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The Umtiza Nature Reserve was declared on 5 July 1985 and is some 758 hectares of both indigenous forest and exotic plantations. The reserve is named after a tree, Umtiza listerana, which has a very limited distribution and is thought to occur in perhaps 2 or 3 locations. Whilst birding in the forest, look for this most unusual tree with a multi-fluted stem which resembles several stems fused together. Depending on which trail you follow, expect to record between 30 and 40 species. This may seem a small count, but the reserve is mainly forest and the birds difficult to see. A good knowledge of the calls is of great advantage. Try not to be there too early in the morning as this is not a good time to look for forest birds. A good starting time is about 7am.

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Specials

The Narina Trogon is one of the special features of Umtiza, especially for visitors from Gauteng and the Free state. Summer, between October and December is the best time. Look anywhere in the forest for a reasonably open patch near where you hear the familiar hooting call and a short burst of the call from a tape recorder may help call the bird to where you can see it. Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler is also quite common and usually found in the forest canopy. In the winter months, White-starred Robin is sometimes around. Look also for Knysna Woodpecker and Knysna Turaco. About 250 meters from the entrance to the reserve is a parking area where you can get out of the car and look into the Valley where the Buffalo river flows. With a reasonably good telescope examine the rocks on the river and the vegetation on the banks for a chance of seeing African Finfoot. The bridge about 2km from the reserve entrance is also a good place to look for this bird. Scaly-throated Honeyguide is often heard in the valley of the 6 km trail.

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Habitats

Most of the habitat is coastal forest. Depending on the trail chosen there is occasional contact with the Buffalo river. The predominant tree species is Euphorbia triangularis, which is typical of the Border region coastal forest.

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Facilities

The forest is laid out with a series of trails that vary from 1.5 km up to 6 km. All trails produce birds, but the 6 km walk will produce the greatest variety. There are also picnic and ablution facilities in the parking area near the Nature Conservation offices. Maps of the trails are available in the small hut, also near the offices, as part of self issue permits. If the permit book has been removed, refer to the map on the signboard in the parking area. To find the Umtiza Nature Reserve, take the main Port Elizabeth road out of East London. Just past the east London Airport take a right turn at the signpost to Buffalo pass. Just past the Cove ridge scrap yard, turn right again at the Buffalo pass sign. The entrance to the reserve is just past the Marconi radar on the top of the hill.

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Birding

The best way to bird in the forest is to find a good spot, sit quietly and listen. Also look for patches of forest on the trails where there are a number of species grouped into a bird party. The following are usually seen, or heard, or both: Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Bar-throated Apalis, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Knysna Woodpecker, Olive Woodpecker, Knysna Turaco, Dark-backed Weaver, African Dusky Flycatcher, Brown Scrub-Robin, Cape Robin-Chat, Chorister Robin-Chat, White-starred Robin, Red-capped Robin-Chat, African Goshawk, Ashy Flycatcher, Terrestrial Brownbul, Greenbacked Bleating Warbler, African Black Duck, African Crowned Eagle, Grey Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Lemon Dove, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove and Tambourine Dove.

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General

For more information please contact East London Tourism. Tel: +27 43 722 6015 East London Tourism Website

Neil Smith 1998.



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