have actually seen the chase given that the Oribi had let out no cries at all at the point of its capture. The Cheetahs knew they would be unsuccessful in any effort to ward the hyena off. As it loped toward the kill they reluctantly moved away a few metres to where they sat and watched the Hyena enjoy their spoils. Its always hard to see such a fragile animal work so hard in an effort to provide food for itself but its natures way, and I can never illicit any bad feelings toward the Hyena even though yes it was a shame to see them lose their kill.

With a few minutes to continue gaining their composure and breathe back after the chase they moved further away and it was soon clear the female wanted to move to another area to rest and then inevitably try to hunt again. At this point I felt it right to leave them to it. Whilst the light was golden and the morning still crisp it was the Cheetahs that needed their space and thats exactly what I wanted to give them. Off I trundled, feeling happy that I had such a special time alone with these guys. 

Before returning to recite my  morning exploits to Andy I took another drive around to again look for the Mgoro cubs but sadly no news to report here.......

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Festive season in the Mara

After wandering if we would ever actually make it to Kenya due to the problematic weather conditions in the UK I am now happy to say we are back ‘reporting’ from a lovely hot and sunny Kenya. Its fairly dry here with some afternoon rains, certainly a vast difference to the sub zero temperatures that we have just left!
Whilst we have experienced the Mara many times at different times of the year it still never  ceases to amaze us how desolate the Mara can look after migration season. Whilst we saw a few resident wildebeest herds whilst driving all that remains of the ‘wildie’ herds in the Mara Triangle is a handful of yearlings who have formed a small group on their own as their mothers likely perished in the frantic and chaotic crossings that we blogged about on our last trip in September. 
Unfortunately within 12 hours of arriving in the Mara I (Sarah) was struck down by an onset of a fever and cold/flue like symptoms which soon made camping not such a pleasant experience so after two nights camping in the bush we were forced to break a ‘Skinner tradition’ and check into a lodge and unbelievably for the first time ever whilst in Africa we got up after 7am one morning! Although temporarily in lodge accommodation it certainly does not limit our exposure to the wildlife (which camping gives us 24/7) as when we returned back to our room earlier we had a beautiful female bushbuck standing just a few feet from our room and them only 30 minutes later a Leopard rasped close by.  A night or two in the lodge to shift the bugs (that I probably acquired on the flight over!) and then it will be back to camping for us. 
So in the first 36 hours we bumbled around to get a feel for where the game and predators were hanging out.  Of course one of our priorities was to check on the Mgoro pride, especially since there have been significant issues due to reports of intruding males coming in to try and kill the cubs a few weeks back. On the first afternoon we found some of them, but it was not quite the happy family scene we had left in September. We found 7 of them in a fairly inaccessible part of the Mara Triangle. 4 lionesses and 3 cubs were walking with purpose, but very edgy and the lionesses sporting some minor wounds on their flanks and spinal area. Given the cubs are now around 13 months we were not overly concerned that some of them may be on their own and indeed as the game is sparse and thus the food source more limited prides will often temporarily split to ensure food is shared by less individuals. What was clear that the recent events had left the pride volatile and edgy and in some ways ‘displaced’ within in their own territory. Sadly we did hear that just over a week ago on December 18th one of the 9 cubs (a male) was killed by one of the intruding males and its likely the lionesses had sustained their injuries in trying to ward of the males. We are hoping that the remaining cubs we have not yet seen are safe and just keeping a low profile. It may even have been the case that the missing cubs were hidden from view or this was where the 7 we found were heading to. 
We found the Mgoro girls earlier again today (Including or favorite girl ‘Killer Bogie’ - a huge relief and contrary to reports we had heard earlier that she too had been killed). This time the girls were minus any cubs at all, again its possible they were close by. 
Notch and sons are still over on the Narok side of the Mara and we believe have been absent in the Mara Triangle for some time. We are really hoping they get back to the Mgoro pride soon (one of their many prides!) to reaffirm this part of their territory again and thus warding off any further attempts by the other intruding males. Whilst its natural for pride take overs to happen we are so desperate to see the Mgoro pride raise cubs to an age which will ensure their survival and allow the current males to sire at least one generation before the next males come in (something we have not yet seen for them in three years of following this pride) Every day that goes by with the absence of pride males leaves the Mgoro pride extremely vulnerable and in danger of another attempt by the intruding males to try and take over the pride. 
On a happier note we have found the Oloololo pride doing very well. The resident male looks healthy and well recovered from his ‘close call’ with the Notch sons back in September. Two of the females have some very cute cubs, three of them very young at around 3-4 weeks old and 4 others who are a little older at around 6-8 weeks old. The younger ones still being denned.
It’s been quite an improvement on the cheetah front since our visit in September with many more around. The mother with 3 cubs (2 males - one of which has a broken tail and 1 female) are still doing well and of an age now that it may not be too long now until they seek independence. We had a lovely sighting with them as they tried to hunt but sadly failed. Later we heard they had taken an Impala, a relief as they had somewhat concave stomachs and in serious need of nourishment.
Whilst taking a drive toward to Tanzanian border we also came across an old male cheetah with a full stomach and resting happily with a great vantage point over the plains. Shortly after we spent some time with some cool fluffy Hyena pups, ‘sacked out’ at the den with the mother and watched as they interacted with some returning members of the clan.
As I write this post we are also rather excited to report that we are sitting right now with what looks to be a mating pair of adult Cheetahs. We have not yet witnessed the ‘act’ itself yet and its unlikely that we would be that lucky,  but so far they are exhibiting every behaviour associated with mating cheetahs, including all the vocal communication and even trying to  hunt together, this is a first for Andy and I. 
So as I sum up for the last few days it proves to you can come back to the same place time and time again (nearly 20 times now!) but always, and yes I mean ALWAYS see something you have never seen before. In fact I would  go so far as to say that every day you see something new. In fact today has provided two examples of this, whilst game driving early this morning we happened to see a Hamerkop dive from the sky and grab a large frog from a puddle formed from last nights rains and then fly of with legs dangling from its beak. There is always something in the Mara and indeed Africa as a whole, be it large or small that makes us go “wow.....never seen that before!” and I dare say when we are old and grey I hope we will still be saying the same thing!




