Another Birthday Surprise to Giant’s Castle

24 to 26 November 2019

Giant’s Castle view

This time it was Sally’s turn for a birthday surprise – a two night stay in one of the mountain cottages at Giant’s Castle. Plus a day at the vulture hide.

I had to let Sally know that we were going away for a couple of nights. I think she may have had an idea that Giant’s Castle was where we were headed as she had suggest on our previous visit that it would be good to return to see how it looked in the summer time.

And once we got going I am sure she knew our destination. So how to fool her. As it happens Sally’s son Bryan and his wife Michelle have a smallholding close to Glengarry with cottages they rent out- and we had to go right past it. As we were driving she suggested we pop in for a cuppa. What could I say. I thought that was a bad idea and said so. Obviously confirming her thoughts that the destination was Giant’s Castle.

Then as we reach the turnoff to Bryan and Michelle’s I turned in. Now she was having second thoughts.

On arrival I suggested a cuppa and we all sat down and enjoyed a chat. During which I asked if the keys to Sunset Cottage were in the door. Michelle cottoned on and said they were. Now Sally was convinced that this was the destination and said she would walk across. With a little persuasion I got her in the car instead and promptly headed on our way. Sally confused asked where we were headed – expecting me to drive to Sunset Cottage. It was only then that she realized we were after all headed to Giant’s Castle. A bit devious I know.

Midday we arrived and went to our Cottage No 38 -the highest with excellent views up the valley.

That afternoon was spent walking round the gardens with a short walk towards the Main Caves.

The gardens are well maintained but not too overdone compared to the natural environment. Garden birds.

The next morning we arose early with mist everywhere and we wondered if the day at the vulture hide would be a wash out. As we got ready to go, so the mist gradually rose and more of the mountains became visible.

We collected our bones from just outside the office and made our way up the mountain to the hide. We had collected the keys and packed breakfasts the night before as the office only opened at 08h00. Breakfast is included in the price for staying there.

We climbed the steep road with huge speed bumps (for water drainage) and arrived just after 07h00. And the bones were put in place on the ledge in front of the hide.

It was not long before the first Bearded Vulture flew past.

In the meantime, about a dozen Red-winged Starlings arrived and attacked the bones. Grrr. Then the White-necked Ravens appeared and took their turn much to our dismay. But there was one blighter which really upset us as he came and went taking at least 5 bones with him. The bones were for the vultures and our supply was dwindling fast.

The packed breakfast was pretty awful and not our cup of tea. Fortunately there were one or two things which kept us going.

A Cape Vulture arrived and held its own against the ravens, occasionally chasing them away.

Next was a Black-backed Jackal. Timid at first, then more bold and it too started to carry the bones away. Bones getting fewer and fewer.

In between all this, the Bearded Vultures kept doing their fly pasts without landing. Coming reasonably close so we could photo them. The sun in their faces made for many blown out shots on the adult’s white faces. Grrr.

A number of times we saw the Bearded Vultures being chased by the White-necked Ravens.

In the end when the bones had run out we left after 7 hours in the hide. No Bearded Vultures had landed unfortunately. According to the literature in the hide the Bearded Vultures are most desperate for bones in the winter months when protein is harder to find. We will try again.

Have a look at this face we saw and let us know what it is.

Later on in the day we took a long walk (couple of hours) towards the Main Caves again but veered down to walk along the river and then back up the steep slope into the camp. Numerous lovely birds were seen including a Bush Blackcap – one of several that we had been hearing all around the camp.

One bird had us perplexed. It kinda looks like a Southern Red Bishop female but we have severe doubts as we did not expect to see one here. Perhaps someone can help us here.

Perplexi

That evening after dinner we played another game of scrabble and Sally beat me yet again – not as close as the previous day when she won by one point!!

A great way to spend a Birthday.

Paul and Sally Bartho

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