News

WEEKLY FEATURE 18: STRANDFONTEIN SEWAGE WORKS

Posted on the 3rd May 2015

The CAPE FLATS WASTE WATER TREATMENT WORKS, or simply STRANDFONTEIN as it is known to birders, also forms part of the False Bay Nature Reserve. Birding opportunities here are outstanding for novice birdwatchers and serious twitchers alike. Vast numbers of shore and waterbirds are on view. More than 200 species of which 11 are red data species have been recorded here – little wonder that Strandfontein is regarded as one of the top birding destinations in the Western Cape. A further advantage is that a visit can comfortably be combined with birding at the adjacent Rondevlei Nature Reserve. Note, however, that water levels and the number of birds can vary depending on the season and climatic conditions.
Strandfontein features more than 300 hectares of reed-fringed detention ponds and dunes connected by gravel roads that are usually in good condition. This network of tracks might be confusing to the first-time visitor, with the result that the use of a map of the area is strongly advised. Also ensure that the area is left well before dark. In summer the gates are open between 07h00 and 19h00. It is possible to see at least 70 bird species from the comfort of a vehicle during a morning outing to Strandfontein. Photographic opportunities are excellent. A comprehensive description of all the nooks and crannies within the works is not possible and the brief overview given herewith should merely be seen as a guideline to get the most out of birding in the area. Allow at least four hours to bird the works properly.

Image by Margaret Maciver
Image by Chris Cheetham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



A variety of bird species are common at Strandfontein throughout the year. These include ducks such as YELLOW-BILLED DUCK, EGYPTIAN and SPUR-WINGED GEESE, CAPE SHOVELER and CAPE and RED-BILLED TEALS, together with birds found closer to the base of the reeds along the water's edge like BLACK CRAKE, COMMON MOORHEN and AFRICAN PURPLE SWAMPHEN. RED-KNOBBED COOT, HARTLAUB'S and KELP GULLS and BLACKSMITH LAPWING are plentiful, as are BLACK-HEADED, GREY and PURPLE HERONS, all three ibises, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON and CASPIAN TERN. Large flocks of PIED AVOCET and GREATER FLAMINGOS are found seasonally and many BLACK-WINGED STILTS are present throughout the year.
Strandfontein also hosts a diversity of terrestrial species and most of the region's doves and sparrows are to be found in the vegetation around the ponds. LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA, COMMON FISCAL, BROWN-THROATED MARTIN and COMMON WAXBILL are very common and the reeds and fynbos remnants fringing the ponds should be searched for LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER and LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER.
The summer months see a huge influx of migrants and most of the region's martins, swallows and swifts, as well as waders are usually present in vast numbers. Look out for WHITE-THROATED SWALLOWS breeding under the culverts and BARN SWALLOWS, which are particularly abundant. Large numbers of waders can be present when conditions are favourable for foraging and roosting. Recent highlights included sightings of SAND MARTIN and PECTORAL SANDPIPER. WHITE-WINGED TERNS are seen occationally, but COMMON, SANDWICH and SWIFT TERNS are most abundant at this time of year.
Birding at Strandfontein starts along the access road to the works itself. ZITTING CISTICOLA, FORK-TAILED DRONGO and BLACK-HEADED HERON are common along here and JACKAL and STEPPE BUZZARD (summer), AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE and BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE often perch in the trees. The two pans that are passed after the environmental centre can often be very productive. Upon entering the Strandfontein Works travel towards the plant buildings with pan 7 (P7) on the left and pan 6 (P6) on the right. BLACK-NECKED and GREAT CRESTED GREBES, MACCOA DUCK, SOUTHERN POCHARD and CAPE TEAL are often present in good numbers on P7. Also look out for HOTTENTOT TEAL that occur here occasionally. Large numbers of PIED AVOCET, GREATER FLAMINGO and BLACK-WINGED STILT are often present on P6. In summer the area around pans 6 and 7 supports many waders.

