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Berg River Estuary

Modified: 2008/10/01 14:05 by admin - Categorized as: Western Cape
Situated relatively close to Cape Town, the Berg River Estuary provides a wide diversity of wetland habitats, which are not only very accessible but also close together. Migrant waders are the greatest attraction, and the mudflats at Velddrif support some of the highest densities along the eastern shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The town of Velddrif is situated on the north bank of the estuary.

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Specials

Large numbers of Palaearctic migrant waders and terns are the main attraction, and include Eurasian Curlew, Marsh Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit and Little Tern. Chestnut-banded Plover is resident. The area is well known for its rarities, and the more famous ones include Little Blue Heron, Hudsonian Godwit and Lesser Yellowlegs.

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Habitats

Extensive mudflats, saltmarsh, saltpans, strandveld vegetation, farmlands, riverine, floodplain and coastal habitats are present in a relatively small area.

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Facilities

A bird hide overlooks the main mudflat, and the key is available from the Flamingo Restaurant across the road. Most of the areas are accessible by tar road, and a good network of dirt roads allows one to approach the birds in the Cerebos Salt Works very closely. However, these roads should not be attempted in winter after rain, as they become treacherously slippery. Obtain permission to visit the saltworks from the office.

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Birding

1. The main or "hotel" mudflat stretches out in front of the Riviera Hotel, and can be seen on your right as you cross the bridge over the Berg river. Large numbers of waders, including Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Whimbrel, Marsh Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Grey Plover, Red Knot and Common Greenshank, are present during low tide. Tern species include Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Swift Tern, Little Tern and Caspian Tern. An excellent selection of waterbird species is present, including Great White Pelican, South African Shelduck and Purple Heron.

2. Another extensive mudflat is present at De Plaat, a few kilometres upriver from the bridge. This is also excellent for waders, and Eurasian Curlew is most easily seen here. De Plaat can be accessed by taking the Picketberg road east of the town, and turning right down a dirt road just as the main road veers away from the river. If you reach the railway line, you have gone too far. Alternatively, turn down a residential road about 2 km from the bridge just opposite a small building labelled "wynkelders", and continue to a jetty which stretches out behind a small stand of gums.

3. Cerebos Saltworks is a good place to do some birding from the car. Look out for Chestnut-banded Plover, which is best seen in the pans nearest the national road. Ruff, Pied Avocet, Caspian Tern, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo and Black-necked Grebe occur in the pans. Visit the saltworks during high tide when may waders roost there. Red-necked Stint (possibly regular) and Caspian Plover have been recorded here.

4. The estuary is a mecca for twitchers eager to find vagrant species. Much of the area is accessible and thus relatively easy to cover, compared with the often vast, inaccessible areas at Langebaan. Rarities not already mentioned include Common Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Lesser Sand Plover, Red-necked Phalarope, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Pectoral Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper (possibly regular), Wilson's Phalarope, Red-tailed Tropicbird and Franklin's Gull.

5. Coastal strandveld vegetation is present south of the river mouth, and further up the coast north of Velddrif. Specials include Karoo Lark, Cape Penduline-Tit, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Layard's Tit-Babbler and Grey Tit. The surrounding farmland contains species such as Large-billed Lark, Capped Wheatear, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Grey-backed Sparrowlark and Banded Martin.

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General

The Berg River Estuary is situated on the R27, about 140 km north of Cape Town. There are a number of hotels and camping sites in Velddrif and the adjacent Laaiplek.

Claire Spottiswoode and Callan Cohen 1997.



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