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Dipper: The Ultimate Whitewater Swimmer

Dipper: The Ultimate Whitewater Swimmer
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I work retail for one of my season jobs. Sometimes, cool people come in and are super chill. Other days, people harass me for discounts, literally drop clothing on the floor, and otherwise say very demeaning things. On one of those other days, I decided to recharge by sitting with my feet in the icy snow melt of Gore Creek. As the mountain stream froze away my frustration, an American Dipper, Cinclus mexicanus, flew over to hang out with me.

At first it checked me out from about thirty feet away. It had landed on a rock near the rapids and began to submerge itself halfway to feed. The Dipper would pop back up, look at me, and re-submerge itself.

After several repetitions of this, it fully submerged into the fast, icy water and re-emerged on a rock closer to me. From here, the Dipper jumped in and out of the whitewater rapids. Its slate blue and gray coloring blended into the surrounding rocks and vegetation well.

When another human came too close on the other side of the creek, it flew off to hide under the nearby bridge. After a few minutes, the Dipper returned and this time, it flew to a rock no more than five feet in front of me!

When my lunch break ended, I went back to the store and promptly researched the Dipper and found out some cool information.

Dipper bird with its head in the water eating next to a rock.
Dipper eating on the side of the creek.



General Characterisitics

  • Mostly gray with slate blue tones
  • Short tail
  • Looks similar to a wren
  • Often dip in and out of water to swim for invertebrates and small fish
  • Often nest in rocks near creeks and rivers
  • Call sounds like “zeet”
  • Has third eyelid to keep vision clear underwater


  • Found near clear creeks and rivers, often near rapids
  • More in mountainous areas


  • Central America north to Alaska
  • Rocky Mountains west to the Pacific Coast
  • Mostly stay in one area, however, some migrate to lower elevation areas in winter

American Dipper & The Nature Journal

Two page journal spread depicting the American Dipper with text, a photo, and a sketch.
American Dipper Journal Spread

In this two-page journal spread, I wanted to have a photo that depicted the color of the dipper. By only having outline sketches, I depend on the photo to display the color variation. Since birds often have more subtle color changes, I find the photo to be the best medium.

I like to have the outline sketch of birds because sometimes, birds move so fast you only see the shape. The dipper’s shape closely resembles that of a wren, albeit with a stubbier tail.

I primarily used the National Geographic Birds of Western North America guidebook to gain insight into this amazing bird. The pictures there are some of the most helpful in properly identifying birds.

For help on organizing your own spread or what to bring with you, check out my post on the basics, here.

As such a unique bird, the dipper has a habitat all of its own. You’re most likely to find it in the mountains near the water that will freeze your feet in under a minute. Next time you’re having a break by a mountain stream, keep your eyes peeled for the dipper!

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”4.7.7″ _module_preset=”default”][et_pb_row column_structure=”1_2,1_2″ _builder_version=”4.7.7″ _module_preset=”default” min_height=”669.3px”][et_pb_column type=”1_2″ _builder_version=”4.7.7″ _module_preset=”default”][et_pb_image src=”” alt=”Learn nature journaling ideas with the American Dipper. Birds provide lots of nature journal inspiration and ideas. Learn more at” title_text=”ADipper2″ _builder_version=”4.7.7″ _module_preset=”default”][/et_pb_image][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type=”1_2″ _builder_version=”4.7.7″ _module_preset=”default”][et_pb_image src=”” _builder_version=”4.7.7″ _module_preset=”default” alt=”The American Dipper is a fantastic whitewater swimmer. Find these beautiful birds near rivers diving into the rapids. Learn more about bird photography at” title_text=”ADipper1″ hover_enabled=”0″ sticky_enabled=”0″][/et_pb_image][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]