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Mondplaas Birding

Mondplaas is a series of permanent dams on a farm in the Gamtoos River floodplain. The main three dams seem never to dry out. There is another dam on the other side of the road from them which is seasonal depending on rainfall.

How to get there: 

Drive out west on the N2 from Port Elizabeth. Just after crossing the Gamtoos River take the “Mondplaas” turning right. A kilometre on the road veers left. Park on the left-hand side of the road and walk across to the right-hand side.

You then look down over a reedy pool. This can produce birds like Great Reed Warbler, Baillon's Crake, Squacco Heron, Hottentot Teal, Little Bittern, African Snipe and African Rail. Go at crack of dawn in summer. In 1990 a Spotted Crake was seen here a few times by Tim Boucher, Albert Schultz and some other birders.

When you have finished birding here carry on to the tar road. About a kilometre onwards, the road turns to gravel. After another kilometre take the second turnoff right. Drive down this road and you will see a series of permanent dams on your right and a seasonal dam on your left. Park and walk around the dams. It is a private farm but birders have always been welcome to bird there.


Ducks are the main attraction – a full suite of the local ducks – Fulvous Whistling Duck, White-faced Whistling Duck, Southern Pochard, Maccoa Duck, White-backed Duck and the three teals. Not all of them at the same time. Reedbed birds are also a full house with Baillon's Crake, Black Crake, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern and African Rail. African Jacanas and Whiskered Terns have bred there.

Black-crowned Night Herons, Purple and Goliath Herons and Yellow-billed Egrets are also sometimes seen. I saw a Yellow-billed Stork on one occasion. Also once a Red Phalarope (details unknown). An interesting anecdote was that after the Red Phalarope was spotted, Paul Martin went to look for it unsuccessfully. On the way out he saw a dead bird on the road and stopped to look at it. Needless to say, it was the phalarope. I also, together with Alan Bateman and Ian McEwan saw a Red-tailed Tropicbird low overhead at the ponds. (5 December 1994).

Mondplaas is also excellent for swallows and raptors. Both Banded and Sand Martins are found there sometimes in summer. There is usually a huge roost of Amur Falcons on the power lines in the distance on the left. Go at crack of dawn in midsummer and you will see them sitting on the power lines like notes of music. European Hobbies have been seen at Mondplaas in summer, plus African Fish Eagles and Booted Eagles. A pair of African Marsh Harriers is resident.

In the agricultural lands around the dams you often see African Stonechats, Zitting Cisticolas and Cape Longclaws plus pipits. Many years ago there was a huge roost of Wattled Starlings at Mondplaas. 

Cape Longclaw – Corné Erasmus

On the way back take the old road (not the N2) and on your left in wet cycles is a series of temporary vleis. These are good for Glossy Ibis. A Knysna Warbler, remarkably, sometimes calls from a tiny patch of bush at these vleis.

Glossy Ibis – Godfrey Lodge

Rarities apart from those listed above at Mondplaas over the last 30 years include, Common Cuckoo (details unknown), Allen's Gallinule (seen by Peter Hall, details unknown) Black Heron (details unknown) Greater Painted Snipe (details unknown) Pectoral Sandpiper (details unknown) Gull-billed Tern (details unknown) and Sedge Warbler ( 1990 seen by Tim Boucher, Albert Schultz and myself)

If you wish you can take another route home. By turning right instead of left as you leave Mondplaas you can follow a gravel road up to the defunct Mondplaas railway station on the plateau above. This road leads to Humansdorp. Bird for the first ten kilometres or so, then come back and take the turnoff right to the old road (between Mondplaas and Kabeljous). Birds found on this route (they are not included on my Mondplaas list) include Secretary bird, Black Harrier, Blue Crane, Denham’s Bustard, White-bellied Korhaan, Cloud Cisticola, Red-capped Lark, Rufous-naped Lark (very common) and Cape Clapper Lark.

Andy Nixon

View the complete bird list here.

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