The entrance gate to the reserve is located just off the R34, on the western edge of the Bloemhof Dam, right outside the Bloemhof town, at precisely these coordinates (27°38’07.5″S 25°39’21.6″E, or -27.635413, 25.656008).
The vast majority of the habitat of the Bloemhof Dam Nature Reserve is covered by a mix between dry grassy plains, and karooid scrub vegetation. This is not the most productive habitat type, but careful searching and scanning of the open plains is a sure way to find the special birds occurring here. Double-banded Courser and Namaqua Sandgrouse feature primarily where you find open, gravel plains in between the grasses and vegetation. The sandgrouse in particular can be quite nomadic and move around in response to water, and are usually more prevalent during winter (listen for their distinctive flight calls in the mornings). These areas are also the best zones to search for larks, and amongst the common Spike-heeled and Red-capped Larks, keep an eye out for the prized Pink-billed Lark, Eastern Clapper Lark (especially obvious during the summer when they are displaying) and both Chestnut-backed and Grey-backed Sparrow-Larks.
Rufous-eared Warbler is a special of the scrub vegetation, and without knowledge of their call, are incredibly inconspicuous. More common and widespread species to be seen in these areas include Common Ostrich, Northern Black Korhaan, Namaqua Dove, Desert Cisticola, Capped Wheatear, African Quail-finch, Cape Longclaw and African Pipit. There is a wide network of tracks through the reserve, and it is suggested you obtain a copy of the map at the entrance gate.
The tracks that are further away from the dams shoreline (the secondary tracks) are usually better for these open-country species. Two large saline pans, located to the west of the entrance gate (back towards Bloemhof town), are worth exploring as they may host species such as Pied Avocet, Cape Teal and Chestnut-banded Plover, should they have adequate water in, and the plains surrounding them are usually excellent for the above-mentioned species.
While interspersed throughout the reserve, small pockets of acacia thornveld are more commonly present closer to the dams shoreline, and host a different suite of birds to those mentioned above. Here you should search for the likes of White-backed Mousebird, Acacia Pied Barbet, Common Scimitarbill, Pririt Batis, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Fairy Flycatcher (during winter), Cape Penduline-tit, Ashy Tit, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Fiscal Flycatcher, Blue Waxbill, Shaft-tailed Whydah and Yellow Canary. The odd colony of Sociable Weaver are present here, and are easily seen by virtue of their massive nests. Note that this forms part of the eastern edge of this species range, and they are not very common here. There is the odd record of a Pygmy Falcon from the area every once in a while, and it is worth keeping an eye out for this tiny raptor. They are often present around Sociable Weaver nests, as they ‘pirate’ some of the chambers in these massive nests for their own use. White-backed Vultures nest atop acacia in some of these ‘larger’ stands of trees. Sandveld Nature Reserve has more extensive and more mature stands of acacia thornveld, and conversely a greater diversity in these species.
Although very large, the dam supports a number of different water birds, and usually holds good numbers as well. Regularly seen species include Spur-winged Goose, South African Shelduck, Cape Shoveler, Cape Teal, Yellow-billed Duck, Little, Great-crested and occasionally Black-necked Grebes, Grey and Goliath Herons, African Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plovers, Grey-headed Gull, Caspian and Whiskered Terns, and Reed and White-breasted Cormorants. Winter brings in species preferring more saline conditions, such as Pied Avocet, Lesser Flamingo and Chestnut-banded Plover, while augmenting numbers of Cape Teal and South African Shelduck. Summer brings with it many migrants, including shorebirds, and species such as Ruff, Common Greenshank, Wood, Marsh and Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint and Common Ringed Plover all regularly occurring. Numbers of White-winged Terns also move in during the summer months. Rare species have been recorded here over the years, and it is always worth keeping an eye out for any odd species, with examples being Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone.
Black-necked Grebe, Chestnut-banded Plover, Caspian Tern, Double-banded Courser, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Pygmy Falcon, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, Pink-billed Lark, Rufous-eared Warbler, Cape Penduline-tit