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The Karkloof range of hills situated in the natal Midlands, one of the most scenic and spectacular areas of KwaZulu-Natal, is famed for its extensive mist belt forests. The significance of these forests is attested by the presence of an isolated population of Crested Guineafowl which belong to a subspecies endemic to the Karkloof. A large proportion of the area is privately owned. Rockwood Forest Lodge Reserve consists of a 600 ha area of which more than half is forest. A day’s exploration of the area should produce 80-100 species of birds.

Specials African Crowned Eagle, Forest Buzzard, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, Red-necked Spurfowl, Crested Guineafowl, Buff-spotted Flufftail, African Wood-Owl, Bush Blackcap, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, White-starred Robin, Chorister Robin-Chat, Narina Trogon, African Emerald Cuckoo, Red-backed Mannikin, Green Twinspot, Drakensberg Prinia, Half-collared Kingfisher, Buff-streaked Chat and Mountain Wagtail.

Birding 1) The main house at the entrance to Rockwood Forest Lodge has an occupied African Crowned Eagle nest in a cabbage tree near the garden and the birds can be seen displaying over the forest. Just beyond the house are a few gum trees where a Scaly-throated Honeyguide holds a regular call site.

2) The forest birding at Rockwood Forest Reserve is very rewarding - Bush Blackcap is common and Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler particularly abundant. Other birds that should be searched for include the Crested Guineafowl, Knysna Turaco, Olive Bush-Shrike, White-starred Robin, Chorister Robin-Chat, Barratt's Warbler, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Olive Woodpecker and Orange Ground-Thrush. Buff-spotted Flufftail hoot well into misty mornings. No day visitors allowed within the reserve; it is only open to guests of Rockwood Forest Lodge – the only accommodation within the reserve itself. Tel: +27 31 207 3150

3) The grasslands in this reserve, although rocky are worth walking for the chances of finding the resident Red-winged Francolin and several species of pipit and cisticola. Both species of buttonquail and Common Quail could be flushed by more fortunate birders.

4) Whilst travelling in the region, an area worth scanning is the farmlands adjoining the main road near Gartmore Farm. All three species of crane are regularly seen here. Scarcer visitors include Denham's Bustard and Southern Ground-Hornbill. The marshes and pans in this area support Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, Baillon's Crake and in wetter years, Lesser Jacana. Please remember to obtain landowner’s permission before entering private land. Mr McGillivray of Gartmore Farm now offers B&B and he can be contacted on 033 3302651.

5) Benvie B&B is set within the 150 year old landscaped gardens of Benvie Farm, take the L’Abri turnoff from the main Karkloof road and after approximately 3km turn left and left again into the estate (it is signposted from the main road.) This idyllic venue has become one of the provinces top birding spots. Orange Ground-Thrush are often be seen around the main houses, Chorister Robin-Chat frequent the bird-feeder and the local Lemon Dove are absurdly tame. John and Jennie Robinson (033 5029090) are delightful hosts and will direct the visiting birder towards locating some of their other "garden" specials which include Forest Buzzard, Buff-spotted Flufftail, African Wood-Owl, Knysna Turaco, Narina Trogon, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Olive Woodpecker, White-starred Robin, Mountain Wagtail, Red-backed Mannikin, Green Twinspot and Forest Canary. Species less frequently recorded in the garden include African Crowned Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, Little Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Hobby, Southern Ground-Hornbill, Cape Parrot, Half-collared Kingfisher and Grey Cuckooshrike.

A superb patch of forest is situated 1km along the L’Abri road en route to Benvie. Bush Blackcap is resident and most of the forest birds mentioned in the Leopard bush account can also be located. African Emerald Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, Narina Trogon, Grey Cuckooshrike, Barratt's Warbler, Olive Bush-Shrike, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Green Twinspot can all be found here.

6) Any rocky areas hold populations of Buff-streaked Chat and these are located next to the road at several points. Other roadside birds higher up along the main road to Mount Alida, past the L’Abri turnoff are Blue Crane, Southern Bald Ibis, Maccoa Duck, Red-necked Spurfowl, Banded Martin, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Cloud Cisticola, Drakensberg Prinia, Buffy Pipit, Long-billed Pipit, Malachite Sunbird, Yellow Bishop and Yellow-crowned Bishop.

7) Commonly seen raptors through-out the area include Martial Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, Little Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk, Jackal Buzzard and Forest Buzzard. Another occupied African Crowned Eagle nest is located in a dead gum tree to the left of the impressive Howick Falls just off the village of Howick itself. African Fish-Eagle and Lanner Falcon also nest in the vicinity of the Howick Falls.

8) Visit Karkloof Canopy Tours for an opportunity of spotting Emerald Cuckoos, Knysna Loeries, a wide variety of raptors and if you are lucky, the elusive Narina Trogon or endangered Cape Parrots.

General Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife manage a 936 ha reserve which is not accessible to the public, but special arrangements can be made for a visit (phone +27 33 845 1999.) Website: www.kznwildlife.com

Bed & Breakfast. Gartmore Farm. 033-3302651.

Adam Riley 2001. Rockjumper Birding Tours info@rockjumper.co.za www.rockjumper.co.za



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