Port Elizabeth and surrounds – Colchester and Sunday’s River Mouth

About the Birding

The tiny village of Colchester, roughly 43Km east of Port Elizabeth, is nestled against the banks of the picturesque Sunday’s River. The Sunday’s River mouth itself is one of the richest closed estuaries on the Eastern Cape coastline and provides the ideal setting for a morning visit. It is easily combined with visits to the similar Swartkops River Estuary, the core section of Addo Elephant National park and the Tankatara Road.

Begin your explorations in the village itself, searching for both Dark-capped and Cape Bulbuls and the Hartlaub’s and Grey-headed Gulls; though beware of hybrids showing intermediate features. The Pearson Park campsite offers several vantage points from which to scan the upper reaches of the Sunday’s River where you might see Half-collared Kingfisher and Goliath Heron. Little and Swift (Greater Crested) Terns are regularly sighted along this stretch of river, while Horus Swift can sometimes be seen overhead in mixed flocks of swallows, swifts and martins. When in fruit, the many fig trees in the campsite itself can be productive with large numbers of frugivorous species.

Entering the Sunday’s River Mouth Nature Reserve by paying a small day fee at the entrance gate. The road begins by passing through the well-vegetated dune fields where Streaky-headed Seedeater, Brimstone Canary, Cape Sparrow, Southern Tchagra, Bokmakierie and Southern Boubou are all possible. Watch out for Peregrine Falcons hunting, as several pairs nest on cliffs nearby.

As one reaches the estuary itself, explore the mudflats from the various picnic spots along the way. The optimal time to visit is low tide, when large numbers of waders can be seen foraging at ease. Top prize is shared between the Terek Sandpiper, which prefers muddier sections, and the Red Knot. Other targets include the Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Curlew and Marsh Sandpipers, Little Sting, Common Greenshank, Common Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, and both Grey and Common Ringed Plovers.

The sandbar at the mouth itself supports a large tern roost generally including the Common (summer), Swift (Greater Crested), Sandwich, Roseate (winter), Antarctic (winter), Damara (summer), Caspian, and Little Terns. This is also a fantastic site from which to view St Croix Island, an important African Penguin colony, though a telescope is recommended.

Key species:

Hartlaub’s Gull, Terek Sandpiper, Damara and Roseate Terns, Red Knot

About the Birding Site

Port Elizabeth, an idyllic coastal city, is perhaps the most accessible port of entry into the Eastern Cape. Known as the ‘Friendly City,’ Port Elizabeth offers a superb value-for-money holiday base with a diverse selection of attractions, within easy reach, including a number of scenic nature trails, historic heritage, cultural experiences and several bird and wildlife viewing hotspots. Perhaps most important are the core section of Addo Elephant National Park and the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Complex; both under 1hr drive from the city’s international airport.

Other notable hotspots within easy reach are Settler’s Park, the Swartkops Estuary, Tankatara Road, Cape Recife Nature Reserve, and the Island Forest Reserve.

Key species:

Hartlaub’s Gull, Terek Sandpiper, Damara and Roseate Terns, Red Knot

Other Related Information

Colchester is situated immediately off the National Highway ‘N2,’ roughly 43Km from Port Elizabeth.

Access and Facilities:
A small fee is payable at the boom gates to visit the Sunday’s River Mouth Nature Reserve. Picnicking, braai facilities, ablutions and a boat slipway are provided with the reserve itself.

Other related information:

Recommended accommodation nearby:
No Birder Friendly Establishments are currently available. However, a variety of accommodation options are available in the village of Colchester ranging from budget camping sites through to luxurious B&Bs.
Some options include:

Sundowner Guest House: +27 (0)41 468 0173 (No website available)
Dungbeetle River Lodge: https://dungbeetle.co.za/
Pearson Park Caravan Park and Camping Site: https://www.pearsonpark.co.za/

Local guide information:
Local birding tours within the wide Port Elizabeth area can be organised through:

Bird & Eco-tours
Tour/guiding/free information service in the Port Elizabeth area
Tel: +27 (0)41 466 5698

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

Key species:

Hartlaub’s Gull, Terek Sandpiper, Damara and Roseate Terns, Red Knot

Contact details:

Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism

Tel: +27 (0)41 581 7540 / +27 (0)42 582 2573
Fax: +27 (0)42 581 7544 / +27 (0)41 582 2573
Email: info@nmbt.co.za
Website: www.nmbt.co.za