The map above represents the records of bird sightings I have personally made at the Dick Dent Bird Sanctuary, along with where I saw them. This will hopefully help others in targeting certain species in the sanctuary. (Clicking on an icon will provide the species name and some information about it.)
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.
One gains access to the Dick Dent Bird Sanctuary by heading straight down Victoria Street towards Strand, when one reaches the robots and can either go left or right, you will notice a smaller area of the pavement that appears to be like that of a driveway if you were to provide straight. Instead of turning left or right here along with the other traffic, you will go straight, over that lowered pavement area and then turn left. You will be driving in an area that is not paved or even really a road, but you should notice that the reserve fence is on your right. There will be two gates, one as you head down the embankment and another closer to the bridge, the first gate is usually locked, but you can gain access to the reserve through the one near the bridge.
If you are coming along Broadway Blvd from Cape Town’s side, you will pass the Strand Golf Course and the first robot you encounter after the golf course will be the one described above, you will then be able to turn into the small concealed ‘driveway’ on the right of the robot.
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