November in the Masai Mara

Governors’ Guide to November in the Masai Mara

The month normally begins hot and dry and ends with the arrival of the rains accompanied by dramatic thunderstorms in the late afternoon and evening. The rain fills up the Musiara Marsh, the savannah grass begins to grow and wild flowers like fireball lilies and flame lilies bloom.

With the grasses grazed down, the great herds of the wildebeest migration congregate and prepare for their long trek down south. Large river crossings begin ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand as the waiting herds begin to leave.

With a depletion in grass, the elephants switch their diet to leaves and bark, getting most of their nutrition from the trees. The warburgia trees in the forests begin to fruit, drawing the elephants back in and they spend much time around the Governors’ family of camps.

There are newborns everywhere as topis calve, closely followed by impalas and giraffes. Warthogs are seen throughout the landscape. Bat-eared foxes have young in their dens as do black-backed jackals – both of whom are seen out and about on the plains. Defassa waterbuck are in breeding herds with 3-6 month old calves in the woodlands around the Marsh and bushbuck are seen at dusk. The diospyros trees start fruiting, drawing baboons and blue monkeys into the woodlands to feed. Giraffes are seen moving together in fairly large herds, with younger males sparring by necking for mating rights. The large breeding herd of Cape buffalo has many young calves and spends much time in the Bila Shaka riverbed, where the red oat grass grows well. Up on the plains there are spotted hyena some with very young cubs in their dens.

The Marsh Pride of lions find plenty of food if the migration is still around and the Paradise Pride spend their days close to the river crossing sites, taking advantage of the late traffic from wildebeests and zebras in the area. With the arrival of the rains, so the resident male lions begin to travel again patrolling the borders of their rangelands and scent marking to make sure everyone knows that this is their turf. Cheetahs are seen on the short grass plains; as the wildebeests disappear, they work hard to keep their meals away from prowling hyena. Some cheetah mothers have tiny cubs hidden in the croton thickets.

Birds

In the riverine forests, the Teclea nobilis tree begins to fruit attracting many birds such as the double-toothed barbets to feed. Small groups of white storks pass through the Reserve while Montagu’s and marsh harriers are joined around mid-month by pallid harriers. Small groups of common kestrels start passing through the area mid month.

Green sandpipers are usually found along the Mara River while in the Musiara swamp, wood sandpipers, common snipes and the odd greenshank are present. The passage of Eurasian bee-eaters slows and a few Eurasian rollers are seen. Yellow wagtails were very common and by the middle of the month, they are joined by red-throated pipits. Out on the open plains, Northern (common) and Isabelline wheatears are quite common and they are joined by a few pied wheatears later in the month. Other migrants can include spotted flycatchers, willow warblers, blackcap and red-backed shrike.