Rooisand along the Bot River Estuary

Unfortunately the boardwalk at Rooisand was severely damaged following the breaching of the Bot River mouth. Consequently it is not possible to get to the hide.

The Rooisand Nature Reserve (34°19’46.45”S 19°05’17.19”E) forms part of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve and managed by CapeNature. The area has had its fair bit of publicity and controversy in recent times due to the proposed development of an elephant “sanctuary” on the adjacent property to the west. The electrified fence along the access road is perceived negatively by many birders even though good birding is available in the rehabilitated habitat (devoid of exotic vegetation) beyond the fence.

Five Caspian Terns take off from the shoreline.
Caspian Terns (Carin Malan)

The reserve is clearly signposted on the R44 between Kleinmond and the Arabella Estate. Kindly take note of several vehicles having been broken into at the parking area in the past and visits to this reserve by groups are advised strongly. A wooden boardwalk takes one to a bird hide that has been developed in a collaborative project between CapeNature, Arabella and BirdLife Overberg. Note should however be taken of the fact that the hide sometimes becomes inaccessible after heavy rains and in drier seasons there is often no water. The site gives access to the western shores of Bot River estuary and birding can often be excellent. The site is further well known for the wild horses that are regularly on view. Rooisand is best visited in the afternoon as the glare of the sun off the water often makes bird-watching very difficult earlier in the day.

Birding along the access road should not be underestimated. Keep a keen lookout for the Southern Tchagra as it is recorded regularly. Endemic or near-endemic terrestrial species that are very common include the Cape Batis, Bokmakierie, Southern Boubou, Cape Bulbul, Grey-backed Cisticola, Fiscal Flycatcher, Karoo Prinia, Cape Spurfowl and Southern Double-collared Sunbird. The Bar-throated Apalis and Long-billed Crombec, together with a variety of canaries also feature prominently. The Blue Crane, Denham’s Bustard and Secretarybird are sometimes recorded in the rehabilitated area beyond the fence. Birds of prey that are seen fairly often include the Jackal Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Rock Kestrel and Black-winged Kite, with the Common Buzzard and Yellow-billed Kite being abundant during summer. The Spotted Eagle-Owl, Fiery-necked Nightjar and Barn Owl feature in significantly in atlas records.

The Rooisand site is best known for regular sightings of the African Fish Eagle, Western Osprey and African Marsh Harrier, all of which are very much sought-after with the bird-watching fraternity. Waterbirds abound and the Greater Flamingo, Great White Pelican and African Spoonbill are often present in large numbers. The Lesser Flamingo is found far less often. The Pied Avocet, Grey Heron and Black-winged Stilt often feature commonly, as do the Great Crested and Little Grebes. The Black-necked Grebe occasionally occurs in small numbers. The White-backed and White-faced Ducks, Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese, South African Shelduck and Cape and Red-billed Teal are abundant and the Blue-billed Teal is seen rarely. All of the region’s common kingfishers are often on display. The Caspian and Swift Terns occur throughout the year and in summer vast numbers of the Common and Sandwich Tern make for spectacular birding and photography.

A large flock of terns takes off from an island in the Rooisand estuary.
Terns, terns, terns … (Carin Malan)

It is generally accepted that Rooisand is the best spot along the Cape Whale Coast to look for waders. The resident Blacksmith Lapwing and Kittlitz’s, Three-banded and White-fronted Plovers are abundant, but the site has developed a reputation of producing stupendous wader sightings during summer months. The Common Greenshank, Common Ringed Plover, Curlew and Marsh Sandpipers and Common Whimbrel feature prominently, with the Red Knot, Grey Plover, Ruff, Sanderling, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint and Ruddy Turnstone being seen in smaller numbers. Occasional sightings of the Eurasian Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit and Terek Sandpiper are also on records. The site is also well known for its sighting of swifts and expect to find the Alpine, African Black, Little and White-rumped Swifts in summer. A small breeding population of the Horus Swift is also on record in the general area.

Vagrant species reported in recent years include sensational sightings of the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, African Openbill, Eurasian Oystercatcher and White Wagtail. The area between Rooisand and Arabella Estate further holds small populations of the Fynbos Buttonquail, Cape Clapper Lark and African Grass Owl, but this is on private property and special permission and guiding is needed to enter. A visit to the Rooisand Nature Reserve comes highly recommended, even though it would probably be much better to bird there in the afternoon.

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