Category Archives: Wildlife

Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island

Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island

Away from the Australian island continent, on the lower eastern side of the island state of Tasmania, lies Bruny Island. Five years ago, Andrew and I were lured to Bruny by the prospect of fresh seafood and cheese.  Five years and two toilet-trained and non-stroller dependent kids later, we went back ready to explore some of the bushwalks the island had to offer.  We started with the Grass Point Trail which started on the beach to the right of the Fluted Cape parking area.  

Start of the Grass Point Track, Adventure Bay, Tasmania
What started with "We'll just touch the water mummy," led to a wardrobe change for my son who, as usual, ended up jumping in.
At the start of Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
Cold receptors triggered, the kids moved to dry sand.

At 11am, there were already families coming back from the trail as  Andrew and I lingered at the start dusting off wet sand. A passing walker recounted how the track took 40 minutes walking in, then 20 minutes walking back. I thanked him and waved to his school-aged children. In the background I could hear Andrew imploring our kids to continue walking.  I mentally doubled, then tripled, the kind walker’s figures.  

Start of the Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
The start was in sight.
Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
The Tasman Sea to the left, land for sale to the right.

The land for sale to the right of the start of the track triggered my memory of a conversation I overheard at the local oyster place the day before. “You must have to travel out of the island to find things to do,” said a lady in her 40s. “It’s so quiet here, what do you do for fun?” her friend added swilling her white wine. Not missing a beat, the stubbled beanie-wearing waiter, the object of condescension or perhaps flirtation, replied, “Oh I keep busy, I bought 40 acres of land in South Bruny a few years ago and I spend my time camping in and exploring it when I’m not working here.”  Anyway, I wondered, will that part of Bruny be subdvided, sold, and commercialised in a few years time or will the owner protect it and keep it wild ala JD Tipper and Mougamarra Nature Reserve? Time will tell.

White wallaby at the Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
Squint view of a white wallaby.
Basking cormorant at Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
Cormorant basking in the 16°C Bruny Island summer.

Andrew and I trailed behind the kids, him taking photos, me finding gaps in the trees to look for seabirds through my binoculars. Our children busied themselves inspecting and collecting what I hoped were gum nuts and not scat, assessing sticks for walking stick suitability, and pointing out insects along the track.   

Shedded cicada skin, Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
"They're sort of like hermit crabs then mummy," my daughter observed when I explained this might be a discarded cicada shell."
Ants on the Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
My son followed a few to try and locate their "ant house".

At one point, my son tripped on the track. I suspect it was because his shoes didn’t really have much tread. He was left with some shallow cuts on his forehead imprinted by the gravel he fell on.  Andrew dispensed some lollipop treats that comforted our son enough to stop crying, but he refused to walk. Some reshuffling of cameras, binoculars and bags between Andrew and I, followed by a safety talk on how to eat a lollipop while sitting on mummy’s shoulder, then we were ready to continue on.  

Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island Tasmania
The Grass Point Trail branches off to the right leading to the Fluted Cape Trail. Another walk for another year.
Through a grove of trees with blackened trunks and bare branches.

The trail ended on a pebbly beach. A few hundred metres away, a tour boat gently bobbed up and down to the beat of the waves.  Our  kids waved and shouted, their hellos muted by the wind. Some people on the boat waved bacwhile most continued to look intently to the right of where we were standing.  Intrigued, I urged the kids to continue walking along the beach to investigate. We were rewarded with a view of a rocky outcrop in front of Penguin Island where terns, seagulls, and cormorants rested.  

It's not often that we come across a variety of seabirds in one spot.
An old man resting on a large piece of driftwood patiently explained to my son that these were kelp - slimy and soft when wet and rough and leathery when dried.

Our walk back the way we came was spent by everyone listening to my son pointing out where his blood dripped all over the trail although in reality, only a pin prick blood was spilled where his forehead hit the gravel. We played along as this distracted into walking most of the track back.

Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
Miss 5-year-old: "That was a fun walk mummy." Mummy: "Which bit was fun?" Miss 5-year-old: "The beach at the start. Hurry up!"
Beach in front of Fluted Cape Parking Area, Bruny Island
Back to the car to get more dry clothes.

Some shelf back in Sydney lay a partially read copy of Adam Nicolson’s “The Seabirds Cry: The Lives and Loves of Puffins, Gannets, and Other Ocean Voyagers” and Jeannie Baker’s children‘s book about kelp, “The Hidden Forest”.  The Grass Point Trail enriched our reading nights when we got back home, bringing us closer to the world and creatures we thought we’d only ever see through books  

Distance:

Pram/Wheelchair:

Map:

4 kilometres return

No

Tamar Island Boardwalk, Devonport, Tasmania

Tamar Island Boardwalk, Launceston

The Tamar Island Boardwalk meanders through wetlands  that lead to the grassy Tamar Island then ends on a wooden platform overlooking the kanamaluka/Tamar River. The Tamar wetlands is home to a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, frogs, fish, and insects. The wetlands currently supports over 1% of the world populations of pied oystercatchers and chestnut teals.  A few years ago, Andrew and I walked along the Tamar Island Boardwalk with our then eighteen-month-old daughter who wobbled along slowly next to the pram. Fast forward to 2017 and we were back with two children along with our new-found family walking buddies: my sister-in-law, Alicia, and her partner, Neil,  which you may remember from our previous Forest Path Walk. 

Tamar Island Boardwalk Devonport, Tasmania
"You put your eyes on the black bit," Andrew explained.

