Giant's Castle & Kiara Lodge

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10 years 2 months ago #5709 by nkgray
nkgray created the topic: Giant's Castle & Kiara Lodge
Just back from a 6-night trip to the Drakensberg, with 3 nights at Giant's Castle and 3 nights at Kiara Lodge adjacent to Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

The trip got off to a good start with Blue Crane, Secretarybird and a lifer in a pair of Barrow's Korhaan all seen near Sterkfontein Dam on the journey down to Giant's Castle. Highlight of the trip was 2 mornings spent in the Vulture Hide at Giant's Castle (See Photography Forum). The first morning turned up no fewer than 17 Cape Vulture (all in the air at the same time), at least 1 juvenile and 2 immature Bearded Vulture, and several Lanner Falcon. A flock of White-necked Raven had taken it upon themselves to chase off all raptors and I witnessed many instances where 2 or 3 ravens would join forces to harry either a Cape or Bearded Vulture. The second morning added a magnificent adult Bearded Vulture, a Jackal Buzzard and an immature Verraux's Eagle, as well as several fly-pasts by small flocks of Southern Bald Ibis. The hutted camp was teeming with Red-winged Starling, Greater Double-collared and Malachite Sunbird, Southern Boubou, Cape Weaver and Cape Robin-Chat. A walk to the Main Caves added Cape Canary, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Drakensberg Prinia, Wailing and Levaillant's Cisticola, Bokmakierie and Ground Woodpecker among others, and waiting for me as I returned to my chalet was a Red-necked Spurfowl (See Photography Forum).

The drive from Giant's Castle to Kiara Lodge was also quite eventful, with Jackal Buzzard almost every 5km from Giant's Castle to Bergville. Two separate Long-crested Eagles were seen and a pair of Grey Crowned Crane near Sterkfontein Dam.

From Kiara Lodge a morning was spent in Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The Vulture Feeding Scheme site proved very fruitful, with 29 Cape Vultures and a single adult Bearded Vulture present at the carcasses. From there next stop was the car park for the hiking trails to the Sentinel and Mont-aux-Sources, where my intended target bird was the Drakensberg Rockjumper. To my amazement I found one no more than 10m through the gate onto the hiking trail! So, mission accomplished, I returned to Kiara without having to put my vertigo to the test of the hiking trail. I added Buff-streaked Chat on the trip back down the mountain (See Photography Forum).

The following morning a sortie along the secondary gravel roads between Kestell and Clarens produced large numbers of Secretarybird and both Grey-winged and Red-winged Francolin, and in the afternoon a nesting Rock Kestrel was located on the sandstone cliffs behind Kiara Lodge.

Only a trip total of 91 species, but given the time of year and the fact that half of the veld was burnt to a crisp at both Giant's Castle and Golden Gate, probably not too bad. There were some real big ticks on the list, so I can't be too unhappy.

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