A solitary pied oystercatcher walked across the flat, layered rocks at Resolution Creek on South Bruny Island, as if on tip-toe, trying not to disturb marine creatures hiding in narrow rockpools of splintered and eroded sandstone.
The oystercatcher probed delicately in the fingers of water, suddenly throwing back its head to reveal a wriggling worm or struggling crustacean, snared by knitting-needle beak.
A timeless moment on the shoreline of Adventure Bay, the oceans sparkling with the rays of summer sunshine, the waves washing across the rocks, or lapping gently with a slap on an adjoining white-sand beach.
I had gone to Resolution Creek in search of hooded plovers and other shorebirds like the oystercatcher but as so often happens at birding sites of unspeakable beauty my thoughts wander beyond bill and quill, to the wider world of nature, and man’s place in it.
Both the ancient and modern history of Australia is written large at Resolution Creek, and more importantly how mankind over thousands of years has shaped nature to his and her own ends.
The written record says that Resolution Creek was a vital “watering hole” at which the early European explorers replenished freshwater supplies on the voyage of discovery around the coasts of Australia and further afield across the Pacific.
The first European to sip the cool waters of Resolution Creek was Tobias Furneaux, in 1773. And his charts led Captain James Cook to this very spot four years later. Then came two voyages by Captain William Bligh, and on one of these a naval officer and artist, George Tobin, painted not just the twin gums that give the landmass jutting beyond Resolution Creek the name of Two Tree Point, but also an Aboriginal bark shelter. Tobin also described the Aborigines’ diet and shelter construction, and further expeditions would discover how the Aborigines had for eons used fire to shape their own environments.
William Bligh, who had been sailing master on Captain Cooks’ 1777 visit to Adventure Bay, was later to name the creek after one of the ships on that voyage, the Resolution.
The wider Adventure Bay was named earlier after Furneaux’s ship, the Adventure.
Standing at the spot and looking out over the creek and Adventure Bay it is easy to image the scene in times past when Captain Cook’s men and others came ashore.
Although a road runs along the coast at this point, crossing the creek on a low bridge, looking out across Adventure Bay no signs of human settlement intrude, and on the day I wandered the beach there were also no boats to dot the ocean that stretches uninterrupted beyond Adventure and then Storm Bays to Cape Raoul and Tasman Island at the far tip of Tasmania.
It would have been exactly as the ancient mariners had seen it, with rock and even trees still in place. The twin gums at Two Tree Point are believed to be the original trees in Tobin’s picture, which show them in younger, thinner form. The trees therefore are at least 250 years old.
With the lapping of waves, and the sound of a gentle winds rustling the leaves of the blue gums, the only sound to be heard was that of birdsong.
As the seamen came ashore in earlier times, jumping from longboats as the craft ran aground on the soft sands, the oystercatchers would have taken flight with an anxious pipping call. The hooded plover pair further up the beach would have parted to let the seaman carrying their empty wooden barrels pass, and the scarlet robin back in the low scrub behind the beach would have sung its soft, descending warble in welcome.
The seamen, no doubt, would the noticed the birds with their splash of colour, of yellows and greens and red and oranges, as a welcome change from the greys and whites and blacks of seabirds.
Birds, in song and flight, link us to the past and, hopefully, will fly with us into the future.