South Africa Ornithology

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Bird Watching in South Africa-KwaZulu Natal

These nine localities in KwaZulu Natal have a combined bird list of 386 species, over one third of the total number of birds recorded in the entire southern African subregion. The wide variety of habitats, from coast and wetland environments to forest, woodland and grassland, are the primary source of this richness.


Forest Birds

Forest birding to be had here is unparalleled. Forest birds around the world, with their typically brilliant colouration and secretive habits, provide the most rewarding and challenging birding of all. Southern Africa has two distinct forests in the interior of South Africa and along the far southern coastal regions in the Cape. These are known as Afromontane forests. It is only in southern Kwazulu-Natal that these two diverse forest assemblages overlap.

Birds characteristic of both forest types can be found together. So, for example east coast forest specials such as Green Coucal, Golden-rumped Tinkerbarbet and Grey Waxbill, occur close to, and indeed sometimes in the same forests as, Afromontane species such as Knysna Lourie, Olive Bush Shrike and Forest Canary. Some of the inland forest birds also move to coastal forests during the winter, for example Chorister and Starred robins and Yellow-throated Warbler, increasing this overlap between the two forest avifaunas. Few forest birds migrate out of the region entirely in the winter, which means that forest birding is good throughout the year.

The other habitats on offer also provide great birding. Colouful bushveld birds, such as Little Bee-eater,, Chin-spot Batis and Plum-coloured Starling, abound in the woodland areas. The grasslands harbour a suite of specialized birds, some of which, for example the cisticolas and pipits, challenge the identification skills of the ardent birder. The quiet rivers are inhabited by waterbirds such as the African Black Duck, Half-collared Kingfisher and Long-tailed wagtail. The larger lagoons and estuaries carry a wider variety of waterbirds, including various herons, ducks, waders, gulls, terns and Kingfishers. Even the ocean environment has its avian attractions, especially during the late-winter sardine runs, when seabirds such as Cape Gannet, Cape Cormorant and various albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters swarm offshore.

Special Attractions

Many of the localities boast several bird species that are worthy of special mention and particular attention by visiting birders. The endemic and threatened Cape Vulture is easily seen at Oribi Gorge ad, especially, Umtamvuna. These two places also represent the northernmost localities where the Knysna Woodpecker occurs. The grasslands at Vernon Crookes are specially noteworthy for the presence of Black-rumped buttonquail, Grass Owl, Broad-tailed Warbler, Pale-crowned Cisticaola and Short-tailed Pipit. African Broadbills are occasionally reported from Vernon Crookes, Oribi Gorge and Umtamvuna but are rare. Weza-Ngele forest is renowned for its Cape blackcaps and Forest Buzzards, and the nearby grasslands are one of the few areas there the endangered Blue Swallow survives in South Africa. The Spotted Thrush, one of South Africa’s rarest and most threatened birds, moves into the forests of southern KwaZulu-Natal during the winter months from its breeding ground further south in the region previously known as Transkei. Secretive and much sought after forest birds such as Green Coucal, Narina Trogon, Green Twinspot and Grey Waxbill are common at several localities. The enigmatic Pied Mannikin is more common in southern KwaZulu-Natal than anywhere else in South Africa.

Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve

Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve is one of the most important protected areas in southern KwaZulu-Natal. It preserves a magnificent stretch of coastal forest. It covers 2189 ha and was established in January 1973. At its closest point, the reserve is about 13 km inland from the coast. Its altitude ranges between about 150 m above sea level, in the lowest river valleys in the south of the reserve, up to 610 m in the north. Annual rainfall averages 1100 mm.

Vernon Crookes is only about 80 km from Durban and is a comfortable day-visit.

Facilities

The reserve is open between sunrise and sunset. There is a nominal entrance fee. A 12 km network of roads winds through the reserve and visitors are also free to leave their vehicles and walk as there are no dangerous large mammals. There are several walking trails, of 1-4 km (30 min to 2 hours), close to the main office and the Nyengelezi Camp. The birding from these trails is excellent. They pass through both forest and grassland habitats. A comprehensive bird list for the reserve is available from the main office. Ticks can be a problem and visitors should take precautions against these.

Accommodation

The Nyengelezi Camp comprises five two-bed-roomed chalets (with four beds in each chalet) and a 20-bed treehouse. Reservations can be made through: Natal Parks Board Reservations, P.O. Box 1750, Pietermaritzburg 3200; telephone: 033-471981; fax: 0331-471980.

Habitats

The extensive forest patches are tall and dense in structure but well-planned hiking trails allow access to them. There are also some small patches of Acacia woodland within the reserve. The grassland tends also to be rather tall and dense, unless recently burnt, but again several of the walking trails make it easy to ramble through these habitats.

The northern edge of the reserve looks down over a series of cliffs to the Mpambanyoni River outside the reserve, and provides rocky area for those birds which require such habitat. Numerous rivers and streams flow through Vernon Crookes, the most important of these being the upper reaches of the Umzinto River, as well as the Nyengelezi and Mhlanga rivers. There are several small marshy wetlands on the higher grassland plateaus and three provide habitat for some waterbird species.

Birds

The large size and varied habitats in the reserve result in a wide diversity of birds being present. The total reserve list to date is 307 species, about a third of the total number of birds found in the entire southern African sub-region. The situation of the reserve close enough to the coast to support birds restricted to the coastal forest strip but just far enough inland to provide habitat for grassland and Afromontane-forest birds more characteristic of inland regions, is another reason for the rich pickings for bird-watchers.

The two main habitats in the reserve, grassland and forest, each support quite distinct birdlife and visitors should spend time in each of these to ensure that the full range of species is encountered. The grassland birds inhabiting tall, dense grasslands, typically on the steeper slopes, also differ from those in the short grasslands, typical of the plateau areas, so some time should be spent in both grassland types. Recently burnt grassland can be particularly attractive to some grass land birds and this habitat should also be looked out for and carefully searched. The three dams are also worth a visit for the waterbirds living there.

The forest birding in Vernon Crookes is outstanding throughout the year. The forest avifauna includes numerous endemic species, such as the Natal Francolin, Kynsna Lourie, Cape Batis, Southern Boubou, Swee waxbill and Forest canary. Other typical and often spectacular forest birds include Cinnamon Dove, Purple-crested Lourie, Emerald cuckoo, Wood Owl, Narina Trogon, Trumpeter and Crowned hornbills, Red-fronted and Golden-rumped tinker barbets, Olive Woodpecker, Grey Cuckooshrike, Square-tailed Drongo, Yellow-throated Warbler, Blue-mantled Flycatcher, Black-bellied Starling, Grey and Olive sunbirds, Forest weaver and Red-backed Mannikin. The haunting call of Buffspotted Flufftails can be heard from the forests during the summer, especially at dawn, dusk and in the evenings.

