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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
The Mara
Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project    Share

I’ve reached the point where I really know the Mara. Everyday we drive through different areas and I look for the elephant herd with the little calf or the warthog family with the six piglets that have somehow made it through the last two months. Each geographical entity – each river crossing, fig tree, and termite mound – has significance – that was where I saw the cheetah kill a few weeks ago or there is the tree where I trapped my first Lappet-faced vulture (I couldn’t stop smiling as I held the soft, feathery beast). I know all the landmarks and the hiding places of each little herd or creature.

As we drive I look ahead, able to guess what we will see next as we round each bend. I know which dirt mound is likely to have a topi standing on it. These strange patchwork antelope with their twisted horns really seem to enjoy moving to higher ground for a better view. Then we pass the tree with the African white-backed vulture nest and I dutifully check for the bird – one of the first to start nesting this year, she has been on the nest each time we pass. Then I look carefully in the branches below the towering pile of sticks that make up the vulture nest for the Verraux’s Eagle Owl – a beautiful tufted ear bird with pink eyelids. Not their today, but perhaps this afternoon they will return. We drive through the smelliest river crossing and I listen for that unusual and enchanting sound – the murmur of slumbering hippos. I recount the time we saw the hippos mating here last year and Wilson nods in acknowledgement. As we continue onward I search for the group of tourist vehicles that will indicate that the cheetah boys are still near the hill. And on our drive home, I look in the concrete tubes that line an unfinished drainage area to the side of the road. “Is she there today?” I ask and Wilson slows so we can look through the tubes, like the lens of a camera, for the injured lioness. She seems to enjoy the shade and safety of these areas as her pride abandons her, with her wounded foot she isn’t able to keep up. “There she is,” Wilson motions and like the lion in the MGM symbol before a movie, the head pops up framed in the round cement tube.

Mara unknownSometimes I think I know what to expect, but nature has a way of tricking you and offering new discoveries. What I thought was another tunnel-web spider hole turned out to the domain of some large cricket-like insect. As I fished inside the hole with a blade of grass the strong mandibles clamped down on the green instrument and pulled. The force surprised me as did the dark mass that began to emerge. At first I almost worried that it was a snake, but then I could just make out the antennae. The little creature came out just past its first set of legs - enough for me to see and be amazed, but not enough for any identification. Perhaps there are still things to be learned about the Mara afterall.

Find more articles about Lappet-faced Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Africa

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