American Dipper – Colorado’s Final Day

Since I don’t know if I’ll ever getĀ done posting about December’s Colorado trip I’m going to jump to the final day. The day would consist of driving from Grand Junction to Denver for a late afternoon flight back to Indianapolis with a little birding. Since there had been snow in the mountains overnight I cut my birding plans from two locations to one. And that’s where I had the surprise of an American Dipper.

The story starts the previous night with heavy snow being predicted in the mountains. In Colorado you can be ticketed for not having snow tires when conditions are warranted. After a call to the car rental agency and looking at the tires with a flashlight, I concluded yes, the tires where the minimum required. Never mind there wasn’t much tread, they met the requirement.

Upon awaking I checked the road conditions and saw speeds over Vail Pass in the 20-30mph range. Which meant it was going to be a long drive. So I decided on one stop at Veltus Park in Glenwood Springs to check for Lewis Woodpecker.

The drive to Glenwood Springs was basically uneventful. I had been there on my previous trip when I think I heard and briefly saw a Lewis Woodpecker. But not long enough to be certain. Since it’s a small park and with the weather I gave myself 30 minutes to loop through the park to find the woodpecker. The listening was hampered by the fact the Roaring Fork River runs alongside the parkĀ and didn’t show any sign of the recent drought.

The noise from the Roaring Fork River will be apparent in the video below.

After 35 minutes and looping the park twice I had only seen a few chickadees and magpies. And it was cold with 4 inches of snow on the ground. To the NW I could see a large band of snow coming my way. Time to get moving.

Veltus Park only held 7 species with 3 being flyovers. Black-capped Chickadees were the most numerous.

I started heading along the river back to the car when I heard a tick-tick-tick coming from the river and immediately knew the sound from listening to recordings.

An American Dipper!

Two American Dippers kept chasing each other around the river. I was glad one eventually landed for photos.

Even though the habitat was perfect I didn’t even have the bird on my radar. It took a second to spot two chasing each other around the river. Eventually I lost sight of one but the other stuck around. Luckily the park’s path ran along the river allowing good looks and even photos.

They must have thick insulation because the cold snow and water didn’t seem to faze them. I know I was starting to freeze!
american dipper
As seen in the following video they feed in the river eating algae off the rocks.

The American Dipper Video

I know there are numerous videos of American dippers but I’ll still share mine. The following is a portion of a longer video I took. I initially found the dipper, had it in view, and as you can see lost it. I found it again but didn’t even know it. I’m glad I heard them calling or I would never have thought to look on the river.


After a half hour of watching I thought I had better get moving. I was frozen and the sky to the NW was black with a heavy snow. I would like to say the drive back to Denver was uneventful but that would be a lie. Driving in a snowstorm on the flat prairies is one thing, but in the mountains with semi-trucks is another. A story for another day…

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