Adult in flight
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Adult in flight
I located this nest in a small tributary off the Alouette River in Maple Ridge, just east of Maple Ridge Park. When I found it, it contained 5 white eggs, and I hoped they would all hatch successfully. After a couple of weeks, I checked on it again and found that there were 5 fuzzy chicks, constantly being fed by their diligent parents. As I stood still about 20 feet away, I watched the parents fearlessly bring in Caddis Fly larvae and other water insects for their young, oblivious of my presence.
A couple of days later, I set up my camera and my speed lights for photography, pausing to let the parents feed whenever they flew in every couple of minutes.
I did not need to use a photo blind since the adults were completely unafraid of me, and I sat instead in a folding chair about 30 feet from the nest on the other side of the creek.
I soon noticed the parents bringing in small Salmon fry (possibly Chum since I had observed Song Sparrows catching them in the same river in 2005).
The most popular ingredient on the menu by far was the slightly orange-tinged Caddis Fly larvae, which provided tons of protein for the rapidly growing chicks. I watched the adults catch them in a pool near me, shake the insect larvae out of their protective cases, and feed them to the 5 hungry chicks.
The first few days I was there, the female Dipper would brood her chicks occasionally, and some of my pictures show both parents at the nest whenever the male came in to feed.
I also watched the opportunistic Dippers sometimes sally upwards from the rocks to catch flying insects near the creek. Their aerial skill was, surprisingly, almost as good as the Empidonax Flycatchers I had watched in the air catching all manner of insects.
I was most excited by them returning with small Salmon fry, though, because I hoped to take a few pictures of them at the nest with a fish.
While they fed their chicks fish quite often, I would say it was only about once every 8 visits or so, with the other trips being to catch the ubiquitous Caddis Fly larvae and other water insects.
I photographed them seven times over a period of 11 days, and they were wonderful little birds to watch and learn about.
During this time I was also visited by a Douglas Squirrel, a Raccoon fishing for Crayfish (twice), and a Black Bear (which after coming within 20 feet, saw me and turned around to go the other way). I also watched several birds come to the creek for berries and water: Swainson’s Thrushes, American Robins, Song Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, and Northwestern Crows.
The Dippers sometimes flew at the other birds in the stream but reacted most strongly to the Raccoon, chipping vigorously to warn each other it was there and waiting to visit the nest until I shooed it away after 5 minutes.
I photographed a pair of American Dippers 39 years ago (yikes) on McKenney Creek in Golden Ears Provincial Park in north Maple ridge. Once the parents realized my partner and I posed no threat they came and went with their feedings as if we weren’t even there. Once I spread my fingers over the entrance to the nest and a parent feed a baby between them.