On a warm winters day there is nothing better than a walk, especially to a location not yet explored. I had read sightings of unexpected bird species at Cape Banks in the Sydney area. I had never been to Cape Banks during my time living in Sydney, and the sightings of juvenile Pacific Gull and Kelp Gull were an interesting enticement. Cape Banks is the southern point at the mouth of the Georges River better known as Botany Bay, famous for the landing of Lieutenant James Cook with his ‘HMS Bark Endeavor’ in 1770 at Kurnell near this terminal pictured below. This is all part of Botany Bay National Park. Click on photos to enlarge them.
We know him as Captain Cook, which should have been his title but was held from him because he was not of the English gentry or trained in their class system, but despite this fact, became the world’s finest navigator and cartographer. The appointment of officers within this class system resulted in many thousands of unfortunate losses of lives during English history, including Australians in the First World War. Though Cook did the work of a Captain he was precluded the title till many years later. Joseph Banks (whom the cape is named after) was the botanist on his voyage who gave English names to many of the species of plants observed on the voyage. The first sighting that travelers see when approaching Sydney airport by air is the rugged tall sandstone cliffs of Botany Bay NP and The Royal NP.
The unusual sandstone rock formations seen along this coastline are also a feature here adding to the natural beauty of the place. But sadly there are the residual signs of past disaster as the rusting wreck of the SS Minmi lies on the rocks. It was a coal carrying steamship which traveled back and forth from Newcastle to Melbourne, named after the coal mining town in Newcastle, Minmi where my eldest son use to live. Thankfully only one life was lost by heart attack and the many crew were safely brought to shore, as the army barracks nearby came to their assistance on hearing the steam expulsions of the boiler as it broke up on the rocks at night. There was a line of cars parked 4 mile long as thousands came from the Sydney area to see it, damaging the NSW Golf Course as they walked in.
It was also delightful to see some of the wildflowers of our earlier than usual Spring on the sandstone cape.
By now some of you are asking: “Hey aussiebirder! What about the birds, did you see any birds?!”
Well I did not see as many as I had hoped, though this is always a birders prospect, but yes, I did enjoy some quality sightings. As I came along the track I was greeted by the sounds and occasional sighting of many Superb Fairy-Wren mostly appearing to still be in eclipse, but soon to be reverting back to their beautiful blue breeding plumage as Spring ensures. The female has the red eye ring and a lighter blue tail. The scrubby coastal bush is ideal habitat for these tiny insectivorous birds.
As I stepped off the footbridge connecting to Cape Banks headland, I spotted this Australasian Pipit. These are interesting birds to watch, and are seen in several places on the sandstone platforms of this National Park. They have a darting motion as they forage for insects and seeds, and will take flight easily if they see you coming.
Looking out to the beautiful calm blue sea I saw one lone Humpback Whale making its way up the coast. Most of its relatives are already up north in the warmer waters of the Hervey Bay area, mating and having their young. This late arrival was continually slapping its tail, for over an hour, barely moving forward. It is not known with any definitive truth as to the purpose of the tail-slap. It may be communicating to the nearby boat to stay away, or attempting to locate other whales in the vicinity, or some believe it may be a feeding technique, but this is very dubious. As I watched the whale I noticed a lone Australasian Gannet cruising nearby. This is a bird seldom seen this close to the shoreline, though both whale and Gannet were a considerable distance out to sea.
One of the enticements that led me to Cape Banks suddenly appeared flying over the Cape, a pair of juvenile Pacific Gull. These birds are not normally found this far north, though we do see juvenile Kelp Gull from time to time which I have posted in the past. The Pacific Gull is found mostly in Victoria and Tasmania and is our largest Gull.
This is what these youngsters will look like when they mature. Notice the red lipstick lips. The Pacific Gull has both top and bottom lips red and the Kelp Gull only the bottom lip.
Not seeing many other birds I began to make my way back and noticed that one of the holes of the NSW Golf course which was integrated into this Reserve was over a deep chasm. So I watched as experienced golfers landed the ball. I have traced one for you. They had transverse the chasm along a footbridge onto the cape to this one tee off point and hit it back over the chasm to the green on the other side.
Just as I was almost near my car to leave, the Lord provided me with one last gift of what appeared to be an aged Swamp Harrier which flew directly over in good sunlight, what a beautiful bird! Of course this became my feature photo at the commencement of this post. We don’t see many Swampies on the coast, though I have seen one not far from here in Botany Bay over a year ago. This brought a satisfying finish to my warm Winter walk, and the delight of having ventured into new birding territory where I will soon return with my wife for a picnic.
Finally, as I leave this beautiful place having taken in its natural and historical significance, my meditation, as I viewed the many interesting and beautiful rock formations in the sandstone, was to consider the following. As a male in particular, I generally by nature am a problem solver and tend to be more Left-brained analytical, wanting to try and work the HOW, WHEN and WHY these sandstone formations occurred, rather than just allow myself to enjoy and appreciate the beauty and artistic design of the rockface, which is using more of my Right-Brainsidedness. As I learn to take time to employ Mindful Moments in my life. By deliberately doing this, I also learn to balance my life in a healthier way as God intended. Sometimes I just need to appreciate what I see or hear or smell or touch rather than try and work it out as if it were something necessary to do. Generally, it is only my ego that needs to do this, which has sadly placed many men, including myself in the past, into workaholic mode to miss the point of it all. Instead of seeing and appreciating a beautiful rock formation and giving thanks for its Intelligent Design, one may feel the intense urge to postulate theories and possible ways it came into being. “Stop and Smell the Roses!” is a very timely saying in a very stressful over busy modern life. When I was first told this by a counselor I thought ‘What a silly thing to say!’, but now years later, having become a counselor myself and journeyed through burn out and experienced tragedy and several miracle healings at God’s hand, I try to be all the more mindful to be mindful of each life experience, whether it be a cool gentle breeze or the warmth of Winter sun on my back or the melody of a bird’s song. An Attitude of Gratitude and a thankful joyous spirit has now scientifically been shown to bring health and longevity to one’s being. So relax, be at peace, enjoy and be thankful in the precious moment that you have, for when it is over it is gone forever, but if it is pleasant memory it will continue to bless you on your Journey.
“Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.” – Psalm 111:2
“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” – Psalm 9:1
“How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” – Psalm 104:24
Have a wonderful restful and enjoyable weekend appreciating your beautiful birds and getting out to enjoy the beautiful places they habitate and have a Mindful Moment!
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