American Dipper: the lone aquatic songbird

On June 18th, 2016 Mike Sanders and I had opted to travel just outside Orange County to Mount Baldy.  This was a 1 hour and 15 minute drive with hopes of locating the American Dipper.  Last year in early July, after several hours of canvassing the creek, we were unsuccessful.  This year however finding the American Dipper didn’t take long.  As we parked in the dirt lot and headed south we crossed over the bridge and walked along the old dilapidated highway opposite and parallel to the Barrett-Stoddard truck trail for about 3/4 of a mile.  Its a steep descent to the lower creek.  We felt getting past the the pool areas where weekenders were enjoying cooling off, might be a good starting point.  After descending the steep slope and reaching the creek we traversed and headed backward in the same direction we had arrived.  Within 15 minutes or so, we are able to find one American Dipper that was rather cooperative.  It remained motionless at times canvassing the water flow for food.  However I did note its bobbing motion and its clunky flying pattern as it flew up stream in short bursts.  Its dark gray-brown plumage could make this species difficult to locate if under rocks or in the shadows.  No vocalizations were heard though at the end of our observation we located a second American Dipper and quite possibly this was a male and female encounter.  A photo and video are below.  As a side note, Mike had recollected and had accurate record of seeing this species in Orange County back in the late 70s however finding this species in Orange County with the extended drought would be highly unlikely.  The Doug Willick book, The Birds of Orange County, points to a lone record in January 27, 1988 in upper SJC (assuming San Juan Capistrano).

Photo taken at Barrett-Stoddard Rd, Mt. Baldy, San Bernardino, CA on June 18, 2016
Photo and video taken at Barrett-Stoddard Rd, Mt. Baldy, San Bernardino, CA on June 18, 2016.


Video was handheld while standing within the creek with a Canon 7D Mark II and a Canon 100-400 USM IS II.  Stabilzation correction processed in Mercalli and Video Studio 8.


American Dipper (video) 6-18-2016

  1. Ryan

    SJC = San Juan Creek, which is the creek that runs alongside Ortega Highway

    Would be very interested to know more about Mike’s dipper observations. One of my hopes is to someday find one here again.

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