Oribi Gorge and Umtamvuma

30 and 31 July 2020

Oribi Gorge and Umtamvuma were visited in consecutive days recently. On both days we started our birding quite late in the morning. A case of re-familiarising ourselves rather than full on birding.

Oribi Gorge

Despite getting there late morning it was still well shaded driving down Oribi Gorge. Birds were quiet on the way down and little was seen or heard at the various stopping points. However it was a well pretty drive down to the bridge at the bottom. Sally did get a good look at some Swee Waxbills at one of the open area stopping points. on the way down.

Once at the bottom we parked and went for a walk in the woods along the river. Again the birding was quiet.

We heard some nice birds flying overhead – Black-headed Oriole, a Jackal Buzzard and an African Fish-Eagle. Just standing in the car park area was productive even a White-browed Scrub-Robin bobbed around on the ground quite close to us.

White-browed Scrub-Robin

In the woods photography was limited.

Among those heard in the woods were the Yellow-breasted Apalis, Knysna Turaco, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Boubou and Olive Sunbirds. Black-backed Puffback and Collared Sunbirds were seen.

The excitement came as we walked back along the road to the car. Sally heard some rustling in the bush beside us. And there no more than 3 metres away from us at eye level in the dark undergrowth beside us was a Knysna Woodpecker. Definitely the best sighting we have ever had of a Knysna Woodpecker. We watched its pink tongue probing where it had knocked on wood.

Time for lunch. Leopard Rock Coffee shop – our destination. In the past we remember the place for its unique signage. The old sign had gone but the new had the same message.

The sign says it all. The coffee shop sits right on the cliff edge – hence the appropriate signage to parents.

To our pleasure the Coffee Shop was open. At the entrance we saw a headless/clueless lass working on the engine of her car. And another underneath until the car collapsed on her. They had obviously been struggling for some time to get it back on the road again.

Sitting on the verandah we had some lunch overlooking the valley below. Quite a drop. Following the escarpment on the left of the picture below, there are several rocky outcrops. It is at one of these that there is a Vulture Restaurant. Amazing place. Not only is there a hide with the vulture restaurant in front of it but you can walk to the cliff edge which overlooks a Cape Vulture colony. And when the vultures fly past you there are at eye height and sometimes within 10 metres of you. Check the oribi/south coast brochure on how to visit. Unfortunately for us it was not open.

Just below the balcony is a bird bath and bird feeding area. This attracts a number of birds. On that day there were Mocking Cliff-Chats, Cape Rock-Thrushes, Crowned Hornbills among the many more common species – Fork-tailed Drongos, Pin-tailed Whydahs, Weavers and the like.

Eventually we headed back through the Gorge looking out for whatever we could spot. And Sally spotted one of the birds she particularly wanted to see – a Brown Scrub-Robin. Happy days.

In the end we had spotted some 34 different species in the two pentads we atlassed. To see our bird list click on this link.


Umtanvuma was also a late start. The reserve runs along the river bordering the Transkei and goes steeply uphill to the grasslands above.

First we went up to the grasslands and walked on the trail around the office block. Because we were so late the birds were few and far between. However we did manage to see some special (for us) birds including a distant Gurney’s Sugarbird and Mocking Cliff-Chats.

We heard a Lesser Honeyguide and a Croaking Cisticola as well as both the Knysna and Purple-crested Turacos.

Below we walked along the river trail – a bit overgrown in places. Birds were scarce but we did see a Burchell’s Coucal, an African Pied Wagtail and heard a Square-tailed Drongo.

However the highlight was undoubtedly not a bird but Samango Monkeys. They were in the trees above us. We watched as one by one they appeared. Then for some reason they decided to scarper. So one by one following the leader they raced over our heads jumping from tree to tree then along a branch to its withering end and flew across landing in the bushes some 10 metres away. As they flew they opened out both their arms and legs and flew like a flying squirrel. Quite a sight to see. Did not realise they had wings!!

Samango Monkey

In all we identified 32 different species which can be seen in the Bird List above alongside the Oribi list.

Paul and Sally Bartho

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s