Thursday, 16 September 2010

3 weeks have passed and its time to say farewell (Until December)

Sadly this will be the last post of our recent 3 week photographic expedition to the Masai Mara, The time has passed so fast with days of endless excitement to look back on. It never gets any easier to say goodbye to the cats we follow as the last night is always marked by puffy eyes! Andy and I, in all of our 5 years of coming here have grown to see the Mara as our second home. In the time we have known the cats we follow you just can't help but get attached as you get to know their characters and we will especially miss "killer Bogie', Notch and the two little gutsy female cubs who have grown remarkably in confidence and technique along with the other 7 cubs from the Mgoro pride.

We spent some time today again with 'our girls' (Mgoro pride) who relaxed on the plains as there was again another big crossing at Cul De Sac. We had another good look for Notch and boys but we are fairly sure (and a few sources confirm) that they are still the 'other' side. still. A shame that we have not seen them in the last three days but the boys clearly have business to attend to elsewhere.

Just two days ago the plains around Rhino Ridge and Paradise plains had become empty of wildebeest. All of a sudden and overnight (probably driven by the rains in the central Mara area) a huge mass of wildebeest has gathered back on the plains and are slowly heading south. We can only think that these herds have come from the Keekorok area/Look Out Hill area and are making there way through the Narok side and now south back into the Mara Triangle. There is certainly going to be plenty of excitement in the next few days and today the size of the crossings at Cul de Sac and Upper main had grown in size in comparison to the last two days. We are sure there are going to be some BIG crossings over the next 2-3 days.

Sadly Andy and I will not be party to this excitement as tomorrow we make the 6 hours drive back to Nairobi, a few jobs to do in town and the land Rover to clean we leave in the happy thought that in December we return back to Kenya.  We look back on what had been an incredible trip, thank you Mara Triangle for such an adventure and we cant wait to be back to see how our cats are fairing and of course just to be back camping in the bush.

We are of course looking forward to going home to be united with our own cats (of the smaller variety!) and have a massive 125GB worth of pictures to deal with on our return. All of the best shots from this trip will be posted on our website (imagesofwildlife.co.uk) in the next 2-4 weeks and a post will be placed here when they are 'live'. Dont forget to also check back on the blog late December for our next trip.

So as we prepare our tent for the last night in the bush its time to say kwaheri from the Masai Mara and a huge thanks to all those who have patiently read our often rather lengthy posts, we hope you check back on the photos and there will be a feast awaiting Notch fans!

I will leave with a final video of some cute lion cubs who we came across today for the 2nd time on this trip and when we return home to our 'ID shots we will be able to confirm if this is the 5th Mgoro female or one of the Serena females, regardless its highly likely these guys are both offspring from Notch or boys, given they have mated with both of the aforementioned females. Just after this video was taken a third tiny cub rejoined the family making three tiny cubs.

Thanks all and we look forward to showcasing the photos from our trip.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A noisy night followed by a Rhino extravaganza

Last night was certainly quite a cacophony of sounds. As we fell asleep to the lullaby of the hyenas whooping we were suddenly woken at around 1am by the sound of two hippos close by to our tent/Land Rover. It sounded like two males who had come across one another whilst out grazing and were having a 'stand off'.  They bellowed and growled each other for some time, sounding like neither was prepared to walk the 'other' way and carry on with grazing. It seemed to last forever and was so loud that it was impossible to get back to sleep. However, no complaints from us as: A) we were not prepared to ask the hippos to be quiet! and B) we are actually quite happy to be woken by the amazing sounds of the bush, no matter what time.

Shortly before the alarm went off at 5.45am Andy and I had already woken up, again by something VERY close to our tent. As we were a little 'drfity' from waking it was hard to tell what it was. It was certainly large with quite heavy footsteps and had a large bladder!, which it duly emptied next to our vehicle. You could clearly here the sound of snapping branches and sounds as if it was pulling at trees. It was at the side of our roof-tent so we could not see what it was and did not want to start shining torches around so not to surprise the visitor, although given how close it was it would have clearly smelt our human presence so must have known we were in the tent.

Initially it made sense to think it was an elephant, (although did perhaps seem to be a little heavy footed for an elephant, who are surprisingly quiet on their feet). To be safe we resided ourselves to the fact that if it were an elephant that close we were tent bound until it left or moved further away. The noise however, soon passed and Andy ventured into the darkness to check all was clear, and it was. As the light began to improve I began to have a look around the area to see what it was that had been there. Mmmn, there were no discarded branches and little other sign of elephant damage, it could not have been an elephant after all and the sound of snapping branches sounded too 'high' to have been a buffalo or even Rhino and it was definitely not a Rhino.  Seeing no tracks anywhere were were none the wiser until we left the camp and then saw giraffe droppings nearby. So the mystery was solved, it was a giraffe and our initial diagnosis was a little wrong!. We collected the remote camera that we had placed at the entrance to camp and also had photographic confirmation. I must admit I had set it at a height to catch small to medium size animals so apologies for half a photo of a giraffe! The night before we also stuck it lucky with a Hyena on the remote camera which we have also attached below.

