Return to SA Birding Main Site
Vryheid is situated in north-western Zululand on the transitional belt between the extensive grasslands to the west and the low-lying bushveld to the east. Many mountains and hills occur and the area, as well as an abundance of small to very large wetlands. Forest patches line southern mountain slopes, and are often broken by high cliffs. All these habitats set the scene for a high diversity of bird species, with a list of 350 species recorded in a radius of just 15km of the town.

Edit

Vryheid Hill Nature Reserve

This 900ha reserve is situated adjacent to the town on Lancaster hill. A mix of forest, woodland, wetland, mountain and grassland habitats contribute to a bird list of 230 species. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife manages the reserve and an entrance fee is charged on weekends and holidays only. A good road network leads through most of the habitats, and walking is allowed.

The road up to the plateau passes through forest. Birds include African Cuckoo Hawk, Black Sparrowhawk, Tambourine Dove, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Olive Woodpecker, Bush Blackcap, Red-capped Robin-Chat and Chorister Robin-Chat, Garden Warbler, Cape Batis, Black Cuckoo, Fairy Flycatcher Purple-crested Turaco and Olive Bush-Shrike. African Crowned Eagle breed in the reserve and the nest can be seen from the road that leads up through the forest.

The grassland plateau supports 9 Cisticola species, including Pale-crowned Cisticola, Lazy Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Wailing Cisticola and Croaking Cisticola. 6 pipit species have been recorded, including Striped Pipit, Buffy Pipit, Long-billed Pipit and Plain-backed Pipit. The loop road on the plateau is the best place to search for them. Other important grassland birds include Red-winged Francolin, Southern Bald Ibis, Black-winged Lapwing, Buff-streaked Chat, Broad-tailed Warbler, Sentinel Rock-Thrush (winter), African Quailfinch and Malachite Sunbird.

The mixed woodland area below the forest hosts Little Sparrowhawk, Shelley's Francolin, Lesser Honeyguide and Brown-backed Honeybird, Black Cuckooshrike, Marsh Warbler, Bushveld Pipit, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Violet-backed Starling, Swee Waxbill and Golden-breasted Bunting.

Ground Woodpecker, Cape Rock-Thrush, Jackal Buzzard and Rock Kestrel occur on the rocky outcrops, while Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, African Marsh-Harrier and Half-collared Kingfisher inhabit moist areas.

A number of interesting vagrants have been recorded, including Dwarf Bittern, Red-footed Falcon, Lesser Moorhen, Bronze-winged Courser, Black-throated Wattle-eye and Yellow Bishop.

Edit

General

Gate opening and closing times: Summer and winter: 6am-6pm.

Camp Telephone number: +27 34 983 2098 (Officer in charge) +27 34 981 4341 (Ntingonono Enviro Centre) Camp fax number: +27 34 982 2766 (Ntingonono fax)

Directions
Travelling from Durban you enter Vryheid from Melmoth. Continue up East Street, turn right at the T-junction into Klip Street and follow the road up to the reserve.

Travelling from Johannesburg you enter Vryheid from Utrecht. Continue along Church Street until you get East Street. Turn left and follow the directions above.

Self-guided trails: The reserve has many short trails, crossing all the vegetation types. The overnight Lancaster Trail passes through the reserve.

Edit

Klipfontein Bird Sanctuary

Situated below the town's sewage works, this artificial wetland was originally created to filter the treated water before it entered the White Umfolozi river. A thriving wetland has now formed and hosts locally important species. The Klipfontein Dam is situated adjacent to the bird sanctuary. Facilities include two bird hides. About 200 species have been recorded.

