Jan-March 2002

 

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22 February

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Dry

DETAILS

THE WILDEBEEST HAVE STARTED CALVING!

The plains and woodlands around Ndutu are alive with wildebeest. Wherever we drive, we pass vast herds of bulls, adolescents and mothers, most of whom have given birth to their biscuit coloured youngsters, who stick close to their sides.

Such a plethora of babies is all due to the interesting survival strategy wildebeest have evolved by synchronising their births. Iím sure Iíve said this before but itís worth repeating, since the figures are so amazing, scientists estimate that up to 8000 calves a day are born over the main three week calving period. In fact this year, the main wildebeest expert, Dr Estes, reckons that the peak calving period took place in a brief one week. The first calves that are born are at great risk from predators such as lions, hyenas and also cheetahs. But as the calvings increase the predators are just swamped by so many and each individual then has a far greater chance of going unnoticed in the crowd. The last-born calves are again at greater risk as these wobbly, shaky youngsters stand out from their stronger siblings.

Many guests have seen actual births. One person timed a little calf getting to his feet a few days ago. He was on his feet and staying up in just under 5 minutes, suckled successfully after 9, and was running with his mother within 14 minutes. Evidence, indeed, that out of all the antelope, wildebeest give birth to the most precocious young.

As a result of a very wet January, the normally, parched yellow plains are now a vibrant green with a carpet of yellow, mauve, blue and white flowers. With 241 mm it was the wettest month ever recorded since our rain records began 18 years ago. Because of this, the area around the lodge has been much refreshed, and I donít think Iíve ever seen it looking so beautiful. The lodge water hole itself is full of water, which is attracting my favourite animals, the elephants. Theyíve been coming to drink and swim most days over the past week. Last night they left heaps of steaming evidence to show that they had silently passed between the guest rooms on their way to drink.

Unfortunately they donít have a monopoly on the water hole. Giraffes, zebras and, to a lesser extent, wildebeest also come to drink, but have to patiently wait for the elephants to finish before drinking themselves. Apart from the elephants, the herds face another new problem. A hippo has taken up temporally residence in the pool and guards his new territory jealously. Marceli, a waiter who is in his 35th year at Ndutu has never known a hippo in the lodge water hole during his time. So weíre really lucky to have the most unusual and grand sight of watching the hippo grazing peacefully in front of the rooms in the late evening. Heís probably come from nearby Lake Masek and is enjoying the fresh water, which must be a pleasant change from the brackish water at Masek. But heís outnumbered when 30 or so elephants pile into the pool like children on a summer outing, however once all the trumpeting and splashing of the elephants has stopped, he always seems to emerge unscathed and none the worst for the disturbance.

If last month was the cheetah month, then this is the month of the serval cats and the caracal. Lots of elusive spotted serval cats have been seen lately. I think they are the most beautiful of all the cats, even including leopards, and I always enjoy watching them stalking and then pouncing on rodents in the tall grass. The caracal, which is an African version of a lynx with long ear tufts are by far the most difficult cat to see at Ndutu and I havenít seen any for over a year. Then, suddenly, Iíve seen three in a week. Last night we watched a young caracal being harassed by two black-backed jackals not far from the lodge. Although there was lots of snarling from the caracal, I donít think either party was particularly bothered by the other.

One of the radio collared European white storks, which I mentioned last month, has arrived in Tanzania. Heís called Felix and has landed about 300 kilometres East of Ndutu and weíre hoping heíll make it all the way here sooner or later.

For sheer numbers and variety of game, these past few weeks have been, and still are amazing. It really is a very exciting time, for nowhere else in the world can you see hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, huge herds of zebra, and so many fat, contented lions. To add to our excitement a newborn baby elephant was seen yesterday. All this adds up to an unparalleled spectacle of wildlife, which makes Ndutu the place to be.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

 

19 February

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Rain

DETAILS

Over the past few days we have received some more rain, resulting in a lot of movement amongst the herds of wildebeest.  We have been witnessing some lake crossings and many herds have been trundling through the Ndutu woodland. With the calving at it's peak the wildebeest, although moving around, are not heading far. You will find herds all around the Ndutu area and they are dotted all over the plains right up to Olduvai and beyond.  This time of year you do not have to drive far to witness something special - lions, cheetah, leopard, caracal, serval, elephants have all been seen over the past few days, just minutes from the lodge.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

14 February

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Dry and sunny

DETAILS

The calving is now at its peak, and the plains around Ndutu are just teeming with wildlife. Elephants are coming in almost daily for a bath in our replenished water-hole, the hippo is still here, we have noticed that he discreetly moves to one side when the elephants arrive en masse!

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

5 February

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Dry and sunny

DETAILS

For the past week Ndutu has been basking in glorious sunshine and the wildebeest calving is now well under way . Cheetahs and lions are taking advantage of the situation so guests are witnessing some amazing dramas out on the plains. The hippo is still here and so too is a rather handsome bull elephant, who for the past 3 days, has been delighting everyone with his antics in the water-hole.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

29 January

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Scattered showers 

DETAILS

The conditions remain just perfect for the wildebeest, we are getting regular showers and then glorious sunny spells in between so at present the wildebeest are still all scattered around the Ndutu area. Driving down from the Crater, there are wildebeest all the way from the slopes of Ngorongoro, through to Olduvai and out on the Triangle. The biggest numbers are still out on the Makau Road, just South of the lodge.

