Two musk lorikeets, their iridescent green backs illuminated by the summer sun, had found what in the bird world would amount to a bouncy castle and they were squawking with delight as they put it through its paces.
I had been in the process of learning the French game of petanque at Long Beach, Sandy Bay, and to the annoyance of my earnest teammates I had delayed throwing my boule, captivated by the antics of the lorikeets.
The “bouncy castle” – ironically close to a real one erected for children during the Australia Day festivities a few months previously – consisted not of an air-filled rubber structure but of a thin bare branch sticking at right angles from a blue gum.
Two lorikeets had landed on it during their travels and discovered its quality to fling them into the air under the weight of their bodies. Suddenly the game was on and the lorikeets either swayed wildly on the springy branch or, with one beat of their wings and a sudden release of their grip, allowed themselves to be catapulted into the sky.
It occurred to me at the time, ignoring the pleas of my fellow petanque players to get on with the game, that all roads seemed to lead in my life to Long Beach, and to the remarkable array of birds, and their antics, that I don’t see nearer my home just a few kilometres away.
My doctor’s surgery is there and so is the physiotherapist who got me on my feet after total knee-replacement surgery a couple of years ago.
On a sunny, autumnal afternoon I found myself back at Long Beach again as part of the recruitment campaign to introduce new players to the delights of France’s favourite family game.
I didn’t need much persuasion, mainly because whatever I thought of the merits of petanque it would give me a chance to do a little recruitment myself – signing up members for Hobart’s unofficial bird admirer’s club.
As I always say, the beauty of birdwatching is that any activity, in any open space, will always reveal birds and, what’s more, will enhance the outdoor experience.
The petanque players did not need any convincing when they observed the antics of the lorikeets and one player was soon pointing out a sulphur-crested cockatoo performing acrobatics on a telephone wire.
Between recording petanque scores, the players were also noting bird sightings, mainly birds of the drier terrain along the coast which do not venture into the wet forests of my home Waterworks Valley in Dynnyrne. Among these are magpies, noisy miners, eastern rosellas and the musk lorikeets, along with the rarer swift parrots sometimes seen in spring.
My invitation to the petanque try-out came from players who are also members of the Waterworks Valley Landcare Group. They are campaigning for a “piste” in the Waterworks Quarry reserve and if they are successful, my petanque experience will in future include the songs of yellow-throated honeyeaters and green rosella more associated with my home area.