June 7, 2009
A day at camp
After conducting 9 straight days of transects and behavioral observations (all of which are going great), I finally feel comfortable taking a break and have decided to spend the day at the lodge Ilkeliani. After sleeping in, I awoke to the sounds of birds and the rustling of the wind. I opened my tent to discover a pair of banded mongoose standing on the doormat. Both they and I seemed unsure of what to do next. I wanted to grab my camera, but knew they weren’t going to wait around for that. So I just watched as they tip-toed off to the river’s edge. After breakfast, I went to get something from my car, only to find a gorgeous green and yellow sunbird admiring himself in the side mirror. He fluttered back into a tree and I watched him get some nectar out of the nearby flowers. Later in the afternoon, I rested on the couch outside my tent, stretched out and enjoying the breeze. Just as I was starting to get engrossed in a good book, I looked up to find some swallows constructing a nest in the bars holding up the canvas above the tent. The bird looked to be building up some spit, so that he could moisten the mud nest that it was working on. Otherwise I have just been happy to enjoy the blue sky and rushing water as I work on some data entry.
At night everything changes in the Mara. The nocturnal animals awaken. In the dining hall, a genet cat might sneak in to look for scraps. The temperature drops, often the rains come, and the world becomes dark. With almost no ambient light, the stars and moon are always spectacular. As one shifts from the visual world to the auditory, you become aware of all the sounds of the Mara as well. Not a night has gone by at Ilkeliani, where I haven’t heard the cries of the hyena. More recently I have been able to hear the deep, rib-cage shaking roar of the lions. I always find my skin prickles as I imagine these massive cats wandering the plains and taking down the huge buffaloes. Sometimes I even hear the unusual call of the hippo, moving through Talek river right next to camp. Hippo’s skin is very sensitive to the sun, so they are often sequestered to the water during the day. It is only at night that they are able to feed tromping through the riverside vegetation for their evening meal of grass.