We have a new addition to the lodge - one lone male hippo! He arrived a few days ago and has taken up residence in our water- hole where he wallows during the day and at night he has taken to munching grass right out-side our house, it's quite a novelty having a hippo on your doorstep!

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

January 2002

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Rain

DETAILS

The wildebeest are back

After all the anticipation the wildebeest are finally here. The herds are pouring over the horizon and heading straight for Ndutu in their thousands. Itís been a strange year for rain with the short rains as such almost completely failing. But weíve been getting isolated showers around us for some time, which has attracted tens of thousands of Thomson gazelle.

Cheetah

Never have we known so many cheetahs to be in the area, as there have been over the past month, and weíre seeing as many as 11 in a single game drive. I went for an afternoon drive recently with some guests staying with us who had seen 14 cheetahs in a few days. The idea was to go out for sundowners in the woodlands, and as they had seen so many cats they wanted to find some elephants. As luck would have it we bumped into a mother cheetah with 3 large cubs amongst the trees. Even more lucky, the mother started to stalk an impala right next to the Land Rover and she would have been successful if one of the cubs hadnít been so enthusiastic in his stalk and completely messed it up by giving their position away. In these instances I always look at the mother for signs of annoyance but never see any, Iíd be livid if Iíd just lost my lunch!

Wildebeest calf

Weíve seen the first shaky long-legged wildebeest calves of the season hugging close to their motherís sides. Now a drive down the Makao road, or a trip to the marshes, is really fantastic. The spectacle of so many wildebeest is awe inspiring, a treat to the senses, and one of lifeís experiences that make you just so glad to be alive is the best way I can describe it. If it keeps raining itíll only get even better and the signs today look good, as weíve already had 150mm this month.

This week we had a visiting film crew, from Germany who are making a series of short ten-minute television programs about European white storks, which are to be broadcast on German television. The documentary is to enlighten people to the conservation issues surrounding white storks, which depend on their well being in so many different countries. Scientists have fitted radio transmitters to a few of the storks to try to find out their exact migration route. While the crew were at Ndutu most of their storks were in the Sudan, one was in Yemen, one had flown straight through Tanzania to Botswana and one looked a little lost in Portugal. Most of the radio transmitters were fitted in the eastern part of Germany and are solar powered, apparently automatically releasing themselves after about two years. So if you ever happen to be passing through the Sudan and come across a strange looking object that may have looked like it fell off a stork I think thereís quite a substantial reward for its return. European white storks visit the Ndutu area during the rains, which coincides with the European winter, some are just passing through, heading to Southern Africa and others stay if the food supply is abundant. Last year we had an outbreak of armyworms on the plains, which attracted huge numbers of storks, one bird expert counted over sixteen thousand in one flock.

helmeted guinea fowl

Another bird we are seeing a lot at the moment is the helmeted guinea fowl - thousands of them are another sight, which is wonderful to see. Somebody saw a flock of guinea fowl chase off a cheetah from under the only shade tree on a plain recently. The sight of a large group of these noisy characters bearing down on him was just too much he ran, whilst they happily took up his position under the shade. On a recent journey out of the woodlands I came across a large gathering of ostrich. After a quick count I made it 92 but on my return noticed a group of chicks which I hadnít noticed the first time, so the total figure must have been well over a hundred. So itís not just the wildebeest that are in big numbers around Ndutu.

To sit around the campfire after an exciting day, with a quality single malt under the watchful eye of the bright unmistakable Planet Jupiter makes the most perfect day. Ndutu is just the place to relax, appreciate and treasure the beauty of the natural world before returning to the busy world outside.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

January 11,15,18,23

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Rain

DETAILS

23 Jan 2002

The wildebeest have no shortage of water at the moment, yesterday at the lodge we had over 2 inches of rain in 2 hours! The biggest herds are being seen South of the lodge on the Makau Road but all around there are scattered herds. About 300 hundred Zebra are grazing in the lodge grounds whilst I type, a herd of elephant have also just passed through so for the guests who did not want to out out for a drive this morning they have had a great time game-viewing from the comfort of the bar.

18 Jan 2002

Over the past 48 hours we have seen huge movements heading out towards the Triangle. Wildebeest and zebra and now all over the Ndutu area, down at the lake, in the woodlands, on the meadow, out on the plains, basically everywhere! We have been having a good downpour each day and the lodge water-holes are now full. This afternoon 30 or so elephants came to visit one of the replenished water holes and we all sat mesmerised by their antics- they spent a good 45 minutes drinking, wallowing and playing- it was a delight to watch.

15 Jan 2002

Over the past 4 days we have received just over 2 inches of rain so the wildebeest are continuing to arrive in vast numbers. From the lodge you can see large herds down by the lake and up on the meadow. To the South and Two trees there are still masses but also now the herds are moving out onto the triangle, which is North of the Lodge. One of the local lion prides has taken advantage of the situation, they brought down 4 wildebeest yesterday- I don't think they will be moving very far today!

11 Jan 2002

The Wildebeest are now here is their masses! The majority are out on the Makau Road which is South of the lodge and between the Marshes and Two Trees. Already a few calves are being born. We still need more rain but the game viewing at the moment is fantastic.

(These January updates were reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

January

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Rain

DETAILS

The wildebeest are now in the southern Serengeti in their masses! A few calves have already been born.

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Email Tim at mailto:TimClark@wildlifetravel.net.

       

 

 

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