BIRDING AT THE WEST COAST NATIONAL PARK - A MUST DO OVER THE HOLIDAY PERIODPosted on the 28th March 2017
The WEST COAST NATIONAL PARK (S33º 14’643” E18º 12’145”) is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (SA 105) and a RAMSAR site. The Park includes the beach and dune land between the villages of YZERFONTEIN and LANGEBAAN, the beautiful lagoon and the Saldanha Bay Islands. More than 300 bird species have been identified here, and the Park is probably best known for the thousands of migratory waders in summer. Terrestrial birding should, however, not be underestimated. The Rhenosterveld (a type of fynbos) of the Park represents of the last large remnants of this habitat type, and hosts good numbers of the vulnerable Black Harrier. Other sought-after species include White-throated Canary, Grey-winged Francolin, Karoo Lark, White-backed Mousebird, Karoo Prinia, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Grey Tit and many more.
|Black Harrier (Rodnick Biljon)|
|Southern Black Korhaan (AO)|
Birding around the Geelbek area is superb. The TWO GEELBEK HIDES (S33º 11’417” E18º 07’477”) are situated in close proximity to the historic GEELBEK HOMESTEAD AND RESTAURANT. (S33º 11’43.22” E18º 07’23.15”) These hides overlook salt marshes and mudflats and are the best spots to view waders. The hides are best visited at ebb tide - four and a half hours after high tide and two hours after low tide in Table Bay. Do not underestimate the boardwalks to these hides, as these offer very good birding and photographic opportunities. In summer expect to find Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Greenshank, Red Knot, Grey Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Ruff, Sanderling, Curlew and Marsh Sandpipers, Little Stint, Ruddy Turnstone and Common Whimbrel. Special birds seen here in recent years include Common Redshank, Terek Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers and Black Tern. Look out for resident species such as African Fish-Eagle, Greater Flamingo, Purple Heron, African Marsh-Harrier, Osprey, Great White Pelican, Kittlitz’s Plover, African Spoonbill and African Purple Swamphen.
|Geelbek hide (AO)|
|View towards manor house (AO)|
Also take a fifteen minutes walk from the homestead to the TWO HIDES IN THE SALT MARSHES (S33º 12’21.69” E18º 07’24.50”) where the waders go when it is high tide at the two Geelbek hides. This can be very rewarding, with interesting birds along the way.
The area at and around the trees leading to the Geelbek homestead brings another suite of species into play: look out for Cape Batis, African Hoopoe, Rock Kestrel, Black-shouldered Kite, Southern Black Korhaan, Cape Longclaw, Cape Penduline Tit and Cardinal Woodpecker. It is also worthwhile to take in tea or lunch at the homestead, as a variety of garden birds is on offer here: Yellow Bishop, Cape Bunting, Rock Martin, Wattled Starling, Cape Wagtail, Cape Weaver and the usual doves and sparrows are often plentiful.
|Birding the bluegums (BLO)|
|View over estuary (AO)|
This description clearly emphasizes that the diversity of species to be found within walking distance of the Geelbek homestead is simply outstanding, making this one of the main birding hotspots in the Western Cape Province. It is worth participating in the annual ‘Wader Bash’ that is presented here by the SANParks Honorary Rangers.
The SEEBERG HIDE, (S33º 09’509” E18º 03’637”) with its new boardwalk, is situated about 1km from the LANGEBAAN ENTRANCE (S33º 07’057” E18º 03’308”) to the Park and the best viewing here is at high tide. Several hundreds of Greater Flamingos can be viewed here in winter, and summer produces vast numbers of terns and waders. Vagrants viewed at the hide in recent years include Black-tailed and Hudsonian Godwits, Eurasian Oystercatchers, Lesser Sand Plover and Broad-billed, Terek and White-rumped Sandpipers.
|Grey-winged Francolin (AO)|
|Pied Avocet (AO)|
The ABRAHAMSKRAAL HIDE (S33º 13’857” E18º 08’136”) is always worth a visit as the area holds the only accessible fresh water in the Park. Expect to find species such as Black Crake, Little Grebe, African Rail, African Spoonbill, African Purple Swamphen and Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warblers. Also look out for Yellow-billed Duck, SA Shelduck, Cape Shoveler and Cape and Red-billed Teals. Large numbers of martins and swallows, together with Wood Sandpiper are to be seen in summer. Black Harrier and African Marsh-Harrier often quarter past here, and White-throated and Yellow Canaries, Cape Longclaw and Cape Wagtail are often seen at the water. The access road to the hide often produces species such as Bokmakierie, Grey-backed and Levaillant’s Cisticola, Grey-winged Francolin, Wattled Starling, White-backed Mousebird and Namaqua Sandgrouse.
|Abrahamskraal sunset (Elaine Odendal)|
|African Rail (AO)|
TSAARBANK ( S33º 08’900” E18º 00’105”) on the Atlantic seaboard should be visited, as Bank, Cape and Crowned Cormorants, Hartlaub’s and Kelp Gulls, African Black Oystercatcher and several terns are found here. Occasionally pelagic species also pass by, particularly during stormy weather. Spotting scopes are needed to look for African Penguins and other interesting species on the distant Vondeling Island. Whales are often to be seen between May and November. Access is allowed to the privately owned POSTBERG NATURE RESERVE (S33º 08’675” E18º 00’227”) during the flower season in spring and it is generally regarded as the best venue to see flowers reasonably close to Cape Town. Bird and game viewing here is good, and most of the larks and pipits to be expected in the region are normally on view. A visit here during spring gives the visitor the best of both the flowers and birds of the Cape West Coast.
|Postberg flowers (AO)|
|Schaapen Island from Postberg (AO)|
The JUTTEN, MALGAS and SCHAAPEN ISLANDS are of critical conservation importance to the tens of thousands birds that breed here. Bank, Crowned and Cape Cormorants, Cape Gannet, African Black Oystercatcher and African Penguin abound. Access to these islands is, unfortunately, but understandably, not allowed.
Self-catering accommodation is available at DUINEPOS. (S33º 11’701” E18º 08’289”). This facility is managed by a group of local ladies, and birding around the chalets is simply superb. Terrestrial species such as Bokmakierie, Karoo Scrub-Robin and Grey Tit are often found. It is within easy walking distance of the Geelbek complex. (Reservations: +27 022 707 9900 or email@example.com)
More detailed information on bird-watching opportunities along the Cape West Coast is available at the following link:
|African Penguins (Carin Malan)|
|Crowned & Cape Cormorants (Carin Malan|
|Australian & Cape Gannets (MC Botha)|
|Common Greenshank (AO)|