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Queen of the Castle

The Drakensburg Mountain range separates South Africa from Lesotho and is appropriately called uKhahlamba in Zulu, which means the ‘Barrier of Spears’. This splendid mountain escarpment is home to huge birds of prey and draws photographers from afar, all seeking their own shot of a Bearded or Cape Vulture in flight. At the Giant’s Castle bird hide I decided however, that I wanted to capture the smaller inhabitants of the uKhahlamba as well…

And so it was, that while my friends hid bones under rocks for the vultures, I walked along the edge of a ridge, bent over and squatting, much like a vulture myself. Staying low to the ground I searched for a suitable rock and by suitable, I mean that, I was looking for a rock that would offer my photographic audience a panoramic view of the splendid mountain vista. Once having located the perfect rock, I set my camera up and trying to get the horizon straight, with my head so low to the terra firma that my ear was chaffing on a rock of its own, reminded me of awkward suburban evenings playing twister. Once my camera and wide-angle lens were in place, the easy and pleasurable part lay ahead.

All I had to do was sit inside a hide and stare at the beautiful mountains, and of course at my rock, for a couple of days. I was hoping that a bird of any description would hop into my panorama and more specifically, onto the tip of my beloved rock. It was blind hope, the kind that every wildlife photographer has to possess! On the third day, a dozen muffins and three flasks of coffee later, a tiny non-descript little bird hoped onto the rock, as if it was its own throne. The tiny LBJ surveyed its majestic kingdom for a few brief seconds. I pressed my remote trigger so hard, that I feared the button would break! Rushing out the hide, and scaring the vultures away, I gazed at my camera’s LCD. I soon realized that this female Buff-streaked Chat (Oenanthe bifasciata) had just become the true giant of Giant’s Castle or as Africa Geographic so eloquently put it, ‘The Queen of Giant’s Castle’!

Technical Details: 35mm DSLR body, 24mm focal length, ISO 400, F22 and 1/50th, gorilla pod, remote trigger.

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