Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hunting day

Dear readers: assume that all days follow the schedule mentioned earlier. I will thus simply give hightlights of the day, and you can put them in to the framework I have given you.

This morning, we set out to find some hyenas using the radio collars that about 20 total (split between 3 different clans) are wearing. Basically, this consists of listening for repeating clicks/ beeps on the 70s- era radio (complete with car-top antennae), then circling around to try to locate the source. After about 30-45 minutes of driving around and being very confused as to why the signal we were following seemed to remain extremely strong throughout a large area, and didn't seem to change with direction, Steph realized that we had some radio collars IN the car, and sure enough, one of them was close enough in frequency that it was being picked up.
Near the end of morning obs, we had the great excitement to spot a cheetah. This was our first wild cheetah sighting; he was a beauty. For a while, he just laid in the grass, soaking up the sun, despite our entreaties to go kill something. Then, after we (i.e., Tracy) recorded some more hyena behaviors nearby, we returned to find that the cat had moved closer to one of the "roads" (dirt tracks), and was eying some nearby impala, who were also warily eying him. Eventually, 2 safari trucks showed up; we alternated between wildlife- and people-watching. Finally, the cheetah decided to go for the impala, sneaking up to within about 30 yards. The humans, about 20 total, were totally silent, transfixed and watching. Were we going to get a chase like we had only seen on PBS Nature? Sadly, no- the cat rushed the impala and they scattered, hissing; Tracy explained that predators often have "test chases" to see if there are any weak or injured amongst the group that might make for easy targets. Still, we were quite pleased, and drove back to camp for a late breakfast.
Afternoon hours were mostly spent driving to get gas to prepare for the coming gas shortage courtesy of the unrest in Libya; we also spent at least 30 minutes sitting in the living room of the mechanic Tracy and the others at the camp go to when they need help with the cars around here (he is apparently a lot more competent than the one in Nairobi, though unfortunately can't really order necessary parts out here). Apparently, the Cricket World Cup is going on now, so we watched the Kenya-Sri Lanka game as he explained the rules (I knew the rudimentary ones, but not the more esoteric ones).
Evening obs consisted mostly of hyenas; at the very end they did a bit of test-chase hunting as well, before we returned to camp.

I feel like I often want to reflect on my experiences here past a simple recounting of the things I have done and seen. But often, once I am done writing up said things, I am more than ready to go to sleep. I will say, if I had one more piece of equipment with me, I wish I had brought a really good microphone and recording equipment. The calls of the night time creatures, the sound of lions gnawing on zebra bones and flesh, then sound of elephants' feet through a field of long grass. These are actually some of the most amazing things I've experienced. I suppose memory will simply have to serve; I suspect that just as photographs rarely do the original scene justice, sound recordings would serve a poor substitute for the actual experience.

Tomorrow: obs as usual, then the Masai Market! I'm pretty excited about planned purchases: apparently the Masai people mostly wear rubber sandals made of recycled tires, that are apparently pretty comfortable. Also, the fabric they wear is always brightly colored and beautiful, and seems like it would make for some good gifts.

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