And Breathe... Rocherpan Nature Reserve
African Birdlife|January - February 2021
After the pandemic’s catastrophic impact on travel and finances, everyone has been constrained to look closer to home for their much-needed breakaways. Fortunately for South Africa’s birders, there are several local spots that are easily accessible, affordable and well worth a visit. One such oasis is Rocherpan Nature Reserve on the Cape’s West Coast. Managed by CapeNature, the reserve is 25 kilometres north of Velddrif and just two hours’ drive from Cape Town.
Desi Doran

Rocherpan is a relatively small reserve (1080 hectares), a slice of land sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and a fairly busy road, but the combination of ecosystems – a seasonal pan/wetlands, marine/beach environment and strandveld vegetation – offers a variety of bird habitats. More than 183 bird species can be found here, including 70 waterbirds. A full bird list is available on the CapeNature website or at the reserve’s reception. In the three days we spent in the sanctuary, even as birding novices we managed to see and identify approximately 60 species relatively easily.

The pan is obviously the main feature of the reserve and there are three bird hides where you can while away the hours watching water birds and waders. Greater and Lesser flamingoes, Kelp, Grey-headed and Hartlaub’s gulls, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, cormorants, ducks and geese in great numbers bathed, fed, slept and squabbled in front of the hide. Caspian and Swift terns settled among the gulls, while Kittlitz’s, Three-banded and White-fronted plovers and sandpipers worked their way along the pan’s shoreline. African Oystercatchers were ever-present, sometimes in pairs, but often in small groups. Rocherpan is one of the Cape Shoveler’s most important breeding sites and we were glad to see a pair drifting along on the water.

Just alongside the bird hide, Cape and Southern Masked weavers and Southern Red Bishops kept up a continuous chorus in the reeds. An older, unused bird hide further down the pan seems to have been appropriated by a Rock Kestrel as a base for its hunting missions.

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