December finished the year off on a high. The month began with stable weather and the last of the migratory animals spent time out to the west and around the high ground of Nyasirori Ranger Post. By the middle of the month big rains had arrived within the Serengeti and the herds began to shift their movements south as they looked to head back towards the calving grounds. The female wildebeest all show signs of being heavily pregnant as they have about two months to go until they calve. Reports came in of the first big rain in the Ndutu and Ngorongoro area on the night of 19th December. The front runners of the herds entered southern Serengeti around the same time.
The hot sunny days in the latter part of the month were followed by afternoon thunderstorms with some impressive cloud formations, lightning and thunder - most notably around Sabora and Explore Marula camps. In a few instances over 50 mm were recorded at a time in the west.
The bush is a vibrant green, the mud wallows provide refuge to the terrapins and frogs, and the thickets are now an impenetrable wall of foliage. The Grumeti River has been flowing a chocolate brown colour and all the sandbanks have been washed clear of the tracks and signs they had over the dry season. The grass is beginning to grow tall, the guinea fowl are pairing off to begin breeding, while the impala females are lambing and stashing their little ones within the cover. Migratory birds abound and the bush feels energized and alive.
Sightings snapshot for December:
Three nomadic lions took over a zebra kill from eight Nyasirori Pride members (three lionesses with five sub-adults) along Serengeti Road.
Two Nyasirori Pride lions sighted north-east of Fungo and Serengeti Roads’ junction.
West Pride mating pair sighted along Spine Road.
16 West Pride members consisting of seven lionesses and nine cubs sighted east of Marula Explore camp. A few days later the number increased to 19 lions.
15 lions seen around the helicopter hanger on the hill.
Two lionesses, one lion and four sub-adults) seen east of Arab Camp Hill.
A pride of ten (six sub-adult lionesses, three sub-adult lions and one male lion) sighted south of Fungo and Serengeti Roads’ junction.
One lion and three lionesses on a buffalo kill north of Sabora camp.
Several other sightings such as three lionesses seen at West Link Crossing, a pride of 14 seen around Bangwesi Camp, three young, nomadic lions, seven lionesses with two four-month-old cubs on Sasakwa Hill near Cyprian’s house – tracks indicated that the cubs had been brought to the hill all the way from the north-eastern side of the rhino boma.
One of the guides said his guests had seen over 50 different lions in a three night stay – the lion numbers are very healthy and there seem to be plenty around. Interestingly, as the migratory herds have moved off, the lions are now targeting the buffalo and there were a number of buffalo kills recorded over the month.
A male sighted along Spine Road.
Large male leopard seen from Ovambo Road during walking training – animal was asleep in a tree and we managed to watch it on foot for about 30 minutes, from about 50 meters away.
Male leopard seen near Faru Faru entrance, also seen from tent 9 with zebra foal kill.
A female sighted feeding on a common duiker kill along Mbogo drainage.
Female leopard and two five-month-old cubs around Acacia Bridge. Leopard and cubs are shy but look very healthy. Both cubs are male.
Female leopard with one four-month-old cub along Grumeti River at Faru Faru bush breakfast site.
A male sighted on a wildebeest kill south of Pundamilia Hill.
A male sighted on a wildebeest calf kill south of Arab Camp Thicket.
A female sighted at Marula Explore camp.
A young female cheetah seen near Nyasirori Dam.
Female with two sub-adult female cubs sighted west of Martin Hill.
A breeding herd of about 40 sighted south of Nyasirori Ranger Post.
A breeding herd of 30 individuals sighted downstream of Mbuni Crossing.
A breeding herd of 35 individuals sighted at Momukomule drainage.
A breeding herd of about 15 individuals sighted north of Arab Camp Hill.
A breeding herd of about 18 individuals sighted at old Askari Camp.
A breeding herd of about 14 individuals sighted east of Mbogo drainage.
A herd of about 100 were seen frequenting the woodlands to the north of the airstrip after the rains.
A breeding herd of about 250 individuals sighted north of Fisi.
A breeding herd of about 300 individuals sighted east of Mbogo drainage.
A breeding herd of about 100 individuals sighted south of Faru Faru bush breakfast site.
Large herds out to the west with over 500 in some.
Many bulls in the Ikorongo – some very impressive in body and horn size.
One black rhino (Ed) has been in the boma near Bangwesi as he recovers from the virus he had. He is looking much stronger and feeding well – according to Dixon (who is looking after him) he really enjoys caterpillar bush (Ormocarpum trichocarpum).
Numerous sightings of the black rhino (Eric) during the course of the month.
Zituni is reported to be fit and healthy, as are the other rhinos that Grumeti Fund monitors.
Interesting observations during walks in the Ikorongo area:
70 reedbuck with some aggregations of up to 14 animals.
Hooded vulture nest in Mancheria drainage line.
Potential ground hornbill nesting site in Mancheria drainage line.
Female roan on south-eastern side of Bangwesi Hill. (See cover photo).