The commercial part of the harbour, as distinct from the Southern Sanctuary, has several important bird areas. Those currently accessible to the general public include the Bay Hall, Pelican Island and “Cassurinas” area. The area attracts waders and terns but in much lower numbers than the past probably due to more intensive recreational use. The North Breakwaters provide limited capability for seabird watching but are not as good as the, currently inaccessible, South Breakwater. Of the areas currently open to the public the Cassuarinas / Sand Flats are the most productive.
The Breakwaters produce regular sightings of seabirds such as White-chinned Petrel, Sub-Antarctic and Arctic Skuas as well as the odd Albatross (Yellow-nosed or Black-browed) and Sooty Shearwater. In winter Cape Gannets and Cape Cormorant can also be seen.
At the Cassuarinas/Sand Flats the Common Noddy was identified a few years ago and the spot is good for most of the marine terns including Sandwich, Lesser Crested and Little. Curlew is also recorded regularly, and, in the past, the area regularly produced Broadbilled Sandpiper and Redshank. The latter two have not been seen for several years in the area but do turn up regularly in the Southern Sanctuary.
Of the areas under direct Portnet control (i.e. permit needed) pride of place goes to the Sand Spit which attracts large number of waders and terns with regular rarities turning up. Access to this area is only by boat and requires special permission, over and above a harbour entry permit. Adjacent to the sand spit are the sand / mud flats to the north of the harbour berm wall. We have referred to this area as the Berm Mangroves / Sand Flats. At low water the area attracts large number of shorebirds.
The Sand Spit is a prime spot for Crab Plover in summer, the bird almost guaranteed. Acces is only via boat, please contact the Birding Route for more information. Regulars are the marine terns with a record of White-cheeked Tern in the early 1990′s and Greater and Lesser (Mongolian) Sandplovers usually available for comparison.
Within the Portnet controlled area there are two shallow, reed-lined pans, which attract substantial numbers of breeding birds. The T-Junction Pan lies close to the east harbour gate adjacent to the SAFCOL timber operation and, though it is in a seriously disrupted area, is still very attractive to water birds such as White-backed Duck, Pygmy Goose, Lesser Jacana and most of the herons and egrets. Brown-throated Weavers and Black-crowned Night-Herons nest here. The second pan known currently as the New Mouth Pan is dealt with in the Southern Sanctuary write up.
To access the “Cassurinas” area – coming from Empangeni / N2 direction. Turn Right at Medway/ Harbour Coast. After 0.9 km’s turn left towards Tuzi Gazi Waterfront. After 1.4 KM’s turn right onto a small dirt road, croos railway and continue for about 4km’s. Follow road through areav of cassurina trees to sandflats.
To access Bay Hall and Pelican island – Turn Right off the R34 just before Meer En See towards Tuzi Gazi. Follow this road and turn right at the signpost “Pelican Island”