South Coast – Harding Dam

About the Birding

The town of Harding is situated in southern KwaZulu-Natal along the southern reaches of the Mzimkulwana River near the border with the Eastern Cape. Named after Sir Walter Harding, who in 1858 became the first Chief Justice in Natal, the town is now a thriving timber and dairy farming area. The region’s water requirements are largely met by the Harding Dam, though this dam reached critical levels as recently as 2019 when the dam completely dried

However, when full, the dam supports a diverse array of waterfowl species including the Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese, South African Shelduck, White-faced Whistling and African Black Ducks, all three teals (Red-billed, Blue-billed and Cape), Cape Shoveler and Southern Pochard. Other waterbird species include the Blacksmith Lapwing, Little Egret, Grey Heron, and African Snipe while the surrounding grasslands are host to the near-endemic Red-winged Francolin, Long-tailed Widowbird, Rufous-naped Lark, Cape Longclaw, and a variety of Cisticolas.

Key species:

Red-winged Francolin, South African Shelduck, African Snipe and diverse waterfowl

About the Birding Site

The South Coast Birding Route in KwaZulu-Natal – spanning from Durban to the southern provincial border between KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape – comprises a variety of rich sub-tropical habitats ranging from coastal and inland wetlands to extensive grasslands, woodlands and forests. The forest birding to be had in this region is arguably some of the best anywhere in South Africa, featuring an interesting community of birds that is intermediate between the rich afromontane and coastal forests.

It is the only route within KwaZulu-Natal where these two diverse forest assemblages overlap and, for this reason, birding in this area is extremely rewarding. Several species reach their northernmost limits within this route including the sought-after Knysna Woodpecker and Knysna Warbler, while other notable highlights include the Magpie Mannikin, Knynsa Turaco, and Red-headed Quelea. Moreover, the route boasts many of KwaZulu-Natal’s most revered birding sites including Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve, Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve and the Weza-Ngele Forest among others. Several days are recommended in the area to afford yourself with the best chances of finding the most sought-after species.

Key species:

Red-winged Francolin, South African Shelduck, African Snipe and diverse waterfowl

Other Related Information

Directions:
Take the N2 from Port Shepstone to Harding. From the junction at the turn off to the village of Harding, continue along the N2 for about 1.2 km, then turn left onto the road sign posted to Umzimkulu. Follow this road for another 1.1 km and turn off to the right just before the bridge. You will reach the stock sales yard. If you continue on this track, veer off to the left before reaching the Sales yard and follow the track to the dam wall.

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
Note that, although it is not necessary to make prior arrangements with the land-owner, visitors are asked to respect the land (no littering!). Runaway fires are a hazard during the dry winter month and barbecues/braais are not permitted at these times.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
The nearest Birder Friendly Establishments are in the nearby village of Margate. For more information, please visit:
http://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-establishments/kwazulu-natal/

Local guide information:
A BirdLife Community Guide operates out of the nearby Umtamvuna Nature Reserve and Oribi Gorge. For more information, please contact: Mpendulo Innocent Mzindle on cell: +27 (0)73 893 0241. Alternatively, please visit:
https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/community-bird-guides/#1527848096692-9dc59238-8787

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

Key species:

Red-winged Francolin, South African Shelduck, African Snipe and diverse waterfowl

Contact details:

N/A

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