O.T. Dam is a hidden jewel found in a pocket of Arthurs Seat State Park. The dam is accessed via a walking track located on Arthurs Seat Rd, about 4km west of the Seawinds Gardens Park entrance. The 2km return walk takes you through a thickly wooded forest to a boardwalk around the dam, rich in birdlife, and full of tranquillity.
The track starts at a sign-posted and gated entrance on Arthurs Seat Rd. A concrete water-tank is the easiest thing to see from the road to let you know where it is, because all around is just trees and forest. Park your car here, and get going. This is how it all looked through my eyes….
The walk is easy going along a four-wheel drive management track. That kind of spoils it a bit for me, because it doesn’t make me feel like I’m in the wild. Yet. All around is a grassy-woodland thick with Messmate Stringybark, the dominant species in this area. Forest grasses (that I haven’t yet been able to id) cover the ground in a thick, tangled mess that laps the base of the trees.
As I forge ahead along the track the trees crowd in around me on either side. They bunch up tightly, like their in some sort of conspiracy together. The track lies like a parting between left and right, as it cuts its way deeper into the forest. I get the feeling that there’s more to these trees than meets the eye. Like they know something that I don’t. Maybe it’s just the shadows they cast, long and deep, and unwavering, that sets me a little on edge.
It’s not often that I walk into the woods without a view being offered beyond. But this is one of those walks. I sort of feel as though I am being swallowed up by the trees, like they’re closing in on me. It’s that sort of feeling that has me casting a glance to left and right, and then behind, just to check. It’s one of the few times that I begin to think that perhaps I shouldn’t be walking solo. I concentrate on looking for interesting things instead, to take my mind off my edginess.
I pass the Friends Track turn-off on my left. A 3km return track that should make for a good post in the future. Before long, the track descends down to the dam, and all at once I am glad I came. The view across the water to the opposite edge soothes my jitters away in an instant. The reflections in the water look like an artists’ painting done in water-colour paints. The morning sun bouncing off the foliage is as comforting as it is warming, and from the stillness of the water a deep silence is almost palpable.
The track skirts the edge of the dam. Annoyingly, at first it is covered in a thick layer of course-gravel; the sort that makes a really loud crunching sound as you walk over it, and your feet sink into it. I feel as if by walking on it I am setting off an alarm that will alert all the fury and feathered friends of the forest that I have arrived. Within minutes, a large water bird rises up from the rushes, flapping its wings in a panic before gliding down to the other end of the dam. Off to a good start; not even the chance to make a stab at an id. Thankfully a boardwalk appears before me, and I begin to walk silently and with the stealth more becoming of an amateur bird-watcher as I cross the planks.
The shrubs around the dams’ edge are riddled with birdlife. I spy a bird on the branch above me, with no name tag on it. I met a twitcher on the track last week who described unidentified brown birds as LBJ’s (Little Brown Jobs). So I’ll defer to that description in this instance because I can now use the correct vernacular befitting of a twitcher. But I steadfastly remain a bird-watcher, because I am watching birds, in my very amateur way. So I am not a twitcher, not by any means.
Luck has it that the next bird I see, I know the name of. So now I am sounding more like a twitcher, than a bird-watcher. Anyway, it’s a White-Throated Tree Creeper, and it taps into the bark of the tree somewhat like a woodpecker as it spirals its way up the trunk. When it’s done with one tree, it skips over to the next and does it all again, from bottom to top.
I snake my way along the boardwalk. Constantly on the lookout for the source of all the twittering I can hear in the bushes beside me. It’d be handy if the birds came out onto the rail for some sort of a roll-call. At least then I might have a chance to photograph them, then go home and look them up in my birdie book. But they don’t even stay still long enough for me to focus my lens on them. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that they don’t stay still at all.
At least the plants stay still. And, I actually know a bit more about them and what their names are.
I cross a little bridge over the spillway. But there isn’t a skerrick of water in it, and it looks like it’s been dry since summer began months and months ago. A track veers off to the right here that I think might link up to Eatons Cutting and the Lookout Circuit walk (my next post).
The land drops away beside me on the right into a gully lined with Scrambling Coral Fern. On the left there are a few spots to sneak down to the shoreline of the dam and get a great view across the water. From here, I stroll a short way and I am back at the start of the dam circuit.
I’ve had a great time here. Despite being frustrated at my inability to photograph most of the birds I saw, I still took with me images in my head to help me id them at home. Next time, if only they will stay still I will have a better chance…..Next time.
Where: O.T. Dam is on Arthurs Seat Road, Arthurs Seat. Look out for the water tank.
Distance: About 2km return.
Time: Under an hour if you just walk there and back, but longer if you’re watching for birds.