As we made our way for a stop to catch up on the Mgoro pride (and again to see if Notch/boys had returned from their trip across the river) my attention was soon diverted to a large obscured dark shape in the tall grass 250 metres in the distance and near the river. Initially my brain went to process the object as a hippo that was returning to the river, a second later I could see that no it was not a hippo as its back was too concave and walked with the gait of something I knew was a rather special and rare creature. Andy quickly stopped and then out from the long grass (which covered nearly all of its body height) came a Rhino, a large female, a second or two later it was then revealed it was not one rhino but two, she was followed by a lovely little calf and likely to be the same one we had seen last year in the same area with a younger calf.

Wow!, two Rhino and no cars and a lovely glowing light casting over the grass tips. We made a quick apology to the Mgoro ladies for not stopping (who we spotted a moment after)  and drove far ahead over toward the lugga toward where the Rhino may be headed, this way we did not follow the animal and if it moved where we expected it to do so it meant we could get a shot of it without 6 foot high grass and let it come to us if she wished. Which she very kindly did. By this point a few other vehicles had arrived and all gave the Rhino the space they needed. Not only are these animals rare they are also very shy, getting too close not only spooks these animals but would just force it into cover or make it a little aggressive, especially as she had a young one with her. Although we were amazed how calm she was as she plodded with her calf at her own pace and gave a good show to all who were at the sighting.  From our initial sighting we had over 45 minutes watching the rhino, what a massive treat and sorry lions but this was pretty special and you were clearly still sleeping!




Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A feast of spots

First thing this morning we had a wander down to Balloon plain to see if there was any sign of Notch and boys. They usually spend a few days at a time over the 'other side' so seemed unlikely but worth a shot. As expected no sign, they were either still over the Narok side or they did not wish to be seen this morning, their prerogative!

We surveyed the area high and low but our attention was diverted, the plains opposite were practically devoid of the large wildebeest numbers that we had seen some days ago. This was no real surprise as they have been crossing and heading south daily now in huge numbers since the mammoth crossings on Sept 6th. The numbers crossing in the last 2 days have begun to subside in comparison to the crossings a week before. Now only smaller numbers and the resident herds occupied the plains over the river. Although, there was of course a huge area of the Mara that could not be seen and it was still likely that there would be more smaller crossings in the next few days. We concluded a trip toward the border would be interesting to see where they were headed as we suspected they were still making a 'beeline' for the 'burn area'.

Before going south we made a stop was to catch up on the Mgoro pride, it was again possible the males could be there but as expected we came across the pride minus any of the boys in exactly the same spot as in the last 7 days. These lions are becoming too easy to find! They all seemed rather subdued and quiet this morning, the cubs not even playing in the morning sun. They had obviously been very active in the night as they slept off their nocturnal activities. They must have hunted again during the night as in first light as a few new 'additions' adorned the area, probably the poor wildbeest calves that were left loitering around the river from the crossings earlier that day.

Leaving the ladies and kids to a restful sleep in the golden light we ambled off toward the salt lick/burn area. Not even 20 minutes after we had left the Mgoro pride we came across 4 cheetah, a mother and 3 cubs (around 10-13 months old). It looked as if they may have hunted earlier given their reasonably nice size bellies and not to far from the rocky area where sighted we could see the remnants of what looked a small fresh kill which was now playing host to a couple of Maribu storks.

One of the cheetah cubs (male) sadly had a broken tail near to the top, which looked to have been done some time ago. We wandered if this could become a hinderance to this guy when hunting as its known they use their tail as a 'rudder' and to balance at high speed. However, Andy and I concluded its likely to adapt and find a way to compensate and hopefully prospective females will still be conducive when the time is right! Nature always finds a way.

Scanning the area we could see lines of wildebeest herds still heading South and a big concentration in the 'burn' and salt lick area. The grass is becoming lush in this area and with the recent rains it makes for a really palatable feast for the herds.

We stuck with the cheetah for a couple of hours but as the sun became harsh it was time to leave the cats alone and go off to get cooking, shower and have a nap. Although everything we touch is so dusty it seems a pointless exercise sometimes in trying to keep clean!

Returning later we again found the cheetahs in the same spot, the light looked beautiful on the distant plains grasses and the cheetahs resting peacefully under a bush. Occasionally allo-groming but mostly napping!. That was until around 6pm when the light became really golden the mother came out her rustic bed and up onto a mound around 40 metres away and posed quite happily for us whilst surveying the savannah before nightfall. A really beautiful family of cheetahs.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Another morning with Notch and the joys of black cotton mud!

At first light this morning we found our man 'Notch', who was making his way near to where we had left him (Cul De Sac) the previous night and seemed to be headed toward Balloon plains (a frequent hang our for Notch and sons). As always he was looking mighty fine for his 11 years (approx) and moved with relative ease despite carrying a stomach full of wildebeest!. We had him all to ourselves and tracked him across the 'football pitch' for a little while until he settled not too far from the bottom of Serena. We got a few nice shots and the opportunity to get a little video of him, but most of the time just sat, absorbed and watched as he stomped across his land.

