Located 26 km south of Newcastle, Chelmsford Nature Reserve features a gently undulating landscape with lightly wooded hills and flat-bottomed valleys. The Chelmsford Dam, a large, man-made impoundment, and the Ngagane river are the dominant features in the area. The surrounding grassland is a good example of Natal sour sandveld. Soils are shallow, badly drained and sandy. Woodland is sparse and restricted in extent. Some grassland areas hold a few scattered Acacia trees, and fire refuges have clumps of Acacia and Diospyros trees.
See Box for key species. A breeding colony of Geronticus calvus is located a few metres outside the reserve. The birds nearly always forage somewhere within the reserve. The wetlands and surrounding grasslands are frequented by Grus carunculatus, G. paradisea and Balearica regulorum. Other wetland and grassland species of concern include Circus ranivorus, C. maurus, Crex crex, Tyto capensis, Sagittarius serpentarius, Neotis denhami, Eupodotis caerulescens and E. senegalensis. The rocky outcrops hold Geocolaptes olivaceus.
Non-bird biodiversity: Two near-endemic plants, Rhus gerrardii and Kniphofia breviflora, are present. Among mammals, Ceratotherium simum (LR/cd) has been reintroduced.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
This state-owned reserve was proclaimed in 1980, and is administered by the KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service. The grassland is of a type poorly represented elsewhere, and formally conserved only at this site. Although the colony of Geronticus calvus falls outside the reserve boundaries, it is included within the limits of the IBA.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Chelmsford Nature Reserve. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 28/01/2022.