Common Tern  Image by Carin Malan
Caspian Tern  Image by Anton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Turn right at the Plant buildings and pass the control boom with P6 to the right and P5 to the left. The smaller reed-fringed pond at the beginning of this stretch of road often produces SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL, PURPLE HERON, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON and WATER THICK-KNEE and GREATER STRIPED SWALLOW in summer. Turn left at the centre of the 'wagonwheel', now travelling with P5 to the left and P4 to the right. Several duck species are usually on view along P5, together with LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER within the reeds. MACCOA DUCK, GREATER FLAMINGO, BLACK-NECKED GREBE and GREAT WHITE PELICAN often feature on P4.

Turn left at the end of this road and circle the northern and eastern sides of settling pond 7 (S7). Target species here include PIED AVOCET, SOUTH AFRICAN SHELDUCK and CAPE and HOTTENTOT TEALS. Continue down the road separating S6 to the left and S7 to the right. Ducks and grebes are common in this area. Also keep in mind that S8 often hold large numbers of PIED AVOCET and GREATER FLAMINGO. Several reports of MOCCOA DUCK and HOTTENTOT TEAL have been received from this stretch and the reeds are very good for warblers. Also be on the lookout for AFRICAN MARSH-HARRIER.
Now travel towards the coast with S5 on the left and S4 on the right and then travel west alongside Baden Powell Drive along a road that could be rather sandy at times. Caution is advised here. Several settling ponds should be scanned to the north (right) as AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER is often present. In summer the latter species can often be seen in very large roosts together with SANDWICH and SWIFT TERNS. Martins, swallows and swifts are abundant along this road at this time of year. This stretch is also very rewarding for waders such as KITTLITZ'S and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVERS, COMMON RINGED PLOVER, WOOD SANDPIPER and LITTLE STINT. Check the road verges for CAPE LONGCLAW and AFRICAN PIPIT. A pair of SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL has been resident along these dunes for a long time.
Turn north along the road that transects S2 to the right and S1 to the left and then return to the plant buildings with P3 to the right and P2 to the left. P2 can be very productive and often features large tern roosts and a good variety of waders in summer if conditions are favourable. Notable species to look for along here include WHITE-FACED DUCK, PURPLE HERON, GLOSSY IBIS, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, CAPE SHOVELER, AFRICAN SPOONBILL and WATER THICK-KNEE.
Birds of prey are also well represented at Strandfontein and a casual overview of trip reports reveal species such as JACKAL and STEPPE BUZZARDS, PEREGRINE FALCON, AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE, AFRICAN MARSH HARRIER, BLACK-SHOULDERED and YELLOW-BILLED KITES (summer) and BLACK and RUFOUS-CHESTED SPARROWHAWKS.
Vagrants and other species reported include BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, BLACK-HEADED and FRANKLIN’S GULLS, GOLIATH HERON, SAND MARTIN, RED-NECKED PHALAROPE, PECTORAL SANDPIPER, BLACK TERN and YELLOW WAGTAIL.

White-faced Ducks  Image by Anton
Maccoa Duck  Image by Carin Malan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


CONTACT DETAILS:
DIRECTIONS: Strandfontein lies southeast of the Rondevlei Nature Reserve. From Cape Town travel along the N2 following the signs to the Cape Town International Airport. Turn left onto the M5 to Muizenberg and follow this freeway until the Ottery Road turn-off is reached and turn left here. Continue along this road to the intersection with Strandfontein Road (M17). Turn right into Strandfontein Road and continue until the sign for Zeekoevlei is reached. Turn right into Zeekoevlei Road through the blue-gum trees. Follow the road past the Cape Peninsula Aquatic Club and into the Strandfontein Waste Water Treatment Works. From Muizenberg travel east along Baden Powell Road and turn left into Strandfontein Road (M17). Travel further along this road until the Zeekoevlei Road turn-off is reached on the left.
PHONE: +27 (0)21 396 4283
EMERGENCY: +27 (0)83 499 1717
CONSERVATION MANAGER: +27 (0)21 396 4283
E-MAIL: Erica.Essig@capetown.gov.za
GPS COORDINATES: 34° 4' 45.89"S 18° 31' 10.15"E

Red-billed Teal  Image by Carin Malan
Little Stint  Image by Anton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMENTS

2090
GREGORY MANDEL (posted: 2016-11-20 15:07:42)
Hello-

Do you know what hours Strandfontein Sewage Works is open for birding? I will be in the area the second week of December.

Thank you.