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Dippers on the River Axe by UK local hero Victoria Hillman

23/08/2012 — 

Dippers on the River Axe  by Victoria Hillman

Uk local hero Victoria Hillman followed a pair of dippers for several months - photographing their daily life on the river with the highs and lows of living in a changeable habitat, and seeing how they adapted to the fast flowing river....

Dippers are small birds with a short tail and short stumpy wings but very strong legs and unique amongst passerine birds as they are aquatic. They are approximately 18cm in height and 60 - 70g in weight with males being slightly larger than females. They are reddish brown in colour with a striking white throat patch and get their name from the characteristic bobbing motion when perched on rocks.

These birds depend on fast-flowing fresh rivers and streams with plenty of perches where they forage for aquatic invertebrates (mayfly and caddisfly larvae in particular) and fish and have evolved several wonderful ways of hunting: they can swim underwater using their wings, swim on the surface making dives and also walk along the bottom.

As such they have developed morphological and physiological adaptations including dense plumage with a large preen gland which allows them to waterproof their feathers, they have a nictitating membrane or third white eye-lid which protects their eyes when submerged, nasal flaps to prevent water from entering their nostrils and a high haemoglobin concentration allowing for a greater storage capacity for oxygen increasing the time they can spend underwater.

Generally dippers are considered of least concern but as they are completely dependent on fresh fast-flowing water, accessible food and suitable nest sites they are susceptible to problems such as water pollution, acidification and changes to the overall habitat.

Here is the diary of my endeavours to photograph the dippers over four months...

For the full article and amazing photos and video visit the Somerset Wildlife Trust site.


About Victoria Hillman


Victoria is from Frome, and is a UK based wildlife biologist, photographer and guide working not only in the UK but also around the world. She is also a Manfrotto UK local hero.

You can see more photographs by Victoria at her website:
Victoria Hillman Wildlife Photography