We started our day at the Wetlands Centre where we picked up maps and the kids inspected preserved specimens of native animals common to the area. My son kept whispering “Is that dead?” then pointing to each display, which Andrew and I took turns in answering with varying versions of yes. Our kids are familiar with the sight of stuffed animals having visited many museums and I have explained, to my daughter at least, that although some animals are killed just because people want them in a collection, most are required to die naturally before they are preserved. At this stage, the age-appropriate version of “naturally” is old age which has recently led her to question why her great-grandmother is still alive. Some drawers were accessible to the visitors, one of which housed a replica of a copperhead snake that was enough to entertain the kids for a few minutes while us adults rummaged through the reference books, peeked through the spotting scopes, and checked the recent lists of bird sightings

Echidna at the Tamar Island Information Centre
Echidna on display.

After the Wetlands Centre, we continued walking for about 500 metres before veering to a side track sheltered by a small patch of melaleuca forest. Here, we were treated to the sight of a bevy of swans slowly navigating their way around trees in the shallow waters. When they sensed us watching, they hurried their pace and broke away from the forest to slow float on the lake next to the bird hide. My daughter said the bird hide smelt like our chicken coop which was enough to deter Neil from going in. 

We welcomed the cool shade cast by the melaleuca forest. There is limited shade between the Wetlands Centre and the picnic area on Tamar Island.
Tamar Island Wetlands, Devonport, Tasmania
I explained to the kids that these trees were the inspiration behind their cousin Leuca's name.

Away from the melaleuca forest, a constant cool breeze soothed our skins from the stinging midday sun. The continuous rushing noise along the board walk from the wind-swept reeds and sedges served as reminder that these were the dominant vegetation in the area.  My son was intent on finding snakes, unstirred by a bird of prey gracefully circling above us, and the orange-beaked blobs – pelicans – flying towards the water. Alicia and I watched dragonflies darting in and out of the reeds working out the mechanics on how it was possible for our parents to have caught such delicate insects bare-handed. The horizon changed every few bends, from blue skies and cotton wool clouds grounded by farmlands on the mountain sides on one bend, to glimpses of power lines and urban sprawl running along the Tamar Highway the next. 

Tamar Island Boardwalk Devonport, Tasmania
"Mummy is the black thing a snake?" met by "Umm, move away from the side," from me and "You have to stamp your feet and make a lot of noise," from his sister.
Tamar Island Boardwalk, Devonport, Tasmania
"I can see a bridge!"

There are three bridges along the walk, each offering a welcome breeze and views of the river. Each bridge had a few benches ideal for resting, re-adjusting piggy-back or shoulder-riding passengers, and the usual watching of the river, the reeds, the birds, the sky, the nearby mountains, whatever appeals to the beholder.  I am a bad birdwatcher so naming the birds we saw was a result of thumbing through the Birdlife brochures and bird books we had at home, long after our walk, where my kids and I shared small Eureka moments matching the pictures we took and the details we remembered to the photos we found on our bird books.   

Tamar Island Wetlands Devonport, Tasmania
Tamar Island Wetlands Devonport, Tasmania
Tamar Island Wetlands, Devonport, Tasmania
Tamar Island Wetlands Devonport, Tasmania
We saw egrets, black swans, pelicans, chestnut teals, masked lapwings, and seagulls, their tracks imprinted on the glistening mudbanks.

An hour later, our shoes crunched gravel signalling our arrival on Tamar Island. We watched superb fairy wrens dart in and out the bushes along the path. Reeds and sedges behind us, we sat at the picnic area munching on some fruit and muesli bars to my son’s squeals of “I want to go home”.  Under the sympathethic gaze of the family of four at the picnic bench next to us, we carried on for another 500 metres, with my son on my shoulders. 

Tamar Island, Devonport, Tasmania
Grassy meadow on Tamar Island.

The walk ended at a platform overlooking a wide section of kanamaluka/Tamar River.  Here we watched a small boat rip through the small waves, a faint whirring sound in the otherwise quiet setting. Well, as quiet as the gusts of wind, the wet slaps of water on the timber posts, distant bird calls, my children’s giggles while pointing out bird poo patches on the platform, and conversations among us adults about wanting to move to Launceston for good.  We returned the way we came with Andrew and I sharing the load that was our son while Neil, Alicia, and my daughter set a fast pace back to the shady respite of the our cars.  

Tamar Island Boardwalk, Devonport, Tasmania
With Tamar Island behind us, we looked forward to more walks and adventures in Tasmania.

Distance:

Pram/Wheelchair:

Map:

3.2 kilometres return

Yes

 

Beach Track and Providential Point Lookout Track, Watamolla

1 km loop

The Royal National Park is Australia’s first national park and the second oldest national park in the world after Yellowstone in the United States.  It was a crisp winter Sunday morning and we started the day lounging at my sister-in-law and her partner’s place in Engadine for a quick visit to return their car that we borrowed last week before heading to the Royal National Park next door. I was so excited to show my kids the ocean-fronting clifftops, the open Pacific Ocean, and coastal heathland that captured me in my twenties but I was met with both of them saying “I don’t like bushwalks,” eyes glued to the TV, intent on finding out how Owlette, Catboy, and Gecko would thwart Romeo’s evil plans. Andrew and I finally succeeded in prying them away from the TV (after all we’re about walking with kids) but it really made me wonder whether they were actually getting anything out of our walks.

Continue reading Beach Track and Providential Point Lookout Track, Watamolla