Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve
Within the Umhlanga Conservancy just north of Durban can be found the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve (the "Ponds"). These areas include mainly coastal dune forest and aquatic habitats such as reed beds and shallow well vegetated ponds. These two "public" areas are linked by climax coastal forest, and extensive reed beds in the river floodplain, but access is restricted, as it is private land.
The KwaZulu-natal Wildlife Umhlanga Lagoon reserve is situated at the edge of the holiday town of Umhlanga rocks, is a refuge for many wetland and coastal forest birds, animals and plants. The birdlist comprises of some 208 species, with 60 species possible on a single visit in summer, while a winter visit should produce 40 species. Three hours are necessary to do this small reserve justice.
Birding, and Species of Interest.
From the car park, a single path leaves and crosses a short boardwalk. Here the path forks, the right hand trail crossing the reed bed and climbing along the primary dune to a viewing area overlooking the lagoon. From here, Kelp Gull, White-fronted Plover and a variety of terns can usually be seen on the sand bar, while Goliath Heron is often seen at the end of the lagoon. Black Crake may be seen and heard while passing through the reed bed, and Red-capped Robin-Chat, Green Twinspot and Dark-backed Weaver can be found along the dune crest.
The left hand path passes through a stand of Wild Hibiscus and enters the forest proper. Here one can find Crested Guineafowl, the southernmost occurrence of this species, and Brown Scrub-Robin, while in winter Spotted Ground-Thrush forages in the leaf litter on the ground. Search the trees for Black-throated Wattle-eye and Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, which are regular here. The path forms a loop, from which Green Malkoha may be seen in the tangled canopy. A short path from this loop leads to a boardwalk that crosses the lagoon through the reed beds, in which southern Southern Brown-throated Weaver breed in summer, together with Yellow Weaver and Thick-billed Weaver. The path then climbs steeply up the primary dune to meet the first path, and one can return to the car park via this way.
A picnic site is situated on the left-hand path, while public toilets are situated on the seaward dune.
From the M4 north, take the Portland Drive exit, turn right at the T-junction and then immediately right again. Continue under the highway until Lagoon Drive. Turn left along Lagoon Drive, at the end of which is the entrance to this Umhlanga Lagoon reserve, entrance to which is free. The Umhlanga Lagoon is a really nice place to spend a Saturday hiking around.
Umhlanga river Ponds
The popular "Ponds" lie next to the Umhlanga river, over the hill behind Umhlanga rocks. There are four maturation ponds, two are extensively overgrown and the other two are mostly clear water. Some 215 species have been recorded here. A visit in summer should give at least 70 species, with 40 species during a winter visit. A visit of two hours’ duration is recommended.
Birding and Species of Interest
Many waterfowl visit these ponds, and a variety of duck have been recorded here. Black Crake, Common Moorhen and African Purple Swamphen are resident, and African Jacana are common, while African Crake and Lesser Jacana are rare visitors. A pair of African Fish-Eagle that is resident in the conservancy is regularly seen here.
The thick vegetation surrounding the ponds provides refuge for Village Weaver and Yellow Weaver, as well as a number of warblers, with Dark-capped Yellow Warbler being a conspicuous winter visitor. Red-faced Cisticola are usually to be heard calling loudly from the rank weeds, and Malachite Kingfisher perches low down on the plants overhanging the water. A hedge of hibiscus attracts many sunbirds when in flower and Olive Sunbird, Grey Sunbird and Purple-banded Sunbird are among the more interesting ones recorded here. Recently, Black-throated Wattle-eye and Grey Waxbill have been recorded at the office end of the ponds. In this area, water is discharged from the primary works into the first pond, and this is a good place to look for rails and crakes.
There are no facilities available at the Ponds.
The Ponds are reached from Durban by taking the M4 north to the Portland Drive exit at Umhlanga rocks. Turn right and follow the road, which bears left up the hill. At the top of the hill, turn right from Herwood Drive onto a dirt road through fields of sugar cane. The road descends into the valley for two kilometres, and at the bottom of the hill turn right into the parking area. The five maturation ponds are open to bona fide birders at all times and no prior permission is required for entry.
Contact Information: Durban KZN Wildlife Office for more information on the Umhlanga Lagoon nature reserve: Tel +27 31 205 1271
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