North Coast – SAPPI Tranquila (Stanger)

About the Birding

Situated immediately outside KwaDukuza (Stanger), the Sappi Paper Mill has granted birders access to the settling pans besides the main factory. In recent years, the site has gained appreciation as one of the top birding sites on the North Coast birding route playing regular host to rarities. Among these are the Spotted Crake, Western Yellow Wagtail and White-throated Bee-eater. In conjunction with the Blythedale Conservancy, the mill has erected a bird hide overlooking a small pan surrounded by lush reedbeds.

The open pan is best viewed from the small bird hide. Keys to the hide are available through the reception at the SAPPI Paper Mill, where visitors are required to sign an indemnity. On the central island, look for Water Thick-knee, Grey Crowned Crane, Reed Cormorant, Grey and Black-headed Herons, Western Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, and African Swamphen. African Rail and Baillon’s Crake are both resident but remain within the cover of dense reedbeds at all times. Waterfowl are abundant including the Red-billed, Blue-billed and Cape Teals, Yellow-billed Duck, and White-faced Whistling Duck. Southern Pochard and Fulvous Whistling Duck are seen intermittently. When water levels drop, the hide serves as a fantastic vantage from which to study diverse shorebirds including the Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, African Snipe and Common Greenshank.

In the extensive reedbeds on the second pan, beyond the hide, lookout for the Southern Brown-throated Weaver which breeds here in the summer months. Rufous-winged Cisticola is vocal and common, along with the Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warblers. In the summer months, look for the African Reed and Sedge Warblers. The riverine thickets support Black-throated Wattle-eye (rare here), Red-faced Cisticola, African Green Pigeon, Black-collared Barbet, Burchell’s Coucal, and Green Woodhoopoe. The river itself sometimes holds African Finfoot.

Key species:

Baillon’s Crake, African Rail, Western Yellow Wagtail, Rufous-winged Cisticola, Southern Brown-throated Weaver

About the Birding Site

The North Coast – frequently also referred to as the Dolphin Coast – extends from the city of Durban to the Tugela River mouth, located immediately to the south of Richard’s Bay. With its distinct subtropical climate, pristine and extensive beaches, and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean – the region is extremely popular among holiday makers. In addition to the rich beaches, the area offers diverse cultural attractions, magnificent golf courses, and extensive nature reserves.

Further afield, the north coast (particularly Durban) is the gateway to the rest of KwaZulu-Natal offering easy access to the Drakensberg mountains, temperate midlands, and Zululand. While much of the region has been transformed into extensive sugarcane fields, the route offers several key sites of interest to birders visiting the area and an impressive checklist of birds including several of South Africa’s most sought-after specials. Among these species are the globally threatened Spotted Ground Thrush, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, Buff-spotted Flufftail, African Finfoot, Red-headed Quelea, and Southern Bald Ibis. Wetland sites on the route also play host to rarities on an annual basis, offering exciting prospects for birders. Key sites along the route include the Dlokwane Forest, SAPPI Tranquila, Otimati, and the St. Kitts Wetlands.

Key species:

Baillon’s Crake, African Rail, Western Yellow Wagtail, Rufous-winged Cisticola, Southern Brown-throated Weaver

Other Related Information

Directions:
Stanger is located 70km to the north of Durban, following the N2 freeway. Take the Stanger exit off the N2 and, after 1km and immediately after crossing a bridge, turn to the left towards the Sappi Stanger Mill. The mill is located 3km down this road. Visitors are required to report to the security office to sign an indemnity form and to collect the keys to the bird hide and picnic site.

Notable points of interest include the:
Sappi mill: -29.3633, 31.2976
Sappi Stanger bird hide: -29.3630, 31.3035

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
Sappi Stanger includes a small picnic site, a single bird hide and public toilets. Keys must be collected at the main security building.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
A number of Birder Friendly Establishments are available within the wider eThekwini Metropolitan Area including Camperdown/Kloof/Pietermaritzburg. Moreover, a number of Birder Friendly Establishments can be found within the nearby towns of Eshowe and Mtunzini.

For more information, view:
http://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-establishments/kwazulu-natal/
Diverse accommodation options are also available in nearby coastal towns including Shaka’s Rock, Umhlanga, Ballito and within Durban itself.

Local guide information:
The nearest BirdLife Community Guides operate out of Mtunzini and Eshowe. For more information, please visit:
https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/community-bird-guides/

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

Key species:

Baillon’s Crake, African Rail, Western Yellow Wagtail, Rufous-winged Cisticola, Southern Brown-throated Weaver

Contact details:

For more information, please contact:

SAPPI Mill
Tel: +27 (0)32 437 2222.

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