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This reserve qualifies as one of the top birding spots in the Free State. Situated in the central Free State, it surrounds the Allemanskraal Dam, and has a range of habitats, most of which are easily accessible. A two to three day stay is recommended, although 100+ species may be recorded during a day visit. The reserve checklist totals about 250 species, of which about 200 are common or regularly seen.

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Specials

Specials include Martial Eagle, Black Harrier, Orange River Francolin, Blue Crane, Blue Korhaan, Double-banded Courser, Ground Woodpecker (uncommon), Melodious Lark, Pink-billed Lark, Sickle-winged Chat, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Pririt Batis, Fairy Flycatcher, Violet-eared Waxbill, Black-faced Waxbill and Yellow Canary.

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Habitats

These include open water, shoreline, reedbeds, acacia savanna, grassland, wooded kloofs (valleys) and rocky koppies (small hills), with bush-covered slopes.

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Facilities

These include a good network of roads with a few strategically-placed view sites. Apart from the accommodation mentioned below, a picturesque bush camp is available in the reserve. It sleeps 16 people, and has separate kitchen and ablution facilities.

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Birding

The reserve office provides a map of the reserve and bird checklists.

1. Open grassland habitats, particularly in the southern section of the reserve, provide ideal habitat for korhaan, larks, cisticola and Double-banded Courser. Look out for Secretarybird, Black Harrier, Orange River Francolin and for various swallow species, including Banded Martin.

2. In the acacia savanna areas species such as Common Scimitarbill, Acacia Pied Barbet, White-backed Mousebird, Cape Robin-Chat, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Ashy Tit, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Black-chested Prinia, Pririt Batis and Brown-crowned Tchagra may be found. This habitat also boasts a number of small seedeaters, including Scaly-feathered Finch, Green-winged Pytilia, Blue Waxbill, Violet-eared Waxbill, Black-faced Waxbill, whydahs, Yellow Canary and Black-throated Canary. Look out for Green Wood-Hoopoe and Red-throated Wryneck in the poplar trees in the picnic site just before entering the reserve to the north of the dam.

3. Take a short walk from the road to the viewing point on top of the koppie. From here you will have a wonderful panoramic view over the reserve below, and across Allemanskraal Dam. Look out for swifts and swallows; Alpine Swift, African Black Swift, Little Swift and White-rumped Swift may be seen feeding together. This is also a good spot to search for game in the thornveld and grasslands below.

4. The vegetation changes quite dramatically in the wooded kloofs, where impressive white stinkwood trees dominate. Martial Eagle and Gabar Goshawk breed here and many other interesting species are present. Violet-backed Starling is an occasional visitor.

5. The dam environment is host to many waterbirds. A heronry is usually present during the summer months on the island near the two resorts; more than ten species of large birds may be present, including herons, egrets, ibis, cormorants and African Darter. small waders may be found along exposed stretches of shoreline, and waterfowl, including South African Shelduck, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Cape Shoveler and Southern Pochard are also present. Listen for the call of the African Fish-Eagle. Reedbeds bordering the narrow eastern parts of the dam will produce Southern Red Bishop and various skulking warbler species.

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Mammals

Larger mammals include White Rhino, Buffalo, Giraffe, Eland, Black Wildebeest (one of the largest populations in south Africa), Red Hartebeest, Reedbuck and Burchell's Zebra.

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General

Chalets, group quarters (for school groups) and camping are available at both the Free State Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism camp (Tel. 057 651-4003/4 or 057 651 4168; Fax. 057 651 4005), and at the Aventura Aldam resort overlooking the dam (Tel. 057 652 2200; Fax. 057 652 0014). Day visitors and those camping pay an entry fee to the reserve. Access from the N1, about 30km south of Ventersburg and 150km north of Bloemfontein, is well sign-posted.

Rick Nuttall 2001.



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