As always time with our big man is always special, its impossible not to get attached to an animal we have followed and photographed for nearly 5 years now. It seems only 5 minutes ago that we photographed him and his young sons on the Musiara Marsh, its scary how time flies!

We then had a wander down to the rest of the Mgoro pride, who were very quiet and resting, probably exhausted after a crazy few days! 'Grimace' had remained with the pride overnight whilst Notch had gone off 'on his rounds'.

On the way to the Mgoro lions we had also seen some Wildebeest herds again congregating, this time around main crossing. However, as there were quite a few cars both sides, and as we had seen many amazing crossings already in the last few days we decided to have a drive further afield for a change of scenery before coming back to 'our' pride later.

After having a nice drive along the bottom of the escarpment, seeing plenty of game we noticed it was getting pretty wet, but the Land Rover was happy to negotiate the wet sticky mud. Well, that was to a point!. We had stopped to look at a Hyena den and no sooner after we had left we suddenly encountered a huge patch of black cotton mud. In retrospect perhaps we should have possibly taken option B, going off road and around the mud. However, instead we decided to 'abide' by the off road rule and have a crack at going through it, after all if we got stuck then we got stuck and the world would not stop revolving in trying!.Its not the first time we have become stuck and wont be the last!.  So, option A was not such a great idea and yep, we got stuck!.  However, there was no point in worrying or making calls to our friends for help though as we have pretty much have all we need to get ourselves out alone and so this is what we did! Out came the ground pins which we knocked into the ground and with the winch wire connected to the pins Andy skillfully manoeuvred the vehicle using the winch at a right angle away from the mud. Within 20 minutes of getting stuck we were free, job done, nice and easy! Never under estimate the suction power of black cotton mud!

As I write this blog we are again alone with Notch this evening who as we thought had made his passage to balloon plains where we found him this afternoon (after seeing another spectacular Rhino and briefly a young female cheetah close to the Sundowner Hill area) There Notch sits high up on the rocks in one of his favourite vantage points surveying the savannah all around, such a nice way to finish the day, but time now to retreat to camp and get dinner cooking.






Saturday, 11 September 2010

Hunting school continues

Andy and I have continued to focus our attentions entirely on 'our lions', the Mgoro pride and hunting school continues with no let up in the amount of wildebeest they continue to take down. The crossings have subsided marginally in herd sizes but still continue to stream from the Narok side and toward Tanzania. As a result the lions, with Notch and cubs in tow have firmly established the area around Cul de Sac for the last 4 days. Unbelievably we have witnessed 17 lion kills in as many days, that's more sightings of this kind in 4 days that we have ever had in 5 years of travelling to Africa. Granted the majority were at a distance, or in torrential rain but its fascinating to watch how the cubs are building so much confidence and getting plenty of practise at technique. With the lionesses there to supervise and provide the 'bulk' where needed.

Notch has of course been enjoying the spoils of the kills, and is now absolutely HUGE, the first male lion that should be certified as clinically obese! He continues to stay close to the females, why would any male need to be any where else with a continually stocked larder!

The Mara river is now completely full of hundreds of wildebeest bodies, given the huge number that have gathered in the rocks in the last few days of crossings the Mara is casting a rather unpleasant stench across the plains, which we can even smell occaisonally from our camp when the wind is blowing our way.

Yesterday we  had some interesting news, a distance away from their usually territory Notch's 4 boys had reportely had a fight with another male from the Oloololo pride. The male was apparently left in quite a bad way (but since we have had news he is fine). We trundled down to the area in which they were seen and soon came across the 4 boys. Their walk and posture carried an air of purpose before they then settled out of the harsh sun and under a tree. They are clearly pushing the boundaries of their territory and the testostorone filled lions are roaming far and wide.  Grimace and 3 others were present but no sign of 'Notch Jnr', aptly named as he bears a striking resemblance to Notch 3 or 4 years ago.

As I write this post we are actually again sitting with the boys, we can see at least 3 of them, who are well hidden in a croton thicket in their usual haunt on balloon plains having returned from their troublesome wander yesterday and we have just left Grimace who is close to Notch at the crossing area. This morning we had seen 3 of the boys at first light after tracking the direction of their roars, we soon lost them but knew they were likely to be heading to their favourite area and sure enough here they are this afternoon just as predicated. One appears to have something wrong with his eye, exactly what it is hard to see at the distance we are at. Its likely it was as a result of yesterday, we hope its nothing too serious.

The weather in the Mara has been poor most afternoons, rain continues to travel from the Tanzania direction (driving the wildebeest back there) and has cast a shadow on the plains from around 3pm most days. Today was particularly dramatic weather. At around 2pm the thunder started and the rain came with impressive lightning. Then to our amazement huge lumps of hail pelted to the ground with a huge force and continued for some time, each piece way in excess of 1 cm big. It was time to park up and wait it out as you could barely see one metre ahead.

Once it had stopped we carried on driving and were quite stunned that even an hour after the bad weather the huge piles of hail were still pilled up along the road as it had turned very cold. It was very odd to see ice along the roads, something you really don't expect in the Mara!

Although we have spent all of our time with Notch and Co. we have also seen some other great things along the way and sometimes things happen when you least expect it. yesterday, whilst driving to the lion pride in the early morning suddenly a massive male Black rhino crossed the road and headed into the thicket before anyone else could see him, he had a truly impressive horn and was quite possibly one of the largest Black Rhino we had seen.

So, the moral of the story....always expect the unexpected!






