West Coast Peninsula

About the Birding

Coming from Cape Town, take the R27 towards Velddrif, follow the R45 to Vredenburg, and continue on the R399 towards Paternoster. The best areas for roadside birding are accessed from two gravel roads leading north from the R399, just after Vredenburg. The first (-32.8904, 17.9758) leads towards Stompneusbaai and St Helena Bay, or continue further and take the second road north (-32.8141, 17.8974), immediately before entering Paternoster, although both roads ultimately link up before St Helena Bay (-32.7796, 17.9683).

Early morning is a good time to listen for the descending whistle of Cape Long-billed Lark, which inhabit both the untouched strandveld and degraded farmland. As is often the case with Long-billed Larks, they are more easily heard than seen, but on occasion they might be seen perching conspicuously and calling from roadside fences. Alternatively, search for them foraging quietly on the ground, or in their aerial display flight. A scope might come in handy to provide decent views of this large, distinctive and striking endemic lark, with its almost absurdly long bill. Try the area just beyond a small abandoned homestead at approximately 3km from the turnoff before Paternoster. You’ll find an open gate here which allows you to explore on foot. Both roads can be very productive for larks in general, with Red-capped and Large-billed also present, as well as small groups of nomadic Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark. Another special feature of the area is Sickle-winged Chat, which is common here, but examine all chats diligently, because Familiar can also occur. African Pipit and Capped Wheatear are present in good numbers. Namaqua Sandgrouse may also be seen in the vicinity. Listen for their characteristic “Kelkiewyn” call as they speed overhead in the early morning. In dry years, small numbers of Lark-like Bunting may be encountered, and Ludwig’s Bustard is possible, although rare. The road leading to Stompneusbaai also supports a small population of Ant-eating Chat, which are uncommon in the south-western Cape. The rocky hillsides above St Helena Bay can be searched for Mountain Wheatear. In summer, flocks of aerial feeders may include locally uncommon Common Swift and Banded Martin, whilst vocal European Bee-eaters may be seen hawking insects overhead. Raptors are represented by the ever-present Jackal and Common Buzzards, but Black Harrier (uncommon) and Lanner Falcon are also possible.

The popular and iconic west coast town of Paternoster provides scenic vistas, good eateries, and easy access to a number of strandveld birds, including Grey Tit, Cape Penduline-tit, Grey-backed Cisticola and Long-billed Crombec. Karoo Lark may also be seen in the fynbos north of the town along the coast.

The charming seaside town of Jacobs Bay may be accessed by proceeding south from Vredenberg and taking the signposted westward turn (-32.9529, 17.9646). The road proceeds through low scrub and farmland where Cape Long-billed Lark can also be seen.

In town, park in the vicinity of Perlemoen or Duiker Close (-32.9800, 17.8865), and walk to the coast, where the shallow pools and rocks in the bay host Antarctic Tern in winter (present in highest numbers between June and September). The area provides a good exercise in Tern identification, with Common, Sandwich and Swift (Great Crested)Terns usually seen. The roost has also hosted local rarities Roseate Tern and Black Tern in previous seasons. African Oystercatcher, as well as Cape, Crowned and White-breasted Cormorants may also be seen, and on windy days a dedicated sea watch may produce Cape Gannet, White-chinned Petrel or Sooty Shearwater, or a Jaeger in summer months.

The scrubby strandveld vegetation in town also offers good birding, and Grey Tit, Cape Penduline-tit and White-throated Canary are all present. Look and listen for coveys of Grey-winged Francolin (most vocal and active in the early morning), which are more secretive than Cape Spurfowl, which is also present. Layard’s Tit-babbler has also been recorded in the strandveld close to town, but is decidedly uncommon, with Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler much more likely to be encountered. Karoo Scrub Robin, Cape Bunting, Grey-backed Cisticola and Yellow Canary are plentiful members of any foraging mixed species flock.

Key species:

Cape Long-billed Lark, Antarctic Tern, Karoo Lark, Sickle-winged Chat, Grey Tit, Cape Penduline-tit, Grey-winged Francolin, Black Harrier, African Oystercatcher, Crowned Cormorant

About the Birding Site

The West Coast peninsula offers excellent birding with a scenic backdrop of arid farmlands, rocky outcrops, patches of remnant strandveld fynbos and picturesque, white-washed coastal towns set against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. Exploring the peninsula can be incorporated into a day trip to Velddrif or the West Coast National Park. The avian star of the show here is the handsome endemic Cape Long-billed Lark, whilst Jacobs Bay offers close-up views of Antarctic Terns, which are present in large numbers in winter and provide excellent photographic opportunities.

Key species:

Cape Long-billed Lark, Antarctic Tern, Karoo Lark, Sickle-winged Chat, Grey Tit, Cape Penduline-tit, Grey-winged Francolin, Black Harrier, African Oystercatcher, Crowned Cormorant

Other Related Information

Access and facilities:
All of the birding localities described are free access, but be aware of closed gates and fences denoting private land.

Key species:

Cape Long-billed Lark, Antarctic Tern, Karoo Lark, Sickle-winged Chat, Grey Tit, Cape Penduline-tit, Grey-winged Francolin, Black Harrier, African Oystercatcher, Crowned Cormorant

Contact details:

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