Durban and surrounds – Doreen Clark Nature Reserve

About the Birding

Doreen Clark Nature Reserve is situated in the mistbelt area between Hilton and Winterskloof, just north of Pietermaritzburg. This small reserve is dominated by mistbelt forests, with some isolated grassland patches along the forest edge. It includes a single circular trail system which takes between 30 minutes to an hour to complete and along which all the main special birds can be seen.

As with most forests, the early mornings are the best. Resident species include the shy Buff-spotted Flufftail, Lemon and Tambourine Doves, Narina Trogon, White-starred Robin, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Cape Batis, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Olive Bush-shrike, Collared Sunbird, Forest Canary and Green Twinspot. In the winter months, Bush Blackcap and Chorister Robin-chat may both be seen. African Emerald Cuckoo calls incessantly from this site in the summer. Doreen Clark Nature Reserve has additionally played host to a pair of Knysna Warblers for some time. This species is best detected by its loud and distinctive song – not unlike the call of the Barratt’s Warbler – though the species is incredibly difficult to view within its preferred habitat of dense tangles.

Key species:

Knysna Warbler, Green Twinspot, Bush Blackcap, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Narina Trogon, Chorister Robin-chat

About the Birding Site

The eThekwini Metropolitan Area (Durban) is a major harbour city situated on the east coast of South Africa. It serves as the most accessible port of entry into the KwaZulu-Natal province with daily flights to all other major cities in South Africa, and further afield (e.g. Mauritius, Dubai). The city and surrounding towns are popular among holidaymakers, given the sub-tropical climate and extensive beaches along the rich waters of the Indian Ocean. Moreover, the city falls within a global biodiversity hotspot – the Maputaland-Pondolona-Albany (MPA) Hotspot.

This region is home to more than 7000 species of plant, more than 25% of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The variety of landforms and sub-tropical climatic conditions, combined with its unique biogeographical position, have resulted in a range of aquatic (wetlands, rivers, estuaries) and terrestrial (mainly forests and coastal grasslands) environments which additionally support a plethora of interesting bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian species. The eThekwini area contains three of South Africa’s eight biomes (namely savanna, forest and grasslands), and supports more than 2000 plant species, 82 terrestrial mammals, 69 reptiles, 25 endemic invertebrates and well over 500 bird species – making it South Africa’s most biodiverse city, by far. To be expected then, the region offers a variety of prime birding spots featuring a number of South Africa’s most sought-after bird species. Top among these are the Spotted Ground Thrush, Mangrove Kingfisher, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Green Malkoha, and Knysna Woodpecker. Durban is also well known for its variety of waders and marine species, often turning up rarities such as the Lesser Black-backed Gull. Key sites within the eThekwini Metropolitan Area include Tala Game Reserve, Pigeon Valley and Krantzkloof Nature Reserves, Durban Bay Head and the Durban National Botanical Gardens.

In addition, as a further attraction to this rich region, the eThewkini Natural Science Museum has world-class ornithological displays and collections.

Key species:

Knysna Warbler, Green Twinspot, Bush Blackcap, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Narina Trogon, Chorister Robin-chat

Other Related Information

To reach the Doreen Clark Nature Reserve, follow the N3 north until you reach the Hilton off-ramp. Take this exit and pass through the village of Hilton. Once you reach the main intersection besides the Crossways Hotel, continue straight along the Dennis Shepstone Road. Pass the Police Station on your right and take the first road left after the entrance to Cowan House School (Amy Wilson Drive). Once you reach a T-junction, turn right into St. Michaels’ Road. The reserve is 500m beyond this intersection on the left.

Other related information:

Notable points of interest include the:
Parking area: -29.5788, 30.2891

Access and facilities:
A short 2km circular trail runs through the forest, providing access to most sections. Secure parking is available off Amy Wilson Drive.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
A number of Birder Friendly Establishments are available within the wider eThekwini Metropolitan Area including Camperdown/Kloof/Pietermaritzburg.

For more information, view:

Local guide information:
No community bird guides are currently available within the wider eThekwini Metropolitan Area.

Text prepared by:
Daniel Keith Danckwerts (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours)

Key species:

Knysna Warbler, Green Twinspot, Bush Blackcap, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Narina Trogon, Chorister Robin-chat

Contact details: