Cape Peninsula – Strandfontein Sewage Works

About the Birding

Please note: Strandfontein is a sprawling, and sometimes confusing, complex consisting of 21 individual pans. The pan layout and their corresponding numbers can be found on the accompanying map.

Start your birding at the entry gate at the end of Flowerpecker Street (-34.0548, 18.5204). As you work your way towards the start of the treatment pans, watch for Black-headed Heron, Cattle Egret and Jackal Buzzard. Zitting Cisticola is found in areas of long grass.

On warm days watch out for Mole Snake, or Cape Cobras on the road. In summer there are sometimes large flocks of aerial feeders, with the most common being Barn Swallow, Brown-throated Martin and Greater Striped Swallow. The line of gum trees (at the braai areas), is home to Common Chaffinch (check the first site around -34.0564, 18.5186), Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Fork-tailed Drongo and Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk. A scarce visitor is Willow Warbler – listen out for its contact call. Just before you reach the first pans, scan the open grassy field (-34.0740, 18.5154) for Spotted Thick-knees.

Continue onto the causeway that separates pans P6 and P7. Here scan the large areas of open water for Maccoa Ducks and Black-necked Grebes among large numbers of Greater Flamingos, Cape Teals and Cape Shovelers. Blacksmith Lapwings are frequently seen on the roadside.

Just before reaching the security building at the main Waste Treatment Plant (-34.0795, 18.5193), turn right onto the dirt road, and head towards the hub of the “wagon wheel” of pans. This point is marked by the mural bedecked Julie te Groen building (-34.0825, 18.5134). From here you can branch out to the adjacent pans, as dictated by weather and light conditions.

The best pans for wader watching are often P1 and P2. Some time spent scanning the mixed species flocks and shoreline in summer can produce Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit. In recent years there have been Terek Sandpipers present in small numbers. Since rare waders seem to be attracted to Strandfontein, look out for birds like Pectoral Sandpiper. Blacksmith Lapwings, Pied Avocet and Black-winged Stilt are also common on these pans. Depending on water levels the waders can be fairly distant, in which case a spotting scope is extremely helpful in getting good views. Cape Wagtails are common, with vagrant Western Yellow Wagtail having been recorded in summer.

P2 is excellent for gulls and terns, which roost in good numbers in the late evening (-34.0829, 18.5069). Kelp, Grey-headed and Hartlaub’s Gull, and Swift (Great Crested) Terns are present all year. They are joined by Sandwich and occasionally Common Terns in summer. Caspian Terns are irregular throughout the year. Great White Pelican frequent the drier, open sections of the pan. In summer, Lesser Flamingo can sometimes be found here. The roadside grassy verges are home to African Pipit, Cape Longclaw and Zitting Cisticola.

P3 and P4 are excellent pans for waterfowl with Cape Teal, Cape Shovelor and Egyptian Geese being abundant. Scan these masses for rarer species such as Black-necked Grebe, both Red-billed, and Blue-billed Teals, Southern Pochard and Maccoa Duck. The flanking reed-beds are home to secretive species like African Swamphen, Black and Baillon’s Crake (rare) and Purple Heron, as well as Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warblers.

Strandfontein is also home to several African Marsh Harriers. These are often seen flying low over the pans and reed beds. Be careful not to confuse them with the numerous Yellow-billed Kites present in summer. Other raptors frequently seen around the complex include Black-winged Kite, Jackal Buzzard, Rock Kestrel, African Fish Eagle and Booted Eagle (summer visitor).

The lower “S” pans can also produce good birds. The road to S5 and S4 has a migrant swallow roost in summer (-34.0887, 18.5196) that is one of the best spots to see roosting Sand Martin. Several pairs of Spotted Eagle Owls breed annually amongst the denser areas of vegetation. The pans themselves can hold birds like South African Shelduck and Spur-winged Goose, as well as large wader flocks when water levels are lower. Towards the dunes, African Oystercatcher and White-fronted Plover can be seen. Red-necked Phalaropes are seen annually on S2. The channels by the dunes are a good place to look for Common Sandpiper, a tough bird for Cape Town. A WORD OF CAUTION: THESE ROADS ARE OFTEN SANDY AND IMPASSABLE TO EVEN SOME 4X4 VEHICLES.

Strandfontein has gained fame in recent years for the large number of rarities it regularly produces. Vagrant waders and seabirds are most common summer finds. The mixed wader flocks have turned up species like Baird’s Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint and Pectoral Sandpiper. The seabird roost on P2 have held Elegant Tern, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Franklin’s Gull. The other notable record was a Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin seen at the Zeekoeivlei picnic sites in 2016.

Key species:

African Marsh Harrier, Great White Pelican, Southern Pochard, Maccoa Duck, Blue-billed Teal, Black-necked Grebe, Greater and Lesser Flamingo

About the Birding Site

Strandfontein Sewage Works is arguably one of the most well-known birding sites in South Africa and is very popular with local birders. This locality is famed for producing an impressive variety of regional and national rarities in recent years. Situated in Strandfontein on the Cape Flats, next to Zeekoevlei, it is an Important Bird Area and forms part of the larger False Bay Nature Reserve.

The habitat consists of large water-filled settling pans, some with exposed banks and reed beds. Over 200 species have been seen at this location. There is an extensive network of roads throughout the pans, allowing easy access. It is recommended that you use your vehicle as a hide.

Key species:

African Marsh Harrier, Great White Pelican, Southern Pochard, Maccoa Duck, Blue-billed Teal, Black-necked Grebe, Greater and Lesser Flamingo

Other Related Information

Access point GPS: -34.0548, 18.5205
Entrance is free
Access is from sunrise to sunset
There are security guards present on P1 as of writing January 2021 and the Works are generally a safe place to bird.

Key species:

African Marsh Harrier, Great White Pelican, Southern Pochard, Maccoa Duck, Blue-billed Teal, Black-necked Grebe, Greater and Lesser Flamingo

Contact details:

N/A

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