Wednesday, July 28, 2021

It's the little things

Out here, we have a lot of time to appreciate the little things in life... a hot, indoor shower after 3.5 months of cold showers, the first post-supply trip breakfast with avocado toast, eggs, sausages, AND cheese, the first mile on a paved road after off-roading through the Maasai Mara for months at a time... After over a year out here, I can guarantee you that I will never take a hot shower for granted again.
After mainly focusing on the Big Five while my visitors were here, this week has been incredible for small predator sightings:
Does a hyena cub count as a small predator? Probably not, but I wanted to include this little guy anyways. After months of waiting, we're finally seeing black cubs at the communal dens again :) ROUG, from South, has two small cubs right now (COLR and PNCL) and LANC, from Happy Zebra, has one cub (LAVA). RUMG, from Happy Zebra, has also been spending a suspicious amount of time in/near the den hole, so I have been keeping a close eye on her in case a black head or two pops up out of the den. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a little baby boom: THLS and SAVY, both from Happy Zebra, and RANG, from South, could possibly have cubs as well. Both THLS and SAVY have been spending a lot of time at the den, groaning and pasting (scent-marking) throughout the obs sessions. We generally witness this type of behavior right before moms will bring their new cubs to the communal den. RANG showed up to the South communal den for the first time this year (that I’ve observed at least) last night with very prominent nipples, a good indicator that she may also be nursing right now.

*Full names: ROUG – Moulin Rouge; COLR – Lip Color; PNCL – Brow Pencil; LANC – Lance; LAVA – Laevatein; RUMG – Why is the Rum Gone; THLS – Toothless; SAVY – Savvy; RANG - Rangsang  

My visitors and I saw this serval pouncing around the grass in Happy Zebra territory earlier this week. We immediately stopped and turned off the car to quietly watch it successfully hunt a little mouse. Very fun!
This jackal was nice enough to carry a tired thomson’s gazelle around South territory yesterday morning. 
Another beautiful serval sighting in Happy Zebra territory this week – I tried to use my hyena IDing skills to see if this is the same serval as from above, but the spot patterns are different, so I’m assuming it’s another individual. Any serval experts out there?
Jackals have been providing a great taxi service out here lately – this one was carrying a coqui francolin around Happy Zebra territory over the weekend.
Banded mongooses often come through camp to forage on insects, so I’m always a little surprised when I see them with bigger prey.
Another successful mongoose from the same group as the one above.
Bonus: Puff Adder spotted on one of the main roads in Happy Zebra this morning – these are a lot cooler to see when they’re not hanging out right next to our toilet. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Fisi Visitors :)

Hi all,

Because we are working so far away from home for up to 12 months at a time, Kay encourages us to have family visit while we are here. Not only does this help them understand what our work is like, but it’s also a very welcome taste of home for us (often quite literally as they generally bring over some of our favorite snacks!). Plus, they often bring over supplies crucial to our research that we can’t get in Kenya. While here, they get to go out on obs with us, meet all of our hyenas, and experience the challenges (and rewards!) of work in a field station. For example, although the rainy season is technically over, I managed to find the only wet spot in all of Happy Zebra territory while my mother and her partner were visiting me last week and promptly got stuck! Not quite the experience I wanted to share with them, but now they know what the behind-the-scenes of hyena research looks like. A big thank-you to the kind rangers who helped us get the car free!

A visit to Fisi Camp involves lots of quality time with our cubs.

Of course, I still wanted to deliver on the Big Five (plus more), so here’s some of the incredible sightings I got to share with my visitors last week:

We got super lucky and saw this lion mating with another lioness.

Sunrise with these two beauties.

Probably the hardest of the Big Five to see, but luckily we had help from the rangers.

Buffalo seem to be doing really well this year - all the herds have lots of little calves.

The last of the Big Five - my mother's favorite, so we spent lots of time with elephants.

Not a part of the Big Five, but just as cool!

We watched this baby being born and taking its first steps.

The perfect resting spot for these birds.

Watching over his kingdom.

Elands are some of my favorite animals out here. Unfortunately, they are pretty shy.

Bad picture, great sighting.

Thomson's Gazelle.

The first wildebeest are beginning to move in :)

These cubs are growing up way too fast.

Lilac Breasted Roller during Golden Hour.

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science