HOME Blog This Week At Angama #178

This Week At Angama #178

Just days away from the arrival of the mega-herds, the Mara is abundant with remarkable sightings. Species great and small are competing for their place in this diverse ecosystem
Above: The mad dash across the Mara River is one not all will survive

If ever there was a week that summed up the richness and diversity of the Mara… this week was it. Simply put, it was exceptional. Not only did we witness some of the most dramatic zebra and topi river crossings in years, but were treated to near-daily leopard sightings, and some remarkable lion scenes, too. And that’s not to mention all the smaller species that make the most wonderful cameo performances on Africa’s greatest stage. 
 
The week started off similar to last in that we managed to come across a gorgeous pair of mating puff adders. Completely preoccupied, they allowed us to spend over 10 minutes watching them. Eventually, the female moved off, losing the male in the grass. It was amazing to see him using his tongue to ‘sniff’ the air, using his Jacobson’s Organ to relocate her.

Two puff adders, totally preoccupied with each other f. 5.6, 1/4000, ISO 500, -0.33
The male puff adder uses his Jacobson’s organ to relocate his date f. 5.0, 1/6400, ISO 500, -0.67

The Mara landscape continues to dry out, and although there have been some showers over the last few days, it is significantly drier than this time last year. Many of the tracks which were waterlogged and undrivable are now opening up. A huge thank you to the Mara Conservancy team for putting in countless hours to repair the roads.

The roads are in great shape thanks to the effort of the Mara Conservancy f. 10.0, 1/125, ISO 400

Driving along the river road it is impossible to ignore the impalas, or more specifically, the small bachelor herds that are in the midst of trying to sort out some kind of rank and authority. If you sit quietly, you will be treated to all sorts of barks, fights and jumps. Testosterone levels are sky-rocketing.

The first rule of Fight Club is...
The females look on at the entertainment, but are they impressed? f. 9.0, 1/2000, ISO 640, -0.33

An often overlooked species is the koks hartebeest, also known as kongoni. I am certainly guilty of not paying enough attention to these magnificent antelope, and I had to go back over a year since we last posted an image of one of these in our weekly round-ups. 

The koks hartebeest finally gets its moment in the spotlight f. 4.5, 1/640, ISO 250, +0.33

Driving south on the main road at the foot of the Oloololo Escarpment will undoubtedly lead you to a pair of dark chanting goshawks. If this pair are sitting on their regular perch, gazing out in search of snakes and rodents, then all is well in the world.

This pair of dark chanting goshawks have found a lovely spot, and they're keeping it, thank you very much f. 4.5, 1/2000, ISO 500, +1.0

The elephant population in the Triangle continues to thrive and we have a handful of very small calves amongst the various family groupings in the area. The joy of elephants is that they are always doing something, ultimately providing entertainment and the perfect subject matter.

Even though it's one of many, we can't stop looking at this elephant calf - look at his little feet f. 6.3, 1/200, ISO 500, +0.33
Staying in their mother's shadow is important to keep the calf from getting sunburnt f. 4.0, 1/500, ISO 500
Some are trying to find their feet, while others are trying to find their trunk f. 4.0, 1/5000, ISO 640, -0.33

Another firm favourite when it comes to wildlife photography is to focus in on large herds of buffalo. It isn’t always the buffalo that are of interest, but often the little oxpecker birds that go along for the ride.

These big herds of buffalo are never alone as they move unendingly across the plains looking for greener pasture f. 6.3, 1/800, ISO 400, -0.33
Catching a ride and a meal at the same time, this yellow billed oxpecker has found himself a sweet deal f. 6.3, 1/1600, ISO 640, -0.33

The Maasai Mara is synonymous with lions and we are so lucky that week in and week out we get to see them in all their glory, free and wild. Keeping up with the comings and goings of the various prides and coalition partners could be a full-time job, as they continue to surprise us with their changing dynamics.

