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Kamfers Dam, situated just north of Kimberley, is one of few perennial wetlands in the Northern Cape. Because of this permanent water supply, it supports a large diversity of waterbirds (about 180 species recorded thus far), and often occurring in large numbers (sometimes in excess of 25,000 individuals). This wetland was previously an ephemeral pan, only being inundated during high rainfall periods. Today, however, with a constant inflow of treated sewerage water and the diversion of Kimberley’s storm water runoff, this 400 ha pan is permanently inundated. Because of its importance for waterbirds, Kamfers Dam is recognised as a Natural Heritage Site and an Important Bird Area.

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Specials

Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Chestnut-banded Plover, Black-necked Grebe, South African Cliff-Swallow, Rufous-eared Warbler, Black-chested Prinia, Desert Cisticola. Black-tailed Godwit is a rarity in summer.

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Habitat

Wetalnd with open water, mudflats, reedbeds, and surrounding grassland.

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Birding

The main attraction of Kamfers Dam is the large flocks of Lesser Flamingo and Greater Flamingo, sometimes numbering in excess of 40,000 individuals, and a wonderful spectacle during the early morning or late afternoon. Lesser Flamingos are always more numerous, and are often seen close to the viewing point. The flamingos have built several hundred nest turrets at the south-eastern end of the Dam, but until now have not bred successfully. Both the Greater Flamingo and Lesser Flamingo have laid eggs. Recently a flamingo breeding island constructed by Ekapa Mining in 2006 has encouraged an active breeding season with over 9000 nests. It is recommended that people do not approach the flamingos, as they are very sensitive to disturbance. The area close to the island is closed to human access in order to limit disturbance.

From the viewing point (see below) several waterbird species can be observed. These include several species of waders: Black-winged Stilt, Common Greenshank, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Kittlitz's Plover and Chestnut-banded Plover. Because of the high salinity of the water, there are not many waterfowl species present in this area, although Cape Teal, Cape Shoveler and South African Shelduck are usually encountered.

It is possible to see all three species of grebe, although Great Crested Grebe is only infrequently observed. During recent years large numbers of Black-necked Grebe have frequented Kamfers Dam, lately on a permanent basis. During the 1997/8 summer there were about 1,000 individuals present, most of which bred successfully. From the viewing point it was possible to watch these beautiful grebes carrying their offspring on their backs, presenting perfect opportunities for the avid wildlife photographer.

There are also several other non-waterbird species that frequent the Kamfers Dam area. During the summer months colonies of South African Cliff-Swallow (a southern African breeding endemic) can be seen attending to their reproductive duties in the subways under the N12. Across the road from Kamfers Dam there is a culvert with breeding White-rumped Swift. In the patch of Karoo-type veldt between the national road and the subway, listen and look for Rufous-eared Warbler, Black-chested Prinia, Desert Cisticola and other bush birds.

Across the road on De Beers Consolidated Mine’s Dronfield farm (which can only be visited by appointment) there is a breeding colony of White-backed Vulture, numbering almost 50 pairs. This is one of the most important colonies in Africa, in terms of numbers and also in terms of two long-term research projects. These vultures, together with Cape Vulture and Lappet-faced Vulture, can often be seen flying over the area.

The reedbed area at the western edge of the Dam is unfortunately not easily accessible. Here many rallids, such as Black Crake, Baillon's Crake, African Purple Swamphen and African Rail, are heard, but less frequently observed. Lesser Swamp-Warbler and African Reed-Warbler skulking in the reedbeds, and Levaillant's Cisticola, Southern Red Bishop and Yellow Bishop, the latter only during some years, can be seen displaying from prominent positions on the Phragmites reeds. Pools of water amongst the reedbeds are good for the small Hottentot Teal and several other waterfowl species (such as Red-billed Teal and rarely Maccoa Duck), while the few exposed mudflats have Wood Sandpiper and Marsh Sandpiper, as well as Ruff. Listen for Black-crowned Night-Heron in the early evening. The oxidation ponds are frequented by Whiskered Tern throughout the year, White-winged Tern during the summer months, Grey-headed Gull, Glossy Ibis, and on occasion Lesser Black-backed Gull. This area also supports the only known Northern Cape population (besides that on the West Coast) of Common Starling, often seen accompanying the more sometimes abundant Wattled Starling.

Other species that frequent the reedbeds and surrounding marshy areas are Marsh Owl, African Marsh-Harrier (and rarely in summer Western Marsh-Harrier), Swainson's Spurfowl, Cape Longclaw, African Stonechat, and African Quailfinch.

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General

The Dam is situated just north of Kimberley on the N12 to Johannesburg. Access is only allowed to just beyond the subway (the so-called viewing point) adjacent to the Kimberley – Warrenton national road (N12). The landowner has experienced problems with stock theft and poaching and therefore does not allow access to his property. There are two large information boards at the subway, one with information about Kamfers Dam and the other with information about Lesser Flamingos.

To gain access to the extensive reedbeds and shallow ponds on the western and south-western side of the dam, one has to travel via the Homevale Sewerage Works. The road is not marked, and directions will have to be sought from people in the surrounding suburbs. It is not recommended to visit the western part of the dam unless you are in a large group, as it is potentially a security risk area. Also it is not possible to drive all the way to the reedbeds, unless in a four-wheel-drive vehicle; and even then it is possible to get stuck in the clayey mud.

Mark D. Anderson 2007.


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