Tuesday, May 4, 2021

American Dipper

Tumwater Falls Park,  in the middle of Olympia, is the easiest place for us to find American Dippers. The park, however, has been closed for over a year, first due to the Covid virus, then for renovation. This 15-acre private reserve, originally donated by the Olympic Brewing Company, is reopened with a new new name, Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls. The park basically consists of a cascade as the Deschutes River drops over  80 feet into Capitol Lake. This habitat is perfect for dippers, but the birds can be hard to see and are not guaranteed. I am fond of dippers because they inspired my father to become interested in birds when he read to watch for dipper’s bobbing spasmodically along mountain streams. The result was a remarkable patience with his bird-watching sons. After much searching, we three found our first dipper in the mountains of central Mexico.

I have previously posted a lot about American Dippers, so I will not repeat too much of what I have already written. As the birds search for aquatic critters, dippers blink a striking white eyelid. On 3 May 2021, Erika and I found three dippers along the Deschutes cascade. All of these images are of the first bird. The first photo is uncropped, meant to show you what their habitat looks like. The second photo is an enlarged version of the first, and shows the bird’s white eyelids.
Dippers feed both on the wet rocks along the riverside and in the river itself. Often they will completely submerge under the water. The submersive behavior does not produce much of a photo, so I am content to share this fourth image of the bird with only its head under water. The dipper in the last photo has water rushing off its back after it dove into the rapids.
Even in the summer, dipper streams are cold. Dippers are evolved to survive the cold water by having a low metabolic rare, blood with extra oxygen-carrying capacity, and a thick feather coat (Kingery and Willson 2020).

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