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Gamtoos River Mouth Reserve Birding

The road to Gamtoos Mouth is signposted off the R102 and lies between Thornhill & the Gamtoos River.  You can also start birding at the bridge over the Gamtoos River on the old road. At the bridge, look out for African Pied Wagtail, Water Thick-knee and Common Sandpiper along the river. Also five species of kingfisher have been seen here.   After turning of the R 102 to Gamtoos Mouth, stop and bird along the road, until you reach the mouth, after about 6 km. 

On your left is thick subtropical thicket where Knysna Warbler is sometimes heard. The flood plain is on your right. In dry periods Denham's Bustards can be seen here but in wet cycles the flood plain is partially underwater.

Drive to the end of the tar road at the lagoon. (The river is on your right and cliffs and dense subtropical thicket on your left).  The cliffs hold breeding colonies of Horus Swifts and Pied Starling. On one occasion a juvenile Spotted Eagle Owl was seen here. Forest birds are often seen in the bush, and raptors on the cliffs.

Walk the bush trails or the beach paths. Bush specials are African Marsh-Harrier, Cape Batis, Knysna Woodpecker, African Dusky Flycatcher and Olive Thrush. Terek Sandpiper, Curlew, Common Whimbrel, European Oystercatcher, Black Crake, African Snipe, Goliath & Purple Heron, African Rail, European Hobby (on the dunes) and Caspian Tern are some of the lagoon species. 

When you reach the first buildings park at a grassy layby on the right. From here you get a distant view of the main mudflats (only at low tide, which is three hours after low tide in Port Elizabeth). A telescope can pick up excellent birds. Over the years Eurasian Curlew, European Oystercatcher and Crab Plover have been seen on the mudflats. Marsh Owls were once seen on the saltmarsh on the right of the mudflats.

Drive on to the gate of the reserve and pay an entrance fee. At the end of the blind mouth cross the end of the river and walk about two kilometres along the edge of the river towards the mouth. Apart from the megas mentioned above, the mudflats have waders like Terek Sandpiper, Red Knot, Greater Sand Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit in summer. These birds can only be seen at low tide. On a water bird ID course, Geoff Lockwood found a Broad-billed Sandpiper here.

Terek Sandpiper – Gregg Darling


Bar-tailed Godwit – Corné Erasmus

Then go back and walk over the dunes from the blind mouth. You will reach a vlei where there are often Purple Herons and African Snipes. The dunes have shifted radically in the last 25 years. There was a totally isolated blind mouth further on. Here we used to get Eurasian Hobbies (on the dunes), Red-chested Flufftails (calling from the extensive reedbeds) and once the famous Citrine Wagtail. (A first for Southern Africa). Also once a male Garganey. Many small birds roost in this huge reedbed. Around the chalets at the village quite a few forest birds occur in the dense bush, like Lemon Dove and Brown Scrub-Robin. An interesting record over the saltmarsh once was a Sand Martin.

Gamtoos mouth makes a good combined outing with Mondplaas (treated separately). In wet cycle’s area are also great seasonal vleis on the old road a few kilometres past the old bridge. Good for Glossy Ibis.

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