For the previous three years I have been observing breeding White Breasted Dippers on my nearby river. Breeding activity starts very early in the season, around now in fact. I had been waiting for the water levels on the river to retreat just a little before I started this year’s observations. We have had a very wet winter here in the UK. When I arrived at the site today I was pleased to see that last year’s hide was still standing and even though it was now, just a collection of camo material and sticks I managed to reform it back in to an acceptable hide. This is in position over-looking a nest under the river bank which remains from previous years, although not the one that they had used last year. Dippers are known to use the same sites for years and years, subsequent breeding pairs taking over the territories of their forebears. This is my fourth year of studying Dippers on this stretch of river and in previous years I have discovered so much about their breeding behaviour. Comparing my notes, I note that it was around this date last year when signs of breeding activity commenced when I had seen two birds together. Dippers are territorial and would not tolerate the presence of another unless they are paired up. Last year activity had gradually increased in intensity as the month progressed. Today I was slightly disappointed not to see a bird in front of, or near the hide but this could have been due to a couple of reasons. Firstly, the water level is much higher than it was last year and looking at the bankside vegetation it seems that the water has been consistently higher than in previous recent winters. Also, in previous years the birds had been absent from the nest area during the late morning and afternoon and as my visit was in the late morning today this would follow the same pattern so I am not too concerned. On a large mid-stream rock that I know as a favourite perch I could see droppings which looked fresh, so it appears that Dippers had been in the area very recently. When I walked further down the river to an adjoining territory where I am sure Dippers successfully bred last year, I had a close encounter with a Dipper and it was nice to see one for the first time this year. I will regularly post here about these breeding Dippers and if previous years are anything to go by I will be able to share some interesting observations and photographs.
Charles Fleming is a wildlife photographer and nature blogger based in South West England. His blog "Wildlife in a Suburban Garden" has more than 1400 entries and a link to galleries where you can view more than 4000 images from the UK and the rest of the world featuring photographs of more than 500 species. "My aim is to try and put my readers and viewers intimately close to the subject and to share the thrill of watching and photographing birds and wildlife at close quarters".
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