By Will Knocker:
Story & pics by WILL KNOCKER:
On wednesday this week, Ed & Jeremy Hildebrand & I spent all day in the Park in superb weather & saw the best that the constantly surprising NNP has to offer….. first, these rhinos, note the bull on the right marking his territory with a horizontal blast of pee…
Early morning along the Empakasi was like a Vision of Eden…..
Then we came across this nursey herd of eland (calves suckle from any lactating female they find, an adaption to the nomadic way of life of these antelopes, who are constantly on the move.) NNP contains one of the most significant herds of eland in Kenya & the population is rising…
We definitely had a rhino day: we saw several unusual herds of Black (Browse) rhinos at close quarters….
We stopped for coffee at the Athi Dam, where zebra were watering & this kongoni posed for us. The kongoni population in NNP is exploding, bucking the trend in the rest of Kenya, where this sp. is in steep decline..
A spiral of large raptors brought us to this dramatic site: a kill…..
Ant the perpetrator, a stuffed lioness….
A pair of jackals tried to drive off the estimated 80 vultures gathered for the feast: an eland….but were ignored…..
But all soon moved off at the ‘owner’ returned to protect her kill….
There was masses of ’plains game’ in the Athi Basin & on the top plains, where we found these zebra twins….
The Rains have not been good so far & so most biomass is in the park owing to overgrazing in the rangelands where they usually go at this time of year. The return of both Gran’ts & Thomson’s gazelles to the Park after many years of a ‘long grass’ regime is heartening. But where are the cheetah?
Ostriches under a big blue sky….
Proved to be a group with an adolescent chick: the last survivor (there is very heavy mortality amongst young ostriches…)
Then clever Ed spotted no less than six Black backed jackals: a pair of adults & four grown up cubs: great news for these little canids, which are not common in NNP…..
A bull Grass (White) rhino…..was this the individual translocated from the Mara after all his companions were killed?
As usual the Park was A1 for birds……this is a Superb starling, though we also saw the aptly named Hildebrandt’s……
And yet another bull rhino……
This was all BEFORE lunch, when we returned to Silole Cottage, where these piggies were enjoying a cooling wallow.
In the afternoon, yet more (Browse) rhinos…..
And in the Langata forest, Jeremy spotted this pair of magnificent Bateleurs, the only pair in the Park!!
And on our way home, in the distance, a new baby rhino…we couldn’t make out which type….
What a day! What a Park!
By Will Knocker:
After months of greenery & long grass, the Park has turned tawny & the migratory herds are back: eland do not go far: across the Empakasi into the Sheep & Goat land. This is one of Kenya’s significant populations..
The NNP kongoni (Coke’s hartebeest) population is a conundrum: it used to consist of 2 populations, resident & migratory. As the migratory population has been confined to the Park (the remaining dispersal area is short grass plain-unsuitable for this sp. which is adapted to long grass areas) the population has shot up, in spite of record numbers of lions, for whom kongoni are a favourite prey sp. …
The Plains zebra are back! In a year of good rain such as this, our population of up to 4000 roam as far as they can in the remaining dispersal areas. However it seems that even these remarkably adaptive creatures, able to deal with the suburban conditions (fences, people, dogs) outside the park have had to overcome their fears about lions & have come back in small family groups & some bigger migratory mobs consisting of hundreds of animals…the lions will be happy!
Up until the turn of the century, such sights would have included thousands of wildebeeste, but alas the last few hundred like the short grass plain of the Sheep & Goat land & only venture into the park if pressed by drought conditions….
NNP remains the last pristine corner of the Athi Kapiti Ecosystem, now a truncated shadow of what it once was. It is so encouraging to see the herds of migratory species come back to the park safe & sound after the Rains…..
Images by Will Knocker:
I am finally back online after numerous setbacks, including kids melting down computer settings, including for this blog, over Xmas. Please excuse abscence!!
A herd of buffalo chewing the cud in the rapidly drying NNP
Kori bustards are doing well in NNP….
Cape chestnut in flower in the Langata forest after excellent short rains
Greenvein charaxes (Charaxes candiope) feeding on carnivore faeces
Many eland are back in the Park, having spent the rainy season in the Athi Basin & Sheep & Goat Land
An old veteran, blind in one eye & deaf…I’m surprised the 40 odd lions in the Park have not eaten him yet…
White bellied go away bird: a species of the dry bush: are they getting more common in NNP (ie is it becoming drier?)
This is the third post on the same theme: new young in NNP. Nothing is as heartening as to observe new forms of life, in whichever ecosystem……
NNP contains one of the largest populations of eland in Kenya.
Young eland show an intense attraction for each other & form nursery herds after the initial lying up period soon after they are born, when they hide. Very rich milk ensures rapid growth & young eland appear to suckle from any lactating female at this stage…
They are very vulnerable now & mortality is high (eg from the feral dog packs at Athi River…..)
Lactating cow on the alert: eland have great sight & hearing & are usually very hard to approach.
As with most sp. in NNP, they have become habituated to vehicles..
Eland used to migrate out of the Park & they still go ‘out’ to the Sheep & Goat Land, but there is too much human activity in the remaining dispersal area & so they now stay in the Park throughout the year. I think one can expect their numbers to go up (count the numbers of calves in these pictures…) as has been the case with Hartebeest, in steep decline elsewhere owing to competition with livestock (lack of habitat.)
Sometimes suckling can be TOO much of a good thing…..
Another (different) herd in the Eland Hollow valley……this sp. is doing WELL in NNP!
By WILL KNOCKER (who has a new camera):
In NNP we’ve had 100 mm (4 inches) of rain in the last couple of weeks & the Park is looking beautiful…….as usual, at the first sign of rain the grazers head straight out of the park…..
Below, landscape & sky…..
The last ‘corridor’ remaining out of the Park is in the east of the Park in the glorious Athi Basin, where wildlife is now concentrated. (I shall post on the crossing shortly.)
My favourites-eland (which means moose in Dutch!!) with abundant young.
Zebra, kongoni & eland, as well as the gazelle sp. drop their young beginning December….
There are plenty of giraffe in NNP- 68 in the February count -definitely a MINIMUM number…
A solitary gnu in the park, Athi Basin in the background…
And gnu calves & cows on the Sheep & Goat land just outside (but contiguous with) the park. Notice what is behind -to the south -the daily expanding township of Kitengela…..
Buffalo at the Athi Dam, (247 counted in Feb Game Count.) I’m sure there are many more than this……
An Athi River mammal eater with his friends (White faced whistling duck)
NNP surely remains one of the best places in the wild to view Browse rhinos: here are 6 of them in the Athi Basin.
Images Courtesy of SQUEAKS VAUGHAN & BRUCE SMITH:
The beautiful & important Athi Basin (where wildlife comes in & out of the park) is sadly currently a hunting ground for feral dogs from the nearby townships of Kitengela & Athi River….
The bitch above (who obviously has pups somewhere nearby) was nuzzling at some old bones (she was starving!) just yards away from a hidden, recently born impala calf.
Antelopes which hide their newborn young include eland, the 2 sp. of gazelle & impala & all these are threatened by feral dogs, of which we have seen packs of up to 12 individuals in the Athi Basin.
If the many predators in the area are unable to deal with these ecological pests which threaten this year’s generation of young, are KWS not able to shoot them?
And what will happen when the last few wildebeest in NNP drop their calves in March?