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Happy Reunion

By Corinne Kendall
December 20, 2011
File under: Birds, Conservation, Research, Wildlife

For the past three years, I have been adamant that it would be impossible to re-trap a tagged vulture. The birds simply go too far – spending much of the year outside of the Mara in areas where I can’t trap – too quickly and are thus difficult to locate even when a backpack is sending you their location. Today I proved myself wrong.

Lillian is a young Lappet-faced vulture that I trapped in April of 2010. She currently has the longest working GSM-GPS unit and has been reliably sending her location four times a day for the last 16 months, giving me an incredible amount of data. Lillian has become something of a favorite as I have also resighted her more times than nearly any other bird.

After the initial trapping, we relocated her on a nest and were able to see her several times during those first few months when she was returning to her little home atop a small Gardenia tree each evening. Then in June I respotted her during some surveys in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania and starting a few weeks ago I had been seeing her every few days in the Mara. …read more of Happy Reunion here

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Wild Tsavo

By Corinne Kendall
December 12, 2011
File under: Animal Protection, Conservation, Healthy Habitat, Natural Resources, Wildlife

Based on our movement work, we know that vultures from the Mara spend about five percent of their time in the two Tsavo National Parks. For this reason, I decided that it might be worth exploring the area one more time to get a feel for this unique ecosystem during the dry season as well.

If the Mara is the land of plenty, then Tsavo is the world of giants. Huge red-dusted elephants walk silently upon the dry earth and dig incredible holes in their constant search for water. Beautiful baobabs are scattered around, their fuzzy fruits littering the ground as their impressive trunks and finger-like branches cover the landscape.

Hyraxes can be seen in the many rocky outcroppings and we were lucky to find one climbing a small branch reaching hopefully for some tiny green berries. Pale chanting goshawks were the bird of plenty here though we saw only a handful of vultures.

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Two Units in the Hand

By Corinne Kendall
November 30, 2011
File under: Animal Stories, Birds, Research, Wildlife

When something miraculous happens you don’t really expect it to happen again, so when we found another bird with a backpack that had given up the ghost I didn’t really think we could trap it. In fact it seemed fool-harden to even try, but the Ruppell’s vulture in question was already panting from its fights at the carcass and was very very full.

The backpack in question had also slipped into a rather uncomfortable position and so I felt anxious to trap the bird not just to release it from the weight, but also from the discomfort of the unit. Plus catching it would mean one more unit that could be refurbished and thus a bit more information that we could gain about these amazing birds.

So with no further adieu we were off and chasing the bird. …read more of Two Units in the Hand here

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A Birth at a Carcass

By Corinne Kendall
September 28, 2011
File under: Animal Stories, Survival Stories, Wildlife

I was admiring the usual hoopla of twenty vultures grappling for a small kill when a few of the Marabou storks wandered behind the vehicle. They seemed to have found something more interesting than the meat in front of them and I turned around to see what they were up to.

A small black lump sat on the ground about 100 meters behind us and the Marabous rushed it in their usual excitement to have found a new food source. But their joy was short lived as an angry Thompson gazelle mother, tail still raised from the pain of having just given birth, came rushing at the much larger birds.

Tiny horns pointed forward she chased the birds away from her very new calf. As the Marabou storks scattered, a Lappet-faced vulture landed to see what the commotion was about. It too was chased off within moments. Predators evaded, the mother now stood licking her newborn, pushing it to stand as she cleaned it of the afterbirth.

The calf seemed tired but alert and tried straightening its little legs in a hapless effort to get up. It took nearly forty minutes, but the calf finally found the strength, motivated it seemed by the swollen teats of its mother that hung just behind its reach, and stood wobbly for the first time. It latched on and suckled as its mother continued her cleansing.


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A Pile of Vultures

By Corinne Kendall
September 21, 2011
File under: Animal Behavior, Animal Stories, Wildlife

It isn’t often that you get to watch a carcass from start to finish, but I got lucky. We came upon a single lioness finishing off a fresh wildebeest kill.

On her own, she was only able to consume perhaps a quarter of the carcass and with vultures, hyenas, and jackals gathering around the lion was beginning to feel the pressure.  So she left. Two hyenas moved in first feeding for a half hour they ate the bulk of the carcass with the occasional jackal or vulture rushing in to steal a soft piece of organs. …read more of A Pile of Vultures here

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In The Tree

By Corinne Kendall
September 19, 2011
File under: Animal Behavior, Animal Stories, Endangered Species

Carcasses can be found almost everywhere. Over the course of the migration, thousands will be found in the river. Lions and hyenas often enjoy dragging their kills into the darkest recesses of the bush but more often then not, carcasses are lying out in the open plains just waiting for the vultures to find them.

On rare occasions, dead animals can get dragged into trees. In my first year, I had the pleasure of watching two White-headed vultures feed on a treed Thompson gazelle carcass before being pushed off by some tourists who seemed more interested in the carcass than the birds. …read more of In The Tree here

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Hot Air Safari

By Corinne Kendall
September 13, 2011
File under: Animal Sightings, Conservation

A balloon ride seems like a quintessential part of the Mara experience, yet I have never taken the time to experience it. Every morning I watch 10 to 20 balloons take off and soar above the Mara like a chain of Christmas lights they flicker on and off as the burners lift them higher into the sky.

Today I finally got a chance to see what it is all about. Ballooning makes for an early start and I was up and excited at 5:30 AM. After a quick drive in the park I found myself standing next to a turned over basket and a huge green and yellow balloon slowly being inflated with a small fan. I’d seen this done before – a sideways take-off – but I wasn’t really sure how it would work. …read more of Hot Air Safari here

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Banded Attack

By Corinne Kendall
September 9, 2011
File under: Animal Behavior, Animal Stories, Wildlife

Carcasses are interesting because you never quite know who will show up. This morning I found a nearly finished carcass with a few jackals gnawing away at the bones and some vultures waiting nearby. The jackals looked full and I knew that soon it would be the vultures turn to eat.

In the distance (and seemingly unrelated) were a small group of banded mongoose. The loose knit group of mongoose were wandering and foraging as one often sees them doing and appeared to be unaware of the birds just ahead of them. …read more of Banded Attack here

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Snake in the Grass

By Corinne Kendall
August 23, 2011
File under: Animal Sightings, Birds, Wildlife

Marabou holding three foot snake

As I watched the squabbling vultures at a nearly finished wildebeest carcass, I noticed a Marabou stork behaving strangely. It jerked from side to side and leaned close to the ground as if about to pick something up, only to jump back again wings spread. I focused my binoculars on the bird to get a pick at what was happening.

Lying in front of the cunning Marabou lay a long slim green snake, head raised in attack as the bird reached for it again. The snake lunged but the Marabou still got in a nice bite to the back and easily avoided the fangs. Again and again the snake lunged and the Marabou ducked until finally the Marabou grabbed the snake by the head. …read more of Snake in the Grass here

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By Corinne Kendall
August 17, 2011
File under: Conservation, Endangered Species, Wildlife

The focus in the Mara is generally on the carnivores (and in my case the vultures), but there are so many other fascinating little creatures to behold in this amazing savannah. Banded and dwarf mongoose are common and I often stop to watch the antics of these social little creatures.

Most recently I even saw a small group of banded mongoose at the crossing, darting among the vultures and Marabou storks in search of some wildebeest meat. Then while over in Musiara marsh I had some great views of this dwarf mongoose. The tiny creature wandered around in search of its small insect prey only to find a nice hollow tree to scavenge through. …read more of Anecdotes here

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