Thursday, 9 September 2010

Bogie goes bonkers

If I were to write in absolute detail about what we have witnessed in the last 24 hours I would be practically writing a dissertation. Needless to say yesterday was a crazy day! So I will try to keep to the shortened version.


The morning started with unbelievably more crossings, the wildebeest just keep on coming and with more rains over in Tanzania their thirst for heading south does not abate. The morning crossings were indeed fraught and hindered by the presence of Notch and some of his females, who in the early morning had heard the sound of the wildebeest, who had again formed in Cul De sac crossing point. Notch and the cubs soon gave up but one of 'our' lionesses (from the Mgoro pride that we are following) did not. 


To cut an incredible sighting short she launched at many of the wildebeest coming up the bank and even took down a Thomsons gazelle. In a true photographers nightmare most of these were at long range or 'conveniently' behind a bush, but that just the way it goes sometimes!


Their was a lull in the crossings until mid afternoon, the rain started and soon fell heavily on the plains and thundered echoed all around. Again the wildebeest crossed, this time the sticky mud up the banks made for the most treacherous crossing we had yet to see. It was complete carnage, wildebeest struggled and fought to climb the by high banks Sadly a huge amount perished, drowning either by the ever increasing flow of the Mara river or being caught in the frenzy as they tried to escape up the banks.


We left the crossing whilst it was still in progress and turned our attention to the Mgoro pride, who had since the morning moved further up the plains, the wildebeest were headed right in their direction. The rain pelted down and a strong wind swept over the plains. With hatch tightly closed and windows up we still wanted to see what could be happening, even through wiper blades!


What was saw in the next 20 minutes was what we never thought we would see, a lion on the rampage, driven by the adrenalin of seeing the huge herds storming from the crossing. In the space of this time one of 'our'  lionesses, (one of our 'bogie' females...named due to a scar that two lionesses have in the same position under their noses) took down 4, yes 4 wildebeest calves! The poor things had been separated from the herds and proved the ideal chance for the lioness. So, it was now time for more hunting school. The lioness simply maimed the prey, called the cubs and and then let them practice their skills and we can tell you that these cubs are extremely advanced! The technique is definitely there and their confidence seems to be building day by day. The rain pelted down and the continuing photographers nightmare of almost impossible conditions gave us a chance to absorb what we were seeing and truth be told it was hard to keep up anyway!


It was a day of mixed emotions, seeing so many wildebeest perish was not an easy thing to watch, but at the same time it was a day of seeing nature in action and the harsh reality of survival on the plains.



Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The thundering plains

The beauty of self driving is most definitely the flexibility it gives us. Yesterday was the day it proved to be SO true!!. After ambling along the Talek river looking for leopard, again with little luck we headed toward Paradise plains to check out what the wildebeest and Zebra herds were doing. I don't think the words for our reaction are printable, but as we came closer to the Mara river and near paradise THOUSANDS of wildebeest were heading towards the crossings. Not just one crossing but pretty much all of them!

The only problem was we were 'technically' on the wrong side as the ultimate sighting is to get these guys coming toward you or at least a side view. Ideally we needed to be back in the Mara triangle. So, what to do? Well, within a few moments a plan had formed. There were thousands of wildebeest and these guys would take some time to cross, even though many of them had began (at around 8.30-9am). So, time to abandon 'spots and rosettes' for now (and its not like you cannot see them in the Mara Triangle!) and head back over to our favourite place.

We knew that perhaps we would probably miss the crossings but at least we were better placed as it looked like a few days of crossings may ensue. 1.5 Hours later and we were the 'right side', as we came along the river we suddenly saw a large herd looking to cross. Here we had never seen them cross before and we were totally alone!. As soon as we rocked up, parking aside to not to stop these guys from crossing, it started!. We were astounded, a crossing HERE?.....and a crossing ALONE?. Surely not! it was a great crossing. OK so not a massive herd, being hundreds rather than thousands but watching them battle the sharp current on the bend of the river was a sight to see, but always very sad to see animals lose their lives. Fortunately the carnage was not to bad, only one or two poor beesties succumbing to a floating grave. I often wander how we can sometimes watch such a spectacle whilst animals are suffering and battling to cross the river. We repeatedly tell ourselves its natures way and I guess somehow when we are photographing it causes a distraction away from any emotional thoughts.

By now it was nearly 12pm, so off we amble after an exciting 30 minutes to see the herds that had crossed into the Triangle. Words just do not describe, but to our complete and utter amazement the wildebeest were STILL crossing at the points we had seen from the other side and there were still so many wildebeest on the plains and coming though that for once I, (Sarah) was speechless.

To Cul De sac we went and witnessed total carnage, wildebeest, Zebra and a handful of Topis crossed the river and had the poor things had a really tough time getting back up the banks, there we sat and witnessed them cross for another three hours,. They had been crossing for 6 hours!! yes, 6 hours!!!! Neither of us had ever seen anything to extent before, WOW! What was also a first for us is that we even saw a few Thomsons Gazelle crossing and they looked so fragile in the torrent of the Mara. There was a distinct lack of crocs, clearly they were already full to the brim.

We had noticed on the previous evening big storm clouds developing and dumping rain over in Tanzania. Had they heard the distant roar of thunder and smelt the rain? Perhaps this was why all of a sudden the plains had just emptied and the southern plains were calling them?. Retreating back to our campsite we were exhausted and amazed. It was great to put our cameras away and just absorb the spectacle of the wildebeest migration. Of course we did fire off many memory cards, so we look forward to seeing what we have when we get home. For now here is a little taster below until we load the images on to the website.

