Birding at Storms River Mouth, Tsitsikamma, Garden Route
The Tsitsikamma Section of the Garden Route National Park is situated at the heart of this picturesque tourist region. Tsitsikamma is a Khoisan (early inhabitants of the area) word meaning, “place of much water”.
This beautiful area is one of South Africa’s most visited National Parks, a hotspot for marine life, indigenous plants and special birds.
The scenic 2km mouth walk, will take you and your family around an hour under dark canopies of thicket and the last remaining area of coastal forest. In the quiet and serene surroundings you’ll hear the calls of the lesser-spotted Knysna Turaco (Knysna Lourie) and see it dart from tree to tree with its bright-red underwing catching the corner of your eye.
The Tsitsikamma area is known for excellent birding and beautiful scenery, with a variety of trails from the Tsitsikamma National Park Camp Site:
The Mouth Trail (Easy – 2km): This trail begins at Sandy Bay, which is within walking distance of the resturant and takes one along a winding boardwalk through the indigenous coastal forest to the Mouth of Storms River, with the famous Storms River Bridge leading to a Khoisan Cave Heritage site. Approximately an hour.
The Lourie Trail (Easy – 1km): This is a 1km walk through the forest and is relatively easy. This is the perfect trail for one who has never been on an indigenous forest walk before. This is also the place where one should be on the lookout for the beautiful Knynsa Turaco.
Blue Duiker Trail (3,7km – Easy):
This trail is a slightly longer version of the Lourie Trail that ends just before the Otter Trail begins. This trail will take you to the heart of the Tsitsikamma Forest where one will discover the forest giants – the Outeniqua Yellowoods -which prove to be rather imposing.
The Blue Duiker Trail continues through the coastal forest, crossing a stream below a delightful waterfall. After crossing the road to the camp, the path drops to the coast just west of the start of the Waterfall/Otter trails and returns past the camp site and chalets. The birdlife in the forest west of the road is quite extraordinary, making this trail a great favourite with bird-watchers.
Waterfall Trail (Moderately strenuous – 3km): The Waterfall trail comprises the first 3km of the world famous Otter Trail. At the end of the 3 km, the captivating scenery of the forest and rocky coastline, one will find the waterfall, plunging into a deep pool before finding its way into the sea. Bring along a bathing costume, liquids and snacks. This trail is fairly strenuous and caution must be taken at high tides.
Whichever route you decide to take, take along your checklist of these indigenous, special birds: 10 Specials to try and spot along Storms River Routes:
1. The Amethyst Sunbird (Swartsuikerbekkie)
Watch for these little birds amongst the forest edges. The male appears all black with a purple throat and a green forehead that gleams in the sunlight.
2. The Rednecked Spurfowl (Rooikeelfisant)
This bird is commonly spotted on the edges of the forest and thicket. They are generally found in small family groups, with males having short spurs on their lower legs.
This bird has also been known to cross-breed with Swainson’s Spurfowl.
3. The Knysna Turaco (Knysna Lourie)
The Knysna Turaco thrives and feeds on fruiting trees which are restricted to the Afromontane forest. This bird has a shorter, rounder crest than the Livingstone’s Turaco and is found in the higher canopies where the distribution of the two species come together. The bright crimson underwing of the Knysna Turaco is its signature and how one can recognise the bird as it flies across treetops.
4. The Cape Wagtail (Gewone Kwikkie)
A tame resident known as the Cape Wagtail, will join you in your gardens and campsites, comfortably enjoying small flies and ground insects to satisfy its appetite.
The movement of the Cape Wagtail is what gives the bird its name, with a characteristic bobbing motion that causes the tail to swing up and down.
5. The White Breasted Comorant (Witborsduiker)
Pursuing its prey underwater, hunting with its sharp hooked-tipped bill, the comorant swallows its prey whole, head first.
This bird is a colonial breeder that builds on rough platforms of sticks, nesting a usual amount of 3 pale-blue eggs.
6. The White-Necked Raven (Withalskraai)
These ravens are often spotted in large flocks, scavenging for most of their food. They are spotted in areas that have an easily accessible food source available for scavengers.
The White-Necked Raven nests and breeds on rocky ledges, making a platform of sticks that may be stolen from larger raptors.
7. The Red-Winged Starling (Rooivlerkspreeu)
This is one of the larger starlings that is found in larger flocks nesting during the winter months.
The Starling feeds on a wide range of seeds, berries, nectar from plants such as Aloe and Huilboerboon, the bird also feeds on smaller insects and beetles.
8. The Yellow-Throated Woodland Warbler (Geelkeelsanger)
In the canopy tops of evergreen forests, dwells the Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler feeding on small insects.
It is often found in pairs or with mixed bird parties such as white-eyes.
9. The Greater Double-collared Sunbird (Groot-rooibandsuikkerbekkie)
This is one of the noticeably larger sunbirds, although similar-looking to the Southern double-collared Sunbird, with a longer, heavier bill.
The male in comparison to its relative has a broader Red Band.
10. The Cape Batis (Kaapsebontrokkie)
The Cape Batis male has a black chest band that is chestnut in the female.
These birds are usually found in pairs and often accompany other forest birds in a birding party and forage for small insects in forest canopies and bushes.
11. Forest Canary (Gestreepte Kanarie)
Forest Canary’s stick within small flocks during winter which can be seen along the edges of forests and in forest clearings feeding on seeding grasses and protea’s.
This bird is a monogamous breeder, with mate for its life time until that one dies.
The head is an olive green, while the bill is black in color. The Forest canary also has a olive coloured throat, pink legs and a olive, green coloured back.
12. Cape White Eye
The Cape White-eye has rounded wings, strong legs, and a distinct white ring of feathers around the eyes.
The Cape White-eye mainly feeds on insects, but also spiders and their eggs, soft flowers, nectar, fruit, pollen, and small grains. White-eyes are incredibly confident and comfortable at bird feeding tables. The white-eye feeds mainly along forest edges and floor and very rarely by wing.
The nest is built in a cup shape in a tree and they lay 2-3 unspotted pale blue eggs.
13. Ground Woodpecker
The Ground Woodpecker is one of only three ground-dwelling woodpeckers that exist worlwide. The bird has not been found anywhere else other than South Africa.
It is the largest woodpecker in the region, reaching 30 cm in length. It is mostly found in pairs or small parties. While Its diet consists mainly of ants with their larvae, pupae and eggs, it finds its meals by extracting them from dead wood or between rocks, using its long, sticky tongue.
In an underground burrowed tunnel, the ground woodpecker lays three glossy white eggs in a chamber.
Click here for the SANParks birding checklist for the Tsitsikamma National Park
The Tsitsikamma forest is a natural wonder on the Garden Route, a paradise for birders, marine and nature lovers, as well as those who want to spend their free time in a serene and beautiful environment with the family. Experience the Garden Route from a different perspective, submerge yourself in the true beauty the park has to offer.