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Garden Route Birding

Friday, 12 May 2017 03:32 Written by  Tim Carr
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Situated between the Outeniqua mountains and the Indian ocean lies the magnificent Garden Route.
Named due to its beauty being compared to the “Garden of Eden” , this diverse section of South Africa
has much to offer both the resident and the visiting birder. Habitats can range from Pelagic to
Afro-Montane forest , from Karroo to Alpine, from Estuarine lakes to Fynbos.

A few of my favourite birding routes in the area would be:

1 Knysna Forest route - Starting at the Deep walls(Diepwalle) forest station, birding in and around the
forest camping decks. Reliable birds here include White Starred Robin, Narina Trogon, Grey
Cuckooshrike, Black Headed Oriole, Chorister Robin Chat and Yellow Throated Woodland Warbler. From
here , drive along Kom se Pad, stopping frequently to look and listen for bird parties, often indicated by
the cackling of the Green Woodhoopoes. Olive woodpecker is often seen here. Cleared Patches of
bracken and Fynbos here are good for Victorin's Warbler. Look up while going through these cleared
areas as Forest Buzzard is often seen soaring here.At Gouna head back towards Knysna. Large areas of
mature Fynbos lie along the road, perfect for Cape Sugarbird, Orange Breasted Sunbird, Victorin's
Warbler as well as Cape Grassbird.
Time +- 4 hours

2 Wilderness Lakes route - The area between the towns of Sedgefield and Wilderness offer spectacular
birding that encompass Fynbos, Forest, Grassland and Estuarine lakes. Best started early, this route
begins at the “Big Tree” forest walk at Woodville outside the hamlet of Hoekwil. This is great forest birding
that includes species such as Scaly Throated Honeyguide,Knysna Turaco, Narina Trogon, White Starred
Robin, Lemon Dove, Knysna Warbler and Buff-spotted Flufftail. It is an easy, circular forest walk that
allows for easy access to tricky forest birds. As with all forest birding, knowledge of calls helps
immeasurably. From here continue towards Knysna and then take the Rondevlei road that branches to
the right. This area is reliable for Black winged lapwing as well as Denhams Bustard, especially around
the “Baboons Rest” junction. Continue down the pass to Rondevlei village and turn left at the Sedgefield
junction. You will shortly cross a channel that links to 2 sections of the IBA and Ramsar site. This channel
is a very good photographic spot as well as being good for Little Bittern, Malachite Kingfisher, Purple
Heron and Hottentot Teal.Continue along and then take the left fork to the SAN Parks offices and the
Rondevlei hide. The car park area is good for Olive Bush Shrike as well as Knysna Woodpecker.The hide
is very good for Kingfishers, Purple Swamphen, general waterbirds, African Fish-Eagle as well as African
Rail.
Time +-4 Hours

3. Woodbourne marsh - Follow the N2 through Knysna, as you come through the town look for George Rex
drive. Turn here and the pans are about 3 km along the road on the Eastern side(left if coming from
Knysna).Great for Ducks and Waders.
There are a couple of very good full day trips from the Knysna area. My 2 favourite are
Voelvlei Mossel Bay - A fantastic spot outside Mossel bay for waterbirds. Highlights here is having both
Lesser and Greater Flamingo together as well as large numbers of ducks and coots. Best visited at the
end of Winter. Fynbos thicket birding is also very good and is one of the more reliable spots for Southern
Tchagra as well as Grey Necked Francolin. The surrounding fields are very good for Agulhas Long Billed
Lark, Large Billed Lark , Blue Crane and Secretary Bird
Time +-8 Hours

4. Swartberg Pass - Definetly some of the area's best birding as well as most scenic drives and offering a
mix of Fynbos, Alpine and Karoo birding. Highlights are Protea Seedeater, Cape Siskin,Orange Breasted
Sunbird, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Rockjumper, Sentinel and Cape Rock Thrushes, Pririt Batis,Faery
Flycatcher, Layards and Rufouse Vented Titbabblers, Vereauxs Eagle, Victorins Warbler and Cape
Sgarbird
Time +-10 Hours

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