North West – Boskop Dam Nature Reserve

About the Birding

The vast proportion of the reserve falls on the western side of the dam, and is accessed from the entrance gate, on the northern side of the dam – follow the signs off the Rysmierbult Road, branching off from the R501. The road leading to the entrance gate turns off here (26°30’54.8″S 27°07’24.7″E, or -26.515209, 27.123530). The entrance gate is roughly 900m down this road.

After paying your entrance fee, the bulk of the tracks follow along the western edge of the dam, although a small network of minor tracks do spread out, and cover the large grassland portion to the west of the dam, and the upper reaches of the dam along the Mooi River, which hosts some vlei-birding.

This dam usually does not have vast numbers of waterfowl present, but a wide variety of waterbirds can be expected. These include the likes of; Reed and White-breasted Cormorants, Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese, Grey and Black-headed Herons, Western Cattle and Little Egrets, Yellow-billed and White-faced Whistling Ducks, Red-billed Teal, Whiskered Tern, and Pied and Malachite Kingfishers. There are a few African Fish Eagles that reside at the dam and they are usually in evidence. Scarcer birds to keep an eye out for include South African Shelduck, African Black Duck, Great-crested Grebe and Goliath, Black, Squacco and Purple Herons. The reeds, and denser sedge vegetation (especially in the upper reaches of the dam), hold species such as Common Moorhen, African Swamphen, Black Crake, African Rail, African Jacana and African Snipe, although some patience is needed to see all these species. Levaillant’s Cisticola and Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warblers also frequent these areas, and are joined in summer by numbers of African Reed Warbler, along with the occasional Sedge and Great Reed Warblers. Knowledge of the calls helps immensely in separating these warblers. Common and Orange-breasted Waxbills frequent these rank areas, and in summer, numbers of the stunning Red-collared and White-winged Widowbirds display over these areas. Little Bittern are a scarce resident as well, and some luck is needed in finding them – often seen as they fly between reed clumps. It is recommended to park and explore the dam’s edge by foot, or slowly drive along, stopping and scanning on a regular basis. Marsh Owl roost in the denser, rank stands of grassy vegetation, lying adjacent to the dam, in the upper reaches where the Mooi River enters into the dam – winter mornings and evenings are the best time to see these birds, as they slowly quarter over the reserve, hunting for food.

Moving away from the dam, dry, open grasslands dominate the rest of the reserve. Regularly encountered species are the stunning Northern Black Korhaan (listen for their loud, raucous call), Swainson’s Spurfowl, Ant-eating Chat, Zitting, Desert and Cloud Cisticolas (best identified by their differing calls), Rufous-naped and Spike-heeled Larks, Long-tailed Widowbird, African Pied Starling, African Pipit and Cape Longclaw. Scarcer species to be found include Orange River Francolin, Eastern Clapper Lark (listen for their unique display flight during the summer), and Buffy and Plain-backed Pipits (especially after winter fires). Many hirundines work these areas during the summer, and you should see many species including the likes of South African Cliff Swallow and Banded Martin. Small pockets of acacia puncture the grasslands, as do small pockets of eucalyptus and other wooded areas – all of which provide a good change and boost to the bird community. Species to keep an eye out for in these areas are Crested, Black-collared and Acacia Pied Barbets, Little Bee-eater, Speckled, Red-faced and White-backed Mousebirds (all three southern African mousebirds co-occurring here), Red-throated Wryneck, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bokmakierie, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Fiscal Flycatcher, Chestnut-vented Warbler, Neddicky, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Scaly-feathered Weaver (Finch), Blue Waxbill and Yellow Canary, amongst others.

Key species:

Great-crested Grebe, Goliath Heron, Little Bittern, African Snipe, Northern Black Korhaan, Little Bee-eater, South African Cliff Swallow, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Cloud Cisticola, Plain-backed Pipit

About the Birding Site

This small nature reserve, which covers roughly 3000ha, is set in the rolling grasslands of the Mooi River valley surrounding the Boskop Dam. The dam is fed by the Mooi River and is a popular recreational area for residents of the nearby town of Potchefstroom, and in particular is a very popular angling destination.

A wide variety of plains game can be found, including Eland, Black Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, Blesbok, Springbok and Plains Zebra, along with species more characteristic of the grasslands such as Yellow Mongoose, and even Meerkat (Suricate). An impressive list of over 250 species of birds have been recorded. This is a small reserve and can be comfortably covered in a half-day of birding.

Key species:

Great-crested Grebe, Goliath Heron, Little Bittern, African Snipe, Northern Black Korhaan, Little Bee-eater, South African Cliff Swallow, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Cloud Cisticola, Plain-backed Pipit

Other Related Information

Situated 25km north of Potchefstroom on the Carletonville road (R501). Turn left at the Rysmierbult/Muiskraal turnoff, go over the Mooi River and turn left immediately after the bridge.

Access and facilities:
The entrance gate is located precisely at these coordinates (26°31’19.0″S 27°07’13.2″E, or -26.521935, 27.120325), and this doubles up as the reception.

Other related information:

Adults R30.00
Juveniles R15.00 (2 – 12 years)
Pensioners R15.00

Angling R20.00 (per 2 fishing/ angling Rods)

Camping R25.00 per site per night (max 6 people per site and R10.00 per additional person) + gate entry fee & angling fee per person.

Gate times:
March & April 06h00 – 18h30
May – September 06h30 – 18h00
September & October 06h00 – 18h30
November – February 05h30 – 19h00

Recommended accommodation nearby:
There is a basic camping site available in the reserve (see details above for more information).

No BirdLife Recommended Accommodations are currently available in the area. The large town of Potchefstroom is located a short distance away, where a wide range of accommodation options exist to suit all budgets.

Local guide information:
No BirdLife Recommended Tour Operators or local guides are currently available in the area.

Text prepared by:
Dylan Vasapolli (Birding Ecotours)
Martin Benadie

Key species:

Great-crested Grebe, Goliath Heron, Little Bittern, African Snipe, Northern Black Korhaan, Little Bee-eater, South African Cliff Swallow, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Cloud Cisticola, Plain-backed Pipit

Contact details:

Boskop Dam Nature Reserve
Cel: +27 (0) 71 543 2110 or +27 (0) 82 817 1997
E-mail: or

Click to download the reserve brochure