Vulture Conservation – Giants Castle

What comes to mind when you hear the name of Giants Castle ? For most it conjures up images of soaring Bearded and Cape Griffon vultures with the full wing pose coming into land on a rocky ledge in golden light or soaring majestically up in the blue sky……..

A adult Bearded Vulture ( Gypaetus barbatus ) soars across the valley

Bearded Vulture

 

This is in actual fact a great conservation initiative by the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to assist in providing a safe and clean food source for the dwindling numbers of Vultures . It is first and foremost  a Vulture feeding station for CONSERVATION purposes and the hide is a place for researchers to make reliable counts and monitor numbers. It is also available for photographers and birding enthusiasts alike .

A juvenile Bearded Vulture and below and adult ( Gypaetus barbatus )oars across the valley with the winter golden grass at the foot of the Drakensburg

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Some facts about Bearded Vulture :

Only an estimated 100 breeding pairs left in the region ( Drakensburg and Lesotho )many vultures threatened by collisions with power-lines , poisoning from  bait that is put out by farmers for jackal.  The traditional muthi industry also is a huge contributor  to the decline. Also effected are the Cape griffon vulture and Black eagles.

Cape Griffon Vulture ( Gyps coprotheres ) with its wings spread to slow itself down before touching down in a congested feeding zone…… Also a regular visitor and just as persecuted

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KZN Ezemvelo supplies suitable bones and or carcasses of local cattle or livestock that may be available during the year. They do not recommend any outside sourced of bones or carcasses if they are not disease free and antibiotics free . Vulture station is for clean source of food to help increase Cape Vulture and Bearded Vultures numbers. One of the generous farmers donation towards the conservation efforts
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Interaction between the various residents is sometimes heated and on the ground, jackals which roam the secluded mountain tops fight for there bit of the meal at hand.
Interaction
They also feast on the insides of the animals left there one the vultures have opened up main body.
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A day can also deliver moments of high energy ariel “dog fights” between the Adult Bearded Vultures and the smaller scavengers.
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As a photographer visiting this amazing place , I do not consider this as a act of ‘baiting’ to get the shot but more as playing a role in conservation and following my passion of photographing these magic raptors . One of my highlihghts over the last few years is a somewhat amazing site of a Black Eagle’s that also make the Drakensburg there home……..
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Genera Information for Photographers :
• March to September – Bookings open a year in advance for Twitchers and Photographers
• Do not be like the unethical punks recently and use wire to tie down bones which can harm the birds.
• Focal Length – 400 mm (Crop Sensor) and up and 500 mm to 600 mm (Full Frame)
• Manfrotto super clamp (Mount on Hide opening) and quality ball head
• Warm Clothing , blankets and a very well trained bladder
• Gas cooker for water , coffee and a great big picnic basket with goodies
• Spare CF cards , many many
• Do research and ask questions of experience visitors or photographers
If you add this to your bucket list of destinations , enjoy it responsibly and live the dream
Peace and Light
Andrew Aveley