Dippers: a bit of singing and dancing

I last saw Dippers in my home town over twenty years ago. I get the tip-off that they’re still here and decide to investigate. Dippers have ancestral nesting sites. The oldest continuously inhabited one was 123 years old – and that was a few years ago. Maybe they’ll still be here?

As I arrive I see a Dipper in the River Lemon. They’re thrush-sized birds with the attitude of a Wren and the comfort underwater of a Kingfisher. Within five minutes I’ve located the nest and am enjoying seeing the adults bring a stream of insect prey to their chicks hidden behind the stones of the river bank. It’s in shade so I walk on and within 15 minutes have found the second nest underneath an overhanging river bank. The second pair of eager parents are also providing a constant stream of invertebrates.

This is my favourite photograph of the morning, with that wing-tip almost touching the water:

Dipper - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The light is in the wrong direction and they’re exceptionally fast, making photography conditions tricky, but I like this one too:

Dipper - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The yellow reflections of the new leaves is a very spring-like backdrop for their antics. This one is heading back to the nest:

Dipper - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I’m wearing full camouflage, perched at water level, hidden behind a tree trunk now. I’ve noticed no difference in their foraging and feeding behaviour. I wouldn’t be here if I thought I was distracting or disturbing them. They have hungry mouths to feed. Four hours watching them is enough. I’m tired and hungry now.

One plops with a splash into the water.

Dipper - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They’re such a pleasure to watch that I decide to come back in the evening and try some video with them. I’ve spent enough time observing them so I know where their favourite pools are and which rocks they like to bob up and down on with their characteristic ‘dip’. I bring a small remote-controlled video camera with me and pop it on the pebble river beach they like and retreat twenty yards to the obscurity of a distant bush to watch what happens on my phone. I only have an hour of battery life but I’m treated to a full display. There is singing, there is dancing, there is feasting. Here’s the full one-minute of footage I managed to gather in the hour. Please make sure your sound is on. Hearing their stubby little wings whirring past you is the best bit:

Dippers. I’m a little bit in love with you.

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