Several exciting forest raptors occur: Crowned Eagles are easily seen and two pairs breed in the forest patches, and sightings of Black Sparrowhawk and African Goshawk are regular. Green Coucals inhabit the densest tangles and are best located by their distinctive and manic calls. The ratchet-like call of the Scaly-throated Honeyguide often reveals the presence of this secretive species. African Broadbills occur in small numbers but, as always, are difficult to locate. First light is the best time to search for this bird, as it usually only calls during this period. Vernon Crookes is one of the most southerly localities for this species and during drought periods it seems to disappear from the reserve entirely. Spotted Thrushes are sometimes present during the winter months and should be searched for in the forest glades but are very rare visitors to Vernon Crookes. Robins are well represented and the Natal, White-browed, Brown, Cape, Chorister robins are endemics. Gorgeous, Orange-breasted, Grey-headed and endemic Olive bush shrikes are all present in the well-wooded parts of the reserve, one of the few places in southern Africa where all four of these bush shrikes overlap. Green Twinspots are a special challenge and Vernon Crookes is as good a place as any to turn up this frustratingly difficult bird. Another special forest seedeater is the Grey Waxbill. Two endemics, Harratt’s Warbler and Southern Tchagra, are specials of the dense shrubs fringing the true forests, although the former is largely a winter visitor. The two endemic sunbirds, Lesser and Greater collared sunbirds are associated with the forest patches and surrounding scrub. The former is scarca and stays largely under the forest canopy, while the latter is common and more typical of forest-edge habitats.

Woodland

The elusive and inconspicuous Sharp-billed Honeyguide is fairly common in the lightly wooded habitats. The Red-throated Wryneck inhabits Acacia woodland areas and is best located by call. The endemic Fiscal Flycatcher is a non-breeding winter visitor. Another endemic, Gurney’s Sugarbird, has been recorded associated with stands of Protea trees in the reserve. Mocking and Familiar chats can be found in rocky areas along the northern cliffs overlooking the Mpambanyoni River, and the endemic Cape Rock Thrush, and even the endemic Sentinel Rock Thrush, are occasional winter visitors to this area.

Grasslands

Many of the birds of the open grassland regions are eagerly sought by keen birders. Birding in these grasslands is best during the spring and summer months. Many grassland birds either migrate away from the reserve during the winter or are silent and therefore much less conspicuous at the time. Black-rumped Buttonquails are only likely to be seen when flushed underfoot from short, dense grassland, but beware as the Kurrichane Buttonquail is also present. Differentiating between these two species can be problematic based on the typically fleeting glimpse of these secretive birds. An even more difficult bird to see in the moister grassland areas is the Striped Flufftail. African Quails, however, are abundant and easily flushed during the summer. Grass Owls breed in the densest grassland patches and should be looked for at first and last light. Marsh Owls have also been recorded.

Vernon Crookes is one of the few localities in southern Africa where the Short-tailed Pipit is found with any regularity. Look for it in recently burnt grassland and it breeds in the reserve during the summer months. This pipit is highly inconspicuous when on the ground and is best located by walking around in suitable habitat until it is flushed, flying off looking very much like a female Red-collared Widow. Plain-backed Pipits are common in short-grass areas, especially recently burnt grassland, and Striped Pipits also occur, usually associated with rocky and wooded grassland. Tall rank grass typically along water-courses and fringing forest are good places to look for endemic grassbirds, as well as Yellow and Broad-tailed warblers. Vernon Crookes is one of the best localities in South Africa for the last-named warbler, which is best located during the summer months when it is calling and displaying.

Vernon Crookes is also a paradise for the cisticolas or grass warblers. No less than 11 of the 15 species present in South Africa have been recorded there. The open grasslands harbour Fan-tailed, Ayres, Pale-crowned and Croaking Cisticolas, and even a few Wailing Cisticolas. The lightly wooded areas have Rattling and Lazy cisticolas and Neddicky’s. Levaillant’s cisticola lives along the fringes of the upland marshy areas and is replaced along the lower river courses towards the coast by the Black-backed and Red-faced cisticolas. The rare Pale-crowned Cisticola is the pick of this bunch and Vernon Crookes is one of the best places to see this elusive bird. It is best identified by call during the summer breeding season and should be looked for in the moister and relatively short grasslands of the upper plateaus. Cuckoo Finches are brood parasites of these cisticolas and should be sought during the summer in the moister grasslands ringing the marshy areas and dams, but this species is rare. Both the Yellow-throated and endemic Orange-throated longclaws are found.

A pair of Martial Eagles breed in a patch of forest and are frequently seen soaring over open grassland, especially during the winter when they are attending their nest.

Long-crested Eagles are a common sight perched in prominent positions overlooking the grasslands and soaring overhead, and also breed in the reserve. Gymnogenes, the endemic Jackal Buzzard, and Lanner Falcons are regularly recorded. Crowned Cranes visit the marshes and dams, and have even been known to nest in the reserve.

African Jacanas are usually present along the fringes of the main dam close to the main office. The Orange-breasted Waxbill is another colourful denizen of the marshy regions and Red-chested Flufftails also skulk in these areas. African Black Ducks and Long-tailed wagtails are found along the larger, wooded watercourses.

Empisini Nature Reserve

Empisini Nature Reserve is a delightful birding spot established in 1973. It is owned by the borough of Umkomanzi/Umkomaas TLC and is managed by the Umkomaas Centre of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, It is 120 ha in extent. Empisini means the place of the hyena and is the name of the perennial steam that flows through the reserve and into the Mkomazi River. The reserve is about 1 km from the coast just inland of Mkomaas town.

The reserve is 50 km form Durban and makes a comfortable one-day birding outing.

Several excellent trails meander through the various habitats in the reserve and the trails alongside the Empisini stream provide excellent forest birding.

One of the major attractions is a large treehouse built deep within the forest and alongside the Empisini stream. It sleeps up to 20 people and has a cold shower, a flush toilet and a kitchen sink with running water.

Habitats

The reserve comprises approximately equal areas of pristine coastal forest and old sugarcane fields regenerating to scrub and pioneer grassland. The entrance road to the reserve runs alongside a perennial stream and a dam, both supporting extensive reed and sedge beds.