What would tomorrow bring?




Monday, 6 September 2010

In search of spots and rosettes


Yesterday (Saturday) Andy and I decided to have a wander across to the other side of the Mara (Narok side). It seemed a sensible plan given that across the plains we could see a HUGE amount of wildebeest and lots of smaller game. So the mission was to be ‘in search of spots and rosettes’ for the next few days. The first afternoon drive was a quiet one as it always takes a day or so to reacquaint with where the game is. That’s not to say we did not have a pleasant drive and like every drive, even if it does not involves cats we always seem to see something new and interesting.
Driving along side the Talek river shortly before darkness fell we were looking high and low. It was not long until we saw a large ‘rectangular shape’ high up in the trees. It was not an eagle and it was not a vulture. It was not until we got much closer we realised we had stumbled upon a very impressive Verreaux’s Eagle owl. It was huge and a stunning sight to see. Sadly the light was dimming at this point so getting any shots was near on impossible but even so, what a fantastic sight. Our first time to see this species in Kenya.
Waking early the next morning we decided to spend some time searching for Leopard whilst they may still be on the ground. After having little luck we moved on in search of Cheetah. It was not long until we came across a mother Cheetah and two older male cubs. Clearly these guys wanted to hunt, so we decided to sit tight. We spent most of the sighting with only two or three vehicles at most and had a nice long chat with Jonathan Scott and a pleasant chap with him, working on a book on predators. 4.5 hours later and after several failed attempts to hunt 

our patience paid off and the Cheetahs finally got the nourishment they needed. Good news for the Cheetahs, however, not so lucky for the Thomson Gazelle. It was indeed a considerable distance away, too far to photograph even with every teleconverter in our arsenal mobilized! Of course we could have moved a little closer but we have seen so many hunts that have been foiled by other vehicles getting to close and alarming the prey to the cheetahs whereabouts. Putting the animal first is always our mantra, just a shame that so many people don't have the same outlook!. Nevertheless, photo or not it was a great sighting and the mother put on a considerable chase across the plains. Their impressive speed and agility never ceases to amaze us. We were rather happy that this attempt was a success as we knew that if she lost this gazelle she would have to rest for some time before trying again. 
So, all in all a successful first day in search of spots!


Friday, 3 September 2010

Wapi Duma?

As I am patiently sitting here waiting in hope for the wildebeest to again cross at 'Cul de sac' I thought a good time to catch up with today's antics.
It may have become apparent by now that Andy and I have a special place in our hearts for Notch, a cat we have followed now for 5 years. So we make no apology for YET another blog that involves Notch!
First thing this morning we could hear the unmistakable roar from Monsieur Notch and what sounded like several females at the bottom of the hill close to our campsite. It would have been rude to have ignored his call to say where he was, so at first light we ambled down and found him far across the plains, just us alone with our favourite cat! Along with the 9 cubs, 4 females they all gradually made there way closer to the road (Mgoro pride). The light was terrible for photography (as it has been since we got here!) but it was still nice to sit and watch them. The cubs, rather obligingly walked in an orderly line past the vehicle which gave me the opportunity I have been waiting for......to finally ID the sex of the all 9 cubs. So, as each one sauntered past I had the perfect opportunity and I can now confirm that the 9 cubs consist of 5 females and 4 boys.
Also present was another 'Notch son', and we were pleased to see it was the one we have not yet found on this trip. A.K.A 'Grimace', so called as he has an old injury to his lip which appears he is always 'grimacing'! Grimace has always been a little of an outcast and even looking back Notch has never allowed Grimace to get that close to the rest of the 'family' or share the same space under a tree. Today proved no exception to that rule and Notch only tolerated him as long as he kept a great distance. Careful Notch, one day you may need him!.
After some time and a failed hunt 2 of the females has spotted a small wildebeest herd in an area of tall grass, it did not take long until they had locked onto them, and soon enough one of the lionesses bursts in to attack her quarry. The herd scattered leaving one wildebeest standing steadfast, but where was the lioness though? A pair of black ear tips soon revealed she was there and being confronted head on by the Adult wildebeest. A few moments of tension ensued until Notch realised his sheer brute force was needed. Like the cavalry arriving Notch barged in, and in the next moment the wildebeest was on the ground and had succumbed to the force of the big cats.
It would be great to say we captured all on this on camera, but giving the cats had stalked the herd in long grass it was alas no go on getting any good shots, but it was nevertheless a great sighting and interesting to see Notch in action at a kill. The next few moments saw Notch dispatching the wildebeest with a strong throat hold, but not quite finishing the job, whilst the little cubs looked on in awe and hopefully taking notes for later in life!
Although he was evidently quite full we had expected him to feed a little first but unusually he passed the opportunity to feed and moved away to allow the cubs to feed (and allowed them to finish dispatching the wildebeest as Notch had not quite completed it!). Given its unusual for the male to allow the cubs to feed before him we concluded he must be so full that he need not eat. (either that or he is a genuine family man and was looking out for the kids!!) 
So, after our little distraction of lions this morning we then set upon what was to be the original plan of action for the day, looking for Cheetah. One thing we have noticed on this trip is a lack of cheetahs in this particular area, compared to normal. Yes, there is a large concentration of lions in one area, to the point that even the hyenas have moved their den. Even so, where are they?, we have chatted to some local guides who have also commented on the surprisingly low numbers at present. Andy and I love the area down by the Tanzanian border so we decided to have a recce down there as that's often where Cheetahs can be found. We were really keen to at least try and locate Sita and her (probably) now independent daughters. However, after several hours of driving we soon noticed that there was a real lack of small game, and prey for the cheetah, perhaps this one one of the reasons for their absence?. So no cheetahs today, but given its such a huge area that's of course not to say that are not there. We have heard there are several cheetah on the Narok side, but in no greater numbers than normal. In the next few days we shall try a few different areas and hope to be able to blog on some feline variety other than Panthero leo!
Whilst down at the border we also scanned far and wide to see what the wildebeest herds were doing in the distance into Tanzania. All was quiet all around so apart from those herds in the current area on bothe sides of the Mara. However, there looks to be no more big herds progressing at the moment, However, it can take only days for this to change, although given the early start of the migration we do wander how many big herds of 'wildies' can be left to come up from Tanzania? Perhaps now the migration will be centred on those existing herds in the Mara who will likely cross back and forth and go around in circles chasing the fresh shots.
Lastly before I leave this blog we saw another quite an interesting (and rather funny) sight today, not something we have seen before. A hippo, that stood on the river bank with the rest of a small pod was noticeably different from the others. It appeared that one of his large 'tusks' (incisors) was growing outside of his mouth an was obviously deformed in some way.  Quite comical (but not for the hippo) actually given it looked like a hippo had mated with a warthog! 
Oh...and by the way, the 'wildies' decided not to cross and instead will wait until tomorrow, thats the way it sometimes goes!
For now its 'la la salama' until the next installment.....



