Birding in British Columbia

A starting place for birding information for British Columbia, Canada. This web site features a birders discussion forum, links to birding newsgroups, articles and book reviews, checklists, regional hotspots, photo gallery, weather reports, and visiting birder information.
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 Post subject: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 03 12:54 am 
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This is a bird I'd like to find, but so far I haven't seen one.

I guessed that they would be found in creeks on the north shore. Paul Kusmin mentioned a creek adjoining Maplewood. I went there, but didn't see anything like a bird foraging around the water.

However, while at Maplewood, I spoke with someone who said he was a stream guardian for Stoney Creek in Burnaby, a creek which flows into the Brunette River near Burnaby Lake. He said he had seen 4 (I think) of them recently in or around this creek.

So I went there and of course didn't see one. I did see two Kingfishers flying back and forth along the Brunette and a pair of Common Mergansers actually swimming in the creek which is only a few inches deep. Also a brown Mink.

Later I was speaking with some Birders at Piper Spit (Burnaby Lake) and one said that she had seen Dippers eating salmon eggs in the Fall at Stoney Creek. I thought that this was interesting. Of course there are no Salmon eggs there now.

However, if the spawners were Chum or Pink Salmon, the fry should be emerging about this time. That probably explains the presence of the Mergansers in the creek. I did notice them occasionally jabbing at something in the water.

Here's the question: Would the Dipper also eat Salmon fry? Newly emerged fry are about 1 inch long. Chum and Pink Salmon immediately head to the ocean upon emerging. Coho and Chinook Salmon take their time, staying in fresh water up to two years (for Coho) and being quite large when they migrate to the ocean.

I would guess that Chum and Pink Salmon fry would be small enough for a Dipper, but would a Dipper seek out such food (thereby giving me an opportunity to see one, using the "follow the food" maxim)?

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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 03 10:02 am 
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Location: Vancouver
I have seen two before, the first one was in a mountain stream in Yellowstone National Park which probably isn't too helpful. But I also saw one in the stream below the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge and it would have been in the summer.


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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 03 10:14 am 
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I have also heard of American Dipper sightings in Capilano River across from the Capilano Fish Hatchery also Mackay Creek in the Mackay Creek Greenbelt along Mackay Ave.

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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 03 11:00 am 
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Hello:

It may be a fair distance for you to go, but Harrison lake is often very good for dippers, right at the shore's edge. They seem to like the splash of the waves onto the beach. You might want to look on the hotel side, and all the way around to the natural hot springs observation pool. The Harrison lake area is wonderful, including the lagoon, for ducks, grebes, and possibly the gray-crowned rosy finch. Someone from the Fraser Valley Birding website reported seeing a GCRF mixed in with some siskins. Also the hotel is known for its many hummers coming to it's feeders. I realize this information is a little off topic, but it may serve you well. Good luck!


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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 03 3:31 pm 
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I have seen them in Whistler this winter as well. Four on one stretch of river

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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 03 5:48 pm 
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I can't answer your original question (about the diet of dippers), but I know that dippers hang around the river at the Capilano Salmon Hatchery. There I could almost guarantee a sighting of one. I took this at the river at the hatchery:
Image

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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 03 7:21 pm 
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I've never seen a dipper, so I can't help you find one, but they do eat Pink Salmon fry (I assume they would also eat Chum fry).

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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 04 3:15 pm 
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Location: Pitt Meadows
Couldn't say that any are present at this time of the year but in Decemeber I have had one or two on the South Alouette River upstream from the bridge on 232nd in Maple Ridge Park.

In winter they can also be found on the Coquitlam River any where north of the David Ave. Any road accessing the river should suffice. The little park at the end of Galette Ave. is quite reliable.

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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 04 10:21 pm 
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Thanks all for the information and tips.

I'm going to try the area around the Capilano Hatchery - if it doesn't snow. I'll walk down from the dam. If they eat Pink Salmon fry, the hatchery may be an attractant to the Dippers. Even if the hatchery only puts out Coho and Chinook Smolts, they likely (heaven forbid) disgorge effluents sufficient to be food directly or to help sustain little bugs that Dippers might eat.

