South Africa’s West Coast Flamingo Birding Route is a current focus area of BirdLife South Africa, who recently launched a collaborative initiative aimed at improving birders’ experience in the area.
The ecologically varied birding destinations along the West Coast, such as Elands Bay’s Verlorenvlei, the Rocher Pan nature reserve, the Berg river estuary at Velddrif and the West Coast National Park near Langebaan, is rapidly growing in popularity with birdwatchers.
Birding on the West Coast
This area hosts a diverse range of sought after, often endemic bird species. Birders will delight in the many special and endemic birds, including the Blue Crane, Black Harrier, Southern Black Korhaan, Cape Penduline Tit, Protea Seedeater, Cape Siskin and Cape Rock-jumper. These terrestrial species are often overlooked as the West Coast has the reputation for being the home of rare, migrating waders during summer. Here “mythical” names such as Common Redshank, Pectoral and Broad-billed Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope and Dunlin spring to mind.
Several well utilized birding products already exist in the area: the vast numbers of Blue Cranes in the area, the renowned Cape Gannet site at Bird Island in Lambert’s Bay, the Cape Cormorant roosting site at Velddrif, and the Black Harriers and waders at the West Coast National Park need no introduction and the migratory waders visiting the various estuaries and lagoons are legendary.
Birding in Draaihoek Lodge surrounds
The nature reserve at Draaihoek Lodge offers birdwatchers an intersection of the Namakwaland – and Bergriver bird species, as well as seabirds.
Rocher Pan Nature Reserve, 25km from Draaihoek Lodge, boasts 183 recorded bird species, is a roost for the African Black Oystercatcher and also a main nesting site for White- breasted Cormorant. Birders can spot Pelicans, Flamingos, Cape shovellers and Maccoa ducks, waders and large numbers of terrestrial species from any of the 2 bird hides on site.
At the bird-rich Verlorenvlei at Elands Bay, 20km from Draaihoek Lodge, the reed bed edges host Little Bittern, African Rail, Red-chested Flufftail, Purple Gallinule, Purple Heron, Malachite Kingfisher and African Marsh Harrier. The rocky slopes south of the vlei hold scrub birds, including Southern Grey Tit. A pair of Black Eagles breeding on the nearby cliffs are often seen overhead. Along the southern edge of the lake a diversity of water bird species may be seen – Great Crested Grebe, White Pelican, Greater and Lesser Flamingoes, South African Shelduck, African Fish Eagle, Caspian Tern and various waders.
The West Coast is best birded in spring and early summer (from about August to November), when most of the resident birds are breeding and the wildflowers are at their peak. This contrasts strongly with late summer, when the region is particularly dry and many of the temporary water bodies have evaporated. Birding is best in the mornings as it is usually persistently windy later in the day.