Monday for many people means that the weekend is over, and that the reality of the daily grind has returned.
Even a ‘bad’ day in the Mara is better than a good day in the office!
After hot drinks around the camp fire, we headed out in the darkness, again with the intention of shooting some landscape images at dawn and sunrise, but it was cloudy and not looking favourable, so we continued in a south-easterly direction.
The lioness seemed focused, but we managed to land a few images and some video footage before we continued southward a few minutes later.
A short time later, even further south, we had an unusual sighting. Up on a steeply sloping ridge was a lioness and three cubs, but within close proximity, and perhaps only ten to fifteen metres in front of the cubs, was a Cape buffalo!
It was not clear what was happening, but the cubs were watching the buffalo as it was grazing. Perhaps it did not know that the cubs were so close, but there did not appear to be any tension, and the lioness further back did not seem interested in, or concerned by, the presence of not only one buffalo, but another higher up the ridge and further away.
Soon enough we turned our attention to a large fig tree next to the stream, which meanders down to the Olare Orok River.
A large alpha male baboon was sitting on the ground, somewhat out in the open, whilst many of the youngsters played in the fig tree. I took the opportunity to photograph him amongst the lush green foliage.
We had seen baboons in the wild before, but mostly from a distance, and we had not had the opportunity to properly photograph them, until now.
It was rewarding to be able to spend some time in the company of baboons in good light, and capture a few pleasing images of them.
Soon enough, the baboons descended from the tree and headed south-east, so we decided to also depart, and headed further south along the waterway, spotting an eland, a jackal, a woodland kingfisher (with its distinct, bright blue plumage), and a pair of juvenile short-tailed eagles, all within a fifteen-minute period.
It was time to start thinking about breakfast, so Francis headed back to the Offbeat area where we had seen the juvenile short-tailed eagles, and we pulled up by the waterway for some food and a stretch.
After breakfast, we headed north, back in the general direction of camp, and in an open part of the conservancy, Mario spotted the sxitcintive colours of an agama lizard upon a rock. We had seen one before, but during this sighting we were too far away for a decent image, so we shortly moved on.
Whilst driving in the open, Francis noticed a disturbance in a small tree nearby. Upon it were perched some starlings, but there was panic amongst the birds, and Francis suggested that there may have been a snake in the tree.
He positioned the 4WD right next to the tree, and quickly spotted a very small snake (perhaps an inch in diameter), which had killed two birds. It was very difficult to see anything, but using our long lenses and viewfinders, we could see patches of the snake amongst the very dense foliage, as well as the unfortunate starling that was soon to become the snake’s breakfast.
We continued to watch as the snake began to devour its prey, and shortly noticed that the snake was descending the tree, prey in mouth.
At the base of the foliage, we saw the snake suspended vertically from the tree as it made its way to the ground. We all scrambled for our cameras, but a second later, the snake and starling had landed on the ground, and the show was over.
This was another ‘first’ of many firsts. Never before had we seen a snake killing a starling. It was only because Francis had noticed the disturbance and veered off our course to investigate, that we had experienced this sighting. It was near-impossible to even see the snake, and an event in nature such as a tree python killing prey in a small tree is something that few people would ever witness.
After this unique sighting, we headed north to return to camp, along the way encountering another female saddle-billed stork. We spent a few minutes photographing the stork and then continued, stopping to photograph some spotted guineafowl and a zebra drinking from a watering hole very close to camp.
Back at camp, I downloaded and backed up the images and video footage from the morning shoot, and we had lunch, this time with a new guest who had arrived while we were out in the field.
After our afternoon down time (which is never proper down time for me, as I cannot sit back and do nothing when on safari — there is too much excitement and plenty to do), we headed back out, this time venturing to the northern part of the conservancy.
Not far south of the C13 road, we encountered a pair of mating warthogs, which was worth photographing.
At this location, there was a male and a female.
This is a young female from the Cheli Pride. Her younger age is revealed by the pink colour of her nose.
The young male lion nearby was becoming bothered by flies, and was trying to swat them as they pestered him.
While it was late afternoon, the two lions were still resting, occasionally sitting up, yawning, rolling around or trying to sleep.
Again there was a young male and a female, and I was fortunate enough to photograph the lioness yawning.
After spending time with these siblings, Francis took us back to the first pair of siblings we had seen. The day was soon to give way to the evening, and as the sun descended closer to the top edge of the Oldoinyio Escarpment (also known as the Siria Escarpment) in the west, I captured a glimmer of light in the eyes of this young and handsome male lion.
Male lions are always impressive, even when they are young.
His youthful age is revealed by the size of his mane. It has not fully developed yet, so while he is not a cub, he is not a fully-fledged adult. Based on his appearance, he would be around two years of age.
The plain was increasingly darkening, and the lions were becoming more active. When a potential meal arrives on one’s doorstep, one would be silly not to take advantage of the opportunity.
It was becoming harder to see, as darkness was rapidly consuming the scene, but one of the young and inexperienced lions decided to launch into a chase as the zebras moved even closer into their territory.
Fortunately for the zebras, the chase was premature and ultimately unsuccessful, but it was an exciting moment.
It was time to leave the lions to deal with their defeat (and hopefully enjoy some success later) and head back to camp. Before we returned, I captured a couple of silhouette images of a tree on the plain.
Monday, 3rd June, 2019 had been a mix of activity in the plains, with second and third sightings of the Cheli Pride of lions, a second sighting of the Offbeat Pride of lions, some quality time with baboons, a variety of birds, an unusual sighting of a tree python devouring a starling, a pair of warthogs continuing the species, and an unsuccessful hunt of zebras by inexperienced Cheli Pride youngsters.
Stay tuned for our adventures on day four.