Far away, the Summer Olympics in Rio were in progress but a little closer to home I reveled in my own version of the green and gold.
The silver wattles – closely related to the golden wattle, the Australian floral emblem which inspires our sporting colours – had burst into flower somewhere between the exploits of our swimmers and the start of the athletics program which followed.
And like an Aussie athlete striking gold, I had my own triumphant moment when I caught sight of a green rosella munching on wattle flowers at the end of my garden.
The bird was a beauty, in full breeding plumage in readiness for the first day of spring, Mother Nature’s opening ceremony to herald summer, in just a few weeks’ time.
Older male green rosellas display a brighter shade of yellow – dare I say gold – on their breasts and this jaunty, noisy specimen was in the prime of his life. The yellow feathers and the scalloped green and black back, and blue wings, looked a treat nestled within the dark green fern-like leaves of the wattle, which in turn was festooned with fragile spikes of yellow flowers.
A little later a yellow wattlebird joined in the feast of pollen and nectar. Like the green rosella, the wattlebird was in sparkling, fresh spring plumage.
When I first saw the endemic wattlebirds after arriving in Tasmania many years ago, I must say I found these biggest members of the honeyeater family a little incongruous with the yellow-orange wattles that dangle from below their beaks. I’ve written in the past that they always remind me of argumentative and haughty Victorian dowagers, with pendant earrings, but each spring I see them in a different light. Mixing yellows, browns and greys they carry a subtle beauty.
Birds in their finest livery ready for wooing and mating in the new season are only part of the picture, of course. Brightness of plumage and a brightness of song gives shape to an unseen dimension of spring that so excites nature lovers as winter draws to a close.
Carried on the spring winds are migrant birds which will make Tasmania their home for the summer, the appropriately named summerbird, or black-faced cuckoo shrike, among them.
In all their frenzied activity, do the rosellas and wattlebirds know that competitors for food and nesting sites are on their way? They probably do, experience over their own lifetimes, and knowledge buried in their DNA, tells them the woods will suddenly become crowded from the first weeks of September.
My own life-time’s experience tells me the seasons are restless and ever changing, providing challenges for both people and birds who want to exploit them. I look beyond the wattles, beyond kunanyi/Mt Wellington towering above my head in the Waterworks Valley and know the eager migrants are on the wing, following ancient pathways through the mainland states.
I grow excited at the prospect of their arrival, and wish our travellers well, especially on the treacherous crossing of Bass Strait. And for those travelling by night, may the stars guide their way.