Hinyiklʼeix̱i, dancer in the water
November 18, 2022 I love dippers but have had little luck filming them in their typical rowdy-stream habitat. Today, though, was amazing. I’ve slowed the video to about half speed, partly for getting better looks at prey selection.
This one was chowing down on plump caddisfly larvae in a stillwater side channel of Dzantik’i Héeni, little flounder creek (Gold Creek)—quite unconcerned by my tripod tinkering, 15 feet away. The water was overhung by young alders that a month ago shed all their leaves into the stream, so the dipper spent much of its foraging time tossing aside leaves and flipping fragments to expose prey. Caddisflies have diverse feeding strategies—collectors, shredders, scrapers, and predators—but I suspect in this stream they were mostly shredding the nitrogen-rich alder leaves. Much of the dipper ‘sidecast’ was looking pretty well-used.
Alders—both reds and sitkas—have recently risen to the top of my most-loved-plant list, for reasons too myriad to list. But here’s one more; they feed Tricopterans who in turn feed maybe my favorite bird.
For the last half of this video, the dipper perched on a watersurface stem and vigorously preened. I’ll bet dippers spend more time at this than most songbirds, because it must take a lot of ‘oiling’ and maintenance to stay ‘waterproof’ in their riparian world. When it blinks you see a flash of the silvery nictitating membrane that protects its eyes underwater.
For a 2-page journal excerpt with the session’s best stills, download 1MB pdf here:
For a huge collection of dipper video and information go to Bob Armstrong’s site Naturebob. in the video section type in “dipper.”