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Umdoni Park offers outstanding forest birding and seems to be one of the best kept secrets in Natal. The park is situated on the Kwazulu-Natal south coast some 80 km south of Durban on the outskirts of Pennington, and covers an area of 206 ha. Being only forty minutes from Durban and boasting a species list standing at 245 makes it an excellent day visit for any birder. One can expect to see at least 50 species in a visit without too much effort.

Winter is a good time to visit as birds appear to use the forest as a refuge, and numbers of species in a visit are often higher or on a par with summer visits (which are boosted by migrants). Winter also sees some migrants including Spotted Ground-Thrush, White-starred Robin, and Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler

The Park is managed by the Umdoni Park Trust who take an active interest in several conservation projects being run there.

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Specials

Spotted Ground-Thrush, White-starred Robin, and Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler are winter visitors. Characteristic forest birds include Black Sparrowhawk, Little Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk, Tambourine Dove, Lemon Dove, Knysna Turaco, Purple-crested Turaco, African Emerald Cuckoo, Green Malkoha, Narina Trogon, Trumpeter Hornbill, Crowned Hornbill, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Olive Woodpecker, Square-tailed Drongo, Grey Cuckooshrike, Terrestrial Brownbul, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Brown Scrub-Robin, Cape Batis, Ashy Flycatcher, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Southern Boubou, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Southern Tchagra, Black-bellied Starling, Grey Sunbird, Olive Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Dark-backed Weaver, Swee Waxbill, Grey Waxbill, Green Twinspot, Red-backed Mannikin. An exciting recent colonizer is the White-eared Barbet. Magpie Mannikin and Purple-banded Sunbird are possibilities.

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Habitats

These include large sections of coastal lowland forest, patches of coastal grassland, riverine thicket, and several man-made habitats (golf course, dams, gardens).

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Facilities

Braai and toilet facilities are available in the car park. A series of well kept trails offers extensive walking opportunities through the reserve.

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Birding

1. Shortly after passing through the gates of the estate, the road forks. The road to the left follows the coast along the edge of the golf greens to the golf-course club house. The road to the right is signposted to the Wildlife and Environment Society’s parking area. Follow this road through extensive areas of forest, and stop along the way for forest birding. In the general area of the parking spot several roads and paths branch off into the forest and the birding on foot from these is outstanding.

2. In winter, look for Spotted Ground-Thrush on the lawns surrounding the accommodation cottage at first light.

3. There is a African Crowned Eagle nest close to the path along the Mkumbane river.

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General

It would be unwise to leave your vehicle unattended for too long at the parking area for security reasons. It is also safest to move in a fairly large group when in the more remote parts of the forest.

The estate is open from 06h00 to 18h00.

A fully furnished two-cottage unit, with kitchen facilities including crockery and cutlery, and bed-linen and towels, on the estate can be hired for overnight accommodation. It sleeps a maximum of 13 people. Visitors should provide their own food and drinks.

Take the N2 southbound from Durban. Just after Scottburgh take the Pennington offramp and turn left towards the coast. Take a right at the traffic lights and drive for a few kilometers until you get to Pennington. Turn left into Pennington (small supermarket on your left) and go across the first stop street. Follow the signs to the golf course. After entering the Park (through a permanently open boom with no entrance fee at this stage) follow the small signs to the parking area.

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Importance as a conservation site

Indigenous forest covers approximately 0.25 % of the land in south Africa, and coast lowlands forest is represented by only 9.6% of the total area covered by forest in Kwazulu-Natal. Over 90% of this forest type has been lost. Eleven small, privately owned forests of this type have been recognised as important conservation sites, with Umdoni Park being the second largest of these. A long term study of the birds of Umdoni Park was initiated in 1999 which consists of monthly species presence data collection and frequent bird ringing outings.

Our current list for Umdoni Park and it’s surrounding areas stands at an impressive 245 species. The variety of habitats on offer and the good quality of the habitat present, most probably accounts for the high bird diversity. Umdoni Park is not currently an Important Bird Area (IBA). This is mainly because it was not thoroughly censused in the past and may have been overlooked as an IBA. The reserve has, in the last 4 years, yielded sightings of 12 Red Data Book species. In addition to the red listed species, the reserve also holds 3 restricted range and 9 biome restricted species, highlighting it’s important conservation status.

The consistent presence of Spotted Ground-Thrush in the area on a seasonal basis over the last few years is promising. This species is listed as endangered in the Red Data Book. The bird is commonly seen at Umdoni Park in winter, which is obviously an important area for the bird. Indigenous coastal and scarp forest is the only viable habitat for the Spotted Ground-Thrush, and large forests should be afforded legal protection. Assessing the population at Umdoni Park will definitely aid in getting priority conservation status for this important coastal reserve.

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Future Sightings

Any trip lists or interesting sightings can be used in the ongoing study of the Umdoni Birds. Please send information to: Mark Brown, School of Botany and Zoology, University of Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg. E-mail:

UMDONI NATURE RESERVE: TEL +27 39 312 2323

Mark Brown & David Allan 2001.



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