Thursday, 2 September 2010

The day of the Gnu's

Sure as 'eggs are eggs' our predications yesterday of imminent large wildebeest crossings came true. A number of large herds had congregated on the plains nearer to the river overnight and by mid morning had split into many different groups, and eventually crossing at multiple points of the Mara, such as: Cul de Sac, lower and upper main crossings, all crossing over in to the Narok side of the reserve. With a lack of Zebras in many of the herds it seemed that more indecisiveness filled the wildebeest minds more than normal.

We decided to hedge our bets with the one of the lower main crossings, although it was occupied by a smaller herd it had the the better viewpoint and less vehicles there (always a good thing!). After 3 - 4 hours of procrastination, (whilst Andy and I were 'cooking on gas mark 7' in the late morning sun) the wildebeest debate as to "should we cross or shall we run around in circles for the 5th time" was finally concluded in our favour.

The communication between the herds became louder and louder until eventually the crossing eventually began. The dust that was kicked up was immense and the fast flow of the river took the wildebeest several metres of course to their exit points back up the bank. Despite the large number that congregated many did not cross, the current seemed strong and hippos blocked many of their exits. So some decided to stop, retreat and find somewhere else. At this point Andy and I were seriously in need of food and the herd that remained was of a fairly small size. We had risen at 5.30, witnessed a lion kill (although from afar and in pretty long grass), briefly seen a lioness with 3 tiny 5-6 week old cubs and finally a wildebeest crossing. If we did not retreat ourselves to cook some food we were in danger of wilting (sadly like many of the wildebeest calves are on the plains near the crossings at present)

So leaving the wildebeest to debate their next action we left, had some food and showered in camp, whilst of course keeping an eye on what the herds were doing. That was just the morning drive!



Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Practicing for when I grow up

As the seasons and weather patterns change in the Masai Mara it can often be a case of ‘feast or famine’ for the predators. Migration seasons is certainly a time for feasting and every morning so far has revealed a vast array of fresh carcasses from the predators nocturnal activities. Providing food for not only the carnivores but also for vultures, and the vultures certainly have their work cut out right now in keeping the plains clean and free from disease. 
Interestingly we seen to have seen more hooded vultures on this trip than previously seen on our last two trips. A good sign as recently there seemed to be a distinct lack of this species. However, still in very small numbers and it’s still a sad fact that vulture populations (including White-backed, Griffin and Lappet Faced Vultures) are being faced with the same pressures of decreasing populations as most other wildlife species. 
The lions of the Masai Mara certainly make the most of the migration as an ample food source as it passes through, and its not uncommon to see many half eaten carcasses where the cats are simply too full to finish everything they predate. However, instinct still ensures the predators take every hunting opportunity and ‘make hay while the sun shines’.
This morning we found the Mgoro pride, although minus any mighty males (this pride includes the Notch/Notch son cubs) after having feasted partially on an adult wildebeest that they had taken not long prior to our finding them. Fit to burst the lionesses and cubs lounged around with HUGE stomachs and no doubt sever indigestion! As the sun came out (briefly!) they retreated to nearby shade and panted as they slowly digested the massive amount of meat they had obviously consumed!
Later in the afternoon we returned and as the temperature cooled one of the male (Notch) cubs decided it was time for a little fun on the carcass. Whilst it appears to be great fun for the lions to play around with the lifeless mass it also serves as a great time opportunity to practice a few skills that will be needed in adulthood (although being a male he will more likely be enjoying the spills of the kill rather than partaking in the actual ‘dispatch’ of the animal!). So today was ‘practicing the kiss of death school’.  This expression always seems a little of a crude and a ‘non biological’ way to describe one of the methods in which lions will starve its prey of oxygen but is literally the way on which it is carried out. Having likely seen mum do this previously and with a degree of innate behaviour the male cub decided he would have a practice. It was hard not to have a chuckle as we watched the cub grasp the wildebeest muzzle, but for the little cub this was serious business! We caught a little of this behaviour on video and have attached below.
Back to the migration, their initially seems to be marginally less wildebeest on the plains in this area of the Maasai Mara than previous visits here at similar times of the year. This is largely due to the early arrival of the migration this year and the fact that last year the migration was unbalanced and weighted heavily in certain areas due to the terrible droughts of 2009, However, today we have began to see more large herds forming and beginning to amalgamate again and adorn the banks of the Mara river in all their glory. 
We also took a fantastic balloon ride toward the Tanzanian border yesterday and it certainly looks like more herds, albeit not yet formed into the long lines are still migrating North toward the Mara in search of rich grassland. On several occasions today it looked likely for some big crossings. However, there seemed to be more in-decision than normal at the crossing points as the herds moved from crossing to crossing without taking the final plunge. So the next few days could be interesting as they increase in numbers ready to cross the great Mara river.




