Posted on the 5th April 2020


(This article first appeared in the March 2020 in the Tankwa Karoo News – Vol 6 Edition 1. The images were taken in previous years. – Ed.)

The Oudebaaskraal Dam in the Tankwa Karoo National Park had the distinction, prior to proclamation of the park, of being the largest privately-owned dam in South Africa. The dam has a water capacity of 34 million cubic meters. As the dam is no longer used for irrigation purposes, the dam was close to full for most of the time. Sadly, over the last 3-4 years, the debilitating drought has wrought havoc with the water levels in the dam, and in particular with the habitat around the upper reaches of the dam and also below the dam wall. To date, 214 bird species have been recorded in theTankwa Karoo National Park. This figure includes those rare and vagrant species which have only been recorded once. Of this total, according to data obtained from the Southern African Bird Atlas Program (SABAP2), 184species have been recorded in the two pentads (a pentad is a rectangular area 5 x 9 km in size) that encompass theOudebaaskraal Dam (Pentad numbers 3220_1955 and 3220_1950). Of these 184 species, we can classify 58 species as being associated with water.

Martins congregating at Oudebaaskraal Dam before a storm











These species include the waders (plovers, lapwings, stints, avocets, stilts and sandpipers), herons, storks, ibises, flamingos, cormorants, terns, gulls, ducks, teals, shoveler, geese, rush-and reed-warblers, kingfishers, as well as two raptors. The latter are the African Fish Eagle and the African Marsh Harrier. The destruction by the drought of the reed-beds around the upper reaches of the dam has meant that the latter bird was last recorded in the park in April of 2017. Similarly, there have been previous records of both the Malachite and Pied Kingfishers in the park, but the latter was last seen in 2012 and the former in 2015.What is interesting to see is that the majority of these birds are resident in Southern Africa, with only 11 of the 58 species being summer migrants.

Oudebaaskraal Dam filled to the brim
Non-breeding Grey-headed Gull










The more common of these migrants are the Common Greenshank, Little Stint, Common Ringed Plover, Ruff and Curlew Sandpiper. The Marsh and Wood Sandpipers are quite rare visitors to the dam, with the former reported only twice (once in 2009 and once in 2017) and the latter was only seen in 2017. 

Over the years there have been some really interesting (and sometimes bizarre) records of birds at the dam. In September of 2012 a Caspian Tern was found at the dam. Similarly, a lone record of a Black Stork in the park dates from April of 2014, while a Great White Pelican was seen in 2008. In 2017, a Hartlaubs’ Gull (a coastal/marine species) turned up at the dam. 

Pied Avocet
Cape Teal












Pride of place, however, goes to the vagrant Northern Shoveler which turned up in April 2017, basically the day after the Tankwa Birding Bonanza. This sighting resulted in numerous birders travelling to the park to see this rare visitor to our shores. Prior to this sighting, the Northern Shoveler had only been recorded 4 times in South Africa (8 times in the Southern African sub-region)

Hopefully good and sustained seasonal rains in the park and catchment area of the Tankwa River over the next few years will result in a return to former glory of the Oudebaaskraal Dam.




















MICHELLE (posted: 2020-10-12 13:57:42)
We have just returned from our first trip to Tankwa Karoo National Park (Oct 2020), which was amazing, and the dam is now sadly completely dry! We did, however, see two black storks by the river on the road to Langkloof Camp.