Coast KZN

23 Sep 2016

Birders aflutter about new hide

Judi Davis (South Coast Herald)

New facility: A photographic impression of what the new bird hide in Marina Beach will look like once this project is completed.

Photographs taken at Marina Beach’s Umkobi Lagoon are going viral.

Already a big hit with local birders and bird photographers, the new Umkhobi Lagoon bird hide in Marina Beach is now attracting the attention of nature lovers from all over the world.

The Umkhobi Lagoon, between Marina Beach and Southbroom, has long been a popular birding spot, not least because its reed beds are a roosting site for thousands of barn swallows during summer. Local birders have recorded more than 40 species there, including five different kingfishers and a lovely selection of herons and egrets.

With so many birders and photographers visiting the lagoon, Marina Beach Conservation Group was inspired to build the bird hide. After members submitted their proposal, Ugu South Coast Tourism agreed to fund its construction. The conservation group then engaged the services of an accredited environmental consultant who obtained the necessary environmental authorisation from the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Environmental Affairs and the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality. The hide took three weeks to complete and is now open for business.

Chairman of the Marina Beach Ratepayers’ Association, Bruce Watt said his organisation was confident the hide would be of enormous value to the South Coast community.
“Many photographs taken from it have already appeared on social media platforms, reaching over 100 000 viewers worldwide. Our region is fortunate to have acclaimed photographers like Dr Leon Bruggemann, Kathy Kay, Henry Oppel, Malcolm Sutton, Jacques Sellschop and members of the Hibiscus Photographic Society resident in the area.

They keep the national and international birding fraternities up to date on the avian attractions of the South Coast. Enquiries through various websites have already indicated enormous interest among potential visitors from as far afield as France, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. This hide has certainly put Marina Beach and Southbroom on the map,” he said.

Master-built in timber, the attractive structure was designed in accordance with specifications of the finest hides in South Africa. It offers comfortable viewing for up to ten peoples. Facing directly across the waterway between Southbroom and Marina Beach, its position, structure and quality of finish have already earned praise. Although the hide is a bit exposed at the moment, the area around it has been landscaped with indigenous vegetation. In a few months it should blend in with its surrounds.

Members of the Birdlife Trogons have hailed the hide as a significant contribution to the region. As local birders have pointed out, Marina Beach and Southbroom are centrally situated for visiting birders who can easily access many neighbouring birdlife-rich public reserves, productive private dams and even two well-known crowned eagle nesting sites.

These towns are also near enough to Oribi Gorge for visitors to enjoy day trips to the many inland birding hot spots there, including the popular Cape vulture hide.

Of course, the hide is not only for birders and photographers. It is a peaceful little spot where nature lovers can simply relax and commune with nature. It also has enormous potential as an educational tool, according to Mr Watt.

“Our plan is to have information boards and photographs on display in the hide. Small groups of local pupils can be brought there to learn about our fauna and flora. Last year the Home Schooling Association brought 45 children to a presentation on our crowned eagles and the scheduled one-hour event held them enthralled for two-and-a-half hours.”

Mr Watt thanked the many residents who had made personal contributions of time, money and professional expertise to amplify the value of the hide.
“Certain protocols and formalities relating to the asset and its position are still being finalised in co-operation with the municipality. While the conservancy was originally advised in writing that consent from neighbouring communities was not required, members have subsequently decided that reasonable concerns about it should be entertained and, where possible, addressed,” he said.

However, he did not foresee a problem in this regard. The hide was well positioned to view the passage of all the birds along the lagoon including the swallows, he said.


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