West Coast National Park
|West Coast National Park|
|Location||Western Cape, South Africa|
|Area||362.59 km2 (140.00 sq mi)|
|Governing body||South African National Parks|
The West Coast National Park lies 88 km (55 mi) (measured from the cape town city Hall) north of Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is 36,259.8 hectares (140.000 sq mi) in size. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and the R27 coastal road, and runs from the town of Yzerfontein in the south up to the Langebaan Lagoon. The park was proclaimed in 1985. The park is particularly well known for its bird life and for the spring flowers which occur in the months from August to September, especially in the Postberg flower reserve section of the park. The park, with the islands in Saldanha Bay, has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area.
History of protection
The Langebaan Lagoon was proclaimed as a marine reserve in 1973. Concerns over the condition of the Langebaan Lagoon and neighbouring Saldanha Bay led to a proposal in 1976 that the Langebaan Lagoon, the peninsula, the offshore islands and the surrounding land urgently be proclaimed as a nature reserve. The Langebaan National Park was declared in 1985, after a long process, and it was expanded in 1987 when some land which had been managed by the Department of Forestry and neighbouring farms were included in the park. In that same year an additional 1,800 hectares (4,400 acres) of land around Postberg was included as a "contractual national park". Expansion has continued since then. Its name was changed to West Coast National Park in 1987.
Wildlife in the park includes large antelope such as eland, red hartebeest, bontebok, kudu, gemsbok, steenbok, mountain zebra, duiker and ostriches in the Postberg section. Other smaller animals include the bat-eared fox, caracal, and Cape gray mongoose.
Many Palearctic migrants winter in the lagoon during the austral summer, particularly in September as species arrive from the northern hemisphere, and in March when they gather in large numbers to feed up prior to undertaking the return migration. At these times the birds will be transitioning out of and into their breeding plumage. The birds are pushed towards the hides as the water level rises with the tide and eventually they must fly off until the tide has receded once more. Red knot, sanderling, little stint, Ruff, marsh, Terek and Curlew sandpipers, ruddy turnstone, ringed and grey plover, greenshank, Eurasian whimbrel, Eurasian curlew and bar-tailed godwit are the most regular species. Little egret and South African shelduck are resident and can often be seen with the waders, while greater flamingoes and great white pelican occur in deeper water. An isolated hide west of the Geelbek educational centre overlooks a salt pan where it is possible to observe the rare chestnut-banded plover. The lagoon's importance for migratory birds means that it is a site which is subject to the Ramsar Convention for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.
On the land the fynbos surrounding the lagoon is home to southern black korhaan, Cape spurfowl and grey-winged francolin, Cape penduline and grey tit, southern anteater chat, white-throated and yellow canary, Karoo lark, chestnut-vented warbler, bokmakierie and Cape bunting, which are all easily seen. African marsh harrier and black Harrier hunt by quartering the ground. The coastal islands at the mouth of the lagoon are important breeding colonies for Cape and Hartlaub's gull, Cape gannet and African penguin, as well as cormorants and terns.
Although the thousands of migrating birds are an important part of the conservation, the flowers are also a major attraction. The park is composed of various kinds of habitats — as well as the Langebaan fynbos and lagoon — which account for the variety of flora and fauna all around the park. The months of August and September bring about the proliferation of annual Spring flowers in the West Coast National Park. During the spring flower season large fields of blooming White rain daisies (Dimorphotheca pluvialis), Gousblom (Arctotis hirsuta), Magriet (Ursinia anthemoides), Livingstone daisies (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis), and Wild sorrel (Oxalis pes-caprae) can be seen along with other species of flowing plants.
The area of Postberg, where the carpets of Spring flowers can be seen, is only open during the months of August and September. The most common flower species are Suurvy (Carpobrotus edulis), Elandsvy (Carpobrotus acinaciformis), Gousblom (Arctotis hirsuta), Bokbaai vygie (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis), White rain daisy (Dimorphotheca pluvialis), Sporrie (Heliophila coronopifolia), Magriet (Ursinia anthemoides), and Soetuintjie (Moraea fugax).
- Chittenden, Hugh (1992). Top Birding Spots in Southern Africa. Southern. p. 367. ISBN 1 86812 419 3.
- "Important Bird Areas factsheet: West Coast National Park and Saldanha Bay islands". BirdLife International. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
- West Coast National Park Management Plan For the period 2013 -2023 (PDF) (Report). South African National Parks. 2013.
- "Mammals". South African National Parks. South African National Parks. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
- "Birding in West Coast National Park". South African National Parks. South African National Parks. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
- "Langebaan". The Ramsar Convention Secretariat. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
- "Vegetation". South African National Parks. South African National Parks. Retrieved 2017-07-09.
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