Daytripping – Umlalazi Nature Reserve

16 May 2021

Another one of the many gems we are privileged to have in KZN is Umlalazi Nature Reserve in Mtunzini.

Clumps of forest, an estuary, grassland, boardwalk through the mangroves and majestic raffia palm trees, home to the Palmnut Vulture, give us many different habitats in a mere 1028 hectares. 

Its most famous winter visitor, the Mangrove Kingfisher, is seen regularly, almost without fail, but not by us. Neither did we see the Palmnut Vulture nor the African Crake that has taken up residence in the grasslands. 

Yet, we had a wonderful weekend. The planned outing did not have many takers, mainly due to clashing events but Heleen Els and I decided to go anyway. To avoid getting up at 4 in the morning, we went the day before and stayed in the chalets within the reserve. These are adequate though the mosquito netting on the doors has big enough holes to let mousebirds through let alone mosquitos. We had a friendly bushbuck to welcome us on arrival. Later, the Fiery-necked Nightjar called. 

Despite forgetting our cameras at home, missing out on all the specials, and being a tiny group of two, this meant we were able to indulge in slow birding. Spending time hunting down a bird as it flitted away, spending over half-an-hour in one spot in the road as some birds partied away in the trees. Yellow-bellied Greenbuls and Puffbacks, Southern BoubousBlack Cuckoo-shrike and, unexpectedly, a Klaas’s Cuckoo.

Then, out of the blue, (or rather from one tree to the next) flew a bird, a dove? no, bit too big. Goshawk? no, barring on the chest too thick. Bird of the day; it turned out to be an African Cuckoo-Hawk. 

We had not been able to drive the grassland area where the African Crake is usually seen as the road was completely churned up and Heleen’s Ford EcoSport has high clearance but no 4X4. We walked it instead but no luck with the Crake. We saw a few interesting birds, but they remained unidentified despite bushwhacking off the path. 

We also walked along the bank of the river round to the little inlet; I checked under every tree, especially those where I have previously seen the Mangrove Kingfisher but no luck; mainly Little Egret and Three-banded Plover. 

After a slow drive back to the chalet, we packed up and went for a walk on the boardwalk through the Mangrove Forest. 

Still no kingfisher but always love seeing the mangrove climbing whelks on the trees, the fiddler crabs and mudskippers, all of which are associated with mangrove trees, of which Umlalazi is host to red, black and white varieties. 

We wandered off to Twinstreams, but they are closed so we finished off with lunch at the Twinstreams Eco-nursery.  When you miss out on target birds, it’s nothing but a good reason to be back. Umlalazi, we’ll be back. 

47 Species seen – Bird list can be downloaded below

Report by Penny de Vries.

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