Inner-City Dippers

I know there are dippers on the river near where I live but generally they tend to be on clear fast flowing rivers in the woods or on the moors not in the town centre. I was a little surprised to see this pair on a small brook which runs right through the centre of town and for a good portion of this route is enclosed underground.

Pair of dippers

Pair of dippers

Growing up the Hebble Brook could run any colour of the rainbow as it was used as a dumping ground for waste from the mills and factories that lined its course. Nowadays it’s much cleaner (although in times of heavy rain rust from local iron mines can make it look like tomato soup) and is obviously in a good enough condition to support these dippers. The stream here runs under the local chocolate factory and if disturbed the birds scoot under the tunnel below the works emerging when the danger has passed.

Dipper on the Hebble Brook

Dipper on the Hebble Brook

The pair both looked healthy and hopefully will mate and nest very soon. They usually nest in long held sites so it’s possible these birds and their predecessors have been nesting in the area for sometime. One site has been recorded as being in use for over 100 years! They tend to nest in crevices close to the stream so it’s likely they are nesting under the chocolate factory!! The female will lay 4-5 eggs usually in March/April and if the weather is good may well have a second clutch.


It’s always great to see nature surviving in the most unpromising or unexpected places but even here amongst the factories and a foundry I didn’t really expect to see dippers. Hopefully I can watch them over the coming months and see how they get on.


  1. shazza · March 26, 2018

    I love dippers. I see them frequently in the brook bobbing and diving. Such fascinating birds. I have not seen any in the part of the stream that travels through my town but I have seen a kingfisher .

    • spugwash · March 26, 2018

      Yeah they’re fun to watch and certainly wasn’t expecting to see them on this part of the stream.

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