Report by Tyron Dall
It was a beautiful spring morning for birding. Chris Flannery and I had left Toti very early to do some stops en route to the meeting place. We managed to get Ruddy Turnstone at Ifafa Beach (a lifer for Chris), as well as some of the forest specials in Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve.
We arrived at the meeting place 15 minutes early, but birders are an eager bunch and we discovered we were one of the last cars to arrive. Andy Ruffle, the Oribi Vulture Project Coordinator and Chairman, was very impressed with the turnout of 20+ people. After Chris did all the registrations we headed in a convoy to the Vulture Colony.
As we arrived at the colony I don’t think people were expecting the marvel that we saw. There were Cape Vultures soaring above us and there were plenty just sitting on the ground staring at us from about 50m away. Some people were shocked and said they were only expecting to see a couple of vultures.
Andy Ruffle then proceeded to share his vast knowledge on the Vulture Colony and what an amazing conservation success story the site is. The colony consists of 200+ Cape Vultures and vultures from other colonies also visit. It is estimated that besides the 200+ vultures at the colony that an additional 800 vultures from other areas also visit the area. This means that the vulture restaurant could potentially be benefitting 1 in 8 Cape Vultures worldwide.
Then just as we thought we had had seen everything, a strange darkish raptor glided into view escorted by some very upset White-necked Ravens. A few of us scoped it out in our bins and I semi bewilderedly shouted Lappet Faced. Andy was so excited and the next thing of immediate importance was to get photos of it to confirm the sighting. Well I was so excited and by now the Lappet-faced Vulture was in the distance, but some of us did manage to get photos (Although most of mine came out blurred)
Andy explained that this was the 1st ever record of a Lappet-faced Vulture at the Oribi colony, so we were all thrilled to bits. And there is more good news, Andy just messaged me today to say they have recorded the Lappet-faced Vulture on the trail camera footage from this Thursday 3rd October, so hopefully it will be sticking around for a while.
Some of the other birds that were seen included White-necked Ravens, Alpine Swifts, Black-winged Lapwing and a Black-chested Snake Eagle.
Afterwards we headed to Leopard Rock Coffee Shop and enjoyed lunch while being entertained by some Crowned Hornbills and Mocking Cliff Chats. A big thank you goes out to Andy Ruffle for hosting us at this world class birding site. Thank you also to Chris Flannery for helping me on the day especially with the registrations, and to all those who attended and supplied me with photos. I can’t wait to go back again next year.