Lunch Hour Dippers
I decided this week to turn my lunch hour camera outings towards trying to photograph some dippers. This decision was made to do this now because the stream where they live becomes heavily shaded once the trees burst in to leaf. The lunch hour sessions provide a very relaxing break in the middle of stressful days but can on occasions also prove very frustrating due to the limited time available. Most typically the clouds will part and the light will come good or I will just find the bird I am seeking as I need to head back to the office.
The first 60 minutes out looking for dippers on the local stream was productive as I managed to locate two nesting pairs. However, the light conditions were not great on either of my two visits.
One of the moss nest balls was not difficult to find as it was fully in the open and had somehow been created, about 7ft above the stream, on a concrete wall. What exactly was keeping it in position on an apparently flat vertical surface remains a mystery.
Dippers are really fun birds to photograph but can be tricky to approach which is not ideal when you are time limited. A great deal of pleasure can be derived from just watching their antics be it bobbing up and down on a rock in the middle of a stream to plunging completely underwater or just wandering around in shallow areas with their head submerged. The couple of brief sessions this week have mainly been geared towards observations and getting some portrait photos on to the memory card.
There are a couple of points to watch out for if you ever find yourself with a dipper in front of your camera. Their breast feathers are incredibly bright white so very careful camera exposure setting is essential to save ‘burning out’ any detail. The other key point is you need to take a good number of photos as a good proportion will be heading directly to the waste bin due to the very frequent blinking of these birds with their prominent white eyelids. The final point is to think about your positioning carefully in terms of achieving a good setting and background. Dipper photos can easily be ruined by a hailstorm of bright specular highlights bouncing back of the tumbling stream waters they inhabit.
A bit of warm up exercises before taking the plunge.
I am planning to spend a bit of lunchtime with the birds over the next couple of weeks which will hopefully produce some swimming and feeding photos under some better light conditions.