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Page History: Kamfers Dam

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Page Revision: 2008/10/07 10:41


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 (about 180 species recorded thus far) and number (sometimes in excess of 25,000 individuals) of waterbirds. 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 through the municipality’s reticulation system, this 400 ha pan has become permanently inundated. Because of its importance for waterbirds, Kamfers Dam is recognised as a Natural Heritage Site, and international Ramsar status is pending.

Birding

The main attraction of Kamfers Dam is the large flocks of Lesser Flamingo and Greater Flamingo, sometimes numbering in excess of 20,000 individuals, and a wonderful spectacle during the early morning or late afternoon. Lesser Flamingo are always more numerous, and are often seen close to the viewing point. The flamingos have built several hundred nest turrets to the south-west of the viewing point, but until now have not bred successfully. The Greater Flamingo has only laid eggs, but it is hoped that once a "breeding island" has been constructed both species will breed successfully. It is recommended that people do not approach the flamingos, as they are very sensitive to disturbance, and any harassment will just further affect the possibility of successful breeding ever taking place.

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 and Cape Shoveler are usually encountered.

It is possible to see all three species of grebe, although Great Crested Grebe is only in frequently 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 a colony of South African Cliff-Swallow (a southern African breeding endemic) can be seen attending to their reproductive duties in the subway. 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 numbersand also in terms of two long-term research projects, firstly by Dr Peter Mundy and presently by Mark Anderson, Angus Anthony and co-workers. These vultures, together with Cape Vulture and Lappet-faced Vulture, can often be seen flying over the area.

For those who are willing to venture across to the reedbeds (via Homevale), the bird watching can be particularly rewarding. From the railway line it is possible to look into the reedbeds, but a word of warning - beware of approaching trains! 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 Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, 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 Francolin, Cape Longclaw, African Stonechat, and African Quailfinch.

General

The Dam is situated just north of Kimberley on the N12 to Johannesburg. Access is only allowed to just beyond the subway (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, without prior arrangement, beyond this point.

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 Anderson 1998.



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