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Joining the Migration

One of the many wildebeest herds I encountered in the Mara Triangle

Setting up the cameras is in full swing now for the second season in Kenya’s Maasai Mara! I have just returned from three nights camping in the Mara Triangle at the Fisi (hyaena) camp and the wildebeest migration is definitely underway with thousands of wildebeest making their way north. With this being my third year (second on this project) splitting my time between the UK and Kenya and my sixth year not staying in one place for much more than 6 months I am starting to feel a bit like a wildebeest; always on the move never staying in one place to long before going looking for the next meal, though thankfully I don't have to wade through any crocodile infested rivers. The other big difference between last year and this year is the grass! By the time I started last year the dry season had been going for a while, so the grass had mostly died back. This year it is a different story. In the Triangle we were slowed down a lot by the height of the grass often having to have someone walk in front of the car to check for rocks and holes in grass that in some places was as tall as me.

Last year during set up in the Triangle we had a couple of close encounters with buffalo, this year the main organism of concern were a little smaller… TICKS! With the long grass and the wildebeest they seemed to be a lot more common than usual and at one stage I must have walked through a cluster of them just before getting back to camp which, upon discovering, resulted in a very speedy self-strip search! Whilst there isn’t lyme disease out here ticks can still transmit tick-bite fever which is caused by a bacterial infection so, whilst it is treatable, is something I am very keen to avoid. The other insect that is a side effect of the migration and was driving me nuts in a few locations was tsetse flies, they also have a nasty bite that can cause you to be very ill. They can transmit trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, which when you're not a morning person to start with does not sound like it would be conducive to keeping a grid of 200+ camera traps running (it is also a pretty serious)!

Kate joined me in Kenya in July to meet with our new collaborator from the Maasai Mara University, Paul Webala, and the managers from the conservancies that we are already working in. It was a hectic week going from meeting to meeting some of which went on until 9pm and by the end of it both of us were in the need for a break. So on our return to Nairobi we decided to find a swimming pool to work at for the afternoon before Kate flew out as we were between accommodation and thought it would be nicer than sitting in a café. The hotel we found was Ole Sereni whose swimming pool looks out over Nariobi National Park. We could see zebra and the occasional ostrich but the main distraction was the bird life. We spent the afternoon there with buzzards and black kites putting on a aerial displays overhead whilst enjoying the swimming pool, and even still managed to get the annual report finished! I often find that I am more productive working somewhere outdoors than sitting in an office, it is one of the reasons that I made a few purchases whilst back in Nairobi so that I could set up an outdoor office on the veranda of my tent. I can sit there and fill out expense claims whilst watching mongoose wander around camp and all sorts of wildlife coming and going from the river. It I fast becoming one of my favourite places to work.

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