Jeffrey’s Bay and St Francis – Mondplaas Ponds

About the Birding

The Mondplaas Ponds have long been rated as one of the top birding sites for waders in the Eastern Cape and, given its close proximity to Port Elizabeth, means it should be well worth a visit. Roughly 1 hour is sufficient to explore the Mondplaas Ponds and visits are best combined with the Gamtoos River Mouth Nature Reserve, Seejooei River Nature Reserve, and the Kabeljous Lagoon Nature Reserve.

Water levels in the Mondplaas ponds fluctuate dramatically, linked to intra-annual variations in rainfall, though they support an impressive diversity of waterful when wet. Yellow-billed Duck, both White-faced and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Cape Teal and Cape Shoveler are usually in attendance on the open water while the White-backed and Maccoa Ducks, Southern Pochard and Black-necked Grebe prefer the vegetated ephemeral pans. Reedbeds support a resident colony of Black-crowned Night Herons and Little Bittern. Baillon’s Crake is sometimes seen skulking through dense sedges though a fair amount of luck, patience and perseverance are needed to see these this species.

At the ponds – scan for Wood, Curlew and Common Sandpiper together with the White-winged, Whiskered and Caspian Terns, African Swamphen, Little Bittern and Black Crake. During summer, bird numbers sharply increase with the arrival of migrant waders and the site has delivered several national and provincial rarities in the recent years.

Whilst in the area have a look at the cultivated fields which surround the ponds – these fields often contain African Pipit, Cape Longclaw and Zitting Cisticolas. Red-winged Francolin are occasional though this species is notoriously shy and difficult to find unless heard calling. The tricky White-bellied Bustard is also possible in the area, though this species is best sought after in the grasslands surrounding Humansdorp.

Key species:

Little Bittern, Baillon’s Crake, African Swamphen, a plethora of migrant waders in the summer months

About the Birding Site

Located roughly 60Km to the west of Port Elizabeth, the small coastal villages of St Francis and Jeffreys Bay are popular among holidaymakers. The area is perhaps best known for their uncrowded pristine beaches and surf conditions. However, in an ecological sense, the region is perfectly situated in a transitional zone between the summer and winter rainfall areas of the Eastern Cape. As such, several notable habitats meet within this broad area include up to 5 distinct biomes!

This habitat diversity translates to an incredible diversity of bird species, amounting to roughly 300 bird species, and several notable endemics and highly threatened species are easily found in the area. Top among these are the White-bellied Bustard, Cape Clapper Lark, Black Harrier, Red-winged Francolin, Knysna Warbler, Knysna Woodpecker and Southern Tchagra. The region is best visited in the summer months when the resident bird species are supplemented by large numbers of migrant waders and the possibility of finding vagrants provides a constant level of interest and excitement when visiting the region.

Key species:

Little Bittern, Baillon’s Crake, African Swamphen, a plethora of migrant waders in the summer months

Other Related Information

Directions:
Follow the N2 west from Port Elizabeth in the direction of Cape Town. Approximately 50Km to the west of Port Elizabeth, immediately after crossing the Gamtoos River, take the Mondplaas ramp and turn inlands heading north. The access to the ponds is the first gravel road to the right. Note that access to the ponds themselves is now limited, demanding permission from the land owners.

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
The nearest town is Jeffrey’s Bay where a diverse array of shopping facilities, banks and fuel stations are available to visiting birders. Access to the Mondplaas Ponds is without restriction though please be respectful of private property and farming activities at all times.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
The only Birder Friendly Establishment within the wider area is the 4-star rated Oyster Bay Lodge, located within a 235 hectare coastal reserve. A variety of activities are on offer through the Oyster Bay Lodge including horse riding, several hiking trails, sand boarding, and guided birdwatching outings. For more information or to make a reservation, contact:

Oyster Bay Lodge
Tel: +27 (0)42 297 0150
Fax: +27 (0)42 297 0150
Mobile: +27 (0)82 700 0553
Email: info@oysterbaylodge.com
Website: www.oysterbaylodge.com

A variety of alternate accommodation options are available in Humansdorp, St Francis and Jeffrey’s Bay to suit all requirements and budgets.

Local guide information:
No Birder Friendly Tour Operators or local guides are currently available for the wider Jeffrey’s Bay and St Francis areas.

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

Key species:

Little Bittern, Baillon’s Crake, African Swamphen, a plethora of migrant waders in the summer months

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

Jeffrey’s Bay tourism

Tel: +27 (0)42 293 2923
Fax: +27 (0)42 293 2924
Email: info@jeffreysbaytourism.org
Website: www.jeffreysbaytourism.org

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