Monday, 30 August 2010

Up close & personal

One of the things that Andy and I love about camping in the bush is that fact that you are totally immersed in the environment and often get to see a different perspective of the bush other than when driving around game viewing. You see and smell things that you would ordinarily drive past and get to appreciate the tiny creatures as well as the big impressive predators, as well as continually expanding your knowledge of the bush.

However, of course there is always a little more risk in camping than when staying in a lodge or a luxury tented camp, but if you are careful and have some bush knowledge camping need not be an issue. This morning proved just how careful one should be. Last night we feel asleep to the sound of a Buffalo mooching around camp, a nightjar calling and lions roaring again in the distance. Every morning when we wake we always do a 'sweep' of the camp with a torch before climbing down the tent ladder as who knows what else may have joined us in the night!.

That was just as well this morning as an old solitary Buffalo had decided to sit and chew the cud just 25 feet from our tent. Of all the big game Andy and I are always wary and very cautious of buffalo as they are so difficult to 'read' from a behaviour point of view and their lack of facial expressions give away little of their intended plans and you really don't want to get on the wrong side of these guys. You never know especially with these old Buffalo's what mood they are in as they can often be a little grumpy and moody. So not wanting to chance anything we got out of the tent, making sure the buffalo knew we were there and decided to move the vehicle another 50 feet away. Gladly and to our relief he seemed quite happy just to sit there whilst drinks were made and a quick wash before our morning drive.

For some bizarre (and stupid) reason Andy and I have forgotten to put out the remote infrared camera for the last two nights, which was a shame as we would have got some good images last night of the old buffalo around the tent. Perhaps it has something to do with the downpours we have had at night cocooning us in the vehicle!. We will definitely make sure this evening we do as barely a night goes past when we camp at this site that we don't hear some form of creature skulking around and it would be great to capture this on camera. As long as they are of the four legged variety they are always welcome in camp!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Roars and Big Paws

Our first night back was filled with roars from the plains below and the sound of a few zebra stallions snorting and munching close to our tent, together with the often comical sounds of large wildebeest herds close by. After our usual ritual of making hot drinks with a very tame Scrub Hare nibbling grass just feet away it was time to see what the day would bring.

There is a huge amount to see in the Mara and its certainly not just the predators that command our interest. However, first we had a mission that we needed to complete. We had found Notch, we had found his pride (one of them!) and we had found the cubs. BUT, there was one thing missing. What about the Notch sons?  We had seen them during our last trip in March and of course were keen to find them again. Given the tension we had witnessed between the sons and Notch earlier in the year, that started from around Dec 2009 we were keen to see for ourselves how things were fairing. (given that these lions have already broken all the 'text book rules').  

It didn't take too long to find out! Although a fair distance from where we again found Notch & Co this morning (who were feeding on several wildebeest that they had procured during the nights stormy rains) were 4 of his boys with a single lioness. It looked as if one of the boys was possibly 'coveting' the female (although we had no actual sight of this), whilst the other three laid motionless for most of the sighting, but long enough to confirm that it was the Notch sons, with the most magnificent of the sons (the one we un-originally call 'Notch Jnr') included in the 'role call'. His name contributed to his likeness to Notch in terms of build, face and mane colour. All looked well, although one of the chaps did have a superficial wound on his spine, maybe caused by an internal fight, perhaps over mating rights (again!). This was nothing to worry about and we had seen lions with worse injuries than this. Other than being a little stiff he was fine and no concerns there. We had noticed that one of the males, who was always a slight outcast was not around, this is the guy that has an old injury to his jaw causing his lip to hang slightly and we affectionately call him 'Grimace'. Again this was not a huge concern as they often go off on the 'rounds' for days and we had after all been in the Mara for less than 24 hours!

They all rested peacefully, sadly due to cloud and poor light we were unable to get any good images but attach one below for those who are keen to see 3 of these impressive guys. What will be the most interesting thing is to see how they are now interacting with the rest of the Mgoro pride and of course dad!

The rest of the day was filled with cute bat eared foxes, Notch and Co (again!) and long lines of wildebeest that are still migrating through the Mara toward the Mara river. At the risk of lion overdose it is impossible to leave todays blog without mention of Notch and his roar. Those who know Notch will know he has a distinctive gurgle to his roar and of course any lions roar sends goosebumps to your skin!. We had heard his roar, along with the females long into the night, but lucky for us to we were greeted this morning with another rendition. Albeit a slightly less powerful version that seemed to imply "Oh must I roar I am tired and I am comfortable so I will do this sitting down thanks"

Apologies for the poor quality of the video, but I thought it was rude not to include as I know there are many fans of Notch our there! Enjoy......