Birds

The wide trails through the forest at Empisini offer excellent forest birding. The total reserve list to date numbers 176 species.
Common and relatively easily encountered forest birds include Tambourine Dove, Narina Trogon, Red-fronted and Golden-rumped tinker barbets, Square-tailed Drongo, Grey and the Black cuckooshrikes, Terrestrial and Yellow—bellied bulbuls, Blue-grey and Blue-mantled flycatchers, Black-bellied Starling, Grey, Olive and Collared sunbirds, and Forest Weaver. Green Twinspots, Red-backed Mannikins and the Grey and endemic Swee waxbills are less easy to find.

The Purple-crested Lourie is common, but note that the Knysna Lourie is absent from Empisini. Three species of robins are resident in the reserve, Natal and endemic Brown robins in the forest, and White-browed Robins in the surrounding scrub. Cape Robins are common winter visitors and Starred and endemic Chorister robins are rare winter visitors. The endemic Southern Boubou is abundant. Gorgeous, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed bush shrikes are all common, and the endemic Olive Bush Shrinke is also recorded occasionally. The spotted Thrush has been seen in the winter on the road leading through the forest to the treehouse. Yellow-throated Wablers and Dusky Flycatchers are regular winter visitors. Black Sparrowhawks and African goshawks are often seen on the wing. Crowned Eagles formerly nested in the reserve but are now less frequently seen. Two endemic species, the Natal Francolin and Southern Tchagra, are fairly common in the forest-fringe habitats and are most easily located by call.

The elevated veranda of the treehouse offers unparalleled opportunities for viewing forest birds at close quarters and several species regularly nest around the structure, for example Forest Weaver. Overnight visitors frequently hear Wood Owls and indeed are often kept awake on summer evenings by the haunting nocturnal call of the Buff-spotted Flufftail.

The more open and wetland-dominated areas around the entrance to the reserve also provide great birding. White-breasted and Reed Cormorants, and yellow-billed Ducks can be found on the open water areas of the dam. Thick-billed, Spotted-backed and the Yellow weavers, and Red-shouldered Widows all nest in the reedbeds or surrounding trees. African Sedge Warblers and Tawny-flanked Prinias are resident in the marshy areas and are joined in summer by Great reed Warblers, and in winter by Yellow Warblers. Red-faced and Black-backed cisticolas are also found in these habitats. Long-tailed, African Pied and Cape wagtails are present; the first along the forested course of the Empisini stream and the last two in the more open wetland areas. African Fish Eagles are frequently seen and heard high overhead. Lesser Honeyguides are commonly seen and Sharp-billed Honeyguides are regularly recorded in the open areas.

T.C.Robertson Nature Reserve

T.C. Robertson Nature Reserve is situated on the outskirts of the coastal town of Scottburgh on the south bank of the Mpambanyoni River, close to its mouth. It is about 60 ha in extent and was established in 1989. It is named after the famous author, ecologist and conservationist Dr Thomas Chalmers Robertson, who lived the last 16 years of his life in Scottburgh. The reserve is part of the townlands of Scottburgh and is administered by the KwaZulu-Natal Branch of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa.
The reserve, about 60 km from Durban, is a comfortable day-visit, and can easily be coupled with a sojourn to the nearby Empisini Nature Reserve and Umdoni Park.

A system of trails about 10 km in total length cover all the habitats in the reserve.

Accommodation

There is no accommodation available at T.C Robertson but visitors can easily overnight at Scottburgh or any of the numerous other holiday resorts along the coast.

Habitats

The reserve has a surprisingly high diversity of habitats considering its small size. The Mpambanyini River is lined with reedbeds and has several sandbanks. The floodplain of the river comprises rehabilitated grassland with scattered trees and some small artificial ponds. The upper slope forming the southern part of the reserve is well-wooded, tending to coastal forest in places. These are also several impressive stands of tall palm trees on this slope.

Birds

T.C Robertson has an impressive bird list of 206 species to date. This is because of the wide diversity of habitats present: forest, woodland, grassland and, especially, wetland in the form of the river and associated ponds. Over the years a long list of waterbirds have been recorded at T.C Robertson, many of which are only present occasionally or as very rare vagrants. Indeed about 35% of the bird species recorded have been waterbirds. The common waterbirds of the open-water areas include such species as Dabchick, White-breasted and Reed cormorants, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Hamerkop, Sacred and Hadeda ibises, Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Blacksmith Plover, Pied and Giant Kingfishers, and African pied and Cape wag-tails. When the river is low, sandbanks support migrant waders in summer, such as common and Wood sandpipers, and Greenshanks. The dense reedbeds harbour the elusive Purple Gallinule and Black Crake, and even African Rails and Red-chested Flufftails, both of which have been recorded from dense wetland vegetation in the reserve. Cape Reed Warblers are other denizens of the reedbeds and Great Reed Warblers can also be heard from these sites during the summer. Ethiopian Snipe can be found in the short marshy vegetation. African fish Eagles are regularly recorded. A pair of Crowned Cranes are frequent visitors. Water Dikkops should be searched for in the quieter areas. White-throated Swallows frequent the river course during the summer months. The two aquatic cisticolas - Balack-backed and Red-faced - inhabit the marshy edges of the river and ponds. In summer, Thick-billed, Spotted-backed and Yellow weavers, Red Bishops, and Red-shouldered Widows nest in the reedbeds or near-by trees. The brood-parasitic Diederik Cuckoo can also often be found in association with these colonies. Common Waxbills, and even occasionally Orange-breasted Waxbills, can be found at the fringes of aquatic vegetation.

Common birds of the grassy floodplain area include Fan-tailed Cisticola and Yellow-throated Longclaw. Look for Little and Palm swifts overhead throughout the year, and for White-rumped Swifts and Lesser Striped Swallows during the summer.

The Walking trails through the wood-land and forested slopes should turn up at least some of the following characteristic species: Tambourine Dove, Purple-crested Lourie, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater; Greater Honeyguide, Southern black Tit; Rattling and Lazy cisticolas, Gorgeous and orange-breasted bush shrikes, and Spectacled Weaver. The endemic Brown Robin can be found in the densest areas, along with the ubiquitous Natal and White-browed robins. Cape and endemic Chorister robins are usual winter visitors. Olive, Black and Collared sunbirds are common. In the spring a pair of Yellow-billed Kites breed in a tall forest fever berry tree on the ridge directly alongside the trail above the picnic area.

