Sunday 3 February 2013

Dip-dippity, dip-dippity, dip-dip Dip-per!

No prizes for originality this weekend – Jono and I trod a predictable path to Thetford yesterday, for the long-staying Black-bellied Dipper. No apologies for that, though, since it was absolutely superb! Very confiding, and brilliantly charismatic. We stayed at least three hours, and I could’ve happily been there longer still.

As is usually the case with Dippers, its favoured area was shady and rather dark, so photography wasn’t easy… I might well be tempted back on a brighter day. But I’m pleased with a few of the shots, and the whole experience was a great antidote to work and stress in London.


One of the great things about this bird was the amount of behaviour you could watch, up close and personal, and attempt to capture on film (OK, disc!). It was feeding pretty voraciously on some sort of larvae (anyone know what? please comment if so), which had to be extracted from black twig-like shells, before being swiftly despatched.


And then, in quieter moments, he was… preening and stretching…


… swimming and bathing…


… yawning and blinking…


… and even singing! Ok, no photo of this – but here’s a recording from the excellent Xeno Canto archive, of a Scandinavian bird wintering near Amsterdam:

All in all – a stunning little bird, and well worth the trip. Anything I see this year will have to go some to beat it!


Any other birds this weekend? Yes, actually quite a bit! The notebook includes Long-tailed Duck (still on the Girling Res in N London – wish I could get close to that, it’s a cracker), Black Redstart, Great Northern Diver, 3 Slav Grebes and at least 4 Velvet Scoter on the Blackwater, and a typically distant and mobile Great Grey Shrike in Herts, where there was also an excellent array of old-fashioned farmland birds: Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers and Grey Partridge in abundance. If only more of the countryside was managed the same way…

Finally, this Grey Wag was rather confiding at Rowhedge near Colchester… often a companion to Dippers on picturesque breeding sites, this one was in less salubrious surroundings, around puddles on a derelict wharf!


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