Would any Grouse be around at the dam?

I pondered going to Harrison last year when I went to the Hope Airport, but ran out of time. I have wondered if those Finches returned this Spring. So I may make it up there as well in the near future (if it doesn't snow).

I'll note the other places for the future.

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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 05 9:21 am 
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I've always managed to find one in Brackendale. If you are at the eagle viewing area, follow the river to the right (north I believe), it becomes a narrow creek in a lightly wooded area, they will be around there.
Image
American Dipper by featherweight2009, on Flickr

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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 06 6:35 am 
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MDB8 wrote:
Would any Grouse be around at the dam?


I don't think so, it is not high enough on the mountain I think. I have also never heard of someone seeing a grouse at Capilano.

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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 06 3:18 pm 
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This morning (Friday) I drove to the Cleveland Dam, parked and took a full (i.e., heavy) load to walk the path down (Coho Loop or something like that). I walked down past the hatchery, then followed the river back upstream to the bridge that takes you over the river to the hatchery. Wherever possible I scanned the rocks in the river, but saw nothing like a Dipper.

I walked around the hatchery a little and while leaning against a railing, a bird that must have been a Dipper flew past me heading downstream. It was dark gray and making a soft chirping sound as it flew. It flew around a corner and out of view.

I then walked back down the river a ways, but again saw nothing like a Dipper.

The only birds I saw near the water were Juncos and Robins. There was a pair of Common Merganser hanging around the hatchery too.

In the woods I encountered Chickadees, Kinglets and Creepers.

Then it started to rain. Then hail. Then sleet. Almost snow.

So no photos. The only photos I've seen of them show them in the water. Surely they don't stay in the water all the time. They must perch somewhere at night. When they breed, they must be away from the water.

Also they seem to be solitary. Usually birds I see that forage in the open are in groups, often with a guard bird ready to call an alert. I've noticed that birds like Turnstones and Snow Buntings tend to flatten themselves against the ground when they sense danger. I'm curious as to what defensive strategy the Dippers employ.

From what I've read of the Dipper, individuals will stay in the same area as long as the water doesn't freeze over. If it does, then they usually move downstream to an unfrozen location. So I assume that ones that show up in nearby streams in the Winter are such migrants.

I must be patient and try again.

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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 06 5:18 pm 
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Location: Pitt Meadows
Anytime I have seen a Dipper on the Capilano it has been within sight of the hatchery. Many times either not far from the wier. Camp out near the hatchery and watch the shorelines on either side and I'm sure, with patience, you will have success.

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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 06 6:52 pm 
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Location: Squamish B.C.
The Mamquam River spawning channels in Squamish are a good place to see and hear American dippers during the Winter months. On my one hour walks along the trails through the spawning channels near the Squamish Golf Course I sometimes see ten to twelve dippers during December and January. Here are a couple of You-Tube videos I shot one Winter - the first at normal speed and the second, the same video in slow motion to show the variations in the dipper's song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSMO1DPPYtY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fReknIcesm8

Hope they work as I have never posted a You-Tube link before.

Chris Dale
Squamish


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 Post subject: Re: American Dipper
PostPosted: Apr 06 8:39 pm 
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Thanks all. I'm certain I'll find one eventually.

I was standing by the weir looking downstream when what I'm fairly certain was one that flew past me, very rapidly, heading downstream. Later I spoke with another Birder coming from the direction I had seen the bird fly and, without prompting, he volunteered that he had seen a Dipper downstream.

I went downstream and looked around (place called maybe "Cable Pool"?). Then I thought that the bird probably had a feeding route and would return to the hatchery area. (Just like watching the Mountain Bluebirds at Grant Narrows. They flew off, but if you waited, they returned.) So I went back and simply waited. Two birds did fly by from downstream, but I think that they were Robins. It started to rain, hail, etc. and I tested my aerobic conditioning by walking back up to the dam where my car was parked. (Next time I'll park by the hatchery and conserve my energy.)

I did take one photo I like. A male Common Merganser staring at me with its bill down, showing that strong black line that is in the center of the upper bill.

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