The drive to Cascade Springs was beautiful yesterday with the beginnings of fall colors on the mountains but for me the best part was photographing American Dippers again. American Dippers are North America’s only aquatic songbird, not only do they fly and sing they also swim, wade and dive for prey. The two American Dippers I photographed yesterday are juveniles that hatched this year, I did not see the adult birds.
The lighting was more than challenging as the two young dippers stayed mostly in the shaded area of a pool at the base of the spring while they foraged for food. I could tell on my camera LCD that ISO 640 just wasn’t going to cut it because my shutter speed was slow and most of the images were blurry so I cranked the ISO up to 1600. I was handholding or resting my lens on my knees as I sat on the wooden boardwalk to get these photos, I think next time I go I will haul my tripod to the springs so I can use it for a little more stability.
American Dippers prefer fast moving, unpolluted waters that are found in mountain streams, creeks and rivers and their main prey items include aquatic insects, dragonflies, worms, small fish, fish eggs and flying insects. American Dippers aren’t migratory but in the coldest part of winter they may move to larger rivers that have more open water. When searching for aquatic prey they dip their heads under the water up to 60 times a minutes giving them the name “Dipper”.
At one point I was focused on one of the juveniles when the other flew in and the first bird lifted its wings over its body and held them there for at least 30 seconds if not longer, the other juvenile did not raise its wings in response. This might be some kind of territorial display behavior but to be honest I am just speculating on that. This is certainly not a great shot because of the angle of the light but I wanted to share the behavior.
The air was crisp and clear and the rushing water was loud as tumbled over rocks as it headed down stream and I wish I could share that all. I tried to do a video on my phone but I couldn’t hold it still and the resulting video was so shaky that it looked like a drunken pirate took it so I will try that again another day. I can share the sounds of the American Dippers singing with rushing water found here though.
Several times I was able to get images where the American Dippers had prey in their bills and liked this frame because of the flying water droplets caused by the dipper shaking the prey, the low angle, prey in the bill and the eye contact from the young bird.
This was only the second time I have had the opportunity to photograph American Dippers and I hope that one day I will be able to photograph them out in the open sunlight as they go about their lives.
Life is good.