Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Zion's American Dipper

What is a trip out west without big expansive scenery? The kind that barely fits on a jumbo-tron screen, much less a 4x6 postcard. Here is a view you fairly need to breath in: mountain, sky, river and shore.

The Riverside Walk is the gate way to The Narrows at Zion National Park in Utah. The trail head begins at The Temple of Sinawava, this vertical wall nearly 3,000 feet tall. Water and time carved the canyon out of the Navajo sandstone, and man has but a brief history shared with this ancient temple.

We took the earliest bus possible to the the far end of Zion's canyon. The morning mist hung clouds on the mountain tops, as we disembarked at our station. It also needs to be said, Zion has the most efficient transportation system and the world's most eco-friendly tourism. It should be a model for all National Parks.

I admit I was fairly obsessed with the possibility of seeing a water ouzel, currently known as the American Dipper. More than any other western species, this is the bird I longed to see. If ever it was to be, it would have to be here, in the portion of the North Fork of the Virgin River that best approximates a fast running stream. The Riverwalk would be our best opportunity to see this amazing aqua-phile .

And soon, we spotted the basic gray form dipping about in the rapids. Unlike any other North American passerine, the American Dipper dives underwater for aquatic insects and invertebrates. Soon my camera card was filled, how could I ever get enough photos of this bird?
The only left to do was to film it in action, and with any luck this video will work for you. Once you have seen the mesmerizing American Dipper in action, you'll know why I simply had to see this bird!


  1. Ah! This post made me grin, because I got my life American Dipper along the Riverwalk at Zion a couple years ago after having been similarly obsessed with finding one.

    Zion reminded me a lot of Yosemite, if Yosemite were carved from sandstone instead of granite - I guess it's just the feeling of being deep in a river valley surrounded by tall cliffs.

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  3. Yay! I can remember looking for water ouzels with my parents in western national parks when I was a child. We never saw one. Now that I'm a birder, I guess I could consider the American Dipper to be a nemesis bird. I hope to see one someday. I'm glad you did!

  4. Hi all-
    There must be something about these Dipper that causes obsession. The only cure for "Dipper brain" is total emersion in their watery habitat!