Last Wednesday was a perfect still, blue Winter sky day before the cold wet day that followed. So on the spare of the moment we decided to have a birding date, as my wife wanted a fishnchip lunch followed by a whale watch. Cape Banks at the northern entrance to Botany Bay in the Botany Bay National Park, Sydney is one of the best viewing spots for the Humpback and Right Whale migration up the coast at present.  On arrival as we walked past the thick bushes we could hear, but not see very well, many small birds including the Superb and Variegated Fairy-wren and Yellow-faced Honeyeater.

On our approach to the cape this lone White-faced Heron was stalking about.

As we made our way up onto the rock platform where we get a 180° ocean view from above we noted this rock formation among many.

I mentioned to my wife that a family of Australian Pipit lived on this rock platform among the small shrubs and grasses, and within minutes we saw the pair doing their usual strut: run stop freeze. Run stop freeze etc They run so fast it is difficult to keep up with them. I muted the sound due to wind noise, the birds were not calling while we were there, as they seldom do.

One appeared of lighter plumage than the other but they appeared to be together most times. These birds are often found along the coast on these sandstone rock platforms. They pair to breed.

Pipits are found all over Australia and have five races of which this race, australis is the nominate.  They mainly feed on insects and their larvae as well as seeds. They spend most of their time foraging on the ground and only fly to escape danger, as they are territorial.

We both kept scanning the flat sea for signs of whales but to our disappointment not one appeared the whole time. A local said she saw many yesterday, but that’s how it is. As we sat cuddled and looked out together my wife was suddenly alarmed that someone was behind her. It was a very friendly male Australian Magpie. These very intelligent birds learn quickly that humans are good for food, which we had none to share. It later followed us around. This birds feeds from the ground in a similar way to the Pipit.

Click on link below to view an amazing story of how God sent an Australian white-backed Magpie into the life of a young lady living alone suffering anxiety and depression. It will give you an idea of how intelligent, playful and community minded these birds are and warm your heart. Click on: Lees Birdwatching Adventures Plus  and a big thanks to Lee for having posted it on her blog. As we moved to a new location on the rock we saw the Pipit again, and caught it flying off as it saw us moving.

We noticed several birds passing bye about 100 meters out to see, and my wife said they were not gulls but had a yellow head. I knew immediately they were Australasian Gannets, which are occasionally seen along the coast, as are their young, this time of year, because they move north to escape the freezing Southern Ocean cold.

Thankfully the afternoon sun was behind us and dropping fast being winter so we managed reasonable clarity considering they were out fair distances and many shots were needed to get reasonable captures. These ocean birds are expert fishers, as fish are their main diet and they can locate fish from over 10 meters above the water and dive rapidly as they fold back their wings making a perfect splash into the ocean to retrieve their catch and eat it as they float on the surface. They are able to herd fish into dense shoals. I managed to catch a dive as it plunged to the water.

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As we were about to walk back to our car as the sun started getting lower we saw this pair of Pied Cormorant pass and several Crested Terns.

As we were about to drive off this Common Starling glimmered in the sun as it sat enjoying its warmth before it slipped away. It it quite beautiful in sunlight despite its vagrant pest status in our country.


Enjoy your week and weekend and stay warm and safe. Our hearts go out to those back in lock-down. I will be in Dungog on a special booksigning Saturday this week during the Long Weekend celebrations.

This award winning artist, Helen Leane, is painting artwork from photos in my book and they will be on show also. I will be doing a radio interview in the morning. They will have face painting (birds will be the subject), live music and I will be showing my special bird book promotional movies. 


While we did not see a whale on the day, we both had a whale of a time just sitting together and enjoying sharing the moment. This reminds us that it is not only about the outcome, otherwise we would become disappointed easily when we do not have the desired outcome, but it is more about the journey, and enjoying the ride together. We enjoyed the Gannets and Pipits, and the lovely still blue ocean as we sat on the headland. It is also a popular wedding photo spot.

“I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” – Psalm 77:12


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W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).

‘To introduce people to our unique Australian birds,

So we can learn from them how to live a healthy and happy life.’

NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed  by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021.

