students collecting acacia data
David and chameleon
Everyone present and accounted for…
We are in the midst of our last full day here at Mpala. Students are working on the write-ups for the final research projects, hoping to get done in time for us to go out and play in the field for the afternoon.
We had a spectacular event a dusk last night when one of the student teams ran across a small pride of lions while working on their bird survey final project. They put the word out via radio, and all of our vehicles quickly converged on that waterhole. Everybody on the course then watched two female and one male lion for about an hour, until the light dimmed and we went back to camp for dinner (which, by the way, was camel stew!). Most everyone then saw the lions again after dark when we went out spotlighting. This whole episode was particularly special given that we had all more-or-less given up hope on finding lions on this trip — and because the students have been working really hard on their academic work and deserved something special.
After a morning of intense field work on Wednesday in order to collect data for final projects, we jumped into the Land Rovers to head to the northern reaches of Mpala. The class had not yet explored this section of the research ranch which features a number of different, drier ecosystems. Lions are still missing from the course list, so we spent a good bit of effort looking for big cats. We stopped at a cattle boma near Mt. Mukenya and discovered that lions had been seen the previous night. We even had a chance to look at the big cat tracks, but alas, no lions were seen. We were treated to amazing looks at kingfishers and rollers (birds) along the river at the northern edge of the ranch. Several students saw gerenuk (an odd, long-legged antelope) for the first time. Wild dogs appear to be doing well at Mpala and numerous packs (with puppies!) are accustomed to vehicles, providing excellent views. The students are back at work on their final projects now, with more field work planned for this afternoon if the unexpected January rains stop falling.
Wild dog packs, a rarity in much of Africa, are large and healthy at Mpala. We are fortunate to see wild dogs nearly every day.
This cheetah thrilled the lucky students who caught a glimpse on a night drive.
We ran into this massive bull elephant on the drive Wednesday.