The Dick Dent Bird Sanctuary is a small, relatively unknown bird sanctuary which lies on the outskirts of Somerset West and Strand, in the Western Cape. The sanctuary was established a few decades ago if I recall correctly, by John Clements who still today plays a large role in the sanctuaries maintenance and development. The area of the reserve is around 10 hectares and contains 6 ponds, the largest of which is on the western side of the sanctuary. The reserve is located along the Lourens river and just a few hundred meters from the estuary where the terns can be found.
Access to the area has changed in recent months as the city have created an extra lane of road outside the sanctuary. As it stands now, parking is best done on the opposite side of the road near where the vendors sometimes set up. You can also park near AGS Charisma Church on the opposite side of Broadway road.
After entering the bird sanctuary, which is free of charge, you can walk along the river until you see some steps on your right, this will lead you up to the hide. From the hide you will have a view of most of the ponds in the sanctuary, though from the hide the species you’re most likely to encounter in close view are Lesser Reed Warbler, Cape Bulbuls, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Common Fiscal, European Starlings, Blacksmith Lapwing and Cape Weavers. The hide that is currently there is a new replacement for the old hide which was unfortunately destroyed in a fire.
The usual path to follow is then continuing past the hide, over a narrow pathway and towards a north-westerly direction. Once you reach the end of the path you head left, where you will be between the two ponds, the pond on your left from that point is often home to Weavers, Bishops and Warblers. There are also occasionally Black Crowned Night Herons which can be found here. On the right hand side is one of the more water-filled ponds and it is the more common area to come across Yellow-Billed Ducks and Common Moorhen. The trees alongside this pond also sometimes teem with European Starlings and Weavers.
Continuing your walk down the reserve you will come across an embankment on your left, this will lead you to the largest and most prominent pond in the sanctuary. This pond is where the more interesting species usually are; Grey Heron, Black Headed Heron, Hadeda Ibis, Sacred Ibis, African Spoonbills, Red-Knobbed Coots, Malachite Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher and others can be found here at times.
While at the sanctuary keep an eye out in the skies above and in the branches of the taller trees, there have been several accounts of raptors breeding along the side of the sanctuary. I have witnessed Black Sparrowhawks, Peregrine Falcons and a Gymnogene at the sanctuary. Swift Terns are also sometimes seen flying over the santuary towards or from the estuary, as well as large numbers of Kelp Gulls and Hartlaubs Gulls.
The Dick Dent Bird Sanctuary has also seen it’s fair share of rarities with African Jacana, Red-Backed Shrike and recently a Fulvous Duck recorded. There are almost certainly many more rarities that have shown up at the sanctuary and just not been recorded as unfortunately, likely due to it being not that well known of an area, it is not frequented all that often. Most of the visitors to the sanctuary occur on the monthly meet ups which take place here on the second Saturday of every month, at 15:00 in winter and 16:00 in summer.
While I have no records of incidents occurring in the sanctuary, one should note that vagrants live along the river side next to the sanctuary and often spill into the sanctuary as well. This was the cause of the fire, as they were using the hide as shelter. It is an issue that has been discussed with the police by the bird club and an eye is apparently kept on the happenings inside the sanctuary every now and then. The presence of these vagrants does warrant a security concern, especially to those carrying expensive camera equipment. Though another negative aspect of these vagrants is the amount of rubbish that they leave behind in the sanctuary which is usually cleaned up by John Clements. The more people that get involved with this sanctuary though, the more promise it will have and the more chance there is of working at ensuring better security.
I would strongly recommend, especially for those live in close proximity, such as Gordon’s Bay, Strand, Somerset West and Stellenbosch to give this sanctuary some attention. It has great potential.
GPS Co-ordinates: -34.098301, 18.823847