The Cape West Coast offers a variety of top birding destinations, with no less than seven Important Bird Areas (IBA’s) registered with BirdLife International. The registration of two wetland systems as RAMSAR sites emphasizes the importance of the region for waterfowl and the region has the reputation for producing sightings of rare and vagrant migratory waders during summer. South African birders have encountered near mythical species such as Dunlin, Black-tailed and Hudsonian Godwits, Red-necked and Wilson’s Phalaropes.
Darling Bird Route
The wide diversity of vegetation in the Darling area offers birders a large variety of birds; from larks and pipits to lesser flamingos and great white pelicans. The area stretches from the strandveld of the Darling Hills Rd and Groote Post to the renosterveld of Waylands and Oudepost wildflower reserves. The beauty of the flowering bulbs and the diversity of the wildflowers offer the birder a unique springtime experience and in the summer large numbers of blue cranes may be seen in the wheat fields along the Darling / Malmesbury and Moorreesburg roads. The Tienie Versfeld Wildflower Reserve and !Khwa ttu San Culture & Education Centre enable to the visitor to further enjoy the ornithological diversity of Darling.
Contact: +27 (0)22 492 3361 | www.darlingtourism.co.za
The Swartland Birding Route
The Swartland Birding Route consists of the regions between the towns of Malmesbury in the south, Darling and Yzerfontein in the west, Moorreesburg and Koringberg in the north and Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel in the east.
The area has a varied landscape from sea, coastal plains, wild flowers and Fynbos to wheat fields, vineyards, olive farms and mountains and it is said that you can find at least 250 bird species in this vast differentiated landscape.
The diversity of vegetation in the Darling area presents birders with a wide range of different birds from larks and pipits to lesser flamingoes and great white pelicans. The rare Black Harrier and the endangered South African National bird, the Blue Crane, can also both be seen on the Swartland Birding Route.
Contact: Swartland Tourism + (0)27 22 487 2989 | www.swartlandtourism.co.za
The West Coast National Park
The West Coast National Park is an Important Bird Area (SA 105) and a RAMSAR site. The Park includes the beach and dune land between the towns of Yzerfontein and Langebaan, the beautiful lagoon and the Saldanha Bay Islands. More than 300 bird species have been identified here, and the Park is probably best known for the thousands of migratory waders in summer.
Terrestrial birding should, however, not be underestimated. The Rhenosterveld (a type of fynbos) of the Park represents of the last large remnants of this habitat type, and hosts good numbers of the vulnerable Black Harrier. Other sought-after species include White-throated Canary, Grey-winged Francolin, Karoo Lark, White-backed Mousebird, Karoo Prinia, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Grey Tit and many more.
Birding around the Geelbek area of the park is superb and there are two well-placed hides which overlook salt marshes and mudflats and are the best spots to view waders. Do not underestimate the boardwalks to these hides, as these offer very good birding and photographic opportunities. Visit Geelbek Restaurant & Nature Wedding Destination for family recipes – some more than 300 years old – like Cape Bobotie. Open 7 days a week. Contact: +27 (0)22 772 2134 / 072 698 6343 Website: www.geelbek.co.za
The area at and around the trees leading to the Geelbek homestead brings another suite of species into play: look out for Cape Batis, African Hoopoe, Rock Kestrel, Black-shouldered Kite, Southern Black Korhaan, Cape Longclaw, Cape Penduline Tit and Cardinal Woodpecker.
Contact: +27 (0)22 772 2144 | www.sanparks.co.za
Piekenierskloof Mountain Resort
Piekenierskloof Mountain Resort is a spot where most all of the bird species in the Citrusdal region can be found. This is thanks to more than 200 indigenous trees planted over the course of the last decade and special care taken to introduce fauna that attracts birds across a wide spectrum. The resort was featured in the Africa Birds & Birding magazine and – as a destination custom-built for site-seeing – sports ample viewpoints and platforms for successful birding. Bird species in the area include Eurasian Golden Oriole, African Goshawk and Long-billed Pipit. (Our logo – Cape Sugarbird or Promerops cafer).
Where: N7 Piekenierskloof Pass, Citrusdal, 7340
Contact: +27 (0)22 921 3574 | [email protected] | www.piekenierskloof.co.za
Lamberts Bay to Langebaan Coastal Route
A popular birding route, start at Lamberts Bay and then work southwards, following the network of roads that run parallel to the coastline and pass through a wide range of habitats.
The Cape Gannet colony at Lambert’s Bay is a spectacle not to be missed, and must rank as one of the birding highlights of the West Coast. Nearly 14 000 pairs breed on the bay’s Bird Island as well as small numbers of African Penguin and all four marine cormorants breed on the island. A host of gulls and terns, including Swift Tern, are also present.
The Langebaan Quarry is also a must to view the resident pair of Black Eagles, which usually breed between May and November, although they are seen in the general vicinity throughout the year. Rock Kestrel and African Black Swift also breed on the cliff faces and the alien thicket at the quarry edges is a reliable site for Southern Grey Tit and Acacia Pied Barbet.
Contact: [email protected]