My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dining with a Dipper

On my third night of my trip north, I camped for free along the Tongue River in a Wildlife Management Area.  I seemed to have a choice of two main locations, but choose to stay along the river. I came to an outhouse where there were several fire rings and continued on past them until I saw a place where I could pull off between the river and the road.  There were no signs except for the fire rings.

The only downside to my site was that it was right along the road.  But only about ten cars passed during the late afternoon and early evening. Then it was quiet except for the river noise.

The source of the fortissimo water music 
This part had chunks of concrete damning the river

The view looking downstream from in front of my campsite and over the dam
I pitched my tent on the same level as the side road.  Then I took my supper and went down to sit next to the river. The river was running fast and pretty clear and I thought, "this could be a place to see a dipper".  No sooner was the thought in my head then a dipper flew up out of the water and landed almost directly across the river from me.  It did its sharp series of bounces, then almost disappeared into a structure that I realized was a nest.  I even thought I could see insects in its bill when I really blew up my pictures. It came back several times before it got too dark to take pictures.

The dipper always landed on this spot, then did his dippy bounce several times

Then it would go into the nest and stay about thirty seconds

Then it would come out, turn around and fly off, sometimes right back towards me

The sun is lower, now and you can see the bugs in her bill
Off for more food. 
 It had to be feeding babies, but, even though I repeatedly took pictures as the sun lit the nest better and better, I could never see anything in the nest.  The nest looked very different after I noticed it but if I moved around and then came back to look for it, I had a hard time finding it again. So it blended in much better than the blown-up pictures indicate.  I've heard that dippers like to build their nests behind waterfalls to make them totally invisible.  I felt so blessed to have gotten to see this nest.

Once, I thought the dipper had landed almost next to me with only a scraggly shrub between us.  I grabbed at least twenty shots before it flew off.  When I looked at my pictures, I found I had been taking pictures of a robin.

But he made a beautiful picture in the setting sun

This was a really special and memorable evening.