 

14 Comments »

  1. Another lovely birding date! So sorry you didn’t see a whale, but as you say, it’s the journey that counts, and you had many other beautiful sights. I watched the video you suggested of the lady and the magpies, wow!! Very enjoyable! God bless and enjoy the rest of your week!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Ash,
    I am finally starting to catch up on my favorite blogs and I’m very glad I started with this most recent update! Firstly, we are overjoyed to see your book doing so well, and that you are also in collaboration with a wonderful artist. We do hope the event was a blessing for everyone involved 🙂

    We can completely understand the disappointment when our avian or ocean friends do not appear at “our” timing, but I am very happy you and your wife were wife were blessed with some wonderful bird viewing and the friendly magpie.

    I will start to slowly catch up on your older articles, and look forward to writing a more detailed update soon. Wishing you, Mrs. H and all your dear family a blessed Sunday evening and week ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Takami, so glad to hear from you, and thanks for your kind comments, we had a very wonderful and successful weekend meeting many people and selling and signing many books. It is a lovely country town with very friendly people. Many heard me being interviewed on radio and came. The shop owners were most delighted at the response to the day. We arrived home yesterday to escape the long weekend holiday traffic which we just saw on the news is at standstill coming into the city. I do hope and pray you are both doing well, despite your many challenges.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very nice captures, Ashley, I especially love the slideshow of the gannet diving! I love the gannets’ beak and face coloring. I’ve seen/captured our Northern Gannet. We have two pipits, I’ve seen neither. 🙂 Yes, you did have a ‘whale’ of a day without seeing one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Donna, yes the Pipit can be a difficult one to spot. I see most of them on the rocky ocean platforms, though I have seen them on the top of mountains inland also. The way they stop and move quickly is a way they do not draw attention to themselves. As birders are usually not looking for them and they blend really well into surroundings.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Shame you didn’t get to see any whales, but watching the gannets would have been a treat. I remember seeing them when I was a teenager on family holiday at Jervis Bay, I used to watch them with binoculas diving for fish. It is a lovely story about the woman and her maggies, she is known as The Magpie Whisperer and is popular on social media with her videos of magpie antics in her yard. There is also a movie called Penguin Bloom, a true story of a woman who had a tragic accident and how a magpie helped the family through some terrible times, it is a really good movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sue, yes the ‘Magpie Whisperer’ story is amazing, especially how they are attracted to her, it is like they were sent, and can feel her pain and want to console her. We saw Penguin Bloom after many of our friends told us to watch it. It is always wonderful how animals and birds bring healing to people suffering loss and trauma. Pet therapy has become quite a successful medicine now, Enjoy your weekend and stay warm through this icy antarctic blast, it must be freezing down there at present.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I see that you keep yourself busy all through the year, you are the man of all seasons. Great pictures and spectacular birds, as always! Thanks, Ashley. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks HJ, yes our birds are always active, but this year, due to the fires, smoke, drought and floods of previous years, many birds have either been incinerated, displaced or just not breeding so numbers have been very low and birds very quiet of late. The locals are still around and visit my bird baths like clockwork daily, usually singing to me either before or after their drink and wash. They allow me to get close as they learn that I am their friend and provide for them, and I have learnt how to not spook them as I walk past. I am all for having wild birds as cageless pets, just as you do when you feed your locals.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a wonderful outing, and sightings of many lovely birds! I’ve only seen one Gannet in the wild. It wasn’t supposed to be in the San Francisco bay, but there it was hanging out in the Farallones Islands with the other sea birds! I was thrilled to see it even though I was on a ship birding and couldn’t get very close to the island as it’s only by special permission to get on the islands.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Brenda, it is always a thrill to see a bird, especially a lifer turn up unexpectedly and our of its usual expected habitat. I always thrill at sighting Gannets, as they are usually much further south much of the year, but their nesting islands would be very cold at the moment. I love that we also see juveniles from time to time. I find it remarkable how fast they dive, but the Terns dive much faster I think. Enjoy the rest of your week 🙂

      Like

  7. Thanks Cindy, I was pleased the light was in my favour when I captured these images as they were a fair way out to sea. It is good we all get to see them cruising the coastline. Enjoy the rest of your week.

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