Grahamstown and surrounds – Mayfield Flats

About the Birding

The Mayfield route provides the birder access to large waterbodies and arid grassland and shrubland within easy reach of Grahamstown. A morning visit is recommended.

Starting at Tollrope Street, continue North from Grahamstown passing the Grahamstown electronics store at -33.2873, 26.5298. At -33.2771, 26.5409, keep left passing around the cemetery and heading in the direction of the Makhanda Aerodrome. Grassland here supports both the Eastern and Cape Clapper Larks – affording the avid birder the opportunity to compare the subtle differences between the two species. Spike-heeled and Rufous-naped Larks are similarly present.

A pair of White-bellied Bustards frequent this area – check especially in areas of low shrubbery. Other notable targets include Cape Penduline-tit, Sentinel Rock-thrush in the winter months, and Common Quail in summer.

Returning to the main road, continue north to the Makana Brick Factory before turning to the right. In wet years, the small pan at -33.2595, 26.5592 can be especially productive regularly hosting Black-necked Grebe, White-backed Duck and Greater Painted Snipe. Further along, visit the Mayfield Sewerage Works. It is best to park at the pumphouse (-33.2594, 26.5682) and walk from there. The pans hold impressive numbers of waterfowl including the Hottentot, Cape, and Red-billed Teals, Yellow-billed Duck, South African Shelduck, and White-faced Whistling Duck. The stream below holds several pairs of African Rail and African Snipe.

From the main track, turn to the north and follow the small gravel track to -33.2525, 26.5644. Walk from there around the southern bank of Mayfield Dam. Waterfowl abound but pay particular attention to the reedbeds here as Baillon’s Crake, African Snipe, African Rail and African Swamphen are all resident. The inlet stream at -33.2515, 26.5685 can be especially productive.

Continue east along the main track, until you reach the R67. The pans on either side of the intersection are especially productive when wet, regularly supporting a small breeding population of Whiskered Terns in summer. This area is particularly rich in widowbirds during the summer months.

Key species:

White-bellied Bustard, Cape and Eastern Clapper Larks, Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, African Snipe

About the Birding Site

The small settler town of Grahamstown, located just 130Km from Port Elizabeth and 158km from East London, has an incredibly rich cultural history and is primely situated at the ecotone between several key habitats in the Eastern Cape. The town itself serves as a fantastic base from which to access forest, grassland, karoo, and thicket habitats and well over 400 species have been recorded from the area.

Key species include the Knysna Woodpecker, Chorister Robin-chat, both Knysna and Barratt’s Warblers, Knysna Turaco, both Eastern and Cape Clapper Larks, Northern Black Korhaan, White-bellied Bustard and Hottentot Buttonquail. Several birding sites are recommended including the Mountain Drive, Botanical Gardens, Mayfield, Quarry and Belmont Valley routes. Two to three days are recommended in the general area and dedicated birders should easily produce a list of over 200 species including many of South Africa’s endemic species.

Key species:

White-bellied Bustard, Cape and Eastern Clapper Larks, Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, African Snipe

Other Related Information

Mayfield is a public commonage run by the Makhana Municipality and Makana Brick. Access to Mayfield Dam is only by prior arrangement with Makana Brick. Contact Henk 079 887 4485 in advance of your visit to arrange access. As one passes through an informal settlement to reach the commonage, it is best to remain alert at all times; however, no known safety incidents have occurred.

Other related information:

Recommended accommodation nearby:
No Birder Friendly Establishments are currently available in the wide-Grahamstown area. However, a variety of accommodation options are available in Grahamstown, to suit all needs and requirements.
Suggested accommodation in the Grahamstown area include:

A Stone’s Throw B&B: http://www.astonesthrow.co.za/
Acorn Cottage: http://acornbnb.co.za/wpacorn/
Ault House: https://auldhouse.co.za/

Local guide information:
No Birder Friendly Tour Operators are currently available for the wider-Grahamstown area. However, birding tours in the general area are available through:

Tim Cockcroft
Website: https://timwcroft.wixsite.com/timcockcroftbirding
Email: timwcroft@gmail.com
Tel: +27 (0) 72 314 0069

Text prepared by:
Daniel Keith Danckwerts (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours)

Key species:

White-bellied Bustard, Cape and Eastern Clapper Larks, Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, African Snipe

Contact details:

Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency

17-25 Oxford Street
East London CBD
Tel: +27 (0) 43 492 0081
Email: info@ecpta.co.za

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