Located c. 18 km due south of Underberg, this IBA has as its major feature the Ingwangwana River, which flows south-south-eastwards through the southern section of Coleford Nature Reserve. The river's floodplain is fairly flat and narrow, rising gently from the south bank to a series of low hills that overlook the Ingwangwana's major tributary, the Ndowana River. In the north-western sector of the reserve, the slope up from the Ingwangwana is much steeper, rising rapidly to a series of high hills (1 745 m a.s.l.), with cliffs of Beaufort Sandstone on their south-eastern side. Temperatures range from well below freezing to well above 30 °C. Annual rainfall averages some 970 mm, falling mainly in summer (November–March). Habitat types consist of Drakensberg Foothill Moist Grassland and wetlands adjacent to the river, including old oxbows.
White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi has been seen at this site, which could potentially hold 6–8 birds, but it remains to be established whether the habitat is only suitable in some years. The vlei also holds African Marsh Harrier Circus ranivorus, Grey Crowned Crane Balearica regulorum and Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus. The surrounding rolling grassland supports Black Harrier Circus maurus, Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus, Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami, Southern Ground-Hornbill Bucorvus leadbeateri and Black-winged Lapwing Vanellus melanopterus. The small patches of forest in the gullies are home to Bush Blackcap Lioptilus nigricapillus, while the rocky outcrops support Buff-streaked Chat Campicoloides bifasciata and Sentinel Rock Thrush Monticola explorator. The nearby mountains hold Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres and Black Stork Ciconia nigra, which forage in the reserve. Cape Vultures attend a feeding station when it is provisioned.
Globally threatened species are Cape Vulture, Wattled Crane (a single breeding pair with up to three individuals), Bush Blackcap and White-winged Flufftail. Regionally threatened species are Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis and Half-collared Kingfisher Alcedo semitorquata.
Three Red Data mammals occur: serval Felis serval and African striped weasel Poecilogale albinucha, both classified as rare; and oribi Ourebia ourebi, which is vulnerable.
The area includes Coleford Nature Reserve, which was established in 1948 and proclaimed in 1959. It was neglected in the past but is now under the management of EKZNW. Of the very few major threats facing the reserve, the most important is encroachment by invasive alien plants. Poaching is also known to occur and it may impact Wattle Cranes nesting in the surrounding wetlands.
The wetlands alongside the river were modified before the reserve was acquired. Drainage ditches were cut and water levels lowered. In a pilot experiment in 1984, one of the vleis was ‘restored’ by blocking the ditch, with dramatic results. A Wattled Crane nest was built and two eggs were laid in it, all within a month. Coleford was a well-known Wattled Crane nest site until 1990. The disappearance of the cranes was possibly the result of disturbance, as the nest sites were close to a fisherman’s path and grazing horses often harassed the birds. The horses are no longer present. The Wattled Cranes returned and bred in the vlei in 2013 and 2014. The site has potentially excellent White-winged Flufftail habitat, but it is not yet known how regularly the species occurs here.
The Ingwangwana River catchment is significant for biodiversity conservation. The wetland contains good floodplain habitat and the site should be regarded as of the highest importance and accorded the appropriate conservation. The wetlands are ranked as high priority by NFEPA due to the presence of cranes and because they are in good condition, with more than 75% of the original habitat remaining. The site is noteworhty as an example of a diverse mosaic of palustrine vegetation, especially of Juncus-dominated communities, which are not commonly found elsewhere in the region. The site also appears to be important for amphibians.
De Klerk A, Adie H, Wood J. 2010. Ngwagwane Catchment Assessment. Prepared by Mokoatsi Community
Development Services for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. 2011. Coleford Nature Reserve: Management Plan. Version 1.0. Pietermaritzburg.
Taylor PB. 1997a. The status and conservation of rallids in South Africa: results of a wetland survey in 1995/96. ADU Research Report No. 23. Cape Town: Avian Demography Unit, University of Cape Town.
Taylor PB. 1997b. South African palustrine wetlands: the results of a survey in summer 1995/96. ADU Research Report No. 24. Cape Town: Avian Demography Unit, University of Cape Town.