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Cape Recife Nature Reserve Birding

This 37ha Reserve is situated at the most southern point of Algoa Bay and can be reached by traveling along Beach Road and Marine Drive. Turn left to Pine Lodge Resort where permits to enter the reserve are obtained. Once through the boom you are in the reserve which consists of low scrub vegetation with a rocky and sandy shoreline near the lighthouse, which was commissioned on 1 April 1851.

Four categories of bird are found here: pelagic, coastal, bush and freshwater birds.

Drive through the boom at Pine Lodge. Just before the SANCCOB penguin sanctuary turn right to the settling ponds. Park at the office and sign the visitor’s book before you drive to the ponds. (These gates are locked over weekends, but it is possible to park before the gates and walk through to the ponds). Another option is to Park at the “Bird Hide” sign on the way to the Lighthouse and walk through coastal vegetation and “rooikrans” to the hide at two reclamation ponds.

Freshwater birds abound. Purple Heron, African Jacana, African Swamphen, Little Bittern, African Rail can sometimes been seen as well as African Marsh Harrier and an assortment of ducks are usually present.

There is a new bird hide at the upper pond. (The old bird hide is dysfunctional). Franklin's Gull has been seen twice at the ponds and Common Black-headed Gull once.

Specials at Cape Recife are the coastal birds. Park at SANCCOB and walk down to the beach. Then drive to the parking area just before the lighthouse, stopping along the way to check the shores.

Park and walk down to the rocks and beach at the point behind the lighthouse.  There is always a huge tern roost on the rocks. It is best on at high tide (preferably on an incoming tide) when the terns are forced up onto the beach because the rocks where they roost are submerged. On the beach they are easily identified. At low tide when they are on the rocks a scope is essential.

Little terns – Godfrey Lodge

Species often seen are Roseate, Damara, Swift, Sandwich, Common and Artic Terns, African Black Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and other.

Caspian Tern – Gregg Darling

Best tern viewing is end of May to October. The winter migrant Antarctic Terns are in their breeding plumage in late May making them much easier to identify though they stay till October. The Roseate Terns also come into plumage at this time though they stay in breeding plumage till October. The Roseate Terns breed on Bird Island. Damara Terns are seen in summer but they regularly overwinter as well. Otherwise there are Common, Caspian, Swift and Sandwich Terns. A Bridled Tern was seen occasionally round August every year for about 13 years. There are also recent records of Sooty Tern and historical records of other rare terns.

Waders at the point are varied. Best was an American Golden Plover that was seen at the point for a few weeks. Bar-tailed Godwits are fairly regular and Red Knot is seen occasionally.

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross – Gregg Darling

If it has been blowing a gale for a few days pelagic birds can be seen from the point, such as albatrosses, storm petrels, jaegers, shearwaters and giant petrels. Two rarities seen once at Cape Recife are Red-footed Booby and Red-tailed Tropicbird. Look among the Kelp Gulls at their roost behind the lighthouse for Lesser Black-backed Gulls which occur sporadically.

Lesser Black-backed Gull – Corné Erasmus

The rarest bird seen at Cape Recife was a Rosy Bee-eater. Though there is a possibility that it was an escapee it was a new bird for Southern Africa.

The latest rarities (April 2018) at the dry sludge pans at the sewerage works were a Citrine Wagtail and a Western Yellow Wagtail. They were seen together, and both were in breeding plumage. A lot of birders twitched them as they stuck around for a few days.

Interesting historical records include Grey Wagtail, Black-chested Prinia (in a severe drought year), Marsh Owl, and Arctic, Black and Lesser Crested Terns

An even later addition to the Cape Recife list is a Buff-spotted Flufftail heard in the bush and tangles near the new bird hide early one morning.

How to get there: Drive through Humewood and Summerstrand. About 2 kilometres past the end of Summerstrand turn left on the road marked “Pine Lodge”. Park at Pine Lodge resort down this road and buy a permit which costs about R70.00. The permit is valid for a week (but for the car registration not for the people). A permit for a year can also be bought for about R300.00

View the complete bird list here.

Through the club's monthly e-newsletters and bi-annual magazine, the Bee-Eater, we aim to stimulate continued interest in birds and their habitats.