06 April 2018
Dippers, it seems to me, are among the most enigmatic of the world's birds. They live in wild, rugged places with rapidly flowing streams, in regions often the least modified by humans. And they are endearing. Their name is derived from their habit of bouncing up and down as though on a spring - "dipping." They plunge into icy rapids with abandon, emerging with caddis fly larva which they pound into submission, ridding the larva of its protective shield of pebbles, to gulp down their prize. Their whole lifestyle is wedded to water and it is only in their mountain haunts that we find them going about their lives.
There are but five species of dipper in the world, and I consider myself fortunate indeed to have enjoyed four of them. The fifth, the Rufous-throated Dipper (Cinclus schulzi) of the remote, almost inaccessible regions of northern Argentina and southern Bolivia will probably remain a mere vision in my mind.
On a recent trip to Vancouver Island off Canada's west coast one of our targets was American Dipper (C. mexicanus) and we were able to locate it in Goldstream Provincial Park.
Miriam and I have had several previous encounters with this species, but for Franc, Carol, Jim, Francine and Judy, our fellow birders, it was a first. Fittingly, it seemed, the first four individuals mentioned above saw their first dipper ever last year, White-throated Dipper (C. cinclus), in Slovenia when we also travelled together. With two species under their belt they have already seen 40% of the world's dippers!
Dippers use their nictitating membranes frequently to protect their eyes from hazards in the water and Miriam was able to capture this photograph of a bird drawing the membrane across its eye while on a log.