Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bicentennial Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens

We took the kids to a big local park yesterday to meet up with friends and have a picnic. It was a gorgeously sunny mid-winter's day.

Bicentennial Park was created in Homebush, a western suburb of Sydney only 30 years ago, when Australia celebrated its bicentenary in 1988. It's a natural heritage site, and a large part of its 100 hectares is a protected wetland ecosystem.

It also has a little lake, some modern water features, a memorial tower you can climb to look over the park and see the city views, 8kms of pathways for walkers and cyclists, tranquil gardens, a cafe and two children's playgrounds. It's popular with cyclists and families and our kids could spend all day there and not tire of it.

We watched the ducks, cranes, sea gulls, pelicans and swans around the lake, then we noticed several enormous, sinuous, finely spotted eels, gliding between the water grasses right in front of us.

They would have been a good 15cms in width, and around a full metre long. They must be used to being fed by park visitors, because they kept swimming close to where we stood on the wooden platform, their little 'noses' nearly breaking the water's surface just below our feet.

Today was even hotter, and we packed up our picnic lunches again. This time we went to the Royal Botanic Gardens in the middle of the city, and met another friend.

He didn't tell us his name, but he seemed to want us to look at something interesting over the other side of Elizabeth St.

The only notable wildlife we saw today were hundreds of grey-headed flying foxes. Although they are in plague proportions and are destroying parts of the magnificent 200-year old gardens, they are a protected native species and can't be culled. Last summer they estimated that 22,000 of them were living in the heritage-listed gardens.

The Botanic Gardens Trust wants to use noise disturbance (basically playing loud music at key times of the day) to make the bats relocate from the gardens to less sensitive parts of Sydney. Apparently a similar program in Melbourne has been successful.

Can't say I'll miss them. I'm used to seeing the little fellas, but when they are hanging upside down in clumps of hundreds in every tree you pass under, it is slightly creepy.

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