Firstly, I have to say “Happy New Year”! May you all have a great birding year and may you all take pleasure in what you see and enjoy the time you spend in nature!

Last week I had to decide which birds would be my top ten birds for 2016 and although it was a hard decision to make I had to give top place to the White-breasted Dipper. It is a bird that we had never managed to see in the UK on our previous visits and you really shouldn’t “dip” on a “Dipper”! Of course you do need to be in the right habitat to find White-breasted Dippers and as chance would have it one night we ended up staying at Finchale Abbey beside the River Wear just north of Durham in the north of England. Poor weather had convinced us to not use our tent that night in October and we were able to camp in one of the “pods” and be warm and dry for the night. In the morning it was very cold, but it was sunny and so we decided to take a stroll along the trails that run along the edge of the River Wear. You can walk for miles along the trails and it is possible to walk into the city of Durham from the abbey. There is an excellent website about the River Wear and it encourages people to make use of the river and its surrounds, because if a river is being used it will be taken care of! There is also a map, so you can see the extent of the river.

So, we are strolling along the trail going north from Finchale Abbey and the river is right beside the trail. We have not gone far and we are in Cocken Wood, which is described very well at this link. Suddenly I noticed something in the river and you can hardly see it in the header photo, but it is there! Not those Mallards on the right, but that tiny brown and white spot on the left! What an exciting moment! A Dipper! Panic….do I just use my binoculars or do I try and photograph it? Will it dive and go downstream? Will this only be a glimpse after all this time?

Header photo zoomed in to see the White-breasted Dipper!

Well, I photographed the White-breasted Dipper as it dipped and dived and held its head under water while it looked for food and I stopped and I watched it with my binoculars and we were both just in awe of this tiny bird living out its life on the River Wear.

White-breasted Dipper looking under the water

White-breasted Dipper just showing its tail feathers!

White-breasted Dipper out on a rock

White-breasted Dipper completely under water!

White-breasted Dipper having a look about before flying downstream!

What a morning! It didn’t matter what else we saw that day, because we had seen a DIPPER! There was one other encounter with a White-breasted Dipper a few days later, which I mentioned in an earlier post, but this one was special because it was our first and it was actively feeding and not just sitting on a branch!

Written by Clare M
Clare and her husband, Grant, have lived permanently in Broome, Western Australia since 1999 after living in various outback locations around Western Australia and Darwin. She has lived in the Middle East and the United States and traveled extensively in Europe. She monitors Pied Oystercatchers breeding along a 23km stretch of Broome's coastline by bicycle and on foot. She chooses not to participate in social media, but rather wander off into the bush for peace and tranquility. Thankfully she can write posts in advance and get away from technology!