December 12, 2017

Fantails and ginger cake

A fantail flitted about our heads, its joyous, reassuring, relaxed warble giving a lie to the delirium and frenzy of spring all about us.

Birds dashing to and fro, a symphony of birdsong, males of the species showing off a fresh moult of spring plumage to dazzle the eye.

It was one of those glorious early days in spring, when for the first time the sun shines strong and hard to announce that winter has finally been confined to  painful memory, when an epidemic of flu and a late cold snap had made you believe we had entered a new ice age.

I was sitting in the Fitzroy Gardens on the border of South Hobart and Sandy Bay, soaking up the sun and the sweet scent of flowing daffodil, camellia and rhododendron for a special, once a year event which I have never missed. It’s the annual general meeting of the Friends of the Sandy Bay Rivulet.

Over the years since the organisation’s inception more than a decade previously, a small band of members have met to discuss work completed and work to be done, confirmation of minutes, election of officials, president’s and treasurer’s reports, and finally any other business.

Each year my fellow members have always turned to me during this last item on the agenda for a record of birds and other wildlife spotted along the rivulet, which winds from the foothills of kunanyi/Mt Wellington to join the Derwent at Sandy Bay.

On this occasion, however, I missed the cue to report on native-hens returning to breed on the banks of the rivulet after drought, and of a rare sighting of a pink robin in the lower reaches of the water course.

I was distracted by the birds all around me, the songs of scarlet robins, silvereyes, spotted pardalotes and the flitting flight of the grey fantail.

The annual meeting has been held over 11 years in pubs, a scout hut and in members’ homes but this year was a departure:  an outdoor meeting close to the banks of the rivulet itself where it squeezes between Fitzroy Gardens and the Parliament St reserve.

It was a perfect setting, a perfect choice of meeting place, inspired not just by a beautiful spring day but the sight of the rivulet and the evidence of the industrious work the Friends have done over the years to restore the watercourse to its natural state, and to promote its value to the local community.

During regular working bees the members have planted riparian vegetation on the rivulet’s banks and reeds in the stream bed, the latter to provide breeding sites for native fish.

The ultimate ambition of the Friends, the dream that has fired their enthusiasm over the years, has been the creation of a trail along the banks of the rivulet all the way to the Waterworks Reserve.

I’m looking forward to the day we can have our AGM on a streambank along this trial. And we’ll still end our meeting with the coffee and ginger cakes produced by one of the members, as welcome as the fantail’s melody.

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