Mount Moreland

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General Information

Status:

Global IBA (A4ii)

Province:

KwaZulu-Natal

Protection:

Unprotected

Size:

270 ha

Number:

SA123

Additional Info

  • Site description

    Mount Moreland is located c. 25 km north of Durban and approximately 4 km inland from the small town of Umdloti. King Shaka International Airport is approximately 4 km away to the north, while the N2 highway runs along the IBA's eastern border. Little of the original grassland habitat remains and the area is heavily transformed. The dominant feature of the IBA is the hill called Mount Moreland, after which the town is named. A village comprising 195 residential houses and open plots is situated at the top of the hill. There are two wetlands in the lower-lying areas: Lake Victoria to the west of the village and Froggy Pond to the east. The wetlands are dominated by Phragmites reedbeds and drain into the Umdloti River, which runs through the southern sections of the IBA as it winds its way towards the Indian Ocean. The rest of the IBA consists of sugar-cane farmlands that have been cultivated in the remaining lower-lying areas and are the dominant feature of the surrounding landscape. The altitude ranges between 8 m a.s.l. and 55 m a.s.l. Mount Moreland has a humid, subtropical climate with average temperatures of 28 °C in summer and 20 °C in winter. The average rainfall for the area is c. 1 000 mm p.a.

    Birds

    Every year the Lake Victoria and Froggy Pond wetlands play stage to the spectacular arrival of thousands of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica, which roost in the Phragmites reedbeds. Large flocks of Barn Swallows are usually first seen around mid- to late October, with mass/peak displays from mid-November to the end of the month. Numbers then taper off and it is assumed that many swallows continue on their journey to other parts of South Africa. Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of birds seem to be resident, roosting in the wetland during summer. Numbers peak again in March and April (this has not occurred in the past two years due to erratic weather patterns) before the swallows leave for their migration back to Europe and Asia.

    A resident population of African Marsh Harrier Circus ranivorus regularly hunt swallows as they come in to roost. Other species such as Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus and Sooty Falcon F. concolor have also been recorded hunting over the wetland.

    IBA trigger species

    This is the largest single roost of Barn Swallows in South Africa. Assessing the numbers of swallows is very difficult and estimates vary between 1.5 and 10 million birds. However, the most accepted figure is approximately 3 million. Another factor that cannot be determined is how many Barn Swallows will stop over at this roost during summer en route to other parts of the country.

    Other biodiversity

    The site is one of only ten known locations where a population of the Pickersgill's reed frog Hyperolius pickersgilli is known to occur.

    Conservation issues

    Threats

    The major threat to the IBA is the moribund state of the Lake Victoria wetland. The wetland has not been burned in more than 50 years and the moribund material is over 1 m thick in places. This is starting to choke the wetland and invasive alien species are beginning to take root. Coupled with water extraction due to farming activities in the catchment area, there is potential that the wetland may eventually silt up completely, resulting in the loss of the Phragmites reedbeds and the Barn Swallow roost.

    Conservation action

    The Lake Victoria Conservancy was established in 1995 and in 2010 it was renamed the Mount Moreland Conservancy. The land is owned by residents who have properties in the conservancy. The remainder of the area is owned by ACSA and Dube Tradeport. The Mount Moreland Conservancy actively strives to conserve the biodiversity of the site through a number of initiatives, the most important of which are efforts to raise awareness about Barn Swallows and other forms of biodiversity. Each year from October to March between 3 000 and 5 000 people visit the site to witness the spectacle of the Barn Swallows coming in to roost. This is one of the biggest birding events in South Africa and it plays a very important awareness role.

    Mount Moreland Conservancy also ensures that developments that may affect the site are implemented with care so that the Barn Swallow roost will persist. The most important example of this was the development of the nearby King Shaka Airport. Much media attention was given to the possible impacts the airport would have on the swallows. In response to urging by the conservancy, ACSA installed a dedicated radar system (a first in South Africa) that monitors the movements of the swallow flock to prevent collisions with aircraft. No collisions have occurred and on only three occasions (over the past 4.5 years) have aircraft had to divert due to the proximity of the flock.

    ACSA and Dube Tradeport contribute to the conservation of the site and it is hoped that, with the development of an eco-estate, additional support will be given, especially with regard to the removal of invasive alien plants. Biodiversity Stewardship options are also being investigated.

    Related webpages

    www.mountmoreland.com

    www.barnswallow.co.za

    www.mountmorelandconservancy.co.za

    Contact

    If you have any information about the IBA, such as a new threat that could impact on it, please send an e-mail to iba@birdlife.org.za or call BirdLife South Africa +27 (11) 789 1122.

    Page last updated

    Tuesday, 10 February 2015

    Further Reading

    None.

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