Sunday, December 27, 2009

Water Ouzel - American Dipper - a Secret, solitary bird.

Yesterday afternoon I drove to Chester Dam for some birding and photography.  As the sun was setting, I noticed a small grayish black bird diving and surfacing is the dimming light.  I recognized the antiques of the Water Ouzel or American Dipper, John Muir's favorite bird.  The pictures are not as good as I would like but they show the secretive bird that feeds and plays in water when the air temperature is below zero.  I will search for this bird duirng the day for some better pictures.

The Water Ouzel usually spends its time in swift clear running water in the high mountains, but is forced down to the lowlands during the winter.  It is an indicator species requiring pure water with insect larvae to survive.

Its specialized body is covered with extremely thick feathers and have oil sacks at the base of their tail which they use to to coat their feathers with the oil.  This protects the skin from the freezing water and air temperatures.

They dive for their food, even swimming or flying under water to catch some of their food.  They have a membrane that is pulled over the eyes while under water.  Scales also close the nostrils as they search for food under the water.  Here the bird searches for food by putting its head under water before diving.

Here the water Ouzel dives after locating some food on the bottom.

Here it surfaces head first after being under water for about a minute.

Walking back to the shallow water, the American Dipper surveys the water before another dive.

The evening is capped off by the temperature dropping below zero and the fading light baithing the Teton Peaks in a beautiful alpen glow.

Just another ordinary day experience in the wildness of Idaho.  I hope you enjoy this interesting little bird.  When I find it again and I get better pictures, I will share them with you.


Betsy from Tennessee said...

How interesting, Bill... The Water Ouzel is an interesting bird. I enjoyed seeing the pictures and reading about him. You definitely live in an interesting part of the country!!!!

Hope you are feeling well.

Kelly said...

Oh, wow! I loved this post. I've never seen a Water Ouzel and didn't know they had scales to close up their nostrils. Interesting... The scenery is so gorgeous. Seeing the Tetons off in the distance must be amazing.

Monts said...

Hi Bill nice post on the Water Ouzel looks like a close relative of our Dipper over here. I agree very difficult to photograph, I have only managed it once. The mountain scene is stunning such pastal shades. Finally Happy New Year to you and yours and look forward to many more great Wild Day in Idaho

Barefoot from Heaven said...

Oh I love birds who are extraordinary like this one. With it's thick feathers to keep it warm. Brrrr. can't imagine diving down in water when it's below zero.

Love the fact that you wrote about still listening to xmas songs when it's even summer and see what faces you'll get. You made me laugh fist thing in the morning. Thanks. Still smiling I am.

Mary Howell Cromer said...

What an interesting story of a fascianting species. Do you not love learning all of the fine details...thank you for sharing Bill. The final closing photo,oh my, what else can be said...the colours of your mountains where you live, well you cannot find that in the bluegrass state. BEAUTIFUL BILL!

Jann said...

I loved seeing the dipper photos, that bird is so dad is wondering when I'll get a photo of one, ha! But I have to say, your Teton Peaks photo is stunning, it doesn't look real! Gorgeous!

Joie Moring said...

A little Dipper flanked by Pink Tetons....such wonderful secrets you've revealed. Those Tetons are unreal, aren't they? Photos are amazing enough, but seeing them will stop you in your tracks.

EcoRover said...

Love the bird so nice they named it twice, especially when they fly past underwater.

PS: was part of a TAH grant here a few years ago (teaching L&C/enviro history), great fun!

JOE TODD said...

Interesting photos and commentary Have a great New Year

Susan said...

Beautiful shots the the American Dipper, a bird I've yet to see. And fabulous shot of the Tetons! wow!

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Bill: What a neat bird.

Becky Stauffer said...

Great post. Stunning photos of just an 'ordinary' day. :)