STREAM WALKER: The American Dipper
Trout fishermen and trout know that rocky streambeds are teeming with insect life, in the form of mayflies, caddis flies, black flies, and numerous other critters. Dippers know this as well, and make their living feeding in the shallows of western wild rivers and mountain lakes.
I took this series of photographs during a backpacking trip to Melakwa Lake, in the high country not far at all from Seattle. We pitched our tent near a creek connecting the upper and lower Melakwa Lakes, and noticed that there were two American Dippers feeding in the murmuring stream.
After cooking dinner, we decided to try and photograph the birds. Dippers are not particularly afraid of people, though they like to keep a respectful distance from sweaty backpackers, and we were able to crouch down behind rocks and logs to photograph from perhaps eight feet away. This photo essay shows the birds actively exploring the stream habitats and successfully catching a variety of insects.
One added bonus to dipper-watchers is to hear their lovely song. Unfortunately, the season was late and we only heard a fragment or two of dipper music. Had we seen the dippers during winter or early spring, their effusive songs would have harmonized with the burbling stream.