Umdoni Park

The outstanding forest birding on offer at Umdoni Park is one of South Africa’s best kept birding secrets. The estate is well known as a holiday hideaway for South African politicians. Hence the presence of Botha House on the estate, named after an early South Africa Prime Minister-Louis Botha. A golf course established in the previously grassland area is also a major attraction. The estate lies directly on the coast just south of the small town of Pennington. It is about 220 ha in size and was established in 1920. Responsibility for the estate’s management lies with the Umdoni Park Trust. The Trust with the blessing of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, is seeking National heritage site status for Umdoni.

The estate is about 80 km from Durban and is a comfortable day- visit.

Facilities

There is an extensive network of trails through Umdoni and these can be started from either the club house, overnight cottages or the Wildlife and Environment Society’s parking area.

Accommodation

A fully furnished two-cottage unit, with kitchen facilities including crockery and cutlery, and bed-linen and towels, on the estate can be hired for overnight accommodation. It sleeps a maximum of 13 people.

Habitats

The main attraction for the birder is the extensive tracts of coastal forest on the estate. The golf greens and fairways provide an open habitat attractive to a restricted suite of adaptable grassland birds and some natural coastal grassland patches can be found between the extensive areas of forest. There are also small dams within the golf course area that provide some habitat for itinerant waterbirds. To the east, the estate borders on the coast, where a few coastal and pelagic birds can be seen, and to the south it is bordered by the Mkumbane River but only a small part of this is accessible to birders.

Birds

Umdoni Park is a relatively little-known birding locality, despite the ease with which many usually difficult forest birds can be pinned down in this magnificent stretch of coastal forest. The forest is on flat terrain, except in the actual Mkumbane River Valley, and has several roads and paths through it, allowing unparalleled ease of ease of access to birders chasing these forest specials.

Forest birding is good throughout the year. This is because few forest species migrate away during the winter. Indeed it seems that many birds from forests situated further inland migrate to coastal forests such as Umdoni during the cooler winter months, actually bolstering the numbers of birds present. In winter, forest birds are also more active and typically form bird parties, which increases their conspicuousness. The total bird list for the estate to date is 205 species.

The list of forest birds to be seen is a lengthy one and includes the following endemics: Natal Francolin, Knysna Lourie, Brown Robin, Cape Batis, Southern Boubou and Swee Waxbill. The endemic Olive Bush Shrike has been reported but its presence may require confirmation, as it can be confused with Gorgeous, Orange-breasted and even Grey-headed bush shrikes, all three of which occur at Umdoni Park. The endemic Southern Tchagra can be found in scrub on the edge of the forests. Other forest specials to be had are: Tambaurine and Cinnamon doves, Emerals and Klaas’s Cuckoos, Trumpeter and Crowned hornbills, Red-fronted and Golden-rumped tinker barbets, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Olive woodpecker, Grey Cuckooshrike, Terrestrial and Yellow-bellied bulbuls, Natal Robin, Blue-grey and Blue-mantled fly catchers, Black-bellied Starling, Grey, Olive and Collared sunbirds, and forest and Spectacled weavers. Among the forest raptors, look out for Long-crested and Crowned eagles (the latter probably breeds at Umdoni,) Little and Black sparrowhawks, African Goshawk and Gymnogene. These may be seen in or on the edge of forest, or passing overhead. Both Purple-crested and Knysna louries are present.

Umdoni is an excellent place for two elusive species highly sought after by birders - Green Coucal and Narina Trogon and their calls are characteristic forest sounds there. The forest also resonates with the strident calls of the Square-tailed Drongo. Spotted Thrushes, Starred Robins and yellow-throated Warblers are winter visitors to the deep forest interior. Umdoni is also a reliable locality for the secretive Grey waxbill. Stands of long grass along the road verges in the forest are good places to look out for Green Twinspot and Red-backed Mannikin, especially in the late summer and early winter.

The other habitats at Umdoni are less rewarding. The restricted patches of natural grassland harbour species such as Little Bee-eater and Yellow-throated Longclaw, and tall trees in the more open areas are often used as perches by Plum-coloured Starlings during the summer. A few hardy species, such as Black-headed heron, Hadeda Ibis, Red-eyed Dove and Cape Wagtail, and even occasionally Plain-backed Pipit, venture onto the golf-course greens. The small dams on the golf course and the large dam on the Mkumbane River attract waterbirds, White-Dabchick, Whiter-breasted Cormorant, White-faced Duck, Egyptian Goose and Malachite Kingfisher, and the African Fish Eagle is regularly seen soaring over the estate. It is worth watching overhead for swallows and swifts, and Little and Palm swifts, Black Saw-wing Swallow and Rock Martin are present all year, and Black and White-rumped swifts, and European, White-throated and lesser Striped swallows are summer migrants.

The golf course club house is in an elevated position with a magnificent view over the open ocean. Birders with telescopes may be lucky enough to pick up some coastal seabirds flying by from this locality, for example Kelp Gull, and Swift and Common terns. In winter some true pelagics, such as Petrels and Albatrosses, may be seen. The most abundant is usually the White-chinned Petrel, and a shy Albatross close inshore has even been positively identified from the club house. Late winter, when the sardine runs are on, is the best time to scan for pelagics. Cape Gannets and Cape cormorants also follow these sardine migrations in large numbers.

Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve

Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve is one of the most scenic and easily accessible birding spots in southern KwaZulu-Natal. It is also a large reserve and supports a wide diversity of bird species. The reserve is centred on a 24 km long stretch of gorge along the Mzimkulwana River. A main tarred road winds down the sides of the gorge and crosses the river, allowing easy access to a large area of the reserve and greatly facilitating birding. At it’s closest point, it is 25 km from the coast, inland of Port Shepstone. The reserve covers 1837 ha and was established in April 1950. It is administered by the Natal parks board. Altitude ranges between 120 m and 680 m above sea level.

The reserve is about 150 km south of Durban.

There are several walking trails of 1-9 km (30 mins to 6 hours) in length. These traverse all the major habitats in the reserve, including the plateau grasslands, gorge forests and the riverine strip. A comprehensive bird list of the reserve is available from the main office.

Accommodation

The camp has a magnificent view over the gorge. It comprises three four-bed and three two-bed chalets, with an-suite half bathrooms. All the beds are in the same room and the four- bed chalet has two single beds are in the same room and the four-bed chalet has two single beds and double bed. A seven-bed self-contained cottage can also be booked.

