Wednesday, May 13, 2015 Baby Dippers!

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 5:23 am, sunset 10:26 pm, for a total day length of 17 hours, and 2 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 48 seconds longer.

Gorgeous blue sky, sunny, calm morning, with temps in the upper 40s rising to 55ยบ by mid-afternoon. Then the day breeze kicked up and the clouds rolled in.

This afternoon, I visited the Bear Lake weir where thousands of 2-year old silver salmon smolt from the Moose Pass hatchery are imprinting on Bear Lake water prior to their release into the stream and thence to Resurrection Bay. They looked big and healthy, ready for their perilous journey in the ocean.  In a year or two, the survivors will return as adults. It was amazing to look at the future, milling around below.

The sharp call of an AMERICAN DIPPER caught my ear as a sleek gray adult flew to perch on a handy railing to take a little rest. The nesting season started early, as it has for siskins, crossbills, and pine siskins.

I wandered down the stream and across the road to look for the babies. First one little gray ball of feathers with a stubby tail and yellow bill, then another, fluttered up on a mossy log mid-stream. They focused like radars, searching for any sign of a parent bearing food. When one came in range, pandemonium broke out, each vying with wide-open beak, outstretched fluttering wings, and insistent cries.

Only one baby could be fed at a time. The parent quickly rammed the stash of macroinvertebrates down its yellow gullet before dashing off to forage for more. The babies immediately settled back down to wait, idly plucking moss and tiny bits of bark in the remote chance that they too were edible. 

At this age, the source of food is definitely mom or dad, and where the parents get it is a big mystery. Soon, their random sampling will evolve to real foraging and as their skill increases, food service will decline.

If all goes well, the parents could raise 3 or more families this summer. I sure hope so! It is such a delight to watch and hear the dippers in any stage of their phenomenal lives.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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