Thursday, November 12, 2015

With The Rain Came...

     Throughout the past two months we’ve been hearing rumors and talk of threatening, impending weather heading our way. Here in Talek camp, it has inevitably arrived. From scattered showers to now daily downpours, we’ve been wet, muddy, and stuck in camp more often than not. Thus far in November we’ve experienced well over 100mm of rain… and we’re only halfway through the month! The storms, rain, and wetness have brought much to do, see, and learn…
Lone Tree Plain has been the ideal spot for watching systems develop... 
     The night of 02 November, Talek camp was shaken by the scare of a flood. With the looming fear of a repetition of the ‘Great Flood of 2015’ that happened in June, we’d been preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. As the rain continued throughout the day the guys and I had been wary of the water level of the Talek River. As camp is situated right along the body of water, the steadily rising levels led us to take action early. With newly created flood protocols, we evacuated the kitchen tent and began saving valuable research supplies and data from the lab tent immediately. We sought refuge at the highest point in camp along our firebreak, also the furthest from the river. With the kitchen and lab tent valuables safe and dry, and maybe a little too hopped up on coffee, the guys and I continuously checked the river throughout the night. For several hours the water crept closer and closer to the kitchen, reaching within 2m, but by this point our early action paid off. Eventually we began to see the water recede and could relax a tad, knowing that at least for the night, a flood was not in store for us. The next morning we decided it best to put up a new tent while the stormy weather continues to threaten. Learning valuable lessons in kisou (knife) maneuvering, I helped the guys put up this new haven and our temporary kitchen was born.
Situated safely on the highest ground of camp, our temporary kitchen has stayed dry and proven reliable. 
     Whilst the weather has trapped us in camp a bit, when we have made it out to the territory the products of heavy rain have made themselves quite apparent, and enjoyably so! The rain has transformed the dry, dead plains into lush, green oases that have invited the return of many animal species and the sighting of moisture-loving flora as well. 
With the heavy rain, this small white flower (Cycinium tubulosum) can now be seen all over our territory. From a distance, it appears as if tissue paper has been dropped here and there, giving it the common name of Waste Paper flower, or as we call it here in Talek, Takataka flower, meaning 'trash' flower in Swahili. Despite its name, it has become quite abundant and we've commonly spotted baboons munching away and grabbing a handful with each step as their troop roams around.
On Halloween morning we managed to make it out of camp. It was the first time I'd seen fog here in the Mara and it was easily the thickest fog I've witnessed. As the sun rose we noticed these beautiful lilies scattered around! Educating me as always, Benson informed me that the Pyjama lily (Crinum kirkii) emerges and blossoms following heavy rains.
A moisture-loving plant indeed, the lily made for a glorious Halloween sighting. 
     Since my arrival in June, the ponds and luggas have never been so full of water, a transition eagerly welcomed by the resident species. The wildebeests had been absent from the Talek area for a while, but the rain has seemed to draw them back in hoards. Likewise, zebras, gazelles, and giraffes have been roaming around in higher abundance than usual. Lately, we’ve been spotting more juveniles of many species as well. Baby black-backed jackals, zebra, warthogs, and topi have been found all over the place! 
This black-backed jackal pup was enjoying a drink of water before we spotted him.
This young zebra and the rest of her herd were seen drinking from newly formed watering holes. 
Warthogs tend to be extremely wary and dart away (tail always raised!) almost immediately with an approaching vehicle.
To our surprise, this mother and her nursing young remained still long enough to snap this photo. 
We spotted this juvenile topi grazing with her mother in a lush plain following some heavy rain.
Notice the takataka flowers! They most definitely resemble bits of trash, wouldn't you say?
      The rain has also enhanced the breadth of my Swahili, forcing me to learn terms related to the recent weather. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the addition of the following to my vocabulary: mvua (rain), majimaji (wet), mawingu (clouds), matope (mud), upesi! (quick!), dhoruba (storm), ka-kauka (to get dry), ku-kwama (to get stuck), and masika (flood). While I am nowhere close to fluency, learning these words from the guys has seemed more than fitting these last few weeks. Despite the very real possibility of a flooded camp, spirits have remained high and optimism persists throughout camp, bringing us all closer than ever in our efforts to stay safe and dry. 
From Paul's Tree, the green horizons have been irresistibly eye-catching, a more than appropriate reason to pause observations for a bit to gaze and gawk...
     On a side-note, have you ever wondered what rain sounds like underneath a tarp? Sprinkles sounds like heavy rainfall, so just imagine what a downpour sounds like! The raindrops are amplified, so belting my favorite tunes at the top of my lungs has never been so enjoyable. From everyone in Talek camp, thanks for reading and continuing to get glimpses into our lives here in the Mara. 


Anonymous said...

Glad you didn't get a repeat of the last flood. It's nice to see some photos of the greenery.

dee said...

I am very glad you guys are so well prepared. These are the short rains. I hate to think what might happen during next year's long rains. Stay safe.

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