Habitats

The Mzimkulwana River and its side-streams are fringed with riverine forest. The remainder of the gorge itself is vegetated with coastal forest in the moister areas and thicket (valley bushveld including euphorbeas, aloes and some thorny Acacia trees) in the drier parts. Long lines of sheer sandsone cliff faces fringe the sides of the gorge, presenting habitat for bird species attracted to such sites for breeding and roosting. The surrounding upper plateau comprises grassland, with scattered trees, including stands of Protea trees.

Birds

Oribi gorge is renowned in birding circles as one of the best places to find the Knysna woodpecker in KwaZulu-Natal. But it offers the avid birder much more than just this single attraction. The total bird list to date for the reserve numbers 230 species, comprising mainly birds characteristic of forest, woodland, grassland and rivers.

The easiest forest birding is to be had from the main tarred road running through the gorge. There are numerous lay-bys along this road allowing the visitor to park and walk up and down the forest-fringed road verge. Forest birds present include the following endemics: Natal Francolin, Kynsna Lourie, Knysna Woodpecker, Chorister robin, (mainly a winter visitor), Brown Robin, Barratt’s Warbler, Cape batis, Southern Boubou, Olive Bush Shrike, Lesser Double-collared Sunbird, Swee Waxbill and Forest Canary. The endemic Southern Tchagra and Greater Double-collared Sunbird are associated with forest edge and scrub habitats, rather than true forest. The Knysna Woodpecker is best located by listening for its high-pitched screech. The closely related Golden-tailed Woodpecker, however, which has a similar call, also occurs at Oribi Gorge.

The riverine scrub on the north bank of the Mzimkulwana River just upstream of the picnic sites is a good place to look for Barratt’s Warbler. Other forest specials are the Narina Trogon, Red-fronted and Golden-rumped tinker barbets, Square-tailed Drongo, Gorgeous Bush shrike, Black-bellied Starling, Grey Waxbill. Spotted Thrushes should be looked for in the tallest forest patches during the winter months. Green Coucals have been reported but this is not the best place to locate this species, which is more common in the localities closer to the coast. The African Broadbill also occurs in the reserve but is only found very irregularly. Delegorgue’s pigeon has also been reported but only as a rare vagrant at best.

A major forest attraction is the nest of a pair of Crowned Eagles situated only metres from the road down the gorge. It is a tall forest tree about 1.5 km down the gorge road (on the left-hand side) from the turnoff to the camp. A picnic site lay-by 100 m further on allows the visitors to park and walk back up to the nest. Egglaying typically occurs in about September and the long breeding cycle of this species means that a chick or recently fledged young can be found on or near the nest throughout most of the year.

The abundance of tall cliffs in the reserve make it a paradise for cliff-nesting and cliff-roosting birds, especially birds of prey and swifts. Oribi Gorge is an excellent site for Cape Vultures, which regularly roost on the cliffs and can often be seen soaring over the gorge. A nearby farmer has established a vulture restaurant, where livestock carcasses are put out for the birds, further increasing the attractiveness of the area for this threatened and endemic scavenger. Visitors should ask the reserve warden about possibly visiting this restaurant. Other common cliff-nesting raptors include Jackal Buzzards, Gymnogene, Lanner Falcon and Rock Kestrel. The rare Peregrine Falcon has also been reported. White-necked Ravens are another cliff specialist and large flocks of Red-winged Starlings are the most obvious of the birds associated with this habitat. Black and Alpine swifts are common, especially in the late afternoon and during the summer, and White-rumped (summer only) and Little swifts can also be seen flying around the cliff faces. The view point at the Oribi Gorge Hotel is an excellent place to watch for these cliff-associated specials. Other birds associated with rocky habitats are Mocking and Familiar chats, Striped Pipit, the endemic Cape Rock Thrush, and Freckled Nightjars are regularly heard at night.

Patches of tall rank grass on the upper plateau are good places to look for Broad-tailed Warbler and the endemic Grassbird. Patches of flowering Protea trees attract endemic Gurney’s Sugarbirds.

The bridge over, and the trails along, the Mzimkulwana River allow the visitor to search for characteristic riverine waterbirds such as African Black Duck, Giant and Half-collared kingfishers, and African Pied Wagtail. Long-tailed Wagtails are more likely to be encountered on the more sheltered side-streams. The elusive African Finfoot has been recorded along quieter stretches of the Mzimkulwana River but is rare.

Uvongo River Nature Reserve

The Uvongo River Nature Reservs protects the riparian strip on both side of the Uvongo River, just upstream of its mouth. It is situated virtually in heart of the coastal town of Uvongo. The name Uvongo is derived from iVungu, the Zulu name, and refers to the roaring sound of the small waterfall at the eastern edge of the reserve. The reserve is small, only about 28 ha in extent, and was established in1951. The reserve is about 130 km from Durban.

Facilities

Well-defined walking trails extend upstream through forest from the Uvongo Beach Lodge on the north bank and from the Lilliecrona park on the south bank.

Accommodation

There is no overnight accommodation available in this small reserve but visitors will easily find such establishments in Uvongo town itself or in the other coastal holiday resorts to the south and north.

Habitats

The habitats present in this small reserve are essentially restricted to the coastal and riverine forest along the river, the more open parkland with scattered trees characteristic of Thure Lilliecrona Park on the south bank, and the aquatic habitat of the river itself.

Birds

Uvongo River is an easily accessible and worthwhile birding locality. The bird list to date is only 129 species but the reserve has not yet been covered in detail and this list is likely to grow substantially as more birders visit the site.

Forest birds on offer include the following specials: Tambourine Dove, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Narina Trogon, Crowned hornbill, Red-fronted and Golden-rumped tinker barbets, Square-tailed Drongo, Terrestrial Bulbul, Natal and Brown robins, Bar-throated Apalis, Dusky and Blue-grey flycatchers, Cape Batis, Southern Boubou, Gorgeous, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed bush shrikes, Black-bellied Starling, Grey and Olive sunbirds, Forest Weaver, Green Twinspot and Red-backed Mannikin. A pair of Black Sparrowhawks breed in the upper reaches of the reserve and are regularly seen along the river. African Goshawks are also common. Both Knysna and Purple-crested louries occur. Wood Owls can be heard calling at night. The Spotted Thrush is a rare winter visitor. Southern Tchagras occur in the scrub by vegetation fringing the forest.

