The quaint town of Sawtell, famous for its magnificent fig trees and great beaches, is bordered to the north by Boambee Creek and to the south by Bonville Creek. This whole area is known for its biodiversity and in particular, its abundant bird life, making it a perfect place for some birdwatching.
Boambee Reserve is a popular sheltered area with safe swimming and a picnic area next to the estuary. Take a short walk along the creek, where you are likely to see many common birds such as the Crested Pigeon, Pied Butcherbird, Masked Lapwing and Laughing Kookaburra. On the opposite, forest-lined bank, sharp-eyed observers may spot a timid Eastern Reef Egret, which usually prefers to keep a safe distance from people.
Boambee Headland is another fantastic place to see birdlife and perhaps whales during their migration season. The lookout affords expansive vistas towards Coffs Harbour and Mutton Bird Island, as well as the beach and Bonville Headland to the south. Enjoy some lunch as you watch majestic White-bellied Sea-Eagles and Brahminy Kites soar overhead while cheeky Silver Gulls compete for your food. At the eastern end of the car park, there is a well-mown, but relatively steep track that heads down to the beach.
Bonville Headland and close by Bongil Bongil National Park, which has ample parking and a picnic area, share equally breathtaking aspects with its northern cousin. Looking west, there are amazing hinterland and estuary views, while the blazing sunsets are not to be missed. There is a rock pool for the kids, rolling sand dunes, and Sailor’s Bay, a sheltered area of beach between a small island and the headland.
The island, which is often accessible at low tide, is a great spot for a swim and hanging out with the family. From the rocky bay, which is home to a variety of marine birds, you might see Little Black Cormorants duck diving or drying their wings while Australasian Gannets search for lunch. Other birds you are likely to spot include Crested Terns and perhaps an Eastern Osprey or Black Shouldered Kite.
Explore the estuaries and look out for the many different waterbirds that inhabit the area. Sooty Oystercatchers and Eastern Curlews are often seen by the water’s edge. In recent years, a small breeding colony of the endangered Little Tern has established on the sand spit to the south of Bonville Creek, and these are often accompanied by numerous Pacific Golden Plovers.
The scrubby vegetation on the headlands (particularly Boambee) and the sand dunes behind the beach also shelter some interesting winged creatures. Exploring these areas, you could discover a multitude of species, ranging from robust Brush Turkeys to dainty Red-backed Fairy-wrens. Other likely sightings include White-cheeked Honeyeaters, Lewin’s Honeyeaters, and possibly even a few Glossy Black-Cockatoos feeding on the Casuarina seeds.