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Mt Currie is a wonderful Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife reserve, both scenically and for birds. There are a variety of habitats, and the terrain ranges from gently undulating to steep at the base of the imposing Mt Currie itself, which stands at just over 2200m asl. The reserve is in that part of KZN known as East Griqualand, and the Griquas under Adam Kok settled in the southern part of what is now the reserve in 1863. The bird list stands at 230 species, and two full days are recommended to cover the reserve, mainly on foot. Most of the habitats are fairly easy to reach on foot. For the more energetic and adventurous, the Mt Currie massif awaits you. Spring to early autumn is best for birds, and the winters are very cold at night and in the morning. Mt Currie NR is also within easy striking distance of Matatiele (Rudd's Lark and Yellow-breasted Pipit), Franklin Vlei (Wattled Crane, waterfowl and African Rail), and Ingeli Forest (Cape Parrot and Orange Ground-Thrush).

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Specials

Black Stork, Grey Crowned Crane, Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard, Red-chested Flufftail, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Striped Flufftail, Southern Ground-Hornbill, Cape Vulture, Bearded Vulture, Martial Eagle, Montagu's Harrier, Black Harrier, African Marsh-Harrier, African Grass-Owl, Drakensberg Rock-jumper, Gurney's Sugarbird, Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Buff-streaked Chat and Bush Blackcap.

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Habitats

Mainly open grassland, plus wetlands, open water, evergreen forest patches, Leucosidea scrub, protea savanna, rocky outcrops and cliffs.

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Facilities

Campsites with electrical plug points, and ablution block with hot and cold water. old cattle tracks and paths are used for walking throughout the reserve, and more trails are planned. A road in the south-east section takes you near to some of the forest patches and protea savanna.

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Birding

In the grassland areas one can look for Striped Flufftail (summer - easy to hear but very difficult to see!), Denham's Bustard, Blue Crane, Southern Ground-Hornbill, African Grass-Owl, Cape Grassbird and Black-winged Lapwing. Red-winged Francolin and, higher up the slopes, Grey-winged Francolin are common. Banded Martin fly restlessly over the grassland, and there are 8 species of cisticolas. Black Harrier (uncommon) can turn up any time of year but probably mainly in summer. Another summer visitor is Montagu's Harrier, and Secretarybird occur all year. Oribi, one of South Africa's most endangered antelopes, are often seen bounding away in the grassland.

The protea savanna is where to find Gurney's Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird and Brown-hooded Kingfisher. Check the rocky outcrops for Ground Woodpecker, Buff-streaked Chat, Cape Rock-Thrush, Bokmakierie and Long-billed Pipit. Keep an eye open for Golden-breasted Bunting, Cape Bunting and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting. The rocky outcrops higher up support Drakensberg Rock-jumper, Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Mountain Wheatear, and if you are really lucky Cape Eagle-Owl. The terrain and habitat are also good for Mountain Reedbuck and Grey Rhebuck.

There is no shortage of eagles, with Verreauxs' Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Martial Eagle and African Fish-Eagle seen regularly. Smaller raptors include Steppe Buzzard (summer), Jackal Buzzard, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, Black Sparrowhawk, Rock Kestrel and Lanner Falcon. Scan higher up above the cliffs for Cape Vulture and Bearded Vulture.

Apart from Otter and Common Reedbuck, the wetland areas support Red-chested Flufftail (relatively easy to see below the OIC's house), African Rail, African Marsh-Harrier, Grey Crowned Crane, Purple Heron, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, and Baillon's Crake and Little Bittern in the reeds around the dam. The dam also has a variety of waterfowl, 4 species of kingfisher, a number of species of warbler, in addition to Southern Red Bishop, Yellow-crowned Bishop and 4 species of widows. African Black Duck sneak around in pairs on the streams, and in the evening listen for African Snipe drumming.

Evergreen forest and Leucosidea scrub are home to Red-necked Spurfowl, 5 species of cuckoo in summer, African Wood-Owl, Olive Woodpecker, Cape Batis, Chorister Robin-Chat, Barratt's Warbler, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Olive Bush-Shrike and Bush Blackcap.

Pied Starling are everywhere, and around the campsite are Spotted Eagle-Owl, Red-throated Wryneck, Yellow-fronted Canary, Cape Canary, Brimstone Canary and Streaky-headed Seedeater. Black Stork are unpredictable.

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General

Campsites are booked through the OIC (tel. Kokstad 039 - 7273844), and an entry fee is payable at the main gate. The reserve is 240 kms from Pietermaritzburg via Bulwer, Underberg, Swartberg and Franklin. Alternative routes are via Richmond and Ixopo (190 kms), or from Durban via Port Shepstone, Harding and Kokstad. The reserve is 4,5 kms along district road D 623, the turn-off to which is as you enter Kokstad on the north side coming from Swartberg.

Contact telephone +27-39-7273844

Website www.kznwildlife.com

Athol and Les Marchant 2007.




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