Monday, March 7, 2011

Last full day in Talek(!)

What a morning.
Not a great start: got bitten a few times by the seyafu (sp?), ants that form these cool lines from location to location, but if you step in the line, they will swarm up your leg and bite you a lot. Fortunately I only got 2 or 3 bites, and they're painful, but brief- once you brush the ant off, the pain goes away. (There are apparently also the warrior ants, bigger with much larger mandibles, which are the same species but a different "caste" and whose bites are much worse).

However, as soon as we got out to West for obs, it was clear something was going down. The first 2 hyenas we saw were running together faster than we've seen any others run, and very steadily: they clearly had a destination in mind. As we followed those, more joined, slowing down but still clearly with a place to be. Suddenly, about 15 of them appeared, and all were clearly excited; their tails were up (called "bristle-tailing") and they were all loping rather quickly. We got to hear one give the "wooping" call (which they do while pointing their face at the ground; it looks bizarre).

Finally, we came around a bunch of bushes and saw what the fuss was about: 3 lions at a kill! Two females were gnawing away, as the hyenas circled around them; the male (not fully adult, but older than the one we had seen yesterday) was off to the side. They were beautiful in the rising sunlight. And watching the hyenas was fascinating; they were displaying all kinds of behaviors that Tracy and Brian did an impressive job of recording. And we heard all their different calls: "giggles," "groans," "squeals" are the ones I can remember.

Eventually the lions ran off, leaving the hyenas to grab whatever scraps of meat were left. Tracy once again expressed to Skeist and me how luck we have been this week, which we appreciate- see has only seen hyenas and lions face off like this 2 or 3 other times during her 8 months here, and she says this was the biggest such confrontation she has seen.

The afternoon was spent helping Brian and Tracy with doing the inventory of the storage tent while Skeist napped. Not too exciting, but I felt good about helping them, considering that I am being put up, fed, and driven around the Mara basically for free. (I am told that the cheapest safari tours cost at least $200/day).

In the evening, it looked like we might actually get some rain for the first time, and we were right: as we headed out to the Fig Tree clan area, dark storm clouds rolled in, making for a very interesting sunset. We headed back as the lightning and rain bore down on us. I had suggested at the beginning of obs that Tracy and I frolic in the rain; as it started to pour on the car, Brian reminded us of this promise. Fair enough: we headed into the truck bed. Brian predicted that we wouldn't last 5 minutes. If he hadn't said this, we definitely wouldn't have; it was windy, there was some hail in the rain, and it was extremely cold. But our competitive streaks could not let him win. After 6 painfully long minutes, we declared our victory. Shortly thereafter, the rain stopped, and Brian stopped the car; for a bit, we watch the rain clouds and the very frequent lightning bolts; eventually I took some pictures that came out quite well.

In the evening, we finally played "Bang!," a card game that is a favorite of mine and Tracy's ever since senior week, when we played it almost non-stop down in the Outer Banks.

Tomorrow: Serena camp, about 2 hours away in the Mara; it's another research camp for the same project, but with different hyena clans. We still have some inventory and other things to finish up, as we will only be briefly stopping by Talek camp again on the way to Nairobi on Monday.

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