Report by Elena Russell.
16th and 17th July 2016
Jenny Norman and I drove down early on Saturday morning to Oribi Gorge. We met up with Sally, Paul and Mike White at the cane loading zone where we had arranged to meet Andy Ruffle to go on and view the vultures.
Although the morning was cold and a little overcast, the sun kept appearing and on those occasions we had 70 to 80 vultures soaring overhead and wheeling back to land on the cliff face.
There are nests with chicks and the whole experience is fantastic.
Outside the hide there are a number of carcasses in various stages of decomposition and the smell can be rather powerful!! It was mainly White-necked Ravens feasting on the carcasses.
The hide has been rebuilt after a fire destroyed the old one. It is very well made with brick and concrete roof. Inside is Andy’s abode. He even has cooking and bedding facilities.
There was a pair of Lanner Falcons, Rock Martins, Alpine Swifts etc flying around and by the hide we had Plain-backed and African Pipits.
Andy mentioned that on one occasion when visiting the hide a Black-rumped Buttonquail popped out of the head of a Zebra carcass presumably eating maggots inside the skull.
We then went on to Leopard Rock for coffee – the birding can be very good whilst sitting and drinking a good cup of coffee – and to name a few of the birds we saw there: Crowned Hornbill, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Pintailed Whydah (non-breeding plumage), Red-backed and Bronze Mannikin, Greater Double-collared Sunbirds.
If you want a viewing you need to book with Andy Ruffle as the site is on private property. Here are Andy’s contact details 072 893 3794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We then drove leisurely back to camp birding along the way: Grey Crowned Crane, Cape and Yellow-throated Longclaw, Grey Cuckooshrike and Jackal Buzzard. Red-backed Mannikin and African Firefinch became the trash birds of the weekend.
Back at camp Mike proceeded to cook us each a perfect mushroom omelette – how good can the weekend get?
But then it started to rain on Saturday night (I am seriously considering offering my services as a ‘rain maker’) and it was still raining early on Sunday morning.
We went down to the picnic area just in case any crazy birders pitched up for the Sunday Outing and along came Sandi, Roz and Prem. Along the road we had good views of Lemon and Tambourine Doves.
We then took a slow drive up to the bridge where we had heard Knysna Woodpecker a number of times on Saturday. As it was still raining and the birding was abysmal we headed back to camp for coffee. On the way down we met up with Sally, Paul and Mike and it was decided to go on to Leopard Rock for breakfast.
Sally and Paul had to leave but the rest of us had a superb English Breakfast – we sat inside as there was a thick mist in the gorge but every now and again the mist would partially lift and strange and fantastic views of the gorge would appear.
Some views of Oribi Camp and the Gorge itself:
By 9h00 the rain stopped and we took a slow drive back to Oribi Gorge and on the way the flying ants were coming out and the birding took off!! Fan-tailed Widowbirds, Village, Cape and Yellow weavers, Croaking Cisticola and masses of Rock Martins all hawking from the edge of a cane field.
An obliging Knysna Turaco made an appearance near the bridge at the bottom of the Gorge.
We stopped a number of times and one spot near the farm dam was exceptionally good – Lesser Honeyguide, Dusky Flycatcher, Black-collared Barbet, Fork-tailed and Square-tailed Drongos, Little Bee-eaters and much much more.
There is a rather nice dam at the entrance to the camp and we saw a pair of African Black Ducks, Egyptian and Spurwing Geese, Common Moorhen, Yellow-billed Duck and Reed Cormorant.
A Chorister Robin was fossicking around by the swimming pool on our return to camp. We had a good bird party going through the camp with Grey and Black Cuckooshrikes, Cardinal Woodpecker, Black, Dusky and Paradise Flycatchers as well as the Drongos!
On Monday morning we took another drive through the gorge and had gorgeous views of the Olive Woodpecker! And added a few more birds to the list so our total bird count for the weekend was 120.
A new one for the Oribi list was African Hoopoe which we saw twice.
One bird which maybe we were not so pleased to see was the Common Starling!