‘Why you need to visit Queensland’s Wyaralong Dam with your camera’

Feb 01, 2020
Wyaralong Dam in Queensland is a top spot for photography lovers, especially those interested in birds. Source: Ian Smith

Every day this man posts pics on Facebook. That’s because every day he goes out photographing birds. He knows where all the good stuff is and it’s in two places. One is the Scenic Rim, the other is Wyaralong Dam, both are in Queensland; that’s where I’m going to meet him.

The best pics are nearly always around sunrise, but that’s about when I wake up, then there are animals to feed. Oh, and it’s also a 1-hour drive to get to the car park where John, for that’s his name, is going to meet me.

I rock up in plenty of time before he arrives, jump in his four-wheel drive and head off to a secluded area at the end of the pondage. There’s a parking area, a sign with information and not much else. I’m pleased I came with John as a guide because I doubt I’d ever have found the spot. Apparently it’s a go to area for runners and off-road cyclists as well, John informs me as a familiar jogger bounces past.

The entire area John scouts would only be about a kilometre long but he knows where all the birds are, the best times and when to sit down and wait (most of the time apparently!). We have a moderately fruitful time but John insists that, to get ideal conditions, we need to be here earlier; thus arrangements are made to meet again at an earlier time two days hence.

There’s still a bit of bite in the air when I arrive at the pick-up point slightly pre-dawn, but I’m keen to get going. Laconic John just gets on with it and, as we alight, I’m taken by the mist caressing the surface of the lake. It infuses the dead leafless trees with a hint of magic and the birds I’ve come to photograph are forgotten. A partly submerged fence line adds to the allure and I’m off and almost running with my phone/camera.

Wyaralong Dam
Those early dawn shots provided some incredibly hues. Source: Ian Smith

The sun’s early rays sparkle in the dew and kiss the cloud remnants on the horizon giving them some delightful pastel shades that resonates with the foreground. As a photographer, you know when moments are special. The only problem is what to take a picture of first; there are so many competing images.

Wyaralong Dam
A submerged fence line in the early morning rays. Source: Ian Smith

I squelch along the foreshore and it’s only the rising of the sun, the dissipating mist and the shortening shadows that makes me return to what I originally came for. Changing cameras I get back to the birds. John’s camera has a longer range than mine so he gets large images of the birds than I do but, my consolation is that the photos can stand to be blown up more.

John’s a patient man, which is why he gets such good images, while I tend towards jack-in-the-box and want to move on. Still, today is more exciting than the first and I get to see my first chestnut breasted mannikins, a whole flock of them deep in a thicket with red-browed finches and they keep popping up unexpectedly, checking for danger.

Wyaralong Dam
A black-necked stilt on the water. Source: Ian Smith

The trees in the dam are the refuge of black ibis and royal spoonbills, the latter with their probing beaks tucked away beneath their wings, while along the foreshore black-necked stilts and double-banded plovers are aggressively chasing a feed, casting an occasional glance at the patrolling pelicans.

Wyaralong Dam
A red-backed wren. Source: Ian Smith

It all seems to come to an end too quickly, but much time has flown, so I bid farewell to John, thanking him for putting up with me and showing me one of Queensland’s little treasures.

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