Birding in Cape Town: Mouille Point beach

Continuing from previous posts about birding in and around Cape Town, a good birding spot that is very close (walking distance) to the V&A Waterfront and the new 2010 World Cup Football stadium is Mouille Point beach. The site is probably best known amongst local birders for its historical records of Greater Sheathbill, but actually it’s a great area for common coastal species and can be a half-decent pelagic seawatching spot in summer.

Mouille Point latest1

I spent the last hour of light birding at Mouille Point beach on Saturday. The site is probably best visited early morning or evening and during the week when you don’t have to avoid picnicers and wedding photographers… A quick scan of the rock pools will usually always turn up Little Egret, Ruddy Turnstone (summer), African Black Oystercatcher, Kitlitz’s Plover, Crowned Cormorant and Cape Wagtail.

Little Egret

Whimbrel (summer) and White-fronted Plover can also be seen here, but they are less common. Always scan the passing cormorant flocks; Cape Cormorants always seem to be filing past, however the endangered Bank Cormorant puts in the odd appearance as well.

Crowned Cormorant

Terns are another common site at Mouille Point beach, but they rarely roost; their preferred roost site is next door within the Granger Bay precinct. Swift, Sandwich and Common Terns (summer) are the most numerous, but a keen eye may turn up the odd Arctic.

Kitlitz's Plover

When you’ve finished scouring the rock pools and passing terns, it can be well worth pointing your scope seawards. An on-shore wind is optimal, but Cape Gannets, Parasitic (Summer) and Subantarctic Jaegers are usually always moving off-shore, even in the flattest conditions. The prize pelagic species in summer is Sabines Gull. Mouille Point is one of the few sites in South Africa where you can reliably see this species from the coast. Lucky birders have seen individuals swimming just beyond the breakers, but typically you will see small flocks moving off-shore. Look for their distinctive upperwing pattern.

Ruddy Turnstone

In winter the seawatching from Mouille Point is more weather dependent than summer. The best conditions are generally the day after a strong north-westerly wind when pelagic species have been blown into Table Bay. Common species you can expect are Sooty Shearwater (often in great numbers), White-chinned Petrel, Shy Albatross and Subantarctic Jaeger. Black-browed Albatross are occasionally seen and the odd Giant Petrel (usually too far to i.d.) is not unusual.

Hartlaub's Gull

My list from Saturday included: Little Egret, Kitlitz’s Plover, Cape Wagtail, Hartlaub’s Gull, Kelp Gull, Swift Tern, Sandwich Tern, Ruddy Turnstone, African Black Oystercatcher, Rock Martin, Feral Pigeon, Speckled Pigeon, Common Starling, Cape Gannet, Cape Cormorant and Crowned Cormorant.