Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Trogons Outing Report - Oribi Gorge & Vulture Hide, 24 April 2016

Attendees: Sandy Olver, Andrew Pickles, Michelle Pearson, Clive & Margie Cowan, Graham & Sue Salthouse, Doug & Angie Butcher, Irma Smook, Margaret Jones, Hazel Nevin,, Stan & Val Culley, Andrew Maree, Barrie Willis, Sue Hansbury and Cameron Den, Alastair Warman, Robin Eccles, Tim & Heather Thompson, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen (24)
(Text: Hazel van Rooyen)
Bird count:: 54  (see end)

Knysna Woodpecker (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Sunday 24 April was a day we were all looking forward to as we were going to one of our favourite places, Oribi Gorge, and also paying a visit to the Vulture Hide.  Starting at the hutted camp, an excellent number of 24 people turned up and eagerly made their way to the grasslands leading to a view down into the gorge.  It was still a bit early for birds (and the campers who were emerging bleary-eyed from their huts for coffee on their patios and wondering where all these senior citizen’s had materialised from, jaunting passed their huts at the crack of dawn). 
The front-runners disturbed a Yellow-throated Longclaw which flapped and glided off over the grass-tops in surprise and surveyed us from a dead tree.  The group split into two, some took the high road and some took the low road – we didn’t make it to Scotland but we did all meet up at the gorge.  Here we spent a while examining the gorge and surrounds, spotting a Little Sparrowhawk, Black-headed Oriole, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, African Dusky Flycatcher.  A flock of Trumpeter Hornbills landed in a few dead Lombardy Poplar trees, calling out like babies - as they do.  A pair of Olive Pigeons were also spotted.  Completing the loop we passed the edge of the forest where Sombre Greenbulls were calling, “Willie Willie”.  Moving back up the entrance road we knew there was a dam at the top but couldn’t see it for long grass.  It was almost surrounded by an electric fence but we squeezed through a gap successfully.  Andrew Pickles unintentionally tested the fence to see if it was live and getting a bit of a shock, concluded that it was!  Could only happen to Andrew – our electrical expert!  As we approached the dam a Jackal Buzzard glided away and a pair of African Black Duck took off, flying in perfect synchronisation.  Barn Swallows, Common Moorhen and Egyptian Goose also put in an appearance.

African Black Duck - synchronised flying (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

African Black Duck (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Breakfast was partaken at a view spot half-way down the gorge.
Having breakfast looking up the cliffs (photo: Dooug Butcher)
Bark Spider? (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
 A scary spider hung in its web in the bushes, I identified this as a Bark Spider but am not an expert.   An African Fish Eagle called overhead and we all sighed contentedly at the beauty surrounding us.  After coffee, some took a walk up the road spotting an Olive Sunbird while others went a short way up the Hoopoe Falls path identifying Grey Cuckoo-Shrike, Cape Batis, Cape White-eye, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Knysna Turaco, and Dark-backed Weaver amongst others.  Hearing the near-threatened Knysna Woodpecker calling close by we excitedly searched the trees but sadly couldn’t spot it.
Hereford or Nguni? (photo: Doug Butcher)
On the way to our next venue a beautiful bull grazed in a field.  I don’t know much about cattle but it struck me as having a Hereford shape with the hide of the eye-catching Nguni breed.  

White-necked Raven(photo: Stan Culley)
 At the hide we were met by Herbie Osborne who guided us around.  The new hide is a stonebuilt structure, aesthetically fitting into the surroundings and ergonomically designed for taking photographs of the vultures at a carcass.  Unfortunately the dead goat recently put out had been devoured too quickly and just a few White-necked Ravens were still pecking at it.  Herbie explained that ravens have a symbiotic relationship with the vulture as their presence indicate that there is food around. 

Vulture Viewing Hide - Andy Ruffles pride (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)


White-necked Raven (photo: Andrew Pickles)

Cape Vulture (photo: Stan Culley)

Cape Vulture coming into land (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Cape Vulture fetching nesting material (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

At the cliff-edge we were fascinated to see the vultures wheeling about, flying to and from the rocky ledges where, being breeding season, they were taking nesting material.  
Precarious nesting place but not if you are a Cape Vulture (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Sandy Olver looking at the vultures (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
 Other birds seen up here were a Familiar Chat, African Stonechat, and Lanner Falcon.  The occasional flower also added a bit of colour and this little Kalanchoe luciae caught my eye, also known in Afrikaans as Bird Brandy.  
Kalanchoe luciae - Bird Brandy (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Andrew Pickles was lucky enough to get a close sighting of the rare Oribi, after which of course the area is named.
Oribi Male (photo: Andrew Pickles)
Returning to the gorge we set up at the picnic site for our braai.  While Stan and Bobby got the braai ready, Michelle and I took a stroll through the woodland next to the river hearing Southern Boubous and Green Wood-Hoopoes cackling close by.  Walking slowly back up the road to the picnic site we focused on a bird jumping around in a tree.  Michelle got her eyes on it and identified it as a woodpecker and on examining our photos it dawned on us it just might be the infamous Knysna Woodpecker.  We hesitantly showed it to our experts Stan and Andrew who said, Yes, definitely.  We were obviously dead chuffed about that one.  Tick! 

Knysna Woodpecker (photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Knysna Woodpecker (photo Hazel van Rooyen)
 Other birds noted in this area were Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Spotted Ground-Thrush, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler and Collared Sunbird
Enjoying the braai (photo: Doug Butcher)
A scrumptious braai and great company rounded off our day and we parted feeling well-satisfied with our day’s birding.
Cape Vulture (photo: Doug Butcher)
 All photographs property of photographer
Count: 54 species 

Barbet Black-collared
Batis Cape
Boubou Southern
Bulbul Dark-capped
Buzzard Jackal
Camaroptera Green-backed
Chat Familiar
Cormorant Reed
Crane Grey Crowned
Cuckoo-shrike Grey
Dove Red-eyed
Drongo Fork-tailed
Drongo Square-tailed
Duck African Black
Eagle Long-crested
Falcon Lanner
Fiscal Common (Southern)
Fish-eagle African

Flycatcher African Dusky
Goose Egyptian
Greenbul Sombre
Ground-thrush Spotted
Hornbill Crowned
Hornbill Trumpeter
Ibis Hadeda
Kingfisher Brown-hooded
Longclaw Yellow-throated
Moorhen Common
Olive-pigeon African
Oriole Black-headed
Prinia Tawny-flanked
Puff-back Black-backed
Raven White-necked
Robin-Chat Red-capped
Sparrowhawk Little
Starling Red-winged

Stonechat African
Sunbird Collared
Sunbird Olive
Swallow Barn
Tinkerbird Yellow-rumped
Tit Southern Black
Turaco Knysna
Turtle-dove Cape
Vulture Cape
Wagtail Cape
Warbler Yellow-Throated Woodland
Waxbill Common
Weaver Dark-backed
White-eye Cape
Wood-hoopoe Green
Woodpecker Golden-tailed
Woodpecker Knysna

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