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Garden Route (Tsitsikamma, Knysna, Wilderness) National Park
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Birding in the Tsitsikamma Section
Birding in Tsitsikamma offers a variety in choice of habitat.
There is the open shoreline as typified by the environment at Storms River Rest Camp. There is the more sheltered water ways of the Nature’s Valley Lagoon and the Groot River. There is the forest experience of the Tsitsikamma Forest. Then there is the mountain fynbos one can explore in the Tsitsikamma Mountains in the Soetkraal section.
At Storms River Rest Camp, cormorants ( Cape and White-breasted), Kelp Gulls and African Black Oystercatchers are prominent along the coastline. Scanning out to sea, one should pick up Cape Gannet plummeting into the water. Pied and Giant Kingfishers can both be seen hunting fish at tidal pools or in the rivers that drain into the Indian Ocean . More inconspicuous, but also inhabiting these rivers are Half-collared Kingfisher and African Finfoot. (Although the most reliable place to see these species is on the Groot River at Nature’s Valley.) The forest edges should produce Chorister Robin-chat, while the scarlet wings of Knysna Turaco (Lourie) may well be seen bursting from the cover of forest. White-necked Raven are frequently seen overhead while Karoo Prinia is prominent in the patches of coastal bush.
At Nature’s Valley is probably the best place in the park to bird. Chorister Robin-chat is usually on hand in and around the accommodation. Also common in the rest camp are Lemon (Cinnamon) and Red-eyed Dove, Olive Thrush, Terrestrial Brownbul (Bulbul) and Dusky Flycatchers. In the forested areas, also look out for Knysna Turaco, Emerald Cuckoo, Knysna and Olive Woodpecker, Narina Trogon, Sharp-billed Honeyguide, Grey Cuckooshrike, Knysna Warbler, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, White-starred Robin, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher and Cape Batis, although some of these species are elusive.
The Tsitsikamma Forest also hosts African Crowned Eagle and African Wood Owl, plus some of the accipiters such as African Goshawk and Black Sparrowhawk.
In the mountains one should look for Cape Canary , Cape Sugarbird , Orange-breasted Sunbird, Black Saw-wing and Ground Woodpecker. Also present, though difficult to locate are Protea Canary, Victorin’s Warbler, Striped Flufftail and Cape Siskin .
Birding in the Wilderness Section
- The tidal nature of the Touw River adjacent the Ebb and Flow Rest Camp exposes mudbanks that host White-fronted Plover.
- The series of lakes connected by the Touw River (Eilandvlei, Langvlei and Rondevlei) host a variety of aquatic species and is an internationally proclaimed Ramsar site.
- Major concentrations of Great Crested and Black-necked Grebe are present on Rondevlei and Bo Langvlei.
- Reed Cormorant,Grey and Purple Heron, Little Egret, African Spoonbill, Little Bittern and Red-knobbed Coot are prominent.
- Wildfowl is prolific including Yellow-billed, Maccoa and White-backed Duck, Cape Shoveler , Southern Pochard and Cape , Red-billed and Hottentot Teal.
- There is a hide at Rondevlei, from where careful scanning of the reeds could produce Purple Gallinule, African Rail, Black and Baillon’s Crake.
- The Swartvlei Estuary immediately east of the Touw River lakes hosts many of the species listed above.
- It is also a better venue for viewing waders. Caspian Tern and Kelp Gull are prominent.
- The forested hillsides that surround the area are home to several raptors, including: Cuckoo Hawk, Crowned Eagle, Forest Buz za rd, Black and Rufous-chested (Red-breasted) Sparrowhawk and African Goshawk.
- Look for Red-necked Spurfowl along quiet roads with overgrown verges.
- The park has several walking trails, several of which are named after kingfisher species and not without reason, as Brown-hooded, Malachite, Giant, Pied and Half-collared can all easily be seen.
(For more birding information and park bird checklist, go to Information for Birders)
Birding in the Knysna Section
The tidal lagoon and open estuary of the Knysna River provides an excellent place to view waders in the summer months. Grey Plover, Marsh Sandpiper, Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Whimbrel are prominent. All year, but particularly in winter, the lagoon hosts some non-migratory larger species (egrets, spoonbills, gulls, cormorants, ibises). The threatened African Black Oystercatcher is present all year, but their numbers increase in winter to what is regarded as a globally significant population. Cape Shoveller , Kittlitz’s Plover, PiedAvocet and Black-winged Stilt are also present in good numbers. African Fish Eagle and Osprey should also be watched out for.