Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A Day in the Life

Hi all!

As I’m getting more settled in the Mara, I thought I’d share what a “typical” day in Fisi camp looks like. In reality, there are no typical days out here, since we never know what the Mara will throw our way – just two days ago, Lila and I were super pumped to go to Happy Zebra (we have seen a couple of new black cubs at our den and really want to confirm nursing to find out who the mother is!), but we ended up getting stuck in a massive hole with our LandCruiser instead and spent two hours collecting rocks, digging up dirt, and calling all of our friends to ask for help getting us out of there. Big shout-out to Geemi, Lerjin, and his crew for getting us back on track! Car problems aside, a typical day usually looks something like this:

0515 – My first alarm goes off, forcing me to get out of my cozy bed and start bundling up for a cold morning with the hyenas. Lila and I meet at the lab tent to make coffee/hot tea, check the weather, and get all of our equipment for morning obs (short for observations).

0530 – We leave camp and directly head to a communal den for the first half of obs. We never know what we will stumble upon as we drive up to the den – sometimes we have a couple of cubs snoozing and slowly waking up when we first arrive, and sometimes we’ll pull up to quite a party abound with cubs, mothers, and even a random male or subadult here and there. Throughout the session, we look for specific behaviors (mainly aggressions and appeasements, but also other affiliative behaviors) and record how far away everybody is from the den at certain time intervals.

0700 – A lot of action happens at communal dens at dawn and dusk, but it usually slows down by 0700. We start driving around the territory to look for other hyenas and predators. This is easier said than done – the grass in the Mara Triangle Conservancy is as tall, and sometimes even taller, than the hood of our car (reminder: we drive a literal boat, so the hood of our car is pretty high). There have been countless times where Lila and I have stopped because we mistook a rock/branch/termite mound for a hyena. It once took me several minutes to confirm that the black-backed jackal head I saw moving in the distance was actually just a bird sitting on a branch.

0830 – We return to camp, unload the car, and process any samples we collected (we collect poop and saliva samples for the graduate students back at MSU).

0900-0930 – Time for breakfast! Our guys love to spoil us when it comes to food. Before I came out here, I was a little worried that I would be eating rice and beans for every meal, but the food is honestly amazing. We usually have avocado toast, bacon, cheese, and eggs (until we run out of bacon and cheese and eagerly await the next Nairobi trip). Philimon, Moses, and Stephen will also treat us to breakfast burritos, pancakes, and French toast whenever we want.

0930-1230 – We usually spend the rest of the morning working – writing up our transcriptions, identifying any hyenas we didn’t recognize while we were out in the field, sending emails, and getting camp organized. While we’re out with the hyenas, we use DVRs to record our observations, which gives us an opportunity to relive the morning through random tidbits of conversation and action that our DVRs unknowingly picked up. My favorite recording ends with a tourist excitedly shouting “I love you, my little noodles!” at our hyenas before driving off.

1230-1400 – Fisi fitness! If you’ve read Erin’s blog post about fisi fitness from earlier this year, you know that we are professional sitters and don’t have access to a gym, so working out always requires a little bit of innovation. My usual workouts consist of running, running, and more running (and lots of walking in between), but I’ve also tried to use heavy rocks as weights (this did not go well), started a daily push-up challenge (Erin and I made it to Day 3 before abandoning ship), and HIIT circuits (it’s way too hot for those).

1401-1402 – At this time, I like to partake in a new daily challenge I like to call “try to take a cold shower as quickly as possible.” To be completely honest, my primary reason for working out is to get hot and sweaty enough to turn our shower into something “refreshing” and “fun”, rather than “cold” and “even colder.”

1402-1600 – We usually have a bit of free time in the afternoon, allowing us to read books, watch movies, chat with friends, clean our tent, etc. I’ve been reading lots of books lately, so feel free to send suggestions!

1600-1630 – Dinner time – if you’re scrolling back to the top to see if you forgot to read the section about lunch, I want to reassure you that you did not. We only eat two meals a day, which my body actually adjusted to quite quickly. Once again, Philimon and co. spoil us with lentil burgers, roasted vegetables, chapati (so good!), pizza, samosas, pasta, curry, etc….

1630-1700 – We start getting ready for evening obs.

1700-2000 – We leave camp once again to study our hyenas. In the evenings, we drive around our territories for the first half, and then spend the second half at the den. This gives us another chance to appreciate the Mara and all of its glory – while driving around our territories, we’ve seen a leopard with a fresh kill, three tiny lion cubs with their mother, countless elephants, and so much more!

2000 – We usually try to be in our tents by 2000, since we have a lot of wildlife coming through our camp at night (and because my current bedtime is anywhere between 2030 and 2100). Throughout the night, I often wake up to the sounds of our hyenas visiting us in camp, buffaloes and giraffes wandering by, and hippos screaming for no apparent reason (I thought I heard a hippo dying one night, but Erin reassured me that “they just sound like that sometimes”).

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more fisi fun next month 😊

For your viewing pleasure: 

RPSD investigating our car when we got stuck in the big hole - 4 other cubs came and hung out with us while we waited for help to arrive :)

Cuddle puddle!

Golden hour

1 comment:

Jogi P said...

Cool Images & insightful post

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science