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Nxumeni forest is situated just outside the small town of Donnybrook and is an excellent example of KwaZulu-natal Afromontane forest. The towering canopy, in excess of 30m in places, is dominated by large yellowwoods. The forest supports a number of forest specials, and access is easy from a contour road which leads through the forest.

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Specials

Cape Parrot, Orange Ground-Thrush, Chorister Robin-Chat, White-starred Robin, Bush Blackcap, Olive Bush-Shrike, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler and Barratt's Warbler.

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Habitat

Afromontane forest.

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Birding

The forest stretches for approximately 1.4km along the contour road. Park as you enter the forest and walk along the road. As the forest ends, proceed further along the road for approximately a hundred metres and a path will lead off to the left. Follow this path and it will take you back to your vehicle through the forest itself. This path can sometimes be overgrown. Alternatively, drive 800m to a clearing on your left and bird along the road from here.

1. The area around the car park is a good spot for Bush Blackcap - play a tape and they should respond. Barratt's Warbler calls from the roadside tangles here and may be coaxed into view with some "spishing". A bit further along the path, some tall dead trees jut out of the canopy and these are a favourite perch for Cape Parrot that roost in this forest. They will usually let you know of their presence well in advance by their raucous squawks. These birds usually leave the forest as the mists lift; therefore an early arrival is essential.

2. Other birds commonly seen along the road are Long-crested Eagle, Grey Cuckooshrike, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Collared Sunbird and Southern Double-collared Sunbird. Black Cuckoo and African Emerald Cuckoo are common in summer. In the plantations around the forest, search for Forest Canary and Swee Waxbill on the roadside weeds. Listen for African Goshawk "chucking" above the canopy in the early morning.

3. Once you take the forest trail, different birds may be encountered. Orange Ground-Thrush is the speciality of the forest interior and calls from high up in large trees. Listen for the hooting of Narina Trogon, and the raucous Knysna Turaco which are common. White-starred Robin is usually flushed from within the forest, and Chorister Robin-Chat is also resident here.

4. Further afield, Comrie Dam (on the Donnybrook - Hela Hela Road) and the surrounding farmlands are excellent birding areas. A slow drive along these country roads will produce some interesting species which may include Denham's Bustard, Southern Bald Ibis, Red-winged Francolin and Grey Crowned Crane. The Blue Swallow breeds in the area and may be seen foraging over the high-altitude grasslands. Other common Hirundines include White-throated Swallow, Greater Striped Swallow and Lesser Striped Swallow, as well as Brown-throated Martin, Banded Martin and Sand Martin. African Fish-Eagle is resident on Comrie Dam, and the reed-beds hold African Rail and Red-chested Flufftail.

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General

To reach the forest, leave Donnybrook on the road to Bulwer, take the left turn to Donnybrook station (2km out of Donnybrook), and then after 400m, cross the railway line and turn right immediately onto the contour road through the forest. The forest starts after 1.6km.

* Note that Cape Parrot is now a rare bird and not often sighted in this forest or elsewhere. Malcolm Gemmell is a local bird guide who specialises in finding this species, and has a number of stake-outs in lesser-known forests. See the Button Birding Advert.

Guy Gibbon 2007
Dale Forbes 2001
Adam Riley 1998

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