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.
Non breeding male Fairy-wren
a pair of 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.
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.
Pied Cormorant pair
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
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.
The warm clear calm sunny days of Winter are wonderful times to be out walking and enjoying the beautiful world we live in. For us here in Sydney it is whale migration time, where the Humpback Whales travel up the east coast for warmer weather, to both mate and also give birth to their young, in and near Hervey Bay in Queensland. Here in Sydney, hundreds of city dwellers are gathering daily on the tall sandstone cliffs of Botany Bay National Park to view the passing giants, and hopefully view a breaching whale or two, as was my plan.
As I watched several whale pods pass by and chatted with the whale counters, we were treated initially to a lone Eastern Osprey fishing right in front of our viewing station. As you can see above she caught the fish and then landed to proceed to eat it, but made sure she was a fair way from us. The Osprey unlike any other bird have dual opposed claws, which are not so good for landing on a hard flat surface, but are Intelligently Designed for catching, gripping and carrying slimy fish.
Some time after she left with her fish, having been scared off by an over keen photographer (not me, by the way). As the afternoon Winter sun started falling lower in the sky, we were all excitedly delighted to behold a pair of adult White-bellied Sea-Eagles circling over the ocean cliffs right in front of us, in a similar fashion to the Eastern Osprey previously. The White-bellied Sea-Eagle is our second largest raptor in Australia, and the most commonly seen, especially along the east coast, though it is found inland along most rivers.
I am always reminded when I see an eagle soaring on the thermals of the need for us to get renewed perspective in our difficult life situations, to see the bigger picture rather than be sunk by the short-lived circumstantial moment.
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The Bible often uses the eagle to describe deliverance and renewal of strength and perspective in life. Eventually, the male Sea-Eagle caught a fish and circled with it, landing briefly out of sight to remove and eat its head, as they do,
During the cause of the circling, the body of fish is given to the female. This practice is usually done to feed their young and also as a courting gesture, which is what we all excitedly hoped was the case. We were hoping that they would grip claws and fall in their aerial marriage dance,but this did not occur while I was there, as I had to leave to drive home before dark to get the washing off the line and cook dinner for 5 people.
This bird is highlighted in my book ‘What Birds Teach Us” for the quality of Trust, where my rare photos depict the stages of how the parent eagle under-girds the fledgling till it can fly. It catches the youngster on its back and carries it back to the nest if fails to fly, and then nudges it out of the nest again till it gets over its fear and flies freely.
From my book “What Birds Teach Us”
The eagle depicted on the left hand page (above) actually knew me as a friend and would often soar motionless above my head and look at me when I was out on the beach. Friends would call out when they saw it and say “Ashley, your eagle is here !” It would remain there even in strong wind, but as soon as I pulled out my camera, would, without seeming to move a muscle drift off. I remember telling my son when he visited on one occasion, as we stood on the beach: “Wait, and you will meet my eagle.” and sure enough he visited us only minutes later, looking down from above my head but did not stay long.
The very next day while travelling south my wife and I sighted Australia’s largest raptor, the Wedge-tailed Eagle soaring, again as a pair. The clear calm blue sky enabled the photographing of its underside clearly. I have often said, if it is a bright cloudy sky full of diffused light, a raptor in flight will be but a silhouette. Winter is a great time to see and photograph raptors here on the east coast. The Wedgie (as we nickname them) is mainly an inland bird found west of the ranges. It has suffered a history of being the most hunted and killed bird for over a hundred years, having a bounty on its head, as graziers blamed it for taking their lambs. Thankfully it is now protected, but any farmers continue to shoot it, out of the sight of the law. This huge bird has a wingspan of 2.3 metres, and has been seen carrying lambs and wallabies in its talons.
This bird also features in my book, where it addresses the importance of being empowered in our life as these birds are. Raptors, like the Wedge have the ability to telescope their eye socket and see 5 to 10 times better than we can. The Wedgie can see a mouse, from the air, one kilometre away.
It is amazing how close I got to the eagle on the left hand page above. Most Wedgies would not have allowed me to photograph them. I was driving past on a bush road and there it was just standing on the stump, looking at me. It did not seem afraid or threatened, but was empowered and in control of the situation.
In two days I had seen three of our largest raptors, what a wonderful find ! and they were against a clear blue Winter sky.
If this is your first visit to my blog, take a moment and check my website for more interesting birding tips and info,as well as my recent book release here.
Several of my friends, including two of my blog followers, coincidentally shared posts and recent experiences of hearing and delighting in birdsong. Birders call the early morning birdsong the Morning Chorus. This is when all the birds awaken from sleep and excitedly feed and locate their family by calling. Many also constantly declare their territorial possession, but many more sing purely for the delight and pleasure of it, as it releases the feel good endorphins in their brain, the same way it does for us humans when we sing. I believe that the birds in their morning song, are also singing with an attitude of gratitude, as they freely feed, and food is readily made available for them. Jesus mentions how the birds do not have to work, labour or worry about their food, but just like in the moment, trusting God to faithfully provide for them, and he does. I also was greeted by these caroling Australian Magpies early in the morning last Sunday, where four families of Magpie sat on lamp posts, trees and aerials calling in response to each other, declaring their territory and acknowledging the presence of their neighboring families.
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Have a wonderful week, and stay safe.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
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.