This truly pocketable, easy-to-use, full colour booklet is an excellent introductory guide to nine premier birding spots in southern KwaZulu-Natal. These include seven Nature Reserves - the Vernon Crookes, Empisini. T.C. Robertson, Oribi Gorge, Uvongo River, Mpenjati Public Resort and Umtamvuna - as well as the Umdoni Park and Weza-Ngele Forest. For each of these sites the author has provided a clearly written text describing how to get there, where/when to birdwatch, the availability of accommodation and other useful visitor facilities, in addition to a detailed breakdown of the habitats and their birds. Each text is accompanied by at least one map and my only small gripe is that a second more detailed trail map for the Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve is difficult to relate to the larger-scale map of the whole site. The guide also includes a tabulated checklist of all 386 bird species recorded at the nine sites. This gives information on a bird's habitat preferences, its seasonality and status as well as the bird's Zulu name. It also highlights species that are either provincial or regional endemics, including some of the really exciting South African species like Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres, Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseas, Knysna Woodpecker Campethera notata, Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea, Bush Blackcap Lioptilus nigricapillus, Green Twinspot Mandingoa nitidula and Grey Waxbill Estrilda perreini. A further interesting and valuable section of this highly recommended booklet is a short introduction to the historical, cultural and economic importance of birds to the Zulu people. David Allan reminds all of us who are imbued with the dominant Eurocentric attitudes to birds and the environment that there are other rich cultural responses to the natural world. If conservation is to find broad support in a region like KwaZulu-Natal then it needs to embrace and value the traditions of the majority population, the Zulu people themselves.
Birding in Southern KwaZulu-Natal
David Allan. 1998. Hibiscus Coast and County Publicity Association/Durban Natural Science Museum. 52 pp, 30 colour photographs and 11 maps. R15. (Obtainable from Bird Dept, Durban Natural Science Museum, PO Box 4085, Durban 4000; tel: 031 30062201 6211; fax: 031 3006302; email: firstname.lastname@example.org)