Judi Davis
3 minute read
26 Sep 2016
11:21 am

Eco-projects to recognise KZN South Coast as a ‘great birding destination’

Judi Davis

Recent developments have highlighted this area’s avitourism potential.

Vultures play an important role in the ecosystem, and if not managed properly, they may face extinction. Picture: South Coast Herald.

If southern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) was once a Cinderella birding destination in this birder’s paradise of a province, recent developments are changing this, reports the South Coast Herald.

Thanks to various eco-projects, birders and birding photographers are beginning to find out that the diverse and interesting birdlife in this corner of the world has been somewhat overlooked.

Local birders pointed out that birding and bird photography were pastimes that were growing exponentially worldwide and that KZN’s South Coast was fast positioning itself to take advantage of this lucrative ecotourism trend.

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First came Birdlife South Africa’s Southern KwaZulu-Natal birding route, which highlighted the fact that our good mix of habitats, including coast, wetland, forest, woodland and grassland, made the South Coast a winner from a birding point of view.

Popular local birding hotspots highlighted by this project include Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve near Umzinto, Umdoni Park near Scottburgh, Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve and Lake Eland in the Oribi area, Ivungu River Nature Reserve in Uvongo, Mpenjati Nature Reserve near Trafalgar and Umtamvuna Nature Reserve near Port Edward.

To enhance its birding routes, Birdlife South Africa started a very successsful training programme for birding guides.

For the South Coast, the next big step towards gaining recognition as a great birding destination was the construction of the Barry Porter Memorial Hide overlooking a Cape vulture feeding station on private property in the Oribi area. Originally a Birdlife Trogons project, it is now administered by project coordinator Andy Ruffle.

He said the success of the hide had exceeded all expectations and that it was attracting hundreds of birders, photographers and nature lovers not only from South Africa but from all over the world.

“It is a major South Coast tourist attraction in this area. Many South African and international visitors come here specifically to see the vultures. The Oribi Cape vulture colony is world famous,” Ruffle said.

A new South Coast birding initiative, the Umkhobi Lagoon bird hide in Marina Beach, is also boosting this area’s reputation as an eco-destination. It is proving very popular with South Coast wildlife photographers, whose wonderful photographs taken from the hide are causing a stir on various websites. With a number of shots going viral, bird photographers from all over the world are asking how to access this new hide.

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Both the popular bird hides are serving another, less obvious but very important function. They are being used as educational tools, teaching children and adults to appreciate their environment and to realise that everything in nature in an important link in the chain of life – even the vultures, which are often misunderstood.

  • Visiting birders can find out more by contacting Bird Life Trogons chairman Sandra Olver at 039 9761869 or 083 7961869 or sandra111@scottburgh.co.za
  • They can also look at birdlifetrogons.blogspot or the Southern KZN Birding Route website at birdlife.org.za/get-involved/join-birdlife-south-africa
  • For information about the vulture hide contact Andy at 072 8933794 or bookings.vulturehide@yahoo.co.za or vulturehide.blogspot.co.za
  • The Oribi Vulture Viewing Hide facebook group can be reached at facebook.com/groups/oribivulturehide and the Oribi Vulture Viewing Hide facebook page can be reached at facebook.com/Mzimkuluvultures

Caxton News Service