Edit

Birding

The reedbeds provide habitat for many rallids such as African Rail, African Crake, Baillon's Crake, Black Crake and Red-chested Flufftail. The African Rail are quite easily seen in winter when they sun themselves in the early morning on top of the reedbeds. A pair of Grey Crowned Crane breed in the reeds each year. Hottentot Teal and Red-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Duck, Southern Pochard, South African Shelduck, Cape Shoveler and African Black Duck are found on the small dams and pans, and African Purple Swamphen roam the mudflats. The reedbeds also abound with many warblers such as Great Reed-Warbler, Lesser Swamp-Warbler, African Reed-Warbler, Little Rush-Warbler, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler and Sedge Warbler. They are all quite easily seen and heard in summer. African Snipe and Greater Painted-snipe occur, the latter only occasionally though. Green-backed Heron, Giant Kingfisher, African Fish-Eagle, African Jacana and Burchell's Coucal occur on the White Umfolozi river, which forms the western boundary of the sanctuary. African Palm-Swift, Wood Sandpiper, Three-banded Plover, Orange-breasted Waxbill and Half-collared Kingfisher are also recorded regularly. 2 pairs of Goliath Heron now nest at the sanctuary, and both nests are visible from the newly completed bird hide.

Birds not associated with water but recorded at the sanctuary include a breeding pair of Wahlberg's Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Red-throated Wryneck, Cuckoo Finch, African Firefinch and Black-throated Canary.

Edit

General

Directions To reach the sanctuary, leave town on the road to Babanango (West Street) and proceed past the airfield. At the intersection, continue over the road onto the dirt road. Proceed for another 50m and turn left onto the road that enters the wetland. Here you can park and visit both hides.

Both hides are locked with combination padlocks; contact Charl Oberholster on 082 9254781 to obtain the required numbers.

Edit

Blood River Vlei

This large (5000ha) wetland is situated in the upper Tugela River catchment and is one of the most important wetlands in northern KZN. 150 Species have been recorded in the 2 main habitats of wetland and grassland.

Wetland birds include Grey Crowned Crane which gather in large flocks (up to 143) in winter, African Rail, Red-chested Flufftail, Baillon's Crake, African Jacana and Lesser Jacana, Yellow Wagtail, Little Bittern, and 13 species of duck including Fulvous Duck, White-backed Duck, Comb Duck, South African Shelduck and Cape Shoveler. Egyptian Goose and Spur-winged Goose numbers reach thousands in the winter months. Many herons and egrets including Squacco Heron, Goliath Heron and Black Heron are resident. African Marsh-Harrier and Western Marsh-Harrier have both been recorded.

In the surrounding grasslands, species include Blue Crane, Blue Korhaan, Spike-heeled Lark, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Buffy Pipit and Plain-backed Pipit, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Southern Bald Ibis and African Grass-Owl.

Wattled Crane, Yellow-billed Stork and Osprey have been recorded as vagrants

Edit

General

The wetland is situated on private land, but birders are welcome by prior arrangement. Access is on the Scheepersnek dirt road, 15km west of Vryheid. For detailed directions and contact numbers please phone AP Keeve on 083 679 1763.

Edit

Thakazulu Game Reserve

Situated in the Black Umfolozi valley, this area is superb for bushveld birding. It is privately owned, and accommodation is available. About 250 species have been recorded to date.

Edit

Birding

In the thornveld and open woodland areas species such as Southern Ground-Hornbill, Grey Go-away-bird, Green-winged Pytilia, Arrow-marked Babbler, Long-tailed Paradise-Whydah, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Lesser Masked-Weaver, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bushveld Pipit, Grey Penduline-Tit, Bearded Woodpecker, White-fronted Bee-eater and Levaillant's Cuckoo are found. Thickets and forest patches support African Green-Pigeon, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Terrestrial Brownbul, Purple-crested Turaco, Crowned Hornbill and Trumpeter Hornbill, African Pygmy-Kingfisher, Tambourine Dove and Black-bellied Starling.

Raptors include Martial Eagle, Verreaux's Eagle, Tawny Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle and African Crowned Eagle, White-backed Vulture and Lappet-faced Vulture, Lizard Buzzard, Little Sparrowhawk and Black Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk and Secretarybird.

Edit

General

Take the Gluckstadt turnoff, 30km south of Vryheid on the R34 and follow the Swart Umfolozi/ Tangami Safari Spa road signs. The reserve is approximately 40km from Gluckstadt on gravel road.

Duncan McKenzie 2007.





Copyright © 2008 SA Birding cc