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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.