West Coast – Rocherpan Nature Reserve

About the Birding

The best time to visit the reserve is in spring and early summer. The Strandveld vegetation is flowering and the associated specials are breeding. The Rocher Pan wetland, rainfall depending, will have sufficient water to attract numerous bird species including the summer migrants.

Birders can walk the 2.5 km Beach Trail starting at either the picnic site (-32.6119, 18.2968) which is advisable as the road to the beach can be sandy, or from the turnaround at the end of the road (-32.6099, 18.2942).

Species likely to be encountered along the way include African Oystercatcher, both Kelp, and Hartlaub’s Gulls and White-fronted Plovers. Be sure to scan the ocean for other species foraging offshore or in transit. These would include Cape Gannet, Swift (Greater Crested) and Sandwich (summer) Tern and Cape Cormorants. The trail ends at the lookout point (-32.5893, 18.3038). Here are picnic tables and ablution facilities where visitors can stop for a quick break before birding their way back the road (3km walk). This walk offers an excellent opportunity to spot Strandveld species like Karoo Scrub-robin, Grey Tit, Layard’s Warbler, Cape Penduline-Tit, Bokmakerie, and White-backed Mousebirds.

The wetland for which the reserve is known, attracts large numbers of 70+ waterbird species. The wetland is not permanent and in some years it is completely dry. It is best to contact the reserve to enquire about the conditions of the wetland before visiting. There are four bird hides positioned along the shoreline. Three are placed at the southern end which receives inflowing water first, and is also the last part of the pan to dry out. The fourth and smallest hide is situated further north along the western edge of the wetland. All hides are accessible via a short walk from the nearest road. Waterfowl are the most common species seen, especially Cape Shoveler, both Red-billed, and Cape teal and Yellow-billed Ducks. Black-winged Stilts, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, African Spoonbill and White-breasted Cormorant are all regular. In summer, hosts of small waders like Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, and Ruff are all possible. There are small pockets of managed reedbeds scattered around the wetland that are inhabited by Southern Red Bishop, Little Rush-, and Lesser Swamp Warblers.

The 3km long Rocherpan Trail begins just past the northernmost cottage (-32.6134, 18.3030) and takes the visitor along the eastern side of the wetland crossing over the northern end of the wetland meeting up with the western access road (-32.5918, 18.3074) at to return via the road (c. 4km) along the west side of the wetland. This trail is excellent for Strandveld specials. Karoo Scrub-robin, White-backed Mousebird, Grey Tit and Cape Penduline Tit are all present, in addition to species like Long-billed Crombec, Bar-throated Apalis and Yellow Canaries. Several larks also occur including Cape Clapper, Large-billed, Karoo and Cape Long-billed. Southern Black Korhaan and Ludwig’s Bustard are rare. Look out for Black Harrier at the northernmost part of the trail as it turns westward. Other common raptors include Pale Chanting Goshawk and Black-winged Kite. This trail does provide opportunities to observe waterbirds along the route, but make sure to leave early so that the sun is at your back.

Key species:

African Oystercatcher, Kelp Gull, Hartlaub Gull, Cape Cormorant, Cape Gannet, Swift Tern Cape Shoveler, Red-knobbed Coot, Greater Flamingo, Black harrier, European Bee-eater

About the Birding Site

Rocherpan Nature Reserve is a small provincial reserve situated 180 km north of Cape Town. It consists of three primary habitats for birds. The sandy beach and foredunes, the wetland and the Strandveld vegetation. The reserve centres on the name-sake ephemeral wetland. The pan usually fills after the winter rains, but may be completely dry in some summers. There are four bird hides positioned around the wetland. There are great opportunities to bird on foot along the numerous trails and along the beach.

Key species:

African Oystercatcher, Kelp Gull, Hartlaub Gull, Cape Cormorant, Cape Gannet, Swift Tern Cape Shoveler, Red-knobbed Coot, Greater Flamingo, Black harrier, European Bee-eater

Other Related Information

The shortest route is via the R27 to Velddrif and then northwards through Dwarskersbos and the reserve gate will be reached 10 km later. The coordinates for the entrance gate to the reserve is 32⁰ 36’ 57,2”S + 18⁰18’ 09.1”E.

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
Up to date information regarding admission costs can be found on the CapeNature website https://www.capenature.co.za/

The reserve caters for overnight accommodation and day visitors. A picnic site with braai facilities and toilets is situated on the western edge of the pan. Where possible amenities cater for wheelchair access.

A map is downloadable at: https://www.capenature.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Rocherpan-Map-2016.pdf

Recommended accommodation nearby:
There are 8 cottages on the reserve. Four are six sleepers while the other four smaller units sleep a maximum of four persons. There is also a variety of accommodation to be found at Dwarskersbos.

Local guide information:
Absolute Birding: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527800486296-4d544ea0-b3b6
Birding Africa: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527800843201-e0dd8be5-1491
Birding Eco-tours: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527837069054-d73b5915-e2a1
Cape Eco-tours: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527837703508-e06f57e0-d098
Lawson’s Birding, Wildlife and custom Safaris: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527838131789-84d3b3f2-444d
Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527838131789-84d3b3f2-444d

Text prepared by:
Kevin Shaw, Ecologist: CapeNature

Key species:

African Oystercatcher, Kelp Gull, Hartlaub Gull, Cape Cormorant, Cape Gannet, Swift Tern Cape Shoveler, Red-knobbed Coot, Greater Flamingo, Black harrier, European Bee-eater

Contact details:

Rocherpan Nature Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)87 087 4177
Additional information can be sourced from the CapeNature website https://www.capenature.co.za/