As you’ve probably noticed I’ve been spending a lot of time on the river watching the kingfisher family, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching the other wildlife that’s about.
The local dippers seem to have a great year in terms of successful breeding (blog post to follow) and there are usually two about close to where I sit, and this evening I was treated to one of them catching a fish. I spotted it as it flew directly toward me before veering off and landing on a large rock to my right with the fish in its beak.
Dipper with fish
I’ve seen a lot of fish despatched by the kingfishers recently and the dipper attempted much the same method, just not quite as adeptly!
Dipper stunning fish
It took quite a few attempts with the dipper dropping the fish on a number of occasions.
I’m not sure what type of fish it was that the dipper had caught (if you know please tell me) but to say it was a slimey one might be a bit of an understatement!
What a slimey sucker
Eventually it got the fish either stunned or killed and it went straight down the hatch all in one.
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
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
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.
One casualty of the Boxing Day floods was the actual river who’s Geography was changed in many ways by the sheer force of water which surged down the channel. One area of rapids was a great spot for sitting and watching the dippers but the flood scoured them away so the dippers moved on.
I’ve seen them flying up and down but not found where they like to dip however I did notice them this weekend flying from the main river and into a small brook which flows in close by. It’s quite near to some locks on the canal so I could stand on a bridge over the brook and watch where they went.
It soon became clear they had a nest nearby as both parents were in and out with mouthfuls of treats for the young, ranging from small fish to grubs and crustaceans. Unfortunately the site wasn’t great for photography but brilliant for watching their feeding antics. Hopefully I’ll keep an eye on the area and see the young soon.