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Darvill Sewage Works, as it was formerly known, is a well-known birding spot boasting a list of over 280 species. A full morning's visit should produce 50-60 species in winter and over 100 species in summer. Security is a concern so it is best to bird in groups.



African Rail, Baillon's Crake, Greater Painted-snipe, African Snipe, Black Crake, Spotted Crake, Green Sandpiper, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Red-headed Quelea, about nine species of warbler including Marsh Warbler, Great Reed-Warbler, Sedge Warbler, African Reed-Warbler, Lesser Swamp-Warbler, Little Rush-Warbler and Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, African Harrier-Hawk, African Marsh-Harrier, Black Sparrowhawk.



1. After turning in at the entrance, take the first dirt track to the right and park in the enclosure on the left, near the little hut. Walk this top road on foot towards the tall stand of gums with the current wastewater works on your left. Along this road watch for a long-staying pair of Namaqua Dove, African Quailfinch, Southern Red Bishop, African Pipit and in the grasslands to your right there are often Grey Crowned Cranes.

Keep an eye on the tall trees as you approach the top pond. Raptors that hunt regularly from this stand include Peregrine Falcon, Black Sparrowhawk and more scarcely Eurasian Hobby.

Note that there are four main ponds, described as ponds one to four from the top of the hill. When you reach the top pond, turn left and walk with the pond on your right. This spot is brilliant for Red-headed Quelea in summer. Walk up onto the causeway between pond one and two and scan the reeds carefully for these small Quelea.

Return to the road alongside the dams. The calls of Little Rush-Warbler, Lesser Swamp-Warbler, African Rail and Black Crake ring out of the reeds as you continue down towards ponds 3 and 4.

The majority of Darvill's waterfowl, shorebirds and rallids are on show at these bottom two ponds. As you climb onto the causeway between ponds 3 and 4, you will note that pond 3 is shallow and overgrown at this end while pond 4 is deeper and has open water. To your left, the reeds on the far side of pond 4 are good for African Purple Swamphen, Squacco Heron and Little Bittern. Walk along the causeway toward the man-made heronry structures, watching the open water on your left for Hottentot Teal, Red-billed Teal, Cape Teal, Cape Shoveller and the usual bevy of coots, ducks and moorhens. The best mud-flats at Darvill are below and to the right of the artificial heronry on pond 3. These mudflats offer great opportunities to compare palearctic waders such as Wood Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Ruff and Little Stint. Black-winged Stilt are very common. Careful scanning of the reed/mud-flat edges in summer can produce Greater Painted-snipe, Baillon's Crake, African Snipe and recently even Spotted Crake.

2) Of significant interest to birders are the strip ponds located at the bottom of the Park (near the Umsunduzi river). A Green Sandpiper is often around here during mid-summer. This is the best locality for Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Lesser Moorhen (scarce) and reed-haunting warblers. In summer all the following warblers can be found in this vicinity: Marsh Warbler, Great Reed-Warbler, Sedge Warbler, African Reed-Warbler, Lesser Swamp-Warbler, Little Rush-Warbler and Dark-capped Yellow Warbler. This is also the best area to search for Red-headed Quelea, which feed on grass stalks between the strip ponds.

3) The surrounding woodlands and secondary growth, which have been largely cleared and replaced by indigenous tree and shrubs, are worthwhile scanning for birds including Brown-backed Honeybird, Red-backed Mannikin, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Willow Warbler, Marsh Warbler and Klaas's Cuckoo. Listen carefully for the trilling of Red-faced Cisticola, an uncommon species for the area.

4) Overhead, swallows and swifts are usually present. Amongst the usual species are Barn Swallow, Lesser Striped Swallow, Greater Striped Swallow, White-throated Swallow, Black Saw-wing, Rock Martin, Brown-throated Martin, Little Swift, White-rumped Swift, African Black Swift and African Palm-Swift. Rarities such as Pearl-breasted Swallow and Red-breasted Swallow and South African Cliff-Swallow have been recorded. Common House-Martin and Alpine Swift make occasional appearances. Recently recorded raptor rarities include European Honey-Buzzard, African Cuckoo Hawk and Sooty Falcon. More frequently observed raptors are African Fish-Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, Osprey (summer only) and Black Sparrowhawk. Marabou Stork have been recorded overhead on several occasions.



Take the N3 through Pietermaritzburg, and turn off at New England road. Turn east and follow the road for 2.3km to the turn-off on the left. Continue for 600m, keep right towards the small hut and parking area.

Jon Anderson 2007
Adam Riley 1998.

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