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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Disaster Bay and Green Cape

On 21st October Simon and I set off for the final phase of my Australian venture. The objective was Green Cape via Kiama, Bateman's Bay and Eden.

Our first stop en route was at the Barren Grounds Nature Reserve on the Buderoo Plateau inland from Kiama and Jamberoo. Despite its name, the reserve is far from barren as it represents one of the remaining extensive stands of dry mountain heathland in southern Australia and is habitat of the rare and endangered Ground Parrot and Eastern Bristlebird. Not lucky enough to see either on this occasion we nevertheless found a number of interesting species (for example Swamp Harrier and Beautiful Firetail) and many of the spring flowers were in full bloom.
Heath Fuschia in bloom at the Barren Grounds Nature Reserve

Our journey south along the coast of the Tasman Sea was interspersed with camps, always within earshot of the roar of the ocean breakers. Eating was usually a huge steak on the 'barbie' but who could resist the occasional lobster, bag of oysters or prawns, or a fillet of fresh snapper at the seafood takeaways at Ulladulla or Bateman's Bay!

Tasman Sea at from the Meroo National Park near Ulladulla

Campsites often proved good for birding (e.g. we found Dollarbird and Whipbird at a campsite) as well as other wildlife like wallabies, snakes, bats and wombats.

A wombat emerges from the bush at dusk to graze around the camp site

The journey down to Green Cape was punctuated with many birding opportunies in the numerous creeks, estuaries lakes and swampy bits. The southward migration of wading birds from the Arctic to spend the northern winter in warmer climes was already in evidence as groups of Bar-tailed Godwits, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Eastern Curlews (much longer bill than our Eurasian Curlew) were in evidence. Wallagoot lake was memorable for finding the endangered Little Tern whilst having to run the gauntlet with a thunderstorm!
A tornado develops in a storm over Wallagoot Lake
Eventually we made our way to Green Cape which forms the northern arm of Disaster Bay (so called because of numerous shipwrecks before the construction of the Green Cape lighthouse in 1883 - pictures and history here) and set up camp in the Ben Boyd National Park, close to the cape. The outlook onto Disaster Bay is spectacular, revealing golden sand and unbroken forest reaching the shoreline as far as the eye could see. From the ecologist's eye, the succession of vegetation developing inland from the continous generation of sand dunes was fascinating.
Disaster Bay - in my all time 'Top Ten' of breathtaking views!
It was here at the cape that we had some of the most memorable wildlife-watching experiences. Tens of thousands of Short-tailed Shearwaters ("Tasmanian Mutton Birds") were migrating close past the headland, moving south from their wintering areas in the Pacific to breeding grounds on islands in sub-Antarctic waters. Other birds on the move were Crested Terns, Australasian Gannets, Sooty Oystercatchers, two or three Sea Eagles and even an Arctic Skua, already arrived from its northern breeding grounds.

Just offshore a pod of Sealions were lazing in the sea (one came out onto the rocks) and just as we were about to leave, a huge whale breached, cascading a tower of water high into the air, an unforgettable sight!

Green Cape lighthouse - excllent location for watching migration along the Tasman Sea coastline

This is my final blog entry from Australia. Looking back over the last four weeks, it is hard to pinpoint a "best moment", so many come to mind. Emus and Apostlebirds at Wilga; the camp by the billabong on the Paroo River; budgerigars coming to drink at the water holes at Mount Wood National Park; the climb up Mount Wood itself, in the searing heat and unremitting flies; the trip to Cameron Corner at the edge of the endless Strzelecki Desert; Regent Parrots and Yellow Rosellas at the Hattah National Park; an internet cafe at Mildura; waterfowl and the colourful Orange Chat at Copi Hollow in the Kinchega National Park; the desolate 'Wall of China' formations in the dunes at the Mungo National Park; finding the sought-after Rockwarbler at Wheeny Creek in the Blue Mountains.... and so many more.

In any event the dramatic seawatching experience at Green Cape was certainly a fitting climax. The final bird species list total is 205, including 18 species of parrot - far greater than anticipated!

This trip could not have been possible, let alone enjoyable, without the kind hospitality of the Cotter family who made me feel so welcome and at home in the Blue Mountains. My grateful thanks indeed go to them all.

The Cotter family, clockwise: David, Tom, Rosalie, Susanna, Bonny, Simon and me.


Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

Sounds like you had a great time in Oz - lots of interesting places and wildlife.
I have been down to the area of Bateman's Bay as a friend lived in Nowra for a few years. Loved all the coastlines.

11:21 am  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

PS Hope your jetlag is not too bad when you get home after the loooooong flight!

12:09 pm  
Blogger TCA 2006 said...

Q1. What are the other top 9 breath-taking views?

Q2. What has poor old David had to eat - looks like he's going to spew!

8:15 pm  
Blogger simon said...

I have to say.. the entire trip was incredible. a Lot of contrast. From the bleak outlook for the environment (out west). To the incredible beauty of the coast. Yet both dangerous...

Looking forward to 2008! Cape York and Tasmainia

1:01 am  
Blogger Tim Rice said...

Your trip sounds wonderful. I loved your pictures especially the one with the Heath Fuschia in it. The Disaster Bay landscape view was fantastic, too.

1:37 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

What a fantastic, dream trip. Welcome home, back to reality.

Your travelling companion pointed me in your direction and I'm so glad he did. I love nature too and, like you and Simon, am keen to do all I can to save it from global warming, that's what Simon was writing about on my post, and he shared some really fantastic info with us.

6:42 pm  
Blogger photo-effe said...

very nice photos

9:40 pm  
Blogger Manuel Tendero Gil said...


11:34 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Reading through this again, it really was the trip of a lifetime. There are several bird reserves in my part of East Anglia, the WWT at Welney being the closest, which I am a member of. Because of the warmer autumn, the swans have not been arriving, there was only 1 there last week, I shall post about the reserve later when I next visit and take some photos. I'm also a member of the RSPB and they have a great reserve in Titchwell, on the North Norfolk coast.

If I visited Oz, I would like to do scuba diving in the Barrier Reef, I have my PADI 1 certificate, but am out of practise now. Let's hope global warming doesn't destroy too many beautiful species.

8:16 pm  
Blogger simon said...

Elee, Glad you like birds & wildlife too! The Barrier reef is under threat, so the sooner you get to see it the better. There are a couple of beautiful reefs off Western Australia which are just as good! You could come here practice your diving for a few days and then you would be ok!

11:05 pm  
Blogger Davy said...

Looks good, nice photos too... Obviously not started digi-scoping or the blog would be full of birds... Never mind, a good excuse to return. Question for you Jim, is that a big shirt or did you put on 6 stone?



8:00 pm  

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