The tall trees in Thure Lililecrona Park attract birds such as Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Black-headed oriole and Black Flycatcher. Black-collared Barbets breed in the park trees in summer and are often pestered by lesser Honeyguides, their brood parasites. Keep an eye out overhead for Little and Palm swifts, Rock Martins and Black Saw-wing Swallows throughout the year, and White-rumped Swifts and lesser Striped Swallows during the summer.

Common waterbirds along the river include species such as Dabchick, Yellow-billed Duck, Pied Sandpiper and White-throated Swallow. Hamerkops and African black Ducks both nest along the river. African Fish Eagles are a common sight overhead. African Sedge Warblers occur in the dense wetland vegetation fringing the river. African Pied, Cape and Long tailed wagtails all overlap at Uvongo. Several breeding pairs of Long-tailed Wagtails in the reserve nest on low rocky ledges above the river. In summer, Thick-billed, Spectacled, Spotted-backed and Yellow weavers can all be found breeding along the river, and the brood-parasitic Diederik Cuckoo often attends and larger weaver colonies

Mpenhati Public Resort Nature Reserve

The Mpenjati Public Resort Nature Reserve is one of the few extensive protected wetland areas on the coast of southern KwaZulu Natal. The reserve encompasses the mouth of the Mpenjati River and adjacent areas on both the north and south banks. It is 66 ha in extent and is a Natal Parks Board reserve.

The reserve is 20 km south of Margate and about 150 km south of Durban.

There are also well-laid out walking trails on both the south (Ipithi Trail-1.2 km long) and north (Yengele Trail-1.8km) banks. A feature of these trails are wooden observation platforms giving outstanding views of the river lagoon and it’s associated wetlands, the surrounding forests and grassland, and the adjacent coastline.

Accommodation

There is no accommodation available on the reserve but visitors can overnight at one of the many holiday resorts to the north and south of the reserve.

Habitats

In addition to the riverine and floodplain marsh habitats of the river itself, there are extensive areas of coastal forest. Coastal grasslands with scattered trees is another fruitful habitat for the keen birder. The reserve also abuts directly onto the open coastline.

Birds

The Mpenjati lagoon attracts a wide diversity of aquatic bird species, including birds associated with both freshwater and coastal environments. The total reserve bird list to date is 222 species. Of these, about a third are aquatic birds. As with all wetland habitats, many of the aquatic birds recorded are rare vagrants to Mpenjati. This means that the causal observer is unlikely to see them, but there is always a reasonable chance of something unusual turning up on any given day.

The common freshwater waterbirds present include White-breasted and Reed cormorants, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Hamerkop, Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Three-banded plover and White-throated Swallow. Less abundant species, but still worth looking for, include Darter and White-faced and African Black ducks. A pair of African Fish Eagles breed in a tall forest tree on the north bank of the river.

Crowned Cranes are occasionally present. Red-chested Flufftails can be heard calling in the marshy area on the south bank which is set well back from the river and is traversed by a wooden walk-way. Look carefully in sheltered areas along the lagoon shoreline for Water Dikkops. Pied, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers are all common, and Half-collared Kingfishers are occasionally recorded. Both Red-faced and black-backed cisticolas occur in the marshy areas and Mpenjati is at the southern limit of the distribution of these two species. To the south, Levaillant’s Cisticola, a close relative of the Black-backed Cisticola inhabits the coastal wetlands. Levaillant’s Cisticola, however, has also been reported for Mpenjati, making it one of the few places where these two close relatives overlap. The African Sedge warbler is another inhabitant of dense wetland vegetation. Both African Pied and Cape wagtails can be found at the lagoon. Red-shouldered Widows can be seen displaying over the marshy areas but Red-collared Widows are less common. Thick-billed, Yellow and Spotted-backed weavers breed in reedbeds or riverine trees during the summer, and a small colony of the first two species can be seen at close quarters in reedbeds alongside the Yengele Trail.

The suite of coastal species is less diverse. The seaward end of the lagoon should be scarred for Kelp and Grey-headed gulls, Caspian and Swift terns and White-fronted Plovers. During summer, Sandwich, Common and Little terns may also be present. The migratory waders present during the summer include Common Sandpiper, which is easily seen in the lagoon, and Grey Plover, Greenshank, Sanderling, Whimbrel, and Terek, Wood and Curlew sandpipers, all of which are less common to rare.

Situated along the coastline, Mkpenjati also offers opportunities for pelagic seawatching. This is best during the late winter period, especially when the sardine runs are on and large numbers of Cape Gannets and Cape Cormorants may be seen offshore at these times. Of the true pelagics, the White-chinned petrel is usually the most frequently recorded, but the Yellow-nosed Albatross and Slender-billed Prion have also been seen. The walking trails through the forest could reveal Crowned eagle, Black Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk, the endemic Natal Francolin, Tambourine Dove, Narina Trogon, Red-fronted and Golden-rumped tinker barbets, Square-tailed Drongo, Terrestrial Bulbul, Natal and endemic Cape Batis and Southern Boubou, Black-billed Starling, Grey, Olive and Collared sunbirds, Forest and Spectacled weavers, Green Twinspot and Red-backed Mannikin. Both the endemic Knysna lourie and the Purple-crested Lourie occur. The Spotted Thrush has been recorded during the winter. Another endemic, the southern Tchagra, can be found in scrub fringing the fort edges.

The grassland areas support birds such as Rufous-naped lark, Fan-tailed and Croaking cisticolas, and Yellow-throated longclaw. The elusive Broad-tailed Warbler has recently been recorded in tall dense grassland fringing the edges of the forest. Species to be found in the lightly wooded areas include Long-crested Eagle, Little Bee-eater, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Red-throated Wryneck, White-browed robin, Lazy Cisticola, Neddicky, Black Flycatcher, Chin-spot Batis and the endemic Glossy Starling. The Plum-coloured Starling is close on the southern limit of its range at Mpenjati. Overhead, Little and Palm swifts, and Black Saw-wing Swallows and Rock Martins can be seen throughout the year, and Black swift, White-rumped Swift, and European and Lesser-striped Swallows during the summer months. There is a large breeding colony of little Swifts under the main bridge over the Mpenjati River.

Umtamvuna Nature Reserve

Umtamvuna Nature Reserve is the southernmost of the nature reserves in KwaZulu-Natal. It encompasses the northern bank of the Umtamvuna River, from which it takes its name and which forms the boundary between KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape Province. The Umtamvuna River and its side streams form magnificent gorges in this area and provide the visitor with breathtaking vistas. The reserve covers 3247 ha and was proclaimed in July 1971. It is a Natal Parks Board reserve. At its closest point, it is about 3 km from the coast and it extends just over 20 km inland. Altitude varies between about 20 m and 420 above sea-level.
The reserve is about 170 km from Durban.

