West Coast – Table Bay (Rietvlei) Nature Reserve and Dolphin Beach Pans

About the Birding

The best time to bird this reserve is from August to November, when several species are breeding. Being a wetland, it attracts a wide variety of birds, some cryptic and others less so, while other wildlife associated with this habitat can also be seen periodically. There is always scope for a rarity, of which this reserve has contributed several in recent years.

Follow the road from the Ticket Office (-33.8355, 18.4933) until reaching a small parking area on the left, where a chain prevents further vehicle access (-33.8383, 18.4965). The road passes through some scrub where a variety of birds favouring this habitat can be seen. Cape Sparrow, Fiscal Flycatcher, Red-faced Mousebird and Cape Spurfowl are regularly encountered. A slow walk along the track following the edge of the lake will usually give close views of Cape Shoveller, Yellow -billed Duck, Red-knobbed Coot and Little Grebe. African Darter, Whiskered Tern and Great White Pelican are frequently seen as well. Black-winged Stilt, Levaillant’s Cisticola and Cape Weaver are common. Cape Longclaw is located by its cat-like call, en route to and along the boardwalk to Friends hide (-33.8451, 18.4963). Scan the reed tops for African Marsh Harrier which can materialize erratically. African Snipe is regularly seen in early summer when the water level has dropped at the hide, while Little Rush, and Little Swamp Warblers are often glaringly conspicuous in the reeds. Both Greater, and Lesser Flamingo, Spur-winged Goose and Caspian Tern are present when the adjacent pans hold sufficient water. The Kingfisher hide (-33.8447, 18.4938) is a fairly reliable place to see Malachite Kingfisher and 18.4938. The un-name track ending at a fence has a small water-filled pan that offers a selection of birds, such as Brown throated Martin, Purple Swamphen, Glossy Ibis and with luck a Black Crake. Birds here are very shy so approaching this site to see birds will require stealth. Zitting Cisticola and Black-winged Kite are frequently seen on the small patch of Strandveld.

The winter months are best to see the highly sought-after Marsh Owl. Park at the corner of Stilt Road (33.8385, 18.5035) and position yourself on the prominent grassy bank leading into the reserve (-33.8392, 18.5026). Scan the reed beds to the south around sunset for birds setting out to hunt.

The Dolphin beach Pans are separated from the main reserve by the busy R27/West Coast Road. The northern pan is best birded from the end of Popham Street (-33.8274, 18.4824). Please be respectful of the residents when it comes to parking. Black Crake, African Snipe and rarer ducks like White-backed Duck occur, so careful scanning is often rewarding. Search the flocks of Hartlaub’s Gulls for Grey-headed Gulls, which are scarce in the Western Cape. Equally rewarding here are sightings of Cape Clawless Otter and Water Mongoose. The homeowner of the left side of the cul-de-sac puts food out for the Water Mongoose, so may be rewarded seeing the secretive mammal while on site. This pan can also be safely birded from the bicycle path running parallel to the West Coast Road.

To bird the southern pan, park at the Dolphin Beach Hotel (-33.8293, 18.4808). A scan of the beach (when quiet) will often provide an opportunity to see African Oystercatchers. Scanning the open ocean may provide views of passing Cape Gannets and any offshore feeding flocks of Common (in summer) and Swift (Great Crested) Terns will often have a Parasitic Jaeger (summer) in attendance. Cape Cormorant can be seen in large numbers feeding at sea here, but numbers are governed by the presence of their prey. Sea- watching here in winter may turn up interesting seabirds like Black-browed Albatross, Subantarctic (Brown) Skua, Sooty Shearwater and White-chinned Petrel. On exiting the car park, you could carefully bird from the verge on either side of Marine Drive towards the traffic lights. Scan the edges and the water itself for waterfowl, Black-crowned Night Heron and Common Moorhen. One can continue southward from the jogging/cycling lane on the R27/West Coast Road where Three-banded Plover and African Snipe are regularly seen in late summer, when the water level is lower. Several shorebird species, such as Common Greenshank, Common, or Wood Sandpipers can also be seen here in summer.

Key species:

Cape Shoveler, Great Crested Grebe, Whiskered Tern, Great White Pelican, Purple Heron, Greater Flamingo. Lesser Flamingo, Cape Longclaw, African Snipe, Black Crake, White-backed Duck

About the Birding Site

Table Bay Nature Reserve comprises peripheral West Coast Strandveld vegetation, through which the Diep River passes. The river is bordered by extensive red beds, scattered salty marsh pans and a lake (created to provide the Foreshore landfill). The main part of the lake is regularly used for recreational activities. The rest of the lake and surrounds are protected for the benefit of the wildlife. This section features two bird hides connected by a boardwalk.

The twin Dolphin Beach Pans are separated from the main waterbody and are birded from the roadside, or quieter suburban streets.

Key species:

Cape Shoveler, Great Crested Grebe, Whiskered Tern, Great White Pelican, Purple Heron, Greater Flamingo. Lesser Flamingo, Cape Longclaw, African Snipe, Black Crake, White-backed Duck

Other Related Information

Access and facilities:
R10 per person (Adult, Senior & Child) and R25 per vehicle is charged to enter the Reserve. The tracks to either hide are user friendly for disabled persons. A map of the Reserve is available at the ticket office.

Key species:

Cape Shoveler, Great Crested Grebe, Whiskered Tern, Great White Pelican, Purple Heron, Greater Flamingo. Lesser Flamingo, Cape Longclaw, African Snipe, Black Crake, White-backed Duck

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