Time with the Dippers

Our friends, Gerry and Jenn, have posted some sightings of American Dipper at Eagle Creek and we talked about these birds when we dined with them last Saturday.  Anyone who hangs out around streams in the Northwest has likely seen them bobbing on rocks, diving into the water and flying/swimming under water as they forage.  I’ve seen them on many hikes and during work hours back in the day. Do I have a photo of one?  Well, yes… sort of.  My friend Jon and I spent some time together at Muir Falls on the Rogue River National Falls a few years ago and I attempted to get the bird recorded.  Marginal success.  Then, a couple of years later, I was on the Willamette National Forest with Deigh and Dave Hill looking for some fall colors.  We found one canyon that had spectacular color reflected in the stream and we all shot several frames.  One of my photos is on the new website (www.bpmphotography.com) in the “Landscapes Gallery.  There’s no bird in the image but you can’t miss the color.  As I was shooting I saw a Dipper fly onto a rock that was too far to do the bird justice in a photo but its presence added to the shot and I have some so-so frames with a dipper in them.  Not great and you’d be hard pressed to know it was a Dipper execpt for its size and the situation in which it is shown.

So, today I decided to head east and see if I could find the birds at Eagle Creek.  Then, if found, see if I could get in a position to actually photograph them decently.  It took about 30 seconds on the footbridge over Eagle Creek to see a pair of Dippers working in the riffles.  They swam around, bounced through the riffles and ultimately flew up under the bridge right below me.  Ahhhh… nesting season.  I crossed the bridge and descended the bank to the channel and sat near some brush and at a distance that the 300mm lens did a good job on the camera set in DX mode.  I am still amazed that I can turn a 300 into a 450mm lens with no loss of light just by flipping a switch.  Amazing.  I got comfortable and settled in to wait for the birds to reappear.  One appeared on the far bank and I took advantage of that to dial in some exposure correction.  I tried using a flash with a Better Beamer to get some more light on the birds.  It worked and the birds did not spook.  The birds would do their thing and then go to the nest and, after a period, surprise me by bouncing around in the water again.  Honestly, I saw them fly into the nest but never saw them fly out.

One bird finally landed mid-stream and began working a riffle.  It kept moving closer and closer until it was about 30 feet away.  I shot as it approached and, to my relief, it ignored me all together.  At one point it dove into the water and came up with looks like a small fish fry of some sort.  I expected it to be gone in no time but the bird seemed to want to display it’s catch for a bit and gave me the opportunity to get a few frames.

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This is another “photo life bird” for me.  I plan to try to go back when the sky is a bit brighter to see if I can get a shot at lower ISO and with less noise.  This shot is at ISO 4000 and was treated with Imagenomics Noiseware.

I enjoyed the call of the birds as much (or more) than I did their behavior.  It was a very pleasant hour “out there” enjoying another part of nature’s wonders.  Ahhhh… retirement.

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