The rugged nature of the reserve means that there is no network of roads. Visitors must use the well-developed hiking trails to move around in the reserve on foot. These trails start or end at the two entrance gates: the Beacon Hill and Pont entrances. The main office is situated at the Beacon Hill entrance. The various trails range in length between 500 m and 12 km (30 mins to 8 hours). They pass through riverine habitats, forest and grassland, and offer the birder access to all the key bird habitats in the reserve. A detailed booklet covering the reserve, which includes a comprehensive bird list, can be obtained form the main office.

Accommodation

No accommodation, caravan or camping facilities are available in the reserve but visitors can easily find such facilities at the nearby coastal resorts.

Habitats

The slopes of the gorge are covered in coastal forest and, in the drier areas, dense thickets of valley bushveld. Extensive tall cliff faces line large areas of the gorge. The Umtamvuna river itself present aquatic habitat and is fringed with riverine forest. Grassland covers the upper plateau regions, with scattered trees, including proteas.

Birds

Umtamvuna offers a wealth of birding riches and the total bird list to date numbers 266 endemic and threatened Cape Vulture, which is almost certain to be seen overhead.. There is a breeding colony of these impressive birds on a massive cliff face along the Umtamvuna River. The colony, however, is not close to any of the hiking trails. The reserve staff also maintain two vulture restaurants where carcasses are put out for these breed to feed on. One of these restaurants is situated close to the Beacon Hill main office. Visitors should ask the reserve warden about potentially visiting the breeding colony and the restaurants.

The extensive network of trails in the reserve really open up the birding opportunities. The trails along the Umtmvuna river from the Pont entrance are best for forest birds and those close to the Beacon hill main office are best for grassland birding. The Knysna Woodpecker, much sought after by enthusiastic birders, is probably more easily seen at Umtamvuna than at Oribi Gorge, its other, and more famous, KwaZulu-Natal locality. Search for this species along the Umtamvuna River. Its presence is best revealed by its high-pitched screeching call. Beware with your identification, however, as the closely related Golden-tailed Woodpecker, which has a similar call, has also been recorded in the reserve.

Several forest birds characteristic of Africa’s eastern seaboard forest reach the southern limits of their range at Umtamvuna. These species include Purple-crested Lourie, Green Coucal, Golden-rumped Tinker barbet, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, African broadbill, Gorgeous Bush Shrike and Grey Waxbill. As expected, several of these species are rare at Umtamvuna and only infrequently recorded there. The forest birding is rewarding and other key forest species include the following endemics: Natal Francolin, Knysna Lourie, Chorister and Brown robins (the former mainly a winter visitor), Cape batis, Southern Boubou, Olive Bush Shrike, Lesser Double-collared Sunbird, swee Waxbilll and Forest canary. Forest –edge habitats support the endemic Barrats’s Warbler, Southern Tchagra and Greater Double-collared Sunbird. Other forest specials to be watched for include Narina Trogon, Red-fronted Tinker Barbet, Square-tailed Drongo, Black-bellied Starling, Grey and Olive sunbirds, Forest Weaver and Green Twinspot. The Spotted Thrush should be looked for in the winter months.

The upper grasslands are best birded in summer. Species worth looking for include Secretary bird, and Red-wing and Shelley’s francolins. The energetic walker should take the Imziki trail across the Bulolo River to the Western Heights. This area has the most extensive open grassland and there is also a small wetland. Levaillant’s Cisticola, Stonechat and Red-shouldered Widows inhabit this wetland, and Pale-crowned Cisticola and Quail Finch can be found in the damp surrounding grassland. Other typical grassland birds include Common Quail, Rufous-naped Lark, Greater Striped Swallow and Red-collared Widow. Cisticolas are well represented and Fan-tailed, Ayres, wailing and Croaking cisticolas are all present. Both Orange-throated and Yellow-throated longclaws occur. Areas with short grass, especially those which have been recently burnt, support Black-winged Plover and Plain-backed Pipit. Areas with tall rank grassland, mainly along watercourses and fringing forest, are good spots for Broad-tailed Warbler, is best found in summer, when calling and displaying, and is a difficult customer to pin down during the winter non-breeding season. Be careful not to confuse the endemic Spotted Prinia with the more common Tawny-flanked Prinia. Lazy Cisticolas inhabitat tall grassland in rocky areas or fringing forest. Gurney’s Sunbirds are attracted to flowering Protea trees on the grassland plateaus. Ground Hornbills are occasionally seen foraging in the open grasslands.

The abundant cliffs and rocky area support the endemic Jackal Buzzards, and three other cliff-associated birds of prey: Gymnogne, Lanner Falcon and Rock Kestrel. White-necked Ravens, Rock Pigeons and Red-winged Starling are other common sights around the cliffs. The large numbers of swifts present at the cliffs during the summer comprise mainly Black and Alpine swifts, some of which remain through the winter. The White-rumped swift is strictly a summer migrant and the Little Swift remains throughout the year, along with the Rock Martin. The endemic Cape Rock Thrush favours rocky outcrops and the endemic Sentinel Rock Thrush is an occasional winter visitor. Mocking and Familiar chats, Striped Pipit and Freckled Nightjar also inhabit the rocky areas. Another two species restricted to this habitat have also been recorded - Cape Eagle Owl and Ground Woodpecker - but are rare.

The aquatic habitat along the Umtamvuna River is the place to look for Black Stork, Grey Heron, African Black Duck, African Fish Eagle, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Water Dikkop, Pied, Giant, Half –collared and Malachite kingfishers, White-throated Swallow, and African Pied and Long-tailed wagtails. Thick-billed and Yellow weavers nest in reedbeds fringing the river during the summer. Cape Reed Warblers can also be heard in these reedbeds. African Fish Eagles have been recorded nesting along the river. The African Finfoot has been found but is very rare. The Long-tailed Wagtail is also common along the side-streams leading into the Umtamvuna River, for example along the Bulolo River close to the Beacon Hill office.

Weza-Ngele Forest

The extensive Weza-Ngele forest is an excellent example of an inland Afromontane mistbelt forest.
It therefore differs profoundly in ecology from the coastal forests found at the other localities covered by this guide. It is about 80 km inland from the coast and the altitude of the forest spans about 1250-1550 m above sea-level. Weza-Ngele is about 230 km form Durban and an overnight trip is to be recommended.

