The series of three large saltwater lakes (Rondevlei, Langvlei and Island Lake – in an “East to West” order) are inter-connected by shallow channels and flood plains concluding with the Touw Estuary in the West where the Touw River meets sandy beaches and flows into the Indian Ocean. Rondevlei, Langvlei, Eilandvlei and Serpentine wetlands forms part of an internationally proclaimed RAMSAR site and great many feathered friends may be seen at the Rondevlei Bird Hide. Bird hides may also be found at Langvlei (the Malachite Kingfisher bird hide) and along the Touw River (the Gallinule Bird hide).
Major concentrations of Great Crested Grebe are present on Rondevlei and Langvlei. Commonly seen birds are, Red-knobbed Coot, little Grebe, Cape shoveler, Yellow-billed Duck and Reed Cormorant. Wading and shorebirds are frequently viewed from Rondevlei Bird hide.
The Swartvlei Estuary immediately east of Rondevlei hosts many of the species listed above. It is also a better venue for viewing waders. During summer months, Caspian Terns and Kelp Gulls wander the surface of this humungous estuary in search of a meal.
The forest enveloped hillsides guides the water to the Indian Ocean are also home to several raptor species, including Cuckoo Hawk, Crowned Eagle, Forest Buzzard, Black and Red-breasted Sparrowhawk and African Goshawks many of which are visible going about their daily chores.
More than 280 species of birds are listed in and around Knysna and many water birds abound Thesen Islands, Steenbok Park and further afield at Groenvlei and Swartvlei Lakes along the Rheendal Ramble.
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, Pied Avocet and Black-winged Stilt are also present in good numbers. African Fish Eagle and Osprey should also be watched out for.
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.