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Page History: Chelmsford Nature Reserve

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Page Revision: 2008/10/09 09:02

Chelmsford Nature Reserve comprises a large dam and surrounding grasslands and is run by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. It has an interesting bird list, both on the water and in the adjoining grasslands. 217 species of birds have been recorded at Chelmsford and how many you can see will depend on whether you have access to a boat or not. It takes about three hours to circumnavigate the dam.


Great Crested Grebe, Comb Duck, Spike-heeled Lark , Pink-billed Lark and Eastern Clapper Lark, Blue Korhaan, White-bellied Korhaan, Black-bellied Bustard and African Grass-Owl.


Short and long grassland areas adjoining the large dam. There is not much mud margin, but there is a shallow area on the eastern side of the dam which houses many waders and breeding birds. rocky slopes and acacia veld below the dam wall.


There is a good system of tarred and dirt roads and good birding can be enjoyed from a vehicle or boat. There is hutted accommodation and good camping facilities are available.


1. The Dam. The dam is home to very large flocks of Spur-winged Goose and Egyptian Goose and Yellow-billed Duck, particularly when they are moulting. These can number many thousand and are an impressive sight. Great Crested Grebe are regularly recorded together with Caspian Tern, Pied Avocet, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Comb Duck, Whiskered Tern and White-winged Tern. There is a resident pair of Fish eagles and Osprey is a summer visitor.

On the eastern side (access can be gained from the Richgate side) there is a large shallow area which is enriched with salts from the adjoining coal mine. A lot of waders and rallids are found here, and duck and geese breed in the grass and reeds.

There is a small inlet at the top of the dam which is very difficult to get to because of the rocks, but which can be very worthwhile if one can get in there. African Jacana, African Snipe and Squacco Heron have been seen there. Large flocks of White-faced Duck, Red-billed Teal and Southern Pochard have been recorded here.

2. The Grassveld. Short grassy areas are home to Pink-billed Lark and Spike-heeled Lark. One sometimes will see Eastern Clapper Lark as well. Pink-billed Lark can be numerous in winter, particularly on the burnt patches of grass. Desert Cisticola can be found in the short grass. The long grass houses Zitting Cisticola, Cloud Cisticola and Pale-crowned Cisticola. White-bellied Korhaan, Blue Korhaan and Black-bellied Bustard occur throughout the reserve and Denham's Bustard is often seen. It is worth looking out for these birds on the drive from the national road to the reserve.

African Grass-Owl and Marsh Owl can often be seen in the early mornings and late afternoons. marsh harriers are often seen and Black Harrier, Montagu's Harrier and Pallid Harrier are occasionally recorded. Blue Crane nest in summer and one can normally see southern Grey Crowned Crane throughout the year.

3. Rocky Slopes. The area below the dam wall is well worth visiting, as here live Ground Woodpecker, Mountain Wheatear and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, in a very accessible area. Rock Martin and Speckled Pigeon nest in the dam wall, Bokmakierie and Cape Canary can usually be heard calling nearby.

4. Acacia Veld. The acacia veld in the valley below the wall is also a good place to look for Brubru, with its telephone-like trill.


Directions: Turn off the national road N11, 80kms from Ladysmith on the north side of the dam, 19 kms south of Newcastle onto district road D210 towards Normandien. The gate is 6kms along this road.

Gate Opening and Closing Times: Summer( October to March ): 05h00 to 20h00 Winter (April to September ) 06h00to 19h00 Day visitor Entry fee R15.00 per person, After 12h00 Midday R10.00 per person

Office Hours:

The office is open from 07h30 to11h30 and from 13h00 to 16h00

Distance and Time from Gate to Camp: One kilometer

Camp Telephone and Fax Numbers: (034) 3511753/4/5


Accommodation booking is done through Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (+27 33 845 1000) for the chalets and the camping is through the office.

Richgate, comprises four cottages on the eastern side, has been opened by the Dundee Honorary Officers and bookings should be done through the OIC (034 3777205). One is not permitted to walk in the game park area.

Ken Gordon 2001. Gordon's Tours 036 6311854, 0824781925

Steve Davis and Roy Cowgill 1998.

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