Facilities

A network of trails and forestry roads pass though the forest and it is best to ask for directions to, and a map of these from the reception desk at the Ingeli Forest Lodge. The trails vary between 1.2 km and 16 km in length (30 mins to 6 hours).

Accommodation

The closest overnight accommodation is at the upmarket Ingeli Forest Lodge, within a stone’s throw of the forest. Alternative accommodation, including a caravan and camping site, can be found at Kosstad, 35 away.

Habitats

The main attraction for birders is the natural forest path itself. Much of the surrounding grassland areas have been transformed to commercial afforestation and these forestry areas now support a limited birdlife that is of little interest to birders. There are, however, several surviving patches of natural upland transsland in the Weza-Ngele area. These are very worthwhile searching out as they support several important upland grassland species, including some endemic and highly threatened birds not found at the other coastal localities. There are also some scattered dams and small wetlands in the general area that attract waterbirds.

Birds

The total bird list for the Weza-Ngele area is an impressive 223 species and includes an unparalleled wealth of species endemic to South Africa, or at least to southern Africa. As an inland Afromontane forest, Weza-Ngele has forest specials not found at any of the coastal forests found at the other localities.

These are the key target species for the visiting birder. Foremost amongst these is the Cape parrot. This threatened species has a tiny range in South Africa and Weza-Ngele is one of the best spots for this, the largest and most impressive, of parrots. The distribution of the Cape Parrot is linked to that of the huge yellowwood Podocarpus forest trees typical of the Afromontane forest, but absent from coast forest. It is a noisy species and its presence is usually revealed by its raucous screeching as it circles over the forest, typically in the early morning and late afternoon.

Up to 30 individuals of these sociable parrots have been seen in the same tree at Weza-Ngele. No birding jaunt to southern KwaZulu-Natal can be considered complete until this species has been added to the list. Almost as important are the Orange Thrush and the endemic Bush Blackcap. These two species are also restricted to Afromontane forest and Weza-Ngele is an excellent place to pin them down. The ubiquitous Olive Thrush also occurs in the forest and care must betaken not to confuse this species with the far more special Orange Thrush. Other forest birds present at Weza-Ngele and not found in coastal forest are the endemic Forest Buzzard, perhaps mainly as a winter visitor from their breeding forests to the south, Red-breasted Sparrowhawk, typically seen hunting over open grassland close to forest, and Red-necked Francolin, a bird of the forest fringe.In addition, there are several forest birds with a strong preference for Afromontane forest over coastal forest that are either rare at, or only scarce winter migrants to, the latter but are common at the fforest throughout the year. This group includes Rameron Pigeon, Emerald Cuckoo, Olive Woodpecker, Grey Cuckooshrike, Starred Robin, Yellow-throated Warbler, Dusky Flycatcher, and the seven endemics Chorister Robin, Barrat’s Warbler, Cape batis, Olive Bush Shrike, Lesser Double-collared Sunbird, Swee Waxbill and Forest Canary.

Other familiar forest birds present in both the coastal and Afromontane forests in southern KwaZulu-Natal, and to be found at Weza-Ngele, include Long-crested and Crowned eagles, Little and Black Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk, Buffspotted Flufftails Cinnamon and Tambourine doves, Wood Owl, Narina Trogon, Trumpeter and Crowned hornbills, Red-fronted Tinker barbet, Grey cuckooshrike, Terrestrial and Sombre bulbuls, Bar-throated and Yellow-breasted apalises, Bleating Warbler, Blue-mantled Flycatcher, Collared Sunbird, Forest Weaver, Green Twinspot, and the Endemic Knysna lourie and Southern Boubou.

The status of the elusive Delegorgue’s pigeon at Weza-Ngele is obscure. It appears once to have been quite common in the forest but is now only very rarely reported and these records require confirmation. Sadly it may even be extinct there, or well on the way to it, for reasons unknown.

As with the Afromontane forest habitat, the upland grasslands in the Weza-Ngele area boast several grassland birds absent or scarce in the coastal grasslands. The most significant of these is the Blue Swallow, South Africa’s most endangered bird. The best place to search for this species is in the few remaining open grassland patches amongst the extensive commercial forest just to the east of Weza town on the north side of the secondary road linking Weza and Harding. This swallow is a summer breeding migrant present between September and April. Grassland birds absent or rather scarce and localized on the coast, really come into their own in this region. Typical species to found, including some special endemics, include Secretary bird, Red-wing Francolin, Ground Hornbill, Golden Bishop, Quail finch, the spectacular long-tailed Widow, and the endemic Orange-throated longclaw. Among the smaller species are Rufous-naped Lark, Ayres and Wailing cisticolas, and Grassveld and Long-billed pipits. Gurney’s Sugarbird inhabits stands of Protea trees on the upper grassland slopes. Rocky areas support the endemic Cape Rock Thrush and Buff-streaked Chat, as well as Rock Bunting.

The two endemic raptors, Jackal Buzzard and, occasionally, Cape Vulture, can be seen soaring over the grasslands.

South Africa’s endemic national bird, the Blue Crane, squcco, can also be found. Recently burnt areas are good spots for Black-winged Plovers and Plain-backed Pipits. The endemic Cape Weaver is fairly common in this area. In summer, watch out for white Storks in the open grasslands, and Banded Martins and endemic greater Striped Swallows overhead. Any birder visiting the Weza-Ngele area and ignoring the grassland bird specials on offer is doing themselves a disservice. The grassland birding is best during the summer.

Areas of rank grassland or scrub, often adjacent to forest, hold the three endemics Grassbird, Spotted prinia and Bokmakierie, as well as Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Widow, Cape Canary, and Malachite and endemic Greater Double-collared sunbirds. Take care not to confuse the ubiquitous Tawny-flanked Prinia, most common towards the coast, with the Spotted Prinia, characteristic of the upland grasslands. Lightly wooded areas boast Sharp-billed Honeyguide and Red-throated Wryneck.

The dams and wetlands in the Weza-Ngele area offer waterbirds such as Yellow-billed Egret, African Spoonbill, White-faced Duck, Hottentot and Red-billed teals, Southern Pochard, African Marsh harrier, Africa Rail, Levaillant’s cisticola, Orange-breasted Waxbill, and the endemic Cape Shoveller. The marshy areas alongside the N2 at Harding are a good stake-out for Crowned cranes, which also roost on the powerlines adjacent to the main road.


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