It was a few years ago that I first picked up my own copy of David Sibley's bird guide then followed his "Guide to Bird Life and Behavior." Being an artist and naturalist, I loved just looking at the birds as paintings - it was amazing how he managed to capture feather patterns with brush strokes.
One bird, in particular, grabbed my attention: the American Dipper (Cinclus americanus). Specifically, his sketch of it walking along the bottom of a cold mountain stream. It quickly became one of those bird I had to see myself. My first opportunity came the summer of 2004 during field work in Wyoming. I didn't see much of it, but there was no mistaking the bobbing, the white eyelid and the squat little charcoal body. A vacation to Rocky Mountain NP later that summer netted me a fine picture:
Back in Wyoming the following summer, a family of Dippers made the stretch of stream near our camp its home. Every day, two juveniles would beg their parent for food - watching anxiously as they would crawl along the bottom of the stream looking for food:
The American Dipper is the only bird of the Cinclidae family in North America - in Asia and Europe there are about 4 other species. They used to go by the much more poetic name of "Water Ouzel," but dipper seems to be the nom-du-jour.