Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Winter Crane Festival

The village decked out for the festivities.
Ablution block at the campsite
The road to the village is a long one!

Drove down to Chrissiesmeer on 8th July for the weekend Crane Festival. Had not been to anything like this before, so didn't really know what to expect. Saw a fine adult Black Harrier a few kilometers short of the village. Arrived at my camping spot for the next two nights. A pretty spot in a wood overlooking the lake on a farm.

Sacred Ibis on the farm.

Greater Flamingo on the lake close to the farm.

Spur winged Goose
Spotted backed Weaver were common on the farm.

Had a very enjoyable dinner at the farmhouse in the company of George Skinner & Ben von Wielligh who are Chairman & Vice Chairman of the Escarpment Bird Club based in Dullstroom.  Had a really great chat with the guys.

The entire area is a mixture of grasslands & pans.
There are a lot of small sandstone escarpments as well.


Common in this habitat.
Southern Bald Ibis
Saw two groups of this species totaling 16 birds.
Yellow billed Duck
African Rail
Not an easy bird to photograph!

Secretarybird habitat.

Always great to see.

Lesser Flamingos

Around 600 birds were on this lake.

Lesser Flamingo is a much more localized species
than Greater Flamingo in SA.
Often on the move, this species is even more erratic
in its migration than its larger brethren.

Many of the pans are drying up.
The birders on the Saturday morning outing.

The village pub!
The friendly locals!
People arriving on Saturday morning.
Local school children, getting ready to dance.
There is a strong Swazi element in this part
 of South Africa.

Grey-crowned Cranes
Around 100 birds were found in late afternoon.
This is an isolated population.

They got very active towards dusk.

Early Saturday morning saw a group of us off birding around the village. It was led by Stephen, a locally trained bird guide.

My home from home at Florence's Guest House.
I spent the next two nights here, as it was so cold!
My place!
I went to a Scottish dinner at this venue!
It is an old cowshed!
Really lovely.

Now the reason I was at this dinner was because of a wonderful story! In the 1890's a Scottish army officer married a girl who was regarded as beneath his station in life, principally by his aristocratic parents. They pulled a few strings & had their recently married son sent out to Chrissesmeer, where I am now. But the Boer War was brewing & his newly acquired wife was not allowed to travel with him. So he arrives in South Africa & as the Boer War starts, he gets himself killed in a skirmish. The date was the 9th July. Shortly afterwards a letter arrives at the Post Office in the village from his widow back in Scotland. She sent both money & a sprig of heather in the envelope. The money was to buy flowers to go with the heather & place them on her husbands grave. This continued for the next 65 years! Each year the money & heather would arrive & each year the local postmaster would go & buy flowers & place them with the sprig of heather on this soldiers grave. After 65 years the letters suddenly stopped. The wife of course must have died (she must have been in her 80's by this time) but the local people continued this tradition of placing flowers on this soldiers grave on 9th July every year. The dinner was a Scottish dinner to commemorate this continuing act in the village. true love hey? Amazing!

Jurgens & Carolina
       Spent a lovely evening with this couple watching
                the final of the Euros. 
Carolina is Portuguese, so you can guess
 what happened!

Blesbok are quite common in this area.

Badly eroded rock painting.
I think it is an Eland!
Speckled Rock Pigeon

Fiscal Shrike
Ant-eater Chat
Common in this area.

African Stonechat
Orange throated Longclaw.
Common in highland grasslands.

I think this is Buffy Pipit.
But not 100% sure.
Levaillant's Cisticola

I enjoyed a great four nights here just exploring a new area & meeting some nice people. I would definitely go again!


  1. Hi Steve, I've been going through your blog and enjoyed it tremendously, especially the blog on your visit to Chrissiesmeer. It was great to meet you at Miss Chrissies and I will be following your birding adventures on your blog.Hope to meet up again somewhere in the field - Ben von Wielligh

    1. Hi Ben,
      Great to hear from you. In Jo'berg today (2nd August) but fly out to Gabon on 3rd.I won't be back in South Africa until late February 2017, but would love to do some birding
      with both yourself & George in the Dullstroom area.
      All the very best