Louise Denton Photography

Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve

PHOTO ESSAY | One morning, at Fogg Dam

Darwin and the Norther...Louise Denton

I've just bought myself a Canon 1.4x Extender for my 300mm F4L lens, and I thought a trip to Fogg Dam would be the perfect place to test it out - great bird life, lilies, and bugs galore.

Fogg Dam is quite close to Darwin - only around a 45 minute drive for me, down the Arnhem Highway toward Kakadu National Park. It is signposted at the start of the "Wetlands" Region, a few kilometres before the "Windows on the Wetlands" visitor centre.

Fogg Dam is no longer a "used" dam, but it is catchment for wet season flood waters which attract hundreds of birds in the dry season as other waterhole dry up. Fogg Dam generally stays wet all year around, but obviously wet season is when it is at it's fullest. The current water levels there are quite low, due to a lower than average rainfall last season.

Fogg Dam is a lovely rest stop for tourists on their way to Kakadu or other further-to-reach places. There is a look out over the floodplains, a couple of short walks and a couple of platforms for birdwatching (and croc spotting!).

At the right time of year, Lotus Lilies blanket the billabong in a brilliant shade of pink. Unfortunately for me on this visit, their brown remnants did not make for gorgeous landscape photography! There did look to be a few new buds sprouting though, so maybe they are a little slow this year.

Small lily at Fogg Dam

This morning's sunrise was an awesome "outback" sunrise - the sun glowed bright red as it peeped over the horizon. Unfortunately I was busy taking some wide angle shots of the pandanus silhouetted against the misty red sky. I managed to get my telephoto lens ready (and new teleconverter!) just in time - before the sun moved too high in the sky.

sun1

sunrise1

For me, a visit to Fogg Dam is never really about great landscape photos. Don't get me wrong, the landscape is special! I've just never found that angle to show it off to it's best. Something to work on, I guess! For me, Fogg Dam is all about the bird photography.

Birds flock here in the hundreds, and sunrise is a perfect time to catch them on their morning commute. Magpie geese in huge flocks, pairs of Forest Kingfishers, swooping Rainbow Bee-eaters, squawking Darters, Egrets, honey-eaters, flycatchers, finches..... There is so much variety here, kites and goshawks, jabirus and herons.... and a resident White-bellied Sea Eagle.

This morning was quite exciting for me actually! I discovered a couple of new species, chatted birds with a couple of keen bird-watching tourists, and found some juvenille crimson finches.

baby crimson finch

Darters are common in and around Australian waterholes. In the short "dam wall" section this morning I spotted around a dozen. The below photo was taken from the dam wall itself, I managed to earn the trust of this bird and sat only around two metres away from him for a good twenty minutes or so!

darter portrait

The Fogg Dam resident White-bellied Sea-eagle

The below photo I figured to be a Grey Goshawk - a bird I had not seen this close before. Someone please correct me if I am wrong on my identification of this bird. I figured the distinctive red eyes (and awesome eye liner!) were a give away to it's ID, but I could be wrong. (And yes, the colour of those eyes is real, not "photoshopped"!)

EDIT: Ok, I am now thinking the below is actually a Black Shouldered Kite, due to the stronger eye markings and beak colour.... If someone could help me out, please do!

hawk

And below another semi-new one for me - a bronze winged cuckoo, I believe. I have seen these birds before, but any previous shots I have were from the front and did not highlight their awesome shiny feathers! I also saw a couple of Rainbow Pittas this morning, but unfortunately couldn't get a shot of one.

cuckoo1

dragonfly1

dragonfly2

Both of the walking paths at Fogg Dam are easy and full of local wildlife (the good and the bad!). Both are quite easy trails, but my favourite is the shorter of the two - I always find different birds down this trail!

spider colour

skink

leaf panning

The above abstract is of a palm leaf, blurred by "panning" with the camera. I quite liked the lines and the smooth blur mixed with the bright green!

honeyeater1

All in all, a great morning at Fogg Dam!

Sunrises are definitely my favourite here - and if the conditions are right there are some great opportunities for foggy morning photos too. (Maybe that's why they called it "Fogg" Dam?!)

Some other Fogg Dam tips:

  • Watch out for large salt water crocodiles!
  • Watch out for large "golden orb spiders" in their webs, carefully constructed across walking trails!
  • Watch out for Water Buffalo
  • (Not everything here is scary, honest)
  • Bring your mozzie repellant!
  • Look for the sea eagle in the trees at the start of the dam wall, just where the woodland opens out.
  • Great place for storm watching (toward the east)