Southern Zululand – Richard’s Bay Mzingazi / Sharks Board area

About the Birding

The Mzingazi Lake, which is the primary water supply of Richard’s Bay extending from the suburbs into the tribal area in a north-easterly direction, is located on commonage ground. There are no protected areas around its perimeter except for the “proposed conservation area” stretching from the Sharks Board to Ferelli Alley along the lake edge and to the John Ross highway to the south. The forested areas comprise climax dune forest and an area mainly described as “sand forest”.

The latter is a rare biome and requires confirmation regarding its supposed pristine nature. The lake edge is largely swamp forest, papyrus and phragmites reed beds with good views over the lake along the private road which connects Meerensee suburb with Arboretum. The lake drains through a small culvert at Ferelli Alley and becomes the Mzingazi river, which flows into the Ngodweni canal via a berm designed to prevent sea water access.

The best way to bird this area is to simply walk along the various tracks around the area, and in particular the track heading in a westerly direction to the edge of Lake Mzingazi. The forest along the lake edges gives good birding opportunities with Green Malkoha, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Narina Trogon, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Dark-backed Weaver, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher and Grey Tit-flycatcher all being regularly seen. This area occasionally also produces the shy African Finfoot, and the Half-collared, Giant and Pygmy Kingfisher. Near the Shark’s Board, watch overhead for the rare Southern Banded Snake-eagle as a pair is sometimes observed soaring high overhead.

Key species:

Southern Banded Snake-eagle, African Finfoot, Green Malkoha, Narina Trogon, Half-collared Kingfisher

About the Birding Site

Southern Zululand is perhaps the premier forest birding route in all of KwaZulu-Natal, home to a rich diversity of species in a mix of different habitats. Starting on the warm coast of Zululand, between Mtunzini and Richard’s Bay, the route offers many estuarine swamp forests supporting impressive numbers of threatened species including the Mangrove Kingfisher and Black-throated Wattle-eye. Coastal forests here are equally rich in species and are perhaps the best areas anywhere in South Africa to search for the Spotted Ground Thrush (mainly a winter visitor) and Palm-nut Vulture.

Further inland near the towns of Eshowe, Melmoth, and Nkandla are several Afromontane mistbelt and scarp forests where a number of incredibly range-restricted species may be found including the highly localized endemic race of the Green Barbet, as well as Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon. These areas descend sharply down to dry thornveld habitats in a region that is rich in both Zulu history and culture.

The city of Richard’s Bay is so often overlooked by tourists heading into Zululand, given that the city and its surrounding areas are largely industrial in nature featuring several immense mines, vast areas of forestry plantations and a large port. While this description is not totally inaccurate, the area also boasts some of the best birding sites in KwaZulu-natal with well over 350 having been recorded in the immediate area including over 24 National Rarities! Richard’s Bay is also one of the premier shorebird watching sites in South Africa given the diverse freshwater and marine wetlands including open lakes, mangrove forests, and extensive mudflats. Other notable habitats include open dune and riverine forests where several species (e.g. Eastern Nicator) reach their southern distribution limits. Top sites within the wider Richard’s Bay area include the Mzingazi/Sharks Board Area, Richard’s Bay Harbour, Southern Sanctuary, Empangeni, Thulasihleka Pan, and Enseleni Nature Reserve.

Key species:

Southern Banded Snake-eagle, African Finfoot, Green Malkoha, Narina Trogon, Half-collared Kingfisher

Other Related Information

Directions:
Head down the main John Ross Highway towards Meerensee. Take the “Greenhills” turn to your left. After 300m’s Turn left onto the dirt road. Follow the signs to “Parks Depot”. After 200m turn left away from the Parks Depot and follow this road for another 500m turn left into the parking area at the Offices.

Notable points of interest include the:
KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board: -28.7978, 32.0947

Other related information:

Recommended accommodation nearby:
Numerous Birder Friendly Establishments are available in the nearby towns of St Lucia and Mtunzini. For more information, please view Birder Friendly Establishments using the following link:
http://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-establishments/kwazulu-natal/

Diverse accommodation options are also available in Richard’s Bay including numerous campsites and caravan parks, self-catering, B&Bs and more luxurious options.

Local guide information:
Several community guides operate within the wider St Lucia/Mtunzini areas. For more information, please use the following link:
https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/community-bird-guides/

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

Key species:

Southern Banded Snake-eagle, African Finfoot, Green Malkoha, Narina Trogon, Half-collared Kingfisher

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board
Tel: +27 (0)81 020 3198

Download Checklist