The Bila Shaka Coalition continue to stake claim to most of the Triangle Mara River frontage, north of Serena. However, by splitting up so much they run the risk of being vulnerable to attack f. 4.0, 1/2500, ISO 640, -0.67
Olalashe is in the midst of a torrid time. He is surrounded by larger, more experienced males, and it will take a lot of work and courage if he is to stay in control of the Owino Pride f. 8.0, 1/200, ISO 320
The Angama Pride lionesses seem to be centralising their movements around a heavily forest drainage line. One of the lionesses has enlarged teats. Could it be that buried deep inside the forest is a den site? We wait with anticipation…

The Shepherd Tree Male: a true stalwart and icon of the Triangle. This leopard is really starting to show signs of ageing (regardless of his near-perfect teeth condition) but provides the most incredible entertainment. Much has been written and spoken about his gigantic territory, but little has been said about his tenacity. Regardless of the extremely high hyena and lion populations in the area, this leopard has managed to endure and has surely carved his way into the history books of the ‘Legends of the Mara’.

The Shepherd Tree Male who's become quite legendary f. 7.1, 1/800, ISO 640, -0.33

To wrap up an account of what was a very special week, I have saved the best for last. The crossings. We have heard we may be just a few days away from welcoming the first of the wildebeest herds into Kenya, but the zebras have been keeping us occupied for the last few weeks. Near daily river crossings have resulted in some truly unforgettable scenes.

Setting out into what could well be their last crossing f. 7.1, 1/800, ISO 1000, -0.33

Crossings are not everyone’s cup of tea. For some, they are too gruesome and sad, too traumatic and bloody. But for others, they are the pinnacle of life and death and the cycle out here in nature. As a photographer, I try to stay slightly removed but during scenes, the likes of which we had this week, it is hard to not be torn in all directions.

A zebra looks on at the devastation left in its wake f. 6.3, 1/640, ISO 1000, +1.4
Unfortunately, all must eat to survive f. 6.3, 1/640, ISO 1250, +1.4
A brilliant display of strength and a good example of the infamous 'death roll' f. 5.0, 1/1000, ISO 1250, +1.4

It’s hard not to root for the zebras and topis, hoping they make it to the other side, however, I also marvel at the sheer size and design of the massive crocodiles that depend so greatly on these weeks to keep them alive. At the end of the day, these crossings are what many people come to see – and even though I have seen hundreds of them, I am still amazed at every single one. They are spectacular.

The sheer size of the crocodiles is impressive in itself f. 5.0, 1/1000, ISO 2000, +1.4
A crocodile with its topi prize f. 5.0, 1/640, ISO 800, +1.4
A triumphant day for those who have crossed, the survivors recoup f. 8.0, 1/1250, ISO 320, +1.4

This Week One Year Ago

The last week of June seems to be a good time to see puff adders f 5.6, 1/800, ISO 125, -0.33

Isn’t it amazing that this week, exactly one year ago, we also had some more amazing puff adder sightings? I only see a handful of these snakes each year, and it seems that the last week of June is the time for these magnificent creatures to come out.

This Week Two Years Ago

Two years ago the Mara River was full from heavy rains f 5.6, 1/250, ISO 100

Two years ago the Mara River was a very different river. This photo of a swelled and fast-flowing river was taken at Main Crossing, the exact point at which this week’s zebra crossing photographs were taken. The river is currently low, and we are hoping for a bit more rain before the wildebeest arrive. 

Filed under: This Week At Angama

Tagged with:

angama wildlife , crocodile , the crossing , Zebra

About: Adam Bannister

A South African-trained biologist, safari guide, author, filmmaker and photographer, Adam is, above all else, a gifted storyteller. After spending the past 10 years working in some of the world’s most beautiful wild places – the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa, Rajasthan in India, Brazil’s Pantanal, and the rainforests of Manu National Park in Peru – he is delighted to share his stories of one of the loveliest game reserves of them all, the Maasai Mara.

Browse all articles by Adam Bannister Meet the angama team

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