Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Dipper Easter

The church goer in our family (Johnny) went to sunrise service this Easter morning. I milked goats, fed horses, and checked on the errant baby barn owl that fell out of the nest yesterday. It seems to be fine.

When Johnny came home we packed lunches and headed up the road for our sometimes-on-Sundays American Dipper survey. This time I hiked in from the road to see if I could find where the missing Rock Wall dippers may have gone. I did see them flying upstream. When I arrived at the spot where they had taken off from, I took photos in case they are thinking of nesting in the stumps here. I think their rock wall is a much better site but... who knows what the Dippers think.

While  I was fighting my way through the underbrush, Johnny was walking in from the other end, the way we usually go to get to the rock wall site. He didn't find Dippers but he did see a coyote.

By the time we rendezvoused and hiked back to the van, we were hungry. So we ate our packed lunches while sitting above The Chutes, an area of roiling water funneled through a narrow chute. One Dipper came feeding and a pair of Common Mergansers flew by.

We drove on to our other nest stops and found Dippers feeding nestlings at several of them. We also saw a bobcat trotting up the road in front of us, then crossing the creek on a big downed log.

But Johnny made the real discovery of the day.

In years past, we have seen fledgling Dippers being fed along one section where we have been unable to find a nest. However, I have heard a Dipper singing near that locale, apparently behind a very high rocky outcropping covered with vegetation. Today I scrambled up that outcropping determined to find the Dipper nest. From on high, I peeked through the branches and found a site above a backwater where I thought the nest must be. There were lots of splats on a log that told me a Dipper sat there often, likely keeping watch over the nest site. 

Meanwhile, Johnny, standing by the roadside, had seen Dippers darting quickly in and out of a fresh lump of moss. He also saw one parent take an empty egg sac out and dump it. I clambered back off the mountain and joined him and we watched the busy parents make many trips feeding nestlings.

 As it turned out, I did get a photo of the nest without realizing it, from the upstream side. It is at the far right corner of the photo I took from up on top of the brushy rock wall.

Here it is centered in a cropped version of the above photo. It sure was easier to pick out from the road!

Farther upstream at the faithful Asinine Bridge location, last year's nest looked dried out and unused. Farther upstream, a Dipper sat motionless, high over the stream, apparently on lookout duty. We left him to his task and will check again later when they might be feeding nestlings and we can find the nest. In the photo below, he is on the very tip of the curvy log jutting out by the big log across the creek. Pretty hard to see.

 Here he is zoomed up.

Back home,  we served ham and sticky rice and sweet potatoes (or yams) and deviled eggs and salad  to our neighbor Irv... and us. Then, as the rains returned after two blissful days of no rain, I dashed outside to take a picture of our yard on Easter Sunday.

Dinosaur egg, maybe?

And now, my day will end as it began, with goat milking and feeding horses. A good Easter.

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