The 25-acre Dick Dent Bird Sanctuary in Somerset West is a charming natural wetland and a really good birding spot that is too often overlooked. It is always open and there is no access fee. It was a wastewater treatment works until 1975 and is named for Dick Dent an engineer at AECI who suggested it be declared a bird sanctuary. It was proclaimed in 1982 and is managed by the city of Cape Town. It has recently been declared a Locally Important Bird Area (LIBA) by The Western Cape Birding Forum.
166 Birds have been recorded since records began in 1966. The Lourens river which runs alongside the pans, is home to African Black Duck as well as Pied, Malachite, Giant and rarely Brown-hooded Kingfisher. Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warbler are common in the reeds. Keep an eye open for terrestrial birds including Swee and Common Waxbill, Dusky and Fiscal Flycatcher, Cape Batis and Southern Double-collared, Malachite and occasionally Amethyst Sunbird. Recently a Lesser Honeyguide was photographed in a tree next to the river. Grey-headed Sparrow can reliably be found in the little enclosed playground next to the parking area near the AGS church.
The pans usually yield Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler, Red-knobbed Coot, Red-billed Teal and more rarely White-backed and White-faced Duck. Purple and Grey Heron, African (Purple) Swamphen, Black Crake and African Snipe are regulars and recently a Squacco Heron took up residence. Greater Painted Snipe are seen occasionally. Look up into the taller gum trees for Peregrine Falcon.
The hide at the middle pan is prone to vandalism and though there have been no safety incidents to date, it is suggested birders visit in small groups rather than on their own.
Directions: When driving along the N2 from Cape Town, turn right into Victoria Road (M149) at the first traffic lights in Somerset West. When you reach the T-junction with the R44 (Broadway Boulevard), you are facing the Dick Dent sanctuary. Turn left at the T junction, then turn right at next, first traffic light into Da Gama Road, first right into De Vos Road and at the T junction turn right into Woltemade Street. Park in the cul-de-sac next to the AGS church. From there, climb the steps to the R44, cross the river bridge and gain access to the pans via the opposite riverbank. The Somerset West Bird club are discouraging people from driving into the sanctuary from the R44, this vehicle access is meant for municipal maintenance vehicles only.
The local bird club has a regular monthly Saturday afternoon outing to Dick Dent and they welcome visitors from other clubs. Have a look at their website for more details. https://www.somersetwestbirdclub.co.za/