Saturday 23 May 2021
A Success Story
Sally and I took my sister, Natasha and her husband, Dick to the Oribi Cape Vulture Colony. The colony is situated on farm property. We booked the 2 hour session (09h00 to 11h00) through Andy Ruffle 072 893 3794.
As you drive through the cane fields you have no expectation of the gorge ahead. Even when you have parked you only have a short walk to the site and it is only when you get to the top of the cliff face that you realise that you are there. The colony is situated on a steep cliff face with panoramic views over and beyond.
We arrived with clouds blanketing the hills and valleys – a spectacular sight. The day was perfect – blue skies (a bit cool) and little wind. Gradually as Andy was telling us about the history of the site and the habits of the Cape Vultures, the clouds dispersed. It was only then that the Cape vultures started to test out the flying conditions.
Jumping off the cliff face they hope to go straight into gliding mode. If the conditions are not suitable they return flapping strongly in the process. Once the conditions are right they are off to their feeding grounds – gliding all the way. They have no need to flap their wings accept on takeoff after feeding. Once in the air they need no energy to get home.
Probably the most interesting feature of the birds is their wingspan – up to 2.6 metres. That is approximately a metre more than the length of your outstretched hands. Try it and see how impressive that is.
Here are a few photos of a vulture returning to the cliff and one of the photos gives the impression that it is a vulture wall painting.
About three decades ago the farmer encouraged the colony of about 30 Cape Vultures to flourish. Today there are 94 known pairs of Cape Vultures using the cliff face to breed. A highly successful program. This is attributed to the an increase in supply of food which mainly comes from the carcasses of animals living in the rural communities as well as new vulture restaurants.
The rural communities move dead animals away from their farming areas. They do not eat the meat fearing they too may become affected by whatever caused the animal’s death. And without people about the vultures thrive on the carcasses.
A new feeding station – vulture restaurant – was relatively recently started in Kamberg at a large pig farm. Pig carcasses mainly – which the Oribi Vultures sometimes visit.
The Oribi colony site also has a vulture restaurant and hide. Local farmers bring their carrion to the site for consumption by the vultures. Arrival of the carrion is not only erratic but whatever is brought is not there for long – a pig will be stripped bare in less than 7 minutes.
It is not only the Cape Vultures that have been seen at the site. Ruppell’s, White-backed, Palm-nut and Lappet-faced Vultures have also been recorded there infrequently. As yet the Bearded Vulture has not been reported despite the proximity to the Berg.
There is another larger colony of about 200 pairs of Cape Vultures further south – about 150 kms away in the Umtamvuma Valley region. On occasion the birds visit the Oribi vulture restaurant. On the whole both colonies appear to have their own feeding grounds.
Breeding season is currently underway. Each pair takes turn to sit on the eggs for about a day and a half at a time with nests often close together.
Once in the air, they circle over the valley below.
Occasionally they give you the eye ball by flying at eye height within metres of you.
The Oribi Cape Vulture colony is thriving and is a must visit for everyone. We were all blown away seeing the spectacle of the vultures flying so close to us at eye height. Pictures only give an impression of the place. Visiting and experiencing it for yourself is mind-blowing – as my sister said.
A success story.