Highlands and Wetlands – Wonderfontein Pans

About the Birding

A good selection of Highveld waterbirds can be seen. The first and largest pan is usually the spot for Greater Flamingo, but apart from large roosts of Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose and other waterfowl, there is not too much of variety. This is also the least accessible of the pans. Pan 2, on the left-hand side of the road, usually has good numbers of Red-knobbed Coot and Little Grebe, and a few Black-necked Grebe and Great Crested Grebe, Maccoa Duck, Glossy Ibis, Whiskered Tern, White-winged Tern, Grey-headed Gull and the occasional African Marsh-Harrier.

Montagu’s Harrier also quarter the adjacent grasslands in summer, and Pallid Harrier will surely one day turn up as well. Pan 3 is usually the busiest of the three, having a number of waterfowl such as Cape Shoveler, Red-billed Teal, Southern Pochard, White-backed Duck, South African Shelduck, and wading birds such as African Spoonbill, Squacco Heron, Great Egret and Yellow-billed Egret, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Kittlitz’s Plover, Three-banded Plover and the occasional Chestnut-banded Plover. Brown-throated Martin and Banded Martin forage over the pans and adjacent grassland. The marshy grasslands around Pan 2 have Yellow-crowned Bishop, Southern Red Bishop, Fan-tailed Widowbird, African Quailfinch, Levaillant’s Cisticola and occasionally small flocks of Orange-breasted Waxbill. Also look out for Marsh Owl and the very occasional African Grass-Owl here.

About the Birding Site

The pans are situated in Highveld grassland, much of which has been transformed by agriculture. Remnants of grassland are protected in moist, marshy drainage lines. Situated between Middelburg and Belfast, these shallow pans offer a good selection of typical Highveld waterbirds. Their close proximity to the main N4 highway means they are a worthwhile stop on a trip through to the Kruger Park, increasing the potential number of species which could be seen on such a trip.

Other Related Information

Continue on the N4 highway from Middelburg towards Belfast. About 45 km out of Middelburg, at one of the few places where the highway has a row of lights between the two carriageways, take a right turn onto the Wonderfontein road (also signposted as “Carolina”). Head south on this road for about 10 km, and just beyond a sign reading “Klip Pan” is the first and largest of the three pans. The other two pans are a few hundred metres further down the road.

Text prepared by:

Warren McClelland

Key species:

Greater Flamingo, White-backed Duck, Maccoa Duck, Cape Shoveler, African Marsh-Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Black-necked Grebe, Chestnut-banded Plover and African Grass-Owl