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Dolphin Beach Pans

Dolphin Pan North
Dolphin Pan North - Mel Tripp
Dolphin Pan North resident properties
Dolphin Pan North resident properties - Mel Tripp
African Snipe - Rita Meyer
African Snipe - Rita Meyer
Dolphin Pan South
Dolphin Pan South - Mel Tripp
Dolphin Pan South extensive reedbeds
Dolphin Pan South extensive reedbeds - Mel Tripp
cbc-bird purple swamp hen OS may 2010
African Swamphen - Otto Schmidt
View from Popham Street - Mel Tripp
View from Popham Street - Mel Tripp
Wilson's Phalarope - Gerald Wingate
Wilson's Phalarope - Gerald Wingate
Dolphin Beach Pans map
Dolphin Beach Pans map

It consists of two small fresh water wetlands fed by precipitation and run-off from the surrounding area, but lies close to the coast. In years of good winter rainfall the pans are very full and will hold more species when the water level drops. Dolphin Beach Hotel sits behind the south pan with private houses flanking parts of the north pan. In spite of this some good water birds occur.

Common are Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe (Dabchick), Cape and Red-billed Teal, Cape Shoveler, Yellow-billed Duck and occasionally Southern Pochard, often many noisy Hartlaub’s Gulls, a few Kelp Gulls, plus African Darter, White-breasted and Reed Cormorants.

Reed beds (mostly Typha) surround the fringes of each pan but viewing is quite good.

Look into the reed beds for roosting African Spoonbill, Sacred Ibis, and Little Egret, occasionally Glossy Ibis. Grey Heron stand and feed from the fringes, Purple Heron are less conspicuous in the reeds. Southern Red Bishop and Cape Weaver breed in the reeds along with Lesser Swamp Warbler.

Blacksmith Lapwing (Plover), Cape Wagtail, Black-winged Stilt and Three-banded Plover patrol and rest at the edges of the pans. Levaillant’s Cisticola, Cape Bulbul, Cape White-eye and Cape Robin-chat inhabit the scrub surrounding the pans, as does Cape Spurfowl.

These pans are a good site for seeing African (Ethiopian) Snipe which are resident and African Swamphen (Purple Gallinule). Check the reed edges among the dead and old vegetation, you may be lucky and pick-up Greater Painted-snipe, which also occurs here, as does Black Crake.

Malachite and Pied Kingfisher can be seen hunting from perches or hovering over open water.

Swift and Caspian Tern occur all year round, with Common Terns mostly in summer roosting here and also occasionally Whiskered Terns and White-winged Terns.

In summer palearctic migrants such as Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper and Ruff can be seen.

White-backed Duck, a tricky species to find, has occurred here in the past, but is uncommon.

Perhaps the most famous species to turn-up here as a vagrant, in May 2007, was a Wilson’s Phalarope, a female in stunning full breeding plumage, which stayed for several days, was surprisingly confiding and had many twitchers coming to see it from all over the country. Other recent rarities have included Squacco Heron, African Crake and Dusky Sunbird.


A walk down past the hotel and up onto the dunes gives the classic view across Table Bay of Cape Town set against Table Mountain.


Mel Tripp