Durban and surrounds – Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve

About the Birding

The popular Keeneth Stainbank Nature Reserve is situated immediately adjacent to the Yellowwood Park in the southern suburbs of Durban, covering a total of 253 hectares. A large part of the reserve was cultivated by the Stinbank family, who settled here in 1857. Kenneth Stainbank, after whom the reserve was named, later donated the land to the public and it was opened as a nature reserve in 1967 under the administration of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

As such, the land has been greatly disturbed in parts and a variety of secondary habitats now exist in various stages of regenerations, most of which can be visited by following the extensive and well-maintained trail system. The variety of habitats supports an interesting diversity of bird species, amounting to well over 200 species.

The northern section of the reserve is covered mainly in coastal forest, descending towards the Umhlatuzana River. Species in this section of the reserve are characteristic of most other forest systems in the area. Typical species include the Purple-crested Turaco, White-eared Barbet, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Kurrichane Thrush, Green Malkoha, Red-backed Mannikin, Common Square-tailed Drongo, Grey Cuckooshrike, Red-capped Robin-chat and African Paradise Flycatcher. The elusive Lemon and Tambourine Doves are regularly flushed from the forest floor but, with a little patience and knowledge of the calls of these species, one can be rewarded with good views. Spotted Ground Thrush is present, mainly in the winter months, though birds that visit this site are normally quite shy and difficult to see. The rocky Little Umhlatuzana River runs through the forest and may also yield the shy Mountain Wagtail, while stands of alien tries opposite the river support nesting sites for several raptors including the stately Black Sparrowhawk and the impressive Crowned Eagle.

Patches of regenerating grassland and scrub elsewhere in the reserve supports Rattling Cisticola, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Neddicky, and White-browed Scrub-robin. Little Bee-eater is regularly found hawking insects from exposed perches, while Lesser Striped and Barn Swallows and Black Saw-wing feed on the wing over such habitats during the summer months. A small dam on the property is also always worth visiting for African Rail, Squacco Heron, Black Crake, and African Jacana while the shy and reclusive Red-chested Flufftail call relentlessly from reedbeds during the summer months. A small breeding population of Eastern Golden Weaver also breed here in the summer months.

Key species:

Spotted Ground Thrush (winter), Green Twinspot, Green Malkoha, Purple-crested Turaco, Grey Cuckooshrike

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:

Spotted Ground Thrush (winter), Green Twinspot, Green Malkoha, Purple-crested Turaco, Grey Cuckooshrike

Other Related Information

Take the N3 from Durban in the direction Pietermaritzburg, then follow the N2 south. Exit on the first offramp towards Queensburgh and turn left into Edwin Swales. At the first set of robots, turn right into Wakesleigh Road and almost immediately left into Cliffview. Follow this road until you reach a T-junction, then turn left into Sarnia Road. Drive through Bellair Village to the second traffic lights. Turn right into Coedmore Road passing the cement works…

Other related information:

… After passing over a low-level bridge on the Umhlatuzana River, the road follows the boundary fence to the reserve and the gate is well sign-posted on the right.

Notable points of interest include the:
Main entrance: -29.9129, 30.9416

Access and facilities:
The Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve is open to day visitors between 06:00 and 18:00 daily and a nominal fee is charge. Night drives through the reserve may also be arranged. The reserve is well-known for mountain bike trails. Other facilities include secure parking and public toilets. Two small trails run through the reserve, one of which caters for handicapped visitors. For the less energetic, a short trail leads from the main car park through a small portion of forest where several interesting species may be found relatively easily. Alternatively, follow the main circular trail clockwise from the main parking through grassland, past the small dam at approximately 1km from the start, and finally through the forested area before returning to the main parking.

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:

Spotted Ground Thrush (winter), Green Twinspot, Green Malkoha, Purple-crested Turaco, Grey Cuckooshrike

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

Ezemevelo KZN Wildlife
Tel: +27 (0)31 469 2807

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