Photographing White-throated Dippers (Cinclus cinclus) in the natural habitat normally means to shoot on a black bird with partially white underparts with nesting material in the beak for the nest building. These are the classic photos that you see of dippers. They fly preferably to and from exposed spots, as stones outstanding on the water. Fast flowing, clear rivers and streams have become rare in all over Europe due to the increasing changes in the landscape and the pollution in our latitudes.
But if you find such a river or a stream, you might be lucky to watch a bird which is not really striking in terms of appearance and plumage coloration. The life – however – is so unique that it has a special place among our native songbirds. It is the White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus). Almost the size of a Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) it shows a short-tailed, plump, dark brown body with a white throat.
The main food White-throated Dippers lingering year-round in its breeding habitat provide water insects, especially mayflies and caddisflies (Trichoptera). White-throated Dippers hunt them at the bottom of a shallow river or stream. To gain access to this food source, White-throated Dippers dive underwater or run on the bottom of a river. They can swim of course, too. But diving is a real feature. This is a skill that is unique among our songbirds.
With so many characteristics it was only a matter of course, that I decided one day to deal with the photograph of these birds. First attempts from a camouflage tent on the banks of a nearby creek were modest – to say it friendly. Only rarely I did a photo of White-throated Dippers in a distance. This way, I could certainly have to wait long for beautiful and full-format images.
So I began to scout the area closer for a couple of White-throated Dippers and studied the habits of these birds. Before long, I realized that this was the right way: In the area of a pair of White-throated Dippers that stretched over two kilometers along a river, there were some places that seem to have been served by the birds with preferrence. Mostly, these were easy to exposed spots in an otherwise “stone-free” strip of the river. A sure sign of chitin show undigested insects captured. Also droppings are good indicators, if they had not been washed away by the water. But they can be also from the Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) likewise occurring in this habitat.
In the vicinity of such a preferred place – a stone with white droppings – I pitched my camouflage tent. I paid attention to the fact that I do not sit in the immediate vicinity of the nest, because I did not want to jeopardize their breeding success through my photographic work. Consequently, I also do not shoot nest images. The very first attempt was already successful. I had been waiting for about half an hour until the first White-throated Dippers approached flying low over the water. The bird landed exactly on the target – the stone with the droppings. These were my first photos!
While initially I was targeting to gain frame-filling shots of the Dippers, afterwards I tried especially catch sequences of behavior of these birds. This can end in daily filling jobs. Half-hour waiting periods between two shooting session are in fact not uncommon.
Now, in the following weeks I spent many hours in my camouflage tent and could perform some attractive shots. However, photographing did not only show positive results. The proportion of junk shots mainly because of motion blurring was high. The reason for this is that Dippers first perform a ritual, a kink motion, which are often not frozen by exposure times of less than 1/100 sec.
To meet the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of Palaearctic, Bird-lens.com has targeted trips to areas such as the Brandenburg lakes, Lake Neusiedl but also to distant locations – such as Norway – done. This too can do anything to excellent photos of the Birds of the Western Palearctic. The yield of images from rare Western Palaearctic birds is very good. The beautiful image that you see in the blog is just a first impression of what you’ll find behind the tab “Picture- Shop” very soon. Just tell bird-lens.com if you need an image of a bird before all the new pictures are online.