(This article is one of four written by Keith Harrison that he originally prepared for “Cape Odyssey”. - Ed.)
Rocher Pan 24 kms. North of Velddrif along the R27 coastal road, is often overlooked by visiting birders. It is not a natural pan because the landowner many years ago dug the vlei so that winter rain coming down two small rivers would collect and increase his grazing for the cattle during summer. Currently administered by CapeNature. There are proposals to develop with new chalets and bird hides. At the southern gate where there is a shed with an ‘honesty’ box to pay for entry of the car.
Being an ephemeral pan rainfall determines what and when species are seen, usually filling during winter and dry in late summer. When the water is deep flamingo, African Spoonbill and ducks including Maccoa and Southern Pochard are found. Towards the north end during winter hundreds of over wintering first year Common Terns and Swift Terns day roost.
As the water evaporates the longer legged waders arrive and as the pans start to dry out the small migratory waders. Around the pan are extensive reed beds with Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warbler and Black Crake and African Rail. The excellent Sandveld vegetation has an interesting suite of LBJ species, being at the start for Namaqualand birds like Namaqua Warbler and Rufous-eared warbler.
The dunes and desolate beach stretching for kilometers have their own species African Black Oystercatcher, Cormorants and African Penguins. Great Crested Grebe is often seen feeding in the wave area. In season Southern Right Whales calve off this area and Common Dolphins visit daily. Being originally for grazing there are grassland species Secretary Bird, Blue Crane and in winter Bustards.
Due to being an oasis in a dry area and having plenty of insects Swallows, Swifts and Martins abound in summer. Also, dry land species visit from the Sandvelt to obtain their daily drinking water. All these birds being attracted to the pan, a full range of raptors including African Marsh and Black Harrier are resident. Therefore Rocher Pan can fully occupy any exploring birder comfortably for half a day most times of the year.