This Week at Angama #173
Out here in the Mara, the days fly by – often what feels like a few weeks turns out to a be a few months. That’s how long it has been since I last saw this special cat. Named Shepherd, he is not a typical leopard. He is a leopard with a massive kingdom. In fact, in my opinion, the territory he covers qualifies him as a ‘super leopard’.
Yesterday, I found him up a sausage tree about half an hour’s drive from the lodge. As soon as I got there, he climbed down which is typical behaviour for leopards in the Triangle. I eased off when I realised that it was the famous Shepherd. He is neither shy, nor timid of company. On this day, he was reflecting on a few failed hunts before laying under a tree for a snooze. What a delight to see him in absolutely perfect condition.
The urge to explore took me across the Mara River to seek out some of the lion prides from the Greater Mara area. I came across the Topi Pride and the Salas Boys. Love filled the air and after some antics, a mating session got underway.
When I saw these giraffes gathering, I knew something unusual was about to happen. The survival of the fittest always shifts in favour of those with the most resolve and resilience. These five boys were sizing each other up. Every loser gave way to those that had the stamina to endure, and finally just two remained in the arena contesting for dominance. I watched as these two fought for more than an hour and they were still at it by the time I left.
While the yellow-throated longclaw was busy singing its little heart out, lurking somewhere in the tall grass, the gorgeous dark chanting goshawk was putting his talons to work on a mouse that accidently stumbled onto the road – pretty much laying itself out on this bird of prey’s dining room table. He just missed, instead scooping up a ball of dirt. Down the road, a flock of hamerkops had tracked a potential mating partner and were jostling about in an attempt to catch her attention.
Every morning I pause and gaze. If I was a poet, then my work would be filled with the enchanting songs of the land where no morning is like the one before. This morning would have certainly made my pages, encompassing everything the Mara can offer - sun, dew and mist while animals wander below as the hot-air balloon follows its course.
Meet the newest member of the Mara family. This is probably the youngest hippo that I have seen. Every time I head to the river, I hope to find the hippos doing something interesting. This week, when I arrived at the river bend, I heard the sounds of splashes and wading in the building current. Then, a honk from the dominant bull and just a little further on, I spotted a mother guiding her baby to shore to sunbathe.
Don't be fooled - this endless landscape can dwarf even the greatest of all. The Migration may not have arrived just yet, but for now we have a mighty herd of buffalo. Conditions are just right and the calves continue to drop. I counted more than six hundred here. If you are a keen birder like me, you may have noticed that with the buffalo come cattle egrets, ox-peckers, swallows and starlings – in particular the wattled starling which ranges with them for food. For now, this herd owns the bragging rights as the lawn mowers of this extensive landscape before the arrival of the mega-herds.
The gaze of this male lion was enough to send chills down my spine. When I found him, he was sound asleep oblivious that the rest of his pride had moved along having picked up the scent of a sounder of warthogs nearby. He awoke at the sound of a scuffle. His brother was bullying the females after they had killed a baby warthog. A short while later, he caught up with them just in time to scatter the pride and take home the prize he played no role in winning. The privilege of having the dominance to stamp his authority.
In the village I come from, you will find all kinds of names. Some describe cunningness, others strength, while a few describe the wisdom embodied by the animals surrounding them. But there is a name that I grew up with, and that I identify myself with. The elephant. It is a name that my clan has celebrated since the time of my forefathers. This name elevates my clan as one with intelligent people, great leaders and that of people from whom you will seek wisdom. Near Angama Mara, there are many elephants. And they are mighty. They speak to my soul. When this bull walked into my frame I knew I was close to home.
When I saw this topi looking alert and restless, I knew something was going on. I looked around unable to find what was causing him such anxiety, so instead decided to just sit back and enjoy photographing him. Taking a break from shooting I scanned across the plains and sure enough, I located the source of his concern.
On top of a tree at the edge of the riverine forest, two lionesses reclined in bliss. Mama Kali from the Angama Pride was sweeping for potential prey. Unaware that the topi was already onto them, they fixed on it as their potential prey. All went well from scanning, stalking and taking the flanks but they could not edge close enough before the topi bolted away to safety.
On a walking safari around Angama Mara, I discovered that the tall grass and safety it offers has brought zebra, topi, eland, giraffe and impala aplenty. One zebra was dozing when I moved in close to snap a portrait of him.
I was attracted to this beauty as he was busy building a nest. At first, I could not figure out what was happening as he constantly stomped the soggy ground. For some reason, I thought he was busy killing something. I stayed long enough hoping to see his reward. But the sedge and grass was turning into a bed that a female came to, inspected and lay on. I can't wait to report on the days ahead for this pair.
This week has delivered some new and exciting wildlife interactions. In rocky crevices, tucked away in safety, the pride is growing. Absolutely tiny, this cub was the biggest of the four that I saw. Still blind, and very vulnerable, they will remain hidden until they grow stronger and venture out into the Mara under their mother's careful watch.
This Week A Year Ago
The rains of May are variable and last year's saw to a few floods, much to the lion's displeasure. This week last year, a lioness from the Owino Pride had just lost one of her two cubs and was protecting the remaining cub fiercely under the rainy Mara sky.
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