Wednesday, February 7, 2007

D is for Dipper

First, the Big one.

On the way up my back steps after dark, I often see it cradled between tall pines and rooftops. I like looking at it over flat, farmed fields. I think about all the people who might be looking at it right now and about the ones who could be but aren’t. I almost always imagine myself staring up at it over Osgood Pond, and then down at its perfect watery reflection on clear, still nights.

Second, the American one.

I think I saw my first on Oak Creek in Arizona. On last fall’s trip to Oregon, seeing one was a goal (Vermont is a dipper-free state). American dippers can be spotted perpetually bobbing as they wade shallow—then they dive, feeding on insects. It’s a swimming bird that doesn’t look like a swimming bird. This may be part of my fascination.

In Oregon I got my fill of dippers—aka water ouzels—first along the beautiful Metolius River as I fished, then on the Umpqua as I watched Tim tackle the serious wading. I sat on couched ledges with book and binoculars, making sure Tim got up, fly rod in hand, if he fell, and was treated to hours of dipper-watching as they splashed on a ledge between us. I never got bored. And I didn’t read much.

9 comments:

Sewa Yoleme said...

I find it terribly amusing that the Latin name for the American Dipper is Cinclus mexicanus.

As for the big one, I'm more of an Orion man, myself.

lolololo said...

Down south dippers are either dippers as in "tobaccy dippers" (think NASCAR) or cleaners of septic tanks as in "honey dippers".

helen said...

Another educational post; I had no idea that salmon sometimes eat birds. Bizarre...

Indigo Bunting said...

SY: OK, I'll bite: I can't find a definition for Cinclus anywhere on the Internet, even Latin sites. What's it all mean?

LO: Now it's an educational post for me!

H: Those big fish are carnivores.

mm said...

I've never heard of these - how neat. They really don't look like swimming birds.

Cedar Waxwing said...

This summer we went to Washington state and I read, on some pamphlet, a list wildlife I may see there. One was a water ouzel. I got excited, having heard about them, but not being sure what kind of wildlife it was. I suspected it was a bird, but Peterson was no help (at in least my version of Western Birds). So I then decided it must have been the tiny mouse-like critter I saw at the foot of Mt Rainer.

It wasn't until I got back home that I realized it was, in fact, a bird.

JHK said...

Wow. I want to see a dipper now!

Indigo Bunting said...

CW: That's a great story.

JHK: I hope it happens to you!

Sewa Yoleme said...

IB, the only reference I could find to the meaning of the Latin word cinclus is here, where they say cinclus means "latticework." How that applies to the bird genus, I have no idea.

What I was laughing about was